Exploitation, harassment and intimidation, these are some of the feelings that have pursued these people, for years, at their workplaces. It has happened at the famous London School of Economics (LSE), under the management of the Noonan cleaning company.
Virginia Moreno Molina
Like many others, Alba and Kinkella are immigrants who have been living in London for over 15 years. Both have seen themselves involved in tense situations with their supervisors.
According to them, she has been sacked without reasonable cause and with only two days notice, and he has been putting up with verbal attacks from his superiors and working to a timetable that hardly leaves him time to sleep.
However, it seems that, until now the company and the university have ignored these accusations. In fact according to statements by the people affected, the letters or reports that they have written and sent “have been no use at all”.
Alba and Kinkella talk to The Prisma about their experience with the Noonan company and their bosses.
“They treat us like slaves”
“I began working at LSE in 2004”, explained Alba Pasmino, Ecuadorian of 62 years who has lived in London since 1996.
She began covering a number of cleaner’s jobs in 2004, until, in 2006, and because she was able to speak English, the company Dinamic hired her as a supervisor of the biggest building, which at that time the Old Building.
But in 2009 they sent her to work as an assistant in the office. She recalls that she was there for three years until they “requested” her “not to keep coming back asking about the extra hours that she had not been paid.”
“The problems began with the company Resource, which made changes and introduced a new system for shifts”, explains Alba. For example, they were only given five minutes to clean an office of 4 metres by 4 metres.
So began the work overload. “I used to supervise two big buildings and began to get ill due to the stress”, she says. They also reduced the hours, and she says that “half the time they are treating us like slaves”.
In addition, there was a shortage of cleaning products and when they ran out “they gave us some liquid, something very strong which caused injuries to people”, she explains. That is why, she claims, Alba suffered a severe dermatitis that is incurable. In fact, she says “they only gave five pairs of gloves to 26 people”, to share between them.
With Noonan, the situation has not changed. They added more supervisors, among them one woman who began as a cleaner, but moved up to second manager (the first was Richard Seddon, the director of Noonan).
“This woman was very rude, abusive and was always hassling us”, he explains. And although he made complaints both to the chiefs of Noonan, and to those of LSE, no-one took any notice.
Last year her husband suffered a heart attack. Despite having advised the company that he was going to be in hospital, when she returned to work, they called her to an interview and criticized her absence, even though she had submitted documents explaining the reason for her absence.
So, between abuses and exploitation, last year she received notice of dismissal, with just two days’ notice.
“Richard Seddon called a meeting, explaining that the supervisory jobs had been discontinued, and that we had to accept the new job that they gave us”, explains Alba.
She claimed her right to remain in her job, and suggested that they changed it for something similar, or give her the vacancy that existed in the office, since she already had experience there.
“But the second manager didn’t want me there”, she says, adding: “I think she doesn’t want Latinos. In fact, since she has become manager, almost all of them have left”.
“They control us in everything, but the rights of employees, they deny, she argues, and emphasizes that: “they have made false accusations against me, claiming that I accepted the dismissal”.
“Why in this century do they treat us like slaves?”, she asks.
We are nobody”
Kinkella is originally from Congo, and has been living here for 17 years. He has been working at LSE for six years, and has passed through different companies before Noonan arrived.
“They refuse to negotiate with us (Unión Voices of the World), they only do so with Unison”, he explains.
Besides this, he reiterates that it is necessary for Noonan and the LSE “to revise the terms and conditions of the contracts”.
Kinkella also reports that “They treat us like dogs, they intimidate us, it’s slavery, as if history is repeating itself”.
For three years, he has been asking for a change in his working hours, as he is on a split shift: he works from 6am to 8am and from 6pm to midnight.
He made this request to work mornings so as to be able to sleep to the manager, without getting any result.
He points out that when the rights of these agency cleaners are compared with those who are directly employed by LSE, the deficiencies and inequalities are alarming.
“The contract that LSE has with Noonan is not correct, they are using this company to save money”, he argues.
He explains how, for example, his contract is from Monday to Friday, but he also works some Saturdays for the same hourly rate as on a normal day. “They are using us”, he says angrily.
Besides this, on March 1st. Kinkella suffered abuse from a student. It happened in the library toilets.
As there are no windows, you have to open the doors for ventilation, and we use the appropriate signs to warn people that they can’t go in.
“I was cleaning and I heard a noise, the trolley with my things on it had been moved, so I called out to know who was inside, he explains. The reply I got was “Are you talking to me? Shut up cleaner!”
And although he submitted a formal complaint he has received no reply. “Since I was verballyabused, no LSE manager has been to see me, can you imagine how this affects me?”
Photos: Facebook & Pixabay – (Translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)