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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