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Letter from Goldsmiths Cleaners – April 2019

Dear Patrick Loughrey, Warden of Goldsmiths, Dinah Caine, Chair of Council, Gail Shaw, Head of Estates, members of SMT and Goldsmiths Council members,

Cleaners’ In-Housing Process

We are now less than a month away from May 1st 2019, the day we will be brought back in-house as members of staff at Goldsmiths. Since September 20th 2018, we have been anticipating this date with great hope for improvements to our working conditions, to have the same basic rights as the rest of Goldsmiths staff.

We write to you today with great frustration and sincere concern, as we still lack the basic information about our employment from May 1st. We do not know what shifts we will be working, how many hours we will work per week, or our salaries. We feel like we are in limbo, lacking this information we cannot plan for the day-to-day arrangements with our families and our future.

This is not a new experience for us. In fact this lack of information feels very familiar to the position we were in last summer. In June 2018, we were given very short notice by our employer ISS that our hours and shift patterns would be changing. These changes happened without consultation with us. The short notice threw our professional and family arrangements into chaos, and many of us had to give up or hastily change our other employment commitments. The changes themselves meant that many of us lost out financially, losing up to 4 hours per day, or 20 hours a week. This had serious implications for our finances, paying the rent and caring for our families. Some of our colleagues lost their jobs. Cleaner representatives outlined this situation when we attended Goldsmiths Council on 28th June 2018.

In spite of our concerns, the shift and hour restructure went into effect on 6th August 2018. A number of our colleagues had to leave Goldsmiths and look for other employment as they could not work the new shift patterns or cope on the reduced hour allocation. Remaining cleaners have also really suffered, with more work to do with fewer personnel and reduced hours. It has been arduous, chaotic and stressful and the standard of cleaning has suffered. Some of us have had health problems resulting from the increased workload.

In the Autumn of 2018, following your much welcomed announcement about in-housing in 20th September, we were invited to meet with Goldsmiths SMT and Unison. Ian Pleace, Andy Lamb and Gail Shaw met with us, and they promised improvements to our conditions which they recognised as below the standard expected by Goldsmiths. They also said they would listen, and they would keep in regular contact. But to do this, they said they needed to extend the ISS contract by 6 months, 6 months more of the near unbearable conditions. Today, less than a month from the in-housing date, we still lack the crucial information we need to plan for our futures.

On 19th March 2019, 2 weeks ago, we were invited to a meeting with Goldsmiths, at which we were presented with information about our rights to a pension, our monthly pay date, the fact that Goldsmiths holiday period runs September-August each year, and other information. Unfortunately there were no answers to our key and urgent questions relating to shift patterns and hours, our pay and the organisation of our employment. We were told that much relied on the information held by ISS, information which they had not passed on and did not legally need to deliver until 28 days before in-housing. If this was the case, Goldsmiths could have consulted with the workers over the past 6 months. The representative from HR promised to return to us with answers in the following week. We have not heard anything since March 19th, and as you can imagine we are concerned and nervous.

We thought that in-housing would be a change for the better, but at present it does not feel that way. We want to be able to plan our lives, we want to know that cleaners will be able to take up the 20,000 extra annual hours for cleaning provision (announced at Goldsmiths Council in winter 2018), that our length of service will be recognised in our salaries (as with other Goldsmiths staff), and that our working conditions will be less chaotic, arduous and stressful than they have been in recent months.

During the last 6 months, the extension to the ISS contract, we expected the chance to participate in the process of in-housing, to be consulted with and be shown the respect that we deserve as Goldsmiths workers. We have been sincerely disappointed that we have not even received the basic information we need to plan for the future. We still do not know such basic things as what shift patterns will be available, how the workload will be distributed among workers, what kind of equipment we will use to do our jobs and who will manage us. As it stands we are very fearful that there will be no substantial change to our working conditions following the in-housing.

With the help of [name of colleague] from Unison we have now shared with you our current shift patterns and those that would be preferential for us. We urge you to meet with us in the near future to discuss our shift patterns, hours allocation and salary levels, and to discuss the organisation of our work going forward.

