Help Us Defend the UEL Cleaners


Protests continue as University confirms discussions with Nviro

UEL Vice-Chancellor Amanda Broderick has confirmed that UEL is in discussions with Nviro over the issues affecting the university’s cleaners. The confirmation, contained in an email dated March 10th, followed a second noisy and colourful protest yesterday morning at which CAIWU cleaners and UCU academics again united in common cause against the university’s cynical market-driven approach to its employees.

In her email, Ms Broderick insists that she ‘listens carefully’ to all her colleagues at UEL. She goes on to state that she has ‘noted the concerns that have been raised by some Nviro staff’, and has ‘made the management at Nviro aware of them’. The university, she says, ‘will continue to monitor the progress’ of discussions between Nviro, its staff at the university, and ‘the recognised union, Unison’.

At present, CAIWU has approximately fifty members amongst the cleaners at UEL – around five times as many as Unison.

Unimpressed UEL staff watch the protest

Unimpressed UEL staff watch the protest

Yesterday’s protest was witnessed by a number of senior figures from the university, who appeared extremely unimpressed with what they saw. Among those in attendance were HR representatives and members of the academic staff, including the Provost, Professor Hassan Abdalla, who threatened a CAIWU activist with legal action for openly taking photographs of him and his colleagues. This is somewhat ironic given the willingness of the university to take clandestine photographs of protestors.

In another confrontation witnessed by protestors, UEL Director of HR Peter Gregory informed CAIWU General Secretary Alberto Durango that he would call the police if the noise of the protest wasn’t reduced.

UEL clearly fails to understand the limits to its powers when it comes to attempting to regulate our members’ right to protest.

The campaign will continue, with further protests planned for the coming weeks, and the possibility of industrial action to follow should the university and Nviro fail to address the cleaners’ concerns.

Vice-chancellor and lecturers attend March 3rd demo – Cleaners to protest again on Tuesday March 10th

A strong turnout at the cleaners’ demo on March 3rd showed the strength of feeling and support around the university for the cleaners’ cause, as well as the widespread concern around UEL’s financial priorities.

The protest was well-supported by academic members of staff, the majority of whom were UCU members holding their own strike simultaneously. The university’s vice-chancellor also attended, though we’re sorry to say her reasons for doing so are a little unclear.

The cleaners will be protesting again on Tuesday March 10th – and will be hoping to make a similar impact again next week as yesterday.

Here are some photos from what turned out to be a great day – thanks to everyone who offered your priceless support to our members and their cause.

Here are some video highlights of the protest:


UEL cleaners and academic staff to make common cause on March 3rd

Tuesday March 3rd isn’t just the day of the cleaners’ protest at UEL – it’s also a scheduled strike day for UCU members among the academic staff at the university.

The UCU is striking nationally over what it has termed the ‘four fights’: pay inequality, job insecurity, rising workloads and pay devaluation – issues remarkably similar to those at stake in the cleaners’ dispute. The joint action by cleaners and academic staff shows the depth and breadth of concern over the impact of market-driven economics on the university sector as well as on their immediate jobs and livelihoods.

UEL cleaners will join UCU staff beside their picket line near Cyprus DLR station between 0800 and 0900 on Tuesday March 3rd, where they expect to be joined by supporters from CAIWU as well as