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The Saw Swee Hock building, home of LSESU

Referendum Motion

12 March 2020

Should LSESU act in solidarity with LSE cleaners?

Proposer: Muhammed Faraz

Seconder: Leonie Zeuner

The issue is:
The LSE was founded for “the betterment of society” [1] and continues to claim this as central to the activities of the University. Despite this, the LSE treats its cleaners as second-class employees with regards to their employment terms & conditions, staff facilities and representation. The LSE’s employment practices regarding cleaning staff show LSE’s hypocrisy and are in conflict with the university’s founding principles and research. 
The LSE has a history of hiring cleaning staff under worse terms and conditions than the rest of university staff, most evident in the outsourcing of cleaning services prior to April 2018 [2] – an employment practice widely accepted to promote cost-saving at the expense of workers, such as by negatively impacting pay, the intensity of work and job security [3]. LSE only conceded to bring cleaners in-house following strike action and protests by cleaners, students and staff [4]. Despite an end to their outsourcing, LSE cleaners continue to be dehumanised, discriminated against, and exploited, rather than be given the resources, respect, and appreciation that is their right as vital members of the LSE community. 

LSE's cleaners are predominantly people of colour, and this working class, racially diverse segment of LSE's staff is being uniquely discriminated against by management. This has created a situation in which LSE cleaners face numerous issues within a general toxic working environment - these include but are not limited to the following:

?    Cleaners do not receive time and a half pay for working overtime or unsociable hours (overnight and weekends). Cleaners are understaffed and paid low wages that force them to take on longer hours, with some cleaners working 50-60 hours a week, having split schedules and otherwise precarious contracts. This creates an unhealthy work-life balance and a stressful working environment that has detrimental effects on their mental health. 
?    LSE cleaners are denied recognition for their work and experience, with cleaners who have been working for over 20 years still earning the same wage rate as new recruits. This fails to adequately compensate the additional work these members do in training newer cleaners, as well as being out of step with wider employment practices at the LSE. 
?    Cleaners are denied access to essential supplies and protective gear necessary to do their job in a safe, efficient and effective manner, leading to unsafe working conditions as well as unhygienic conditions of LSE facilities. Cleaners also do not receive hazard pay or standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to clean bodily fluids and excreta outside their regular responsibilities. This should be especially concerning given the current health environment for all students and staff who use these facilities believing them to be sanitary.  
?    They are denied use of social room spaces and amenities available to all other LSE staff and are segregated into impractical, inaccessible, and inhospitable spaces far away from the buildings which they clean and other members of staff. This leads them to feel dehumanised and discriminated against. 
?    The LSE only has formal union recognition agreements with UNISON, Unite and Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) [5], however a significant number of cleaning staff at LSE – especially those most active in demanding better employment conditions – are members of United Voices of the World (UVW) [6]. This is tantamount to actively marginalising and ignoring a significant portion of its employees, with some cleaners involved with UVW even complaining that they face differential treatment as a result of union organizing.
?    LSE lacks clear channels of communication through which cleaners can voice grievances. Existing channels are distrusted by cleaners and there are worries about a lack of processes to hold LSE management and HR accountable [7]. Cleaners feel that they are  not listened to by managers in the Estates department, with them routinely ignoring text messages and resorting to manipulative and coercive tactics to exploit cleaners. At the same time, the role of team leaders, who are actually on the ground and work as cleaners themselves, is undermined and underpaid. 
?    Cleaners are the only LSE staff asked to sign-in using fingerprint scanners, which place cleaners under higher levels of surveillance than other staff and expose them to significant risk in case of data breach. It is unethical to demand that cleaners submit their most sensitive personal data as a work condition.

As students at a university which prides itself on bettering society and understanding inequality, it is a matter of both integrity and justice for us to support cleaning staff in their efforts to obtain fair employment conditions – ones which do not deny them dignity and recognition for their work and which do not leave them in a situation of precarity with regards to their livelihood, and brings them on par with other staff at the LSE.

The solution:
LSESU should...
1.    Issue an official public statement condemning LSE's uniquely discriminatory treatment of and attitude towards cleaning staff.
2.    Lobby LSE to
a.    Meet the cleaners’ demands for fair employment terms and full protections. This includes but is not limited to time-and-a-half pay for working unsociable hours, overtime and an end to precarious part-time contracts and continued outsourcing.  
b.    Improve cleaners’ working conditions. This includes supporting cleaners’ demand for suitable changing and break facilities, protective equipment, and cleaning supplies.
c.    Increase the number of full-time, directly employed cleaning staff and to end the exploitative, zero-hour outsourcing practices which are in place for cover work.
d.    Recognize the work, experience and skills of LSE cleaners by making a just employment progression available to cleaners. 
e.    Establish independent channels of communication between cleaners and the School and to extend their union recognition agreement to United Voices of the World (UVW), which represents many cleaners. 
f.    Withdraw its demand that cleaners submit to biometric sign-in equipment and allow cleaners to use the same sign-in facilities as other LSE staff and students
3.    Support students campaigns in solidarity with cleaners, namely Justice for LSE Cleaners.


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