Socialist Worker

Soas cleaners win first round in battle for equality

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2400

Unison union rep Consuelo Moreno on the picket line at SOAS

Unison union rep Consuelo Moreno on the picket line at SOAS (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Cleaners at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) have won improved holidays, sick pay and pensions from outsourcing giant ISS.

The Unison union members, who are mainly migrants from South America, struck for three days last month. They were preparing further industrial action when bosses made the new offer.

The workers voted to accept a deal last week giving them up to seven extra holidays a year, sick pay from day one of their employment and access to an improved company pension.

“An extra week’s holiday makes such a difference for many of us to make the long trip to see our families in Latin America,” Lenin Escudero, a cleaners’ Unison rep at Soas, told Socialist Worker.

“And the improved sick pay is significant. Some of our colleagues have been coming into work injured for a long time because they cannot afford to be off. Now they will be able to have an operation and get the sick pay they are entitled to.”

Equality

Soas cleaners’ Unison rep Consuelo Moreno told Socialist Worker, “We’re very happy to be closer to our demands but our struggle for equality with other Soas workers continues. We’ve shown that by being organised and united we can win victories.”

The cleaners’ strikes caused massive disruption and forced ISS bosses to change their position. 

Lenin said, “These multinationals have power and money and think they can get away with anything. From day one ISS told us we would get nothing. But we always believed in our capacity to fight. Now we’ve moved this company. They were almost begging us to stop our campaign. But we haven’t won the war yet, only just this battle,” he added.

The cleaners received huge solidarity from other trade unionists, including thousands of pounds in donations and morale-boosting visits to the picket line, which helped maintain and strengthen the dispute.

Consuelo said, “Thanks to all those who supported us unconditionally—they have become our friends in the struggle.

“The solidarity was so important and it helped us challenge working conditions that were suppressing us. By building this solidarity across the trade union movement we can push our struggles forward.”


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