Socialist Worker

Facebook workers speak out - ‘Bosses are taking advantage of Covid-19 to attack us’

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2727

Facebook workers are fighting back

Facebook workers are fighting back (Pic: CAIWU)


Cleaning workers at Facebook’s head office in London have told Socialist Worker that bosses are “taking advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and workers’ hours”.

The workers at the social media giant were facing redundancy, and are now being offered new contracts for the same job.

But these contracts are for fewer hours and less pay.

Workers said Facebook and outsourcer Bidvest Noonan are giving them no choice but to either quit or work in even worse conditions for less money.

Fanny is a worker whose hours could be cut drastically by Bidvest Noonan. She told Socialist Worker that the situation for her and her family is “very bad”.

“I am a single mother with three kids,” she said. “I begged the company to give me 16 hours a week, but they didn’t want to. My hours have been cut from 20 to 12 hours.”

Facebook plans to expand one of its headquarters by five floors. But workers aren’t being rewarded for the firm’s success.

When the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) reached out to Facebook, it was told Facebook was “not the correct organisation” to speak to.

Facebook said the union should “engage with (outsourcers) JLL and Noonan Bidvest” instead.

A CAIWU spokesperson said, “Facebook will only care if the cleaning contract is directly with them.”

The CAIWU is pushing for cleaning services at Facebook to be brought in house so that workers have the same rights as all their other staff.

Workers explained how the new contracts will make their conditions worse. “They offered me a job in Acton,” said Fanny. “That is almost one hour and 40 minutes away from my home.

“The travel will cost me over £50 a week, I’m only making about £400 in two weeks. How can I feed my children?”

She said bosses were giving workers no option but to accept the worse jobs or quit. But she added, “The situation is bad at the moment – there are no jobs.”

Contracts

Wilson, another cleaning worker, fears that if workers take these new contracts they will have to do twice the work.

“They are reducing staff,” he told Socialist Worker. “Those who take new contracts—for less money—will have to take on the work of two, or the quality of work will be worse.”

Wilson also pointed out that Bidvest Noonan applied to receive furlough payments from the government, but made workers work throughout lockdown.

He said the new attacks “will cause a lot of distress for workers who have worked for the company through the pandemic”.

And he said workers’ safety had been put at risk.

 “There was a case in April where two workers tested positive for Covid-19,” said Wilson. “Noonan requested that workers go into work to do a deep clean only two days after.

“We weren’t given personal protective equipment. There was no meeting or information about how to do our jobs as safely as possible.

“And there was one incident where workers couldn’t come into work because of the virus. The company then withheld their salaries even though they used holiday time. The workers depended on that money—they eventually gave it to them—but this caused great distress and economic hardship.”

Wilson said bosses’ justifications for their attacks don’t add up.

“Bidvest Noonan says they are restructuring the company because of the economic effects of the virus,” he said. “But these are all lies. They can’t say they don’t need cleaners now in a pandemic.

“The company is taking advantage of the pandemic to make job cuts and make money for themselves.”

Workers and the CAIWU have already forced the company to delay its plans to make redundancies. And last week workers held a protest outside Facebook headquarters in central London, which 30 people attended.

Workers at Facebook are leading the way in demanding that companies stop making profit out of a crisis at the expense of their workers.


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