In light of the release of an independent report by APSE today, The SOAS Spirit would like to extend solidarity towards the Justice for Cleaners campaign and all marginalised, outsourced workers at SOAS.
Since 2006, the cleaners of SOAS have organised themselves through the Justice for Cleaners campaign, with the aid of SOAS UNISON branch. Whilst they have won the London living wage, sick pay and holiday pay during the almost decade-long campaign, the cleaners have repeatedly called for management to end outsourcing and bring the workers in-house.
SOAS has outsourced its cleaning staff since the early 1990s to various outsourcing companies with dubious ethical standards, the latest contracts having been awarded to ISS, a company complicit in the operation of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan. SOAS also has an outsourcing contract with MITIE, a company involved in abusive immigration detention centres throughout the UK, in order to provide ‘facility service management.’
Contrary to years of claims by SOAS management that outsourcing is by far a cheaper option, APSE’s report has confirmed that bringing the cleaners in-house would be ‘cost neutral.’ The report shows that, while ‘in-sourcing’ the cleaners would cost £24,963,000, outsourcing to a single company would cost £27,038,000.
SOAS management has claimed that ethical treatment of workers is possible through an outsourcing company. Time and time again, this has been proved wrong, with cleaners being intimidated, disciplined and even deported for their activism. Outsourcing companies run on the single motive of profit. ISS, MITIE and other outsourcing multinational giants have proved themselves to be above the law in regards to ethical treatment of workers.
The SOAS Spirit believes it is high time for SOAS management to pay attention to the years of calls from the cleaners to be brought in-house. It has been implied by a SOAS official (in private emails between them and the Editor-in-Chief of this newspaper) that our reporting this year, particularly in regards to the Justice for Cleaners campaign, the occupation and Prevent, has failed to be impartial.
We would like to state that impartial journalism is a noble goal, but ultimately an unfulfillable one. As a journalist, one must always decide what to report, who to quote and how to present the story. News is not impartial – it is a carefully crafted medium.
The editorial board this year has presented the facts and figures available to us in regards to the Justice for Cleaners campaign and the struggle against outsourcing. This new APSE report shows yet again that the facts speak for themselves.
Outsourcing must remain outside of SOAS. We cannot remain impartial when fellow members of the SOAS community face intimidation every day. Ethical treatment can only be achieved within the bounds of this community, of which cleaners, academics and students are part and parcel.
La lucha continua.