Yours sincerely,

Goldsmiths Cleaners

3rd April 2019

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Letter from Justice For Cleaners Campaign group – April 2019

Dear Patrick Loughrey, Warden of Goldsmiths, Dinah Caine, Chair of Council, Gail Shaw, Head of Estates, members of SMT and Goldsmiths Council members,

Re: Cleaners’ In-Housing Process

We write to you as the Justice For Cleaners campaign group once more. There is now less than a month left until May 1st 2019, the agreed date to bring cleaning staff back in-house. However, we are sincerely concerned as cleaners still lack the basic information about their employment from May 1st. Shift patterns, numbers of hours to be worked, nor salaries after in-housing are known currently. This is worrying as cleaners cannot plan for the day-to-day arrangements with their families.

As we have communicated in numerous emails and letters, both public and private, the aims of our campaign group have been consistently to ensure that cleaning staff are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. With regards to the process of in-housing, this means there should have been a meaningful consultation with them around the best possible cleaning provision and a respectfully communicated set of shift patterns and terms and conditions.

Sadly, however, we know from speaking to cleaner colleagues over past months that there has been a distinct lack of information communicated to them. The sporadic updates on the college website have done little to reassure cleaners that their working conditions will improve upon their in-housing, and up until recently, many cleaners seemed unconvinced that in-housing will really happen.

In communications on 21st November and 13th December 2018, we urged Council to take seriously the effects of the restructure of cleaning shifts from August 2018 and as health and safety issues. The drastic cuts to cleaners’ shifts resulted in a massively increased workload and untenable situations for many cleaners. Many lost out financially with some losing £700 of monthly income, whilst others were unable to manage the sudden shift changes and lost their jobs all together. This had a devastating effect on cleaners’ lives and workloads; they have been buoyed by the hopeful expectation that after in-housing, things will be much better. However, we join them in their frustration and concern that there has been little to reassure them that this will be the case.

As a campaign group, we are also concerned about the lack of the transparency during the in-housing process. It was announced following the Council meeting of 20th September 2018 that “there shall be in an increase of cleaning provision to the midpoint between current and Gold Standard hours”. We have heard of an additional 20,000 cleaning hours being implemented. However, there has been little transparency around these additional hours. Will they
compensate the hours lost after the chaotic and sudden August 2018 restructure which greatly reduced the overall number of hours? How will these hours be distributed amongst cleaning staff? What about those members of staff who unfairly lost their jobs and/or work during that period? Furthermore, will cleaners’ experience and concerns around the practicalities of cleaning provision be taken into account? (For example, many complain that they are unable to clean classrooms during the current shift patterns as they are occupied by students in those times, and that they are consequently blamed for unclean classrooms when in fact it is impossible to clean during these times)

We urge SMT to meet with the cleaners in the imminent future to discuss shift patterns, hours allocation and salary levels, and to discuss the organisation of work going forward.

Yours sincerely,

Justice for Cleaners campaign Goldsmiths

3rd April 2019

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Cleaners’ Xmas Party 2018

Cleaners’ Xmas Party 2018

Fri 7th December – 6-7pm Refectory. Hot food (Halal) will be served.

Christmas party to celebrate the cleaners’ victory of in-housing in 2019 and for colleagues to say thank-you for your hard work.

Please note that Estates and ISS have been informed by HR about the Xmas party and that all cleaning staff are welcome to attend before their shifts commence.

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Latest from Goldsmiths cleaners – November 2018

Since our letter to Goldsmiths management on 16th October 2018, the J4C campaign group have received no reply. After the cleaners wrote their letter on 24th October 2018, signed by 47 members of staff, dates of meetings between the cleaners, members of Senior Management Team (SMT), Goldsmiths Estates department and Unison representatives were finally announced. Three sets of dates with morning and evening meetings were announced – 6th Nov, 20th Nov and 12th Dec. The first set of meetings was successful in allowing the cleaners to articulate the grievances around their working conditions – in all their severity – directly to Goldsmiths management (their de-facto employer).

