Pens, notebooks, teachers and those in charge of education are found within classrooms. Meanwhile, in the street, placards are raised calling for equality and respect for those who clean the student grounds.
Virginia Moreno Molina
It is the cleaners who are entrusted with keeping the classrooms of the London School of Economics tidy, which, paradoxically, does not seem very concerned with the situation of these workers who are mostly immigrants.
The discontent over the situation started to take shape when the workers decided to carry out a series of strikes which began on the 15 March. In fact, this week on the 1 and 2 of June, another strike will be held.
This will happen because Noonan, the company that is responsible for creating the contracts of these workers, has not yet reached an agreement with them; the cleaners ask for better wages, cessation of labour abuse and no more discrimination, among other demands.
Thus, the tension is felt across the campus each time they arrive with their signs asking for support for their cause, while listening to music and ceasing to work throughout the day.
However, their demands do not seem to have been heard. There is a feeling among the cleaners that the university, like Noonan, are unwilling to accept or negotiate their proposals.
Pressure and intimidation
In a statement known by The Prisma, Noonan notes that it regrets “the behaviour and conduct of a small number of individuals partaking in the strike action clearly breached the Government’s Code of Practice on Picketing and their selfish actions resulted in the suspension of student exams. Such action achieves nothing and only serves to adversely impact the future careers of students and damage the reputation of both LSE and Noonan”.
In this regard, Petros Elia, General Secretary and legal representative of Union Voices of the World (UVW), explained that “it is a disgrace that inst ead of talking and reconciling, Noonan has taken the decision to threaten, intimidate and manipulate”.
As for breaking the ‘Government’s Code of Practice on Picketing’, Petros is astonished. He says that, firstly, it is “just a code, albeit some elements have been turned into statutory legislation with the passing of the Trade Union Act 2016. Secondly, we have remained fully compliant, even though it is a very oppressive and restrictive Code introduced by the Conservative government in the 1990s.”
Furthermore, he clarified, that this tactic used by the company is a “psychological game”. In this way “they try and confuse and intimidate” the workers to dissuade them from taking part in the strikes.
According to the statement, some exams were suspended, which while true, is claimed by Petros to be unfair, as he claimed that “LSE and Noonan had eight months and many opportunities to arrange things with us in a way that that would not extend into the exams period”.
Despite the need to express their nonconformity due to the conditions in which they are expected to work, union members have been very clear that the students are important and that their student requirements must be respected. However, Petros said that “if the university had really been concerned, they would have tried to reach an agreement”.
Furthermore, “strikes are the last resort for these workers who are unable to negotiate with companies,” Petros affirmed. In this case, it applies to what is happening. The noise is another factor that has been said to bother the students, yet it is in fact the opposite. Petros said that “many have appreciated what is happening and support the campaign”.
What is most worrying is the manner in which Noonan seems to want to discourage protesters: ““May we again take this opportunity to respectfully ask you not to participate in strike action as it will damage the reputation of LSE, have an adverse impact on our service provision and knock-on effect on students, employees and visitors to LSE”.
But for Petros, “this letter is a show of weakness and desperation, relying on the use of threats”.
Although this type of “intimidating reaction” is used by some companies, for them the situation has acquired a new dimension because it is happening within a university, the London School of Economics.
“This is a very serious fight and the question that we have posed several times is that the university worries a lot about the education of its students but not about the rights of its employees,” Petros concluded.
Following these words and those of the members of UVW, the dates of the next strike will be 1 and 2 June. More information can be found here.
(Translated by Sydney Sims – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)