Socialist Worker

Soas strikers demand justice and equality

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2394

Soas cleaners at the picket line on Wednesday of last week

soas cleaners at the picket line on Wednesday of last week (Pic: Terry McGrath)

Cleaners at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) ended a solid 48-hour strike on Wednesday of last week. 

They are in dispute with their employers, outsourcing giant ISS, over sick pay, holidays and pensions.

Jafeth Rojas, one of the cleaners’ Unison union reps, told Socialist Worker, “This is about equality. We want the same conditions as other Soas workers.”

Gilma has worked as a Soas cleaner for 17 years. She told Socialist Worker, “I’ve had enough of being humiliated by the managers. 

“They have been exploiting me for years. They have taken advantage of me because my English is not very good.

“There have been times they have not paid me. Yet once a year ISS looks at the millions in profits it makes—all off the back of our hard work. 

“It’s like slavery.”

ISS has brought nothing new to the table but will have been rattled by the impact of the 48-hour strike. 

Bins overflowed, tables were covered in rubbish and toilets were out order.

Soas Unison branch secretary Sandy Nichol told Socialist Worker that “there were serious questions as to whether the building should have remained open”.

The strike received a lot of solidarity. More than £10,000 has been donated and messages of support have poured in from across the trade union movement.

Jafeth said, “It has been so important to not feel alone and  helps us keep fighting until we beat this company.”

Gilma added, “Now we know we can fight. 

“Other workers need to see what we are doing and wake up to the fact that they can fight too if we can.”

Cleaners’ reps are now considering future actions to maintain the momentum of a very successful strike.


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