King’s College University has emerged as a new scene of controversy between the workers, the subcontractor and the university.
Virginia Moreno Molina
Like a domino effect, the victories of the workers in universities such as LSE (London School of Economics) and SOAS University of London ((the School of Oriental and African Studies) have inspired the others to rise up and say enough to abuse and subcontracting.
Many times, this type of contract leads to unpaid hours, over-working, verbal abuse from superiors or firing. In particular, the struggle of the cleaners at King’s College University dates back to the end of 2016, when they found themselves caught up in a restructuring that the subcontracting company Servest was ready to undertake.
On account of this, and with the fear of possible firings, the workers organised themselves with the syndicate UNISON in order to face the situation.
In addition, from Unison, they denounced abusive work-place practices including excessive workloads, a lack of back-up personnel and a shortage of adequate working materials.
As the negotiations with the university and Servest did not get anywhere at that time, they held a series of strikes and meetings that ended with some improvements: they brought in new personnel, more appropriate working material, and a line of dialogue was created between the workers, the syndicate representatives and the company.
However, there are still many demands to be met.
Firstly, that all of the cleaners be contracted directly by the university, doing away with subcontracting. In this way, pay for sick leave, vacations, maternity, paternity and pensions will be matched with the rest of the employees.
Secondly, that there be the same opportunities to access over-time and new positions.
Thirdly, that a dignified London wage increase be paid from December every year (currently April – the last date of recommended implementation). And lastly, that there be formal recognition from Unison.
Currently, the cleaners, Unison and the university are in negotiation around the topic. At a members’ meeting for the cleaners on Saturday 11th November a vote was taken to postpone and build for a protest on Friday December 1st.
After ongoing pressure King’s have given an initial approach and are calling a board meeting to confirm a formal proposal to go to the workers by November 30th.
All workers were agreed that they were tired of waiting but given a formal offer is now forthcoming agreed to a protest that will happen if the offer doesn’t make sufficient progress towards their campaign demands of bringing the cleaners in-house and full parity of terms and conditions. Date and time: from 12:40 pm to 2:40 pm. Place: Strand Campus, King’s College London. For more information click here.