The London School of Economics cleaners will now officially be employees of the LSE from 5th March 2018. The move follows a series of strikes organised by United Voices of the World Union: a members- led trade union of mainly migrant and precarious workers, since late 2016. The strikes highlighed the disparities in sick pay, paid leave, maternity pay and pension contributions, between outsourced and in-house LSE staff. The outsourced staff also wore different uniforms.
In the letter issued by outsourcing firm Noonan Services, the company states that ‘ [The LSE] informed us that they have made the decision to transfer the cleaning services for the LSE Estate and Residencies back in house’
United Voices of the World Union in their statement described the move as ‘[…] historic achievement [which] ended 30 years of outsourcing and lifted around 250 cleaners who were previously invisible and voiceless around campus, on to some of the best contracts of employment in the country for any group of workers.’
‘Outsourcing firms claim that they can run services at a lower cost than their clients. The reality is that this involves either cutting staff, increasing workloads or employing them on inferior contracts. Noonan is intent on squeezing every last drop of labour out of its workforce at the LSE and is also willing to discard employees when it thinks it can’t get any more out of them. This is what happened with Alba Pasmino, a cleaner at the LSE who was summarily and illegally sacked from her role with two days notice after 12 years service in late 2016.’
‘Cleaners at the LSE know from bitter experience what Noonan’s employment practices are like. To say that Noonan management is oppressive and overbearing is an understatement: the cleaners at the LSE are constantly monitored while at work (it seems that this control freakery even extends to the monitoring of social media accounts) and are often subjected to harsh disciplinary action for the smallest of supposed infractions’, the Union adds.
Noonan Services has been dismissive of complaints by cleaners who say they are being overworked and are suffering physical pain as a result. What’s more, Noonan has gone much further than simply disregarding the concerns of overworked cleaners; it has actively sought to discourage and undermine those cleaners who raise complaints or who support the campaign for improved terms and conditions at the LSE. Noonan has also tried to encourage cleaners to change trade unions and to discourage them from taking part in lawful industrial action by unlawfully suggesting that it might put their jobs at risk.
Noonan Services is a ousourcing firm owned by Alchemy Partners: a vulture investment firm. In May 2016 it was reported that the firm enjoyed a ‘record year’, with revenues surging to €303 million (from previous year’s €203 million). Noonan’s CEO received a salary of €272,719 in 2015, while their cleaners made £7.58ph on average.
The United Voices of the World continues their work with cleaners outsourced by Sotheby’s, Top Shop, Harrods and Barbican Centre amongst others.
Photo: Justice for LSE Cleaners