However, whilst this forum provided some vindication for what the cleaners have suffered at the hands of ISS over past months, the current situation of the cleaners has gone from “very bad” to “even worse”. Having lost the contract with Goldsmiths, ISS appear to be treating their staff with contempt, ignoring requests for flexibility around shift patterns and work days and exacerbating existing bad work practices. From listening to cleaners we have heard accounts of the following: some cleaners are having to do the work of four (or more) people, shifts involve much more moving between buildings than previously to cover more areas, they are expected to do much more work than is possible in one shift, they are being treated disrespectfully by their managers, some cleaners report having to take painkillers constantly to deal with back or knee pain due to the extra work they are being forced to do – in short, the restructure continues to be chaotic and wreak havoc on the cleaners’ lives. The extremely negative effects pertain not only to cleaners’ work lives at the job, but also outside of the job, as the continued effects of being forced to work shifts inconvenient to them is putting pressure on their families and other responsibilities. Many are distressed that they are unable to carry out family duties; the same concerns about leaving work late at night persist (especially for the majority of women); many are extremely upset and angry at how they are being treated.

Two months after the announcement of in-housing and with a promise to get it done by April 2019, Goldsmiths have yet to produce a schedule of in-housing which will assure the cleaners that the process is well and truly underway. Nor have they produced documents suggesting a transparent process in which the cleaners will be meaningfully involved, such as the details of the working group which has been set-up. Aside from listening to the cleaners’ problems in these meetings, which is clearly important, Goldsmiths SMT need to be respecting the cleaners’ experience and expertise in formulating the design of a new system of cleaning provision which will serve the college well. As the J4C campaign group have repeatedly emphasized – the cleaners must be meaningfully involved in all negotiations around their shift patterns and the in-housing process.

Given the gravity of the current situation, we implore Goldsmiths to intervene in ISS’s working practices. We find these to be completely unethical and the cleaners themselves say that they are being treated like animals. Although in-housing has been promised, six months (or more) of this current situation is proving too much to bear for some of our colleagues and urgent action is required by Goldsmiths to ensure the health and safety of all staff is provided for.

We will continue to support our cleaner colleagues in their fight for dignity and respect at work. Although in-housing has been promised, they are suffering even more now than before and the Goldsmiths community will support them in any action to improve their working conditions and lives.

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Nov 2018 Meetings between cleaners and Goldsmiths senior management

In early November, a strong and united cleaner workforce was (at long last) invited to meet with Goldsmiths senior management and Unison officials. Two meetings were held on Tuesday November 6th, with strong turnout at both meetings including over 42 cleaners at the evening session. Cleaners spoke with great emotion about the appalling conditions in which they are working under outsourcing company ISS, which have significantly worsened since the crippling shift restructure implemented in September 2018. The restructure has overwhelmingly cut hours and personnel while increasing workloads and removing flexibility for workers who now face greater challenges with rent, childcare etc. These work conditions have already caused stress, illness and chronic pain among other issues, and a number of workers have been forced to leave Goldsmiths accordingly. Whilst these dreadful conditions were enacted by ISS, management still has questions to answer in regards to why members of the Goldsmiths community were ever put in a position to be exploited by a company like ISS. Goldsmiths Director of Finance Ian Pleace, Head of HR Andy Lamb, and Head of Facilities Gail Shaw heard the harsh truths about the impact of their relationship with ISS on people’s lives. Cleaners demanded that the in-housing process be undertaken as quickly as possible and with full involvement of cleaner representatives and their trusted Unison rep. Cleaners also welcomed the participation in this meeting of more senior Unison officials, including Vicky Lucioni, who were meeting with workers largely for the very first time. Since the meetings took place there have been reports of verbal intimidation by ISS management of those who attended the meeting. This is completely unacceptable, please report any more incidences of intimidation to Justice for Cleaners or Goldsmiths Workers Action and we will take the case up with Goldsmiths senior management and Unison.

goldsmithsjustice4cleaners[at]gmail.com

gwagoldsmiths[at]gmail.com

 

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Letter from cleaners to Goldsmiths management – 24th October 2018

The following letter has been sent today from the cleaners collectively to Goldsmiths management. It has been signed by 47 cleaners to date.

