UCLU accused of ‘hypocrisy’ for cutting cleaner contracts and paying less than London Living Wage
This is despite a pledge to support and campaign for their rights at UCL
The Tab has learnt that UCLU senior staff and sabbatical officers have decided to cut the contracts of cleaners employed to maintain UCLU property.
Part of UCLU policy is to support the UCL Justice for Cleaners campaign, which campaigns for better wages and fairer contracts for cleaners employed by UCL.
It has also emerged that many of the cleaners contracted by UCLU are paid below the London Living Wage.
An online petition calling for UCLU to respect workers’ rights has also been created, claiming that the decision is an example of “hypocrisy”.
A letter from cleaning company Securaclean Limited says that “in order to continue providing them with cleaning, we have been asked to re-evaluate our staffing levels and reduce our costs by approximately a 1/3”.
The letter also warns that in order to meet their new budget, the company may have to consider redundancies.
At present, UCLU employs cleaners in order to maintain its property including its bars and cafes. In a motion passed on the 13th of December 2016, UCLU’s claims: “To support the UCL Justice for Cleaners campaign through publicising the campaign, petitions and actions which it undertakes and by providing it with resources necessary for its struggle against the injustice faced by workers at UCL” and “To continue to campaign for equal rights for cleaning and outsourced staff including fair pay, terms and conditions at UCL.”
According to sources, the UCLU General Manager has been responsible for securing cuts and a loss of hours from the cleaners. The General Manager is a paid, full-time position and the most senior within the Union, working closely with the student leadership and ultimately responsible to them.
A letter sent by the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) to UCLU and seen by the Tab, pointed out that UCLU publicly committed to campaigning for equal rights and fair play at UCLU and that many of the sabbatical officers had been elected on this pledge.
The letter also claims that many of the cleaners contracted by UCLU are paid less than the London Living Wage. According to the letter, the cleaners are paid approximately £9.00 per hour, whereas the London Living Wage is currently £9.75 per hour.
According to CAIWU, negotiations concerning the reduction in hours are being conducted in secret but that they believe that it amounts to one hour per day per cleaner and that these cuts “are supported by a number of UCLU officers and representatives”.
CAIWU has defended cleaners that have come from other countries in terms of visas as well as ensuring that they are all paid the London Living Wage.
A spokesperson from the CAIWU said: “In the past we have worked shoulder to shoulder with UCL students and their UCLU officers, on the side of exploited workers. Because UCL students understand what is fair and right. It is shocking how times have changed and to see officers of UCLU now behave more like Trump, exploiting cleaners by paying us less than the London Living Wage and planning to cut our hours. Cleaners’ Lives Matter!”
A petition calling for cleaners at UCLU to be paid a fair living wage and for UCLU not to go ahead with the cuts has also been set-up. The description calls that: “Now the Sabbatical Officers of UCLU must stop their hypocrisy, stand for what is just and listen to their members: Respect Democracy, Respect Worker’s Rights! No Cuts for Cleaners, Pay a Living Wage Now!”
One of the comments on the petition says: “Me and my family depend upon me”.
A spokesperson from UCLU said:“UCLU has been running at a financial deficit for the last five years, as a charitable organisation this is unsustainable. UCLU’s Board of Trustees have highlighted this problem and set the target of delivering a breakeven budget without cutting funding for any student-facing services including campaigning, clubs and societies and our representation system. One of the ways we aim to achieve this is to review our major contracts with external suppliers, such as security and cleaning.
“At this point we have asked SercuraClean to find savings in our cleaning provision without making any redundancies to the cleaning team. We recognise that there are wide range of views amongst the student body, and even within our Sabbatical team, about any changes to cleaners’ working terms which will be taken into account when making any final decision on this contract.
“UCLU is proud to have ensured that all of our staff are paid the London Living Wage and, in the case of our contract with SecuraClean, offered considerably better terms and conditions to cleaning staff including matching UCL’s generous holiday entitlement.”