Freedom News

Cleaners force LSE to backdate their stolen pay

After several UVW strikes and a group tribunal claim over years of ‘stolen’ holiday pay, LSE has granted two years of backdated holiday pay and a one-off lump sum of £150 per person to their halls of residence cleaners. The LSE halls of residence cleaners are primarily UVW members and migrants from Latin America.  Vilma Villamoros, LSE cleaner of 11 years said:

“This victory should tell them that this time, they won’t get away with it; they have to pay our (owed) holiday pay, and we will continue to fight until all the years we have worked are recognised because we have done our hours every year, we have worked with honesty, during the pandemic when the bosses and others were away, we were standing up for the students of Bankside House and facing the consequences, but none of that is recognised. LSE has treated us badly just for claiming the things they were doing wrong, for demanding our rights such as holiday pay including overtime and demanding that the hours we were working overtime be included in our contract. Although there is still a long way to go, we had to start somewhere.”

The workers are, however, owed holiday pay dating back over six years. The dispute over the ‘stolen’ holiday pay began when the cleaners realised they were only being paid holiday pay based on what is considered their “basic salary” instead of considering the extra hours that constitute the lion’s share of their weekly income. Holiday pay should be calculated from the worker’s average pay during the previous 52 weeks, irrespective of whether the hours are written in their contract or not. 

Following LSE’s failure to commit to paying the outstanding monies owed from the start of the cleaners’ contracts, the cleaners – who, six years ago in June 2017, won a historic fight to end outsourcing and be brought in-house – had no choice but to take three days of coordinated strike action in June alongside other low-paid migrant cleaners, carers and concierge. 

A group legal claim followed in August, which is still ongoing as UVW cleaner members continue to fight for more years of back pay for holiday pay beyond the welcome yet limited two years of backdated pay. Petros Elia, UVW general secretary, said:  

“History tells us that LSE only stops treating cleaners like second-class workers when faced with a UVW strike; in 2017, we forced them to end outsourcing. They should know UVW members will always fight for their rights; they could have avoided these strikes. It is unjustifiable that a renowned institution like LSE, which counts 37 past or present world leaders amongst its alumni, would treat the halls of residence cleaners taking care of their students’ welfare in this manner. We call on LSE to do the right thing and pay every penny they owe their halls of residence cleaners without delay. For now, our members are pleased that progress has been made but are resolute that the fight continues until all the stolen holiday pay is returned. Not doing so is theft and disgraceful. Let’s hope the LSE learns from its past lessons and begins real negotiations to finally end this dispute.”

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