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 cleanup crew on Monday 21st at 12-1pm on the SOAS steps. The protest aims to raise awareness and support cleaning staff who have struggled for many years against unfair working conditions.
J4W is a campaign launched in 2006 by university cleaning staff for fair working conditions for all SOAS workers, with one of its main goals being achieved in 2018 – all non-academic staff were hired in internal rather than being outsourced by private companies. Over the past term, the group has focused on the detrimental impact of university leadership choices on cleaning staff during the pandemic. During the summer of 2020, more than 50% (twenty-two out of forty members) of the cleaning crew was removed as part of the “Transformation and Change” process. Not only are staff mitigating this destructive reduction in capacity, but they are also expected to take on more of the responsibilities placed upon them due to COVID-19 cleaning policies. As a result, cleaners are continually overworked and underpaid.
With the current rise in COVID cases nationwide and concerns over the spread of the new variant, changes to restrictions will no doubt include increased hygiene precautions. These measures are essential to stop the spread of the virus and save lives, and will further increase the burden on the cleaning team who should receive the support necessary to provide a safe campus for staff and students.
J4W is currently taking steps to pressure management to meet a number of demands, including replacing workers laid off in the summer of 2020 and hiring others, changing rotation for ensure an even distribution of manpower and the granting of well-deserved pandemic bonuses to cleaners.