The following documents a recent email exchange between members of Justice for Cleaners and the Warden of Goldsmiths Patrick Loughrey which took place between the 30th August and 6th September following the open letter we sent to the Senior Management Team (SMT) on the 27th August.
Patrick Loughrey to Justice for Cleaners 30th August 2018
Dear – ,
Justice for Cleaners to Patrick Loughrey 3rd September 2018
Dear Patrick Loughrey and other members of Senior Management Team,
My colleagues and I were pleased to receive your reply to our emails on Friday 30th August. We are encouraged that you have confirmed that Goldsmiths recognizes the vital contributions our cleaners make and that hearing their voices is important to you.
Urgently, we would like to comment upon the upcoming meeting between Unison, Goldsmiths SMT and five cleaners on Tuesday 4th September on 10am which has been brought to our attention.
We welcome that an effort is being made to meet directly with the cleaners as we have requested many times in our communications with you; we see this as enormously important in a process of rebuilding a respectful relationship with cleaning staff. Yet, we would contest that a single one-hour meeting with five members of cleaning staff can constitute a “meaningful consultation” with cleaning staff. It can be considered a first step in such a process.
Many cleaning staff work two or three part-time jobs, and many work in the evening shift – this means that a Tuesday morning meeting may be impossible to attend for a large number of cleaners. Some Unison members have commented to us that the scheduling of this meeting is very inconvenient.
We have recently published written testimonies from a number of cleaners since the restructure on 6th August on our blog. These describe the ongoing chaos of the restructure: the unreasonable amounts of work cleaners are expected to do, a decrease in the standard of work, inability to take breaks due to heavy workload, safety concerns leaving work at night, as well as financial concerns about the loss of earnings. Yet we have only been able to gather a fraction of cleaners’ testimonies in writing; verbal accounts have detailed an even greater number and severity of issues, which we hope to be able to publish as written testimonies soon. As these testimonies indicate there are several grave concerns and to meet with only 5 on a single occasion is not reasonable if a breadth of issues are to be heard by management.
Therefore, we expect that this meeting is the first in a series meetings, establishing an ongoing dialogue between management and cleaning staff about the future terms and conditions of their positions at Goldsmiths. This would give all cleaners an equal opportunity to voice their concerns about the process moving forward. These should take place at different times of the day to accommodate the cleaning staffs’ schedules, and should span a period of weeks to allow for more of the cleaners’ voices to be heard. Only then, could one reasonably speak of a “meaningful consultation” between cleaners and SMT.
Additionally, we have recently been made aware of the following letter dated 24th May 2018 which was signed by over twenty members of the cleaning staff. The letter firmly expresses the cleaners’ dissatisfaction around the proposed restructure and also points to the illegality of anti-union actions perpetrated by ISS. To quote from this letter “there is a member of staff who is oppressing and advising us to disagree with the Union and to not sign and even withdraw our membership”. To our knowledge no response was given to this grievance. We understand Goldsmiths received notice of this more than two weeks ago. Anti-union behaviour cannot be tolerated at Goldsmiths and we hope that SMT will take due action given the seriousness of this issue.
We would like to raise the following concerns as a response to the email sent by Patrick Loughrey on the 30th August and the “Goldsmiths Cleaning Provision” statement published on Goldsmiths website. Due to time constraints in our desire to respond promptly to the letter before the meeting on Tuesday 4th September, the following points are made provisionally and any discrepancies in details are open to further investigation:
Patrick Loughrey has invited Justice for Cleaners to help SMT in their ongoing discussions with UNISON and ISS by informing them of any individual cases of concerns over current working conditions, including the impact of the recent changes to shift patterns. We know that ISS have responded to a number of serious cases of misconduct in recent weeks. However asking individual cleaners to come forward to provide details about cases of mistreatment has proven difficult due to a persistent atmosphere of intimidation enforced by ISS management. Due to past episodes of victimisation as a response to individuals coming forward with complaints, there continues to be real fears among staff that bringing forward concerns might result in disciplinary proceedings. A meaningful consultation with cleaners would take this into account by allowing time for cleaners to raise these in light of the assurances around protection you have made.
In the “Goldsmiths Cleaning Provision” statement, SMT document a total of 10 job losses (six staff on paid notice and four resignations). This number does not take into account the further 10+ no-shows we have been informed of since the restructure. We are unclear as to how the imposition of this restructure constitutes anything other than an enforced removal of employees. Cleaning staff along with representatives of Unison, UCU and and the SU all requested that management speak to cleaners on numerous occasions ahead of the restructure coming into effect on the 6th August. This was specifically to make arrangements for those who feared losing their jobs due to other work obligations. No accommodations were made for at least 20 members of staff who were unable to show up to work on the 6th or who refused the terms of the restructured positions.
We would like to query the version of events given in SMT’s account as to how cleaners formally accepted the new terms and conditions of their jobs following the restructure. Consistent with ISS’s version of events, SMT’s account claims cleaning staff were invited to apply for new job roles anticipating the restructure from April 5th onward. To our knowledge cleaners were not given an explanation of the contractual repercussions of this ‘application’ process. A number of cleaners in fact emailed ISS management following the group presentation given on 5th April to complain that they were unable to understand the presentation and were unclear about the changes they were being asked to agree with. As far as we know this email was ignored by ISS management.
