Ella Linskens, BA Arabic
On the 8th of September, a strategy meeting took place for the Justice for Cleaners campaign. Student activists, members of the union, cleaners and those representing the cleaners met in order to mobilise and strategize as we head into the new academic year.
The campaign itself has been running since 2008 and along the way many successes have been won including sick pay and holiday leave. SOAS is currently reviewing its outsourced contracts on cleaning, security and maintenance and will be receiving tenders till the end of the year. However this review ignores the main demand of the campaign – an end to outsourcing.
SOAS states that a ‘key requirement of the selection process is that the successful company must demonstrate values and management practise in line with expectations of SOAS.’ Is it possible to find a company that complies with SOAS’s views on ‘international issues such as human rights, poverty reduction and globalisation’ when outsourcing companies like ISS and MITIE are infamously involved in the occupation of the West Bank as well as the detainment of migrants?
The coming six months will provide a chance for the Justice for Cleaners campaign to point out the contradictions between what SOAS says it believes in and what it does to the people it employs, in the larger fight for the cleaners to be brought in house. The campaign effectively hopes that through various forms of protest it will make the cost of outsourcing too high for SOAS, pushing for them to take the cleaners in house.
As a new member of the campaign it was incredibly moving to hear cleaners speak of their concerns, the main one being the constant intimidation they experience everyday from ISS. They describe feeling afraid and having threats made against them. A moment that stood out to me was during talk of working groups and planning, when one cleaner said ‘Dont forget about us. In six months we might not be here.’ This illuminated the need for direct ac-
tion in the many campaigns that go on throughout SOAS. Planning and speaking is important, but it is nothing compared to the power of actions and displaying the sentiments we share in our closed meetings.
Hopefully the protest that takes place Tuesday the 22nd of September, the day this issue is at the printers, will show this. The meeting on the 8th transformed me, a passive believer in the campaign, to someone hoping to more actively support the struggle of the cleaners in any way I can. And we need you to do that too.
My goal in writing this for The SOAS Spirit is not just to update and inform you on the campaign, but to encourage you to get involved. Justice for Cleaners will be represented on the 25th at the Campaigns and Activism Fair and on the 26th at the Freshers’ Fayre. Make sure to pick up a postcard, sign the back, and return it to the SU. They will be given to the incoming director, Valerie Amos, to prove that SOAS students support an end to the exploitation and intimidation of cleaning, maintenance and support staff.
Spend time this Freshers Weeklearning about this campaign andthe importance of protesting injustice within our institution.