Victory to the LSE cleaners!

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Striking cleaners at the London School of Economics (LSE) – all from migrant or minority backgrounds – have won a significant victory in a fight to improve their terms and conditions.

Like most universities, LSE outsourced cleaning services years ago to save costs for its multimillion-pound budget; cleaners could be employed with worse terms and conditions than in-house staff, who are entitled to up to 41 days’ paid leave, six months’ full sick pay, and good maternity pay and pension rights. Outsourced cleaners, in this case with the company Noonan, are only entitled to the statutory minimum. That means no pay for the first three days off sick, and then just £17.87 a day. For a cleaner paid £9.75 an hour in London, that is untenable.

The cleaners and their supporters, including members of the United Voices of the World (UVW) union, had been threatened with arrests and injunctions, yet they did not back down. Even when LSE offered concessions, beginning with 10 days’ full sick pay, then 15 and then 20, they continued to fight for parity with other workers.

Unison has been offered a package of improvements, including sick pay of up to 65 days and four weeks of additional maternity pay, and a pledge to work ‘to reach full parity… in the near future’. All cleaners currently employed by Noonan as full-time permanent staff will now transfer from their current employment contract to LSE terms and conditions, management and payroll arrangements by Spring 2018.

Jamaican-born Mildred Simpson, a cleaning supervisor who has worked at LSE for 16 years, who hasn’t had a pay rise after the number of supervisors was slashed from 25 to 13, summed it all up: ‘We’re doing all the dirty work while they’re drinking their champagne and drinking their coffee. But fight as well as us, as much as you can, for your rights, for pensions, for better working conditions, to be recognised.’

The RCG salutes the example of the LSE cleaners!

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 258 June/July 2017