Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/743/15727
London Uni cleaners fight for basic rights
The mainly Latin American cleaners working at the University of London, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, have launched the 'three cosas' campaign over sick pay, pensions and holidays. Ana (not her real name), a Bolivian cleaner, and Jason, a cleaners' rep, spoke to the Socialist.
Ana: There's a lot of injustice at work. The cleaners aren't treated by the management like human beings.It's true that the living wage campaign was a victory even if we haven't got to the place we need to be. I work three hours a day [for the university], that adds up to £539.50 a month.
Jason: Most of the cleaners have to work a number of jobs in order to make enough money. Ana works a job early in the morning, from 5.45am to 7.45am, then she works three hours at the University of London, then she cleans some private houses in the afternoon, and has another job for four hours at night.
Ana: I'm tired all the time, Monday to Friday, but that's what we have to do because otherwise you can't afford to live in this city.
I spend about £550 to £600 a month on food, rent, transportation - and that's squeezing it as much as I can. The majority of the cleaners are in a similar situation. A lot get up earlier and start their first shift at 1am.
I work nine hours a day and they take £52 for taxes, but no National Insurance.
I looked to the Association of Latin American Women to ask why I didn't have any contributions for National Insurance towards a pension. They said that, despite working nine hours, because I work in a bunch of different jobs for a small amount of hours, I have no pension contribution.
I was disappointed and angry. I get up very early and I do all this work. I asked my manager about my public pension contribution. The manager said that the tax you're paying goes towards that. I didn't understand if the manager was just trying to warn me off, or she just didn't care.
Jason's given us information, he's given us moral support. Unfortunately from the union, Unison, we've had no support. So in the 'three cosas' campaign we're asking for sick pay, holidays and pension. That we're working in this university, in the 21st century, and don't have these things, is a disgrace.
We're going to the different residence halls where the cleaners work. We explain what we're asking for and why.
But the university issued a statement to tell all the security guards to not let Jason into the hall.
Jason: Every Friday we have meetings with workers from different halls. We discuss campaign strategy and tactics.
Also, a lot of students have done a substantial amount of work. We try to create as many opportunities to have contact between workers and campaign supporters.
University of London cleaners' protest to demand the 'three cosas'
Wednesday 28 November, 6pm
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
In The Socialist 21 November 2012: