Cleaners at SOAS will take two days of strike action on Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th March in their dispute over working terms and conditions, it has been announced.
The decision to take the strike action follows a ballot of cleaners who are members of the trade union UNISON, who returned a 100% ‘yes’ vote in favour of taking industrial action on a turnout of 62%.
The cleaners are employed by ISS on a contract with SOAS and as a result are employed on different conditions to staff who are directly employed. This means that, while direct SOAS employees get 30 days holiday leave a year, a contractual sick pay and a defined benefits pension scheme, cleaners at SOAS only receive the legal minimum sick pay and holiday pay and are not entitled to a pension.
This strike action will follow many years in which SOAS cleaners have been campaigning to be brought “in-house” with the same conditions as other workers at SOAS.
A spokesperson for the cleaners said “We are going to strike because it is the only way that ISS and SOAS will listen to our demands to be treated equally.”
“After many years working at this university, I am still not receiving the same benefits as those working directly for the institution Why are we being treated differently?”
During the three week long postal ballot cleaners claimed ISS managers had attempted to dissuade them from voting for strike action and a meeting with a senior director led to allegations of intimidation.
“We knew that members were committed to taking action even though the employer had intervened to try and persuade our members not to support this campaign.” said UNISON regional organiser Ruth Levin.
“The outcome of this ballot should be a wake-up call to SOAS and ISS. They need to listen to their staff and improve their terms and conditions.”
“Our members shouldn’t be unable to pay their rent if they happen to be ill.”
SOAS had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
UNISON is calling for ISS to engage in negotiations to resolve the dispute and is urging SOAS to use its influence to improve the cleaners’ terms and conditions.