Dear Patrick and members of Senior Management Team,

We write collectively as cleaners of Goldsmiths college. We are happy to hear the news that Goldsmiths will be bringing the cleaning services in-house and that you have committed to taking the necessary steps to form a working group involving representatives of cleaning staff and their recognised union to oversee the technical aspects of this transition and to negotiate our new contractual terms. We look forward to being part of the Goldsmiths community.

Since the announcement of in-housing, we have not heard anything from Goldsmiths about the process. The working conditions have worsened and the workload has increased since the announcement. We are very unhappy. We urge Goldsmiths to bring forward the in-housing process as soon as possible. We would like to be in-housed by January 2019 at the latest.

In reference to your public statement from 6 September 2018 we would like to confirm that the maximum attendance of cleaning staff are keen to discuss the shape of future cleaning provision with you. We are writing to ask management to schedule a meeting soon with all cleaning staff so that details about the in-housing process can be explained to all those affected. As it stands, we have been given information by our current employers ISS which does not seem to correspond to the information that Goldsmiths’ management have published on their website. We would urge you to provide a date for the first of these meetings as soon as possible to clarify exactly what is to be expected for cleaning staff in the immediate and long-term future. We would also request that this meeting is made public so that all other stakeholders within the Goldsmiths community can be present too.

We would further request that our trusted union representative _______ ______ be our lead negotiator in the working group. She is best equipped to represent our interests in this process as she is familiar with our personal circumstances and is aware of our varying years of service and individual cases of overtime, all of which will have to be taken into account in drafting new contracts.

We look forward to hearing from you soon and to begin our discussions about this process.

Yours sincerely,

[NAMES]

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Letter to Goldsmiths Management – 16th Oct 2018

The Justice for Cleaners campaign group sent the following letter to management on 16th October 2018. We seek to foreground the ongoing problems suffered by cleaners since the restructure of 6th August, the lack of communication between Goldsmiths and the cleaners about the in-housing processs, urge for transparency around the working group set-up around the in-housing process, and request greater transparency around previous reasons given to justify the shambolic restructure.

We are still waiting a response after over one week from senior management.

Dear Patrick Loughrey and other members of Senior Management Team,

The Justice for Cleaners campaign welcomes the news announced on 20th September 2018 that Goldsmiths will be bringing the cleaners in-house. Our cleaner colleagues are thrilled at the news that their period of employment with ISS will be coming to an end and are expecting to find their working conditions drastically improved as a result. We are pleased that this decision ensures that ISS, with its proven track record of employment malpractices, will no longer be operating on Goldsmiths campus and that employing cleaners directly will help ensure fair and dignified working conditions to this part of the Goldsmiths community. We were encouraged to see that concerns from staff and students about the cleaners’ working conditions was one of the factors recognized when the council made the decision. Equally, we are pleased that SMT’s proposal to council was one of in-housing and that a hybrid option, considered at other institutions, was not under consideration.

The update on Goldsmiths website about cleaning provision from 20th September is encouraging in some of the details it gives about the in-housing process and that it recognizes – to some extent – the currently unworkable conditions of cleaners since the restructure of 6th August. However, we would like to raise a few issues – some of which have been raised in our previous correspondence – as concerned staff and students who are invested in the proper implementation of the in-housing process.

Firstly, the restructure of 6th August continues to make cleaners lives and work shifts extremely difficult. The conditions described by cleaner testimonies published on our blog on 30th August 2018 still stand, or have worsened in recent weeks. We reiterate our request – based on contact with cleaners – for an immediate meaningful consultation with cleaners around their current shift patterns. Many are at risk of health and safety issues due to mismanagement and huge workloads now that students have returned to campus. An unbearable amount of work is being asked of cleaners with the workforce so impacted and hours so diminished since the restructure. Our colleagues in cleaning are also writing a letter to you to directly express these issues and to schedule a meeting in the immediate future. Due to the strong interest shown by the Goldsmiths community, we further request that representatives from the SU and staff and student members are included in this meeting too.

