As part of the strikes currently taking place at SOAS university and across the UK, Justice for Workers (J4W) will hold a rally for the cleaning team on Monday 21st at 12-1pm at the SOAS steps. The demonstration aims to raise awareness and support for cleaning staff who have struggled against unfair working conditions for many years.
J4W is a campaign started in 2006 by the university’s cleaning staff for fair working conditions for all workers at SOAS with one of its key goals being achieved in 2018 – all non academic staff were hired in house rather than being outsourced by a private companies. This past term, the group has been focusing on the detrimental impact of university management’s choices on the cleaning staff during the pandemic. During Summer 2020, over 50% (twenty-two of the forty members) of the cleaning team were cut under the “Transformation and Change” process. Not only are staff mitigating this destructive reduction in capacity, but they are also expected to fulfill more responsibilities required of them due to COVID-19 cleaning policies. As a result, cleaners are continuously overworked and underpaid.
With the current increase in COVID cases nationally and concern over the spread of the new variant, changes to restrictions will no doubt include heightened hygiene precautions. These measures are essential to stop the spread of the virus and to save lives, and will further exacerbate the burdens on the cleaning team who should be given the necessary support to deliver a safe campus for staff and students.
J4W are currently taking action to pressure management to meet a number of demands including replacing the workers fired during Summer 2020 and hiring more, shifting the rota to ensure an even distribution on labour and giving cleaners well deserved pandemic bonuses.