Additionally, we have been told by a number of cleaners that the application process, which seems to be conflated with a ‘full consultation’ in your account, consisted of a written test on their cleaning abilities which staff members had to pass in order to keep their jobs. Some members of staff reported doing this test more than once. We would be grateful to have a detailed factual account of how exactly cleaners accepted the terms and conditions of their new job roles which have come into effect since the restructure. As far as we are aware, cleaners have not signed a contract since 2015.
We urge for greater transparency around the ISS audit and events leading up to the restructuring as depicted in the timeline of the cleaning provision document. According to references to this audit, which cleaners are yet to see, the rationale provided by ISS and accepted by Goldsmiths Estates for the restructure seem to us contradictory. The justification given by ISS that a restructure was necessary was that the quality of cleaning services had fallen below the standards agreed between ISS and the college. In the “Goldsmiths Cleaning Provision” statement reference is made to 92 issues about cleaning-related services registered through the ‘Footprints’ system as part of the rationale for the shift pattern changes. We need greater transparency as to how the issues raised in the ‘Footprints’ system translate into a justification for the specific changes that were made by the restructure.
To address this perceived drop in standards, ISS opted to reduce overall cleaning hours, increase the number of supervisory roles and reschedule working hours to align with campus opening hours. We fail to see the logic in addressing a perceived fall in the quality of cleaning services by reducing the time and labour power spent on cleaning and scheduling cleaning to occur when buildings are still in use. Cleaners, staff and students have already begun to voice complaints about the disruptiveness of having cleaning activities take place while buildings are in use. This will no doubt worsen during term time. In addition and as evidenced by our testimonies, the reduction of front line staff and cleaning hours has resulted in cleaners bearing unmanageable workloads which is having a disastrous impact on the quality of cleaning services. We reiterate, this situation will worsen during term time. As was mentioned in our previous email, the continuation of the poor management of facilities staff during term time could result in serious incidents. We flag to you again for the record that this is a health and safety issue.
Patrick Loughrey’s letter from 30th August asks for patience around a proper process for the market testing of cleaning arrangements, and Ian Pleace’s letter to staff from 2nd August speaks of requirements by Council and “wider regulatory expectations” to demonstrate value for money around a replacement cleaning provision, however we would like to highlight two issues: firstly, we have been advised that this is not a process which LSE, SOAS or Queen Mary’s underwent to secure in-housing of cleaners – it is not an externally imposed legal requirement of the college to pursue this process. We stress this point as we see any reason that justifies the presence of ISS in Goldsmiths beyond the 31st October as prolonging the ongoing mistreatment of cleaning staff. Secondly, repeated emphasis on “cost-effectiveness” does not properly consider the moral and ethical arguments around the well-being and treatment of cleaning staff our campaign has consistently put forward. We would hope that when Goldsmiths management says that it recognises the vital contribution that cleaning staff make to Goldsmiths and that they are seriously considering bringing staff in-house, that these statements are made in good faith.
In summary, we hope the meeting between SMT and cleaners on Tuesday 4th September will be followed by further such meetings as part of a process of a meaningful consultation until a breadth and depth of cleaners’ concerns have been listened to. We demand transparency around the auditing process which occasioned the restructure. We expect a serious response to the issue of anti-union behaviour which has been brought to light. Our three demands from our previous correspondence still stand, namely: 1) the immediate halting of the recent restructuring for cleaning staff which has resulted in chaos in their lives 2) an ongoing meaningful consultation with cleaning staff about present and future shift changes, 3) concrete assurances of in-housing and a termination of the outsourcing contract with ISS at the end of October.
As a campaign we see it as our duty to hold the Goldsmiths accountable to its values and use our voice to amplify those of the cleaners.
Justice for Cleaners Campaign
Dear Justice for Cleaners,
Thank you for your detailed email.
As you will appreciate, it will take time to consider your points alongside our ongoing discussions with UNISON on this matter. You have raised a large number of issues, a number of them for the first time, and relevant colleagues will no doubt need to consult with ISS and others before responding in any detail.
I have been debriefed on yesterday’s meeting, which I understand helped provide a platform for open discussion of a number of the issues you have simultaneously raised. In terms of your request regarding further meetings between members of the ISS cleaning team, their UNISON representatives and relevant SMT members, we acknowledge the force of some of your points on this matter and will endeavour to arrange additional meetings at different points in the day/week in order to maximise possible attendance.
I trust that you will use your evident connections with the ISS cleaning team to encourage good attendance by the cleaners at any such meetings alongside their union representatives, in order to help achieve the meaningful ongoing consultation process to which we are all committed.
Update published on Goldsmiths’ website by SMT on 6th September 2018
Earlier this week, partly in response to requests from staff and student campaigners, SMT members invited UNISON representatives and members of the ISS cleaning team to a special meeting in order to provide an opportunity for open discussion about the recent shift changes and the shape of future provision.
SMT is liaising with UNISON over holding further such meetings in the coming weeks to continue this process of meaningful discussion. Steps will be taken to ensure these meetings are scheduled to allow for maximum attendance by cleaning staff, whose time will be reimbursed.
Meanwhile, work is being accelerated on preparing detailed specifications and costings to enable a proper assessment of options for cleaning provision from November 2018. The approach set out in the detailed factual note above – that the stipulated employment terms and conditions will ensure all cleaners are given parity of conditions with other Goldsmiths staff – sets a very high bar for external providers, and it is quite possible that an insourced provision proves the most viable option.
We will continue to post updates on this page at regular intervals.