Secondly, the timescale of the in-housing process has not been clearly conveyed to the cleaners. Indeed, currently, cleaning staff have not received any direct communication from Goldsmiths about the in-housing news or process. The only formal information they have received on this comes from ISS, and this information seems to contradict the timescale of 6-months stated on the Goldsmiths website. We urge Goldsmiths to make efforts to meet with and communicate directly with all cleaners about the future of their working conditions as soon as possible. Principally to deter any further confusion and anxieties which have arisen around the timescale and the overall consequences of this process, and to give an opportunity to all cleaners to voice their demands and concerns about their present and future working lives at Goldsmiths. Given the heavy workloads and discontent around working conditions ongoing since the restructure, not to mention the evidence of bullying and union busting published on our blog, a direct meeting between Goldsmiths and cleaners would help assure them that concerns about their well-being are being taken seriously.

Thirdly, according to comments made by Patrick Loughrey and Ian Pleace at the Warden’s Open Meeting on October 3rd, a working group has been set up to address the details of the in-housing process of the cleaners contracts. In the interests of transparency, we invite SMT to make the details of this group and its members public, and suggest that cleaner representatives are present from the very outset and throughout, accompanied by their chosen union representative. We strongly recommend the inclusion of a representative from the Students’ Union and Goldsmiths UCU. In all cases, the cleaners should give their agreement to the selection of working group members.

We also urge that this working group takes advantage of the available documentation from other in-housing transitions within an HE context. We have received documentation from the SOAS working group which we recommend to be used as a model which Goldsmiths aims to improve upon. We are familiarising ourselves with this documentation and the technical details of the process of moving contracts and job profiles from an outsourcing company into an existing university governance structure. We will be following the output of this working group very closely and reserve the right to inform stakeholders when it appears as though the interests of cleaners are not being represented in the composition of contractual terms.

Fourthly, we reiterate the demand for greater transparency around the cleaning audit and how the concerns around the quality of cleaning provision are being framed. As raised previously, in the “Goldsmiths Cleaning Provision” statement, reference is made to 92 issues about cleaning-related services registered through the ‘Footprints’ system between August 2017 and January 2018 as part of the rationale for the shift pattern changes. In a prior correspondence we queried precisely how these registered issues fed into the logic of the restructure which drastically reduced cleaners’ hours in an attempt to improve quality. Can you demonstrate to us that these “cleaning-related issues” are connected to the quality of cleaning provision, and are not instead structural (e.g. blocked toilets) or managerial (poor staff distribution) failures which have resulted in unclean areas in the university? Our concern here is that cleaners may be being unreasonably blamed for a fall in quality provision. As student intake rose around 11% between 2015-16 and 2016-17 (and 15% in comparison to 2014-15) as the student factfile 2017 documents, was the budget correspondingly increased to deal with the larger amount of student footfall on campus? These are all pertinent factors which cannot simply be written off as “quality issues” and used to justify any manner of restructuring, particularly not cuts to the overall amount of cleaners’ working hours. Whilst we welcome that Council has agreed to increase the budgeted number of cleaning hours as part of the in-housing process, we disagree that ISS’s disastrous restructure and profit-motivated approach be used as a viable basis upon which to determine a practicable and reasonable system of cleaning provision. Instead, we suggest that through meaningful consultation with all cleaners, particularly those with a wealth of experience at Goldsmiths, an effective system of cleaning provision is designed which serves the university well and benefits from the experience of the cleaners.

We are in close contact with colleagues from other in-housing campaigns at other institutions and have heard from these experiences that six months is ample time for a successful in-housing process. Given the urgency of the cleaners’ concerns around current working conditions, in addition to the history of extreme mistreatment at the hands of ISS, of which we have publicized only a few of numerous examples, we appeal to Goldsmiths SMT to do everything within their power to make the inhousing swift, inclusive, and democratic.

Signed,

Goldsmiths Justice for Cleaners Campaign group.