Socialist Worker

Cleaners take on outsourcing bosses at UEL university

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2746

Workers protested outside UELs Docklands campus in east London

Workers protested outside UEL's Docklands campus in east London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Cleaners rallied outside the University of East London (UEL) on Tuesday as part of their long-running fight against outsourcing and victimisation.

The Caiwu union members are demanding the reinstatement of union rep Carlos, to be brought back in house and better terms and conditions.

On the protest outside UEL’s Docklands campus, workers chanted, “What do we want—in house”. They held signs saying, “Clean up outsourcing,” and, “Cleaners at UEL—in house in 2021.”

Marc, who has worked as a cleaner at UEL for over a decade, says working conditions at the university have worsened over the years. “We are given too much work to do,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Of course we work hard, but the problem is we have to work too hard. 

“Management gives us work to do in two hours when we wouldn’t even be able to do it in four.” 

Ivan, a cleaner at UEL for 14 years, said that management tries to get “as much money as possible” out of workers. “We are asked to do the work of more people,” he told Socialist Worker. “When someone is off sick, they aren’t replaced.

“Some of the managers are very rude to us, they don’t really care to talk to us about things.

“Everything seems to be about making a profit for them.” 

Ivan pointed out that, even when cleaners have worked for the company for more than a decade, they have little chance of promotion. “There is no opportunity here,” he explained. “No way to make more money in higher positions.” 


Carlos was dismissed from his job for speaking out in January. 

Ivan said management targets organised workers by cutting their hours. “Management would prefer to bring in new people to cut our hours and then send us home” he said. 

University of East London cleaners fight victimisation of union rep
University of East London cleaners fight victimisation of union rep
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And Marc added that management does this because “newer workers are less likely to make a fuss”. 

The union plans to ballot workers for strikes in the coming months. 

The contract between Nviro and UEL will end this year. Workers are fighting to ensure that this will mean an end to outsourcing at the university.  

Caiwu general secretary Alberto Durango said firms will take “any excuse to squeeze more out of workers and are using the pandemic as a way to do this”. “There are examples of small groups of workers fighting everywhere,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Uniting these struggles is important as well as firmly saying that the system that is in place is the problem.”  

The brave actions of the cleaners—most them migrants—shows it’s possible to organise against the outsourcers. 

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