Cleaning staff of King’s College London are striking under the slogan “all we are asking for is equality” and have been joined in protest by students.
With the support of university students, the aim of their protest is to achieve a better working environment for staff and for the implementation of a support system for a regularly overlooked, but essential service.
The staff and the students demand for the immediate increase of working hours necessary for staff to effectively clean the university and the introduction of a cover staff policy so that absences are covered by other staff.
However, this is not a new issue as a number of universities, such as London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London (UCL) are, or have, experienced organised strikes in reaction to poor pay and an improper working conditions, as staff have been experiencing workplace accidents with no compensation as well as long-term health problems.
The group KCL Justice for Cleaners state that reason this exploitation has taken place is that KCL outsources their cleaning through the company Servest, which allows for cleaners to be “employed on different terms and conditions”.
As well as this, Latin American immigrants make up the majority of cleaning staff at KCL. The employment of these demographics, according to a KCL cleaner named Martha who spoke to The Socialist Worker, is a deliberate tactic by companies such as Servest as a method of minimising chances of solidarity among workers.
These workers don’t receive any form of income during the days in which they strike. In a show of support students have created a Gofundme page in order to compensate for the loss of income. As well as this, London students have attended protests with the workers and last week a petition was created that called for a reassessment from the university.
Holly Henry, a student at KCL, speaking to The Independent, said: “I am disappointed with King’s. The conditions of these workers are shocking; I can’t believe that basic human rights are being ignored, and that workers and students are forced to protest as a result of this.
“I am studying Spanish and Latin American studies at a university where many of the cleaning staff are native speaking from Spain or Latin America, and I feel disappointed that whilst King’s invests money into the study of these cultures, they cannot pay the basic living wage to the people of these countries.”
KCL Justice for Cleaners said to The Mancunion that students “will stand with them on the picket lines again if this is what is needed to make King’s and the cleaning company hear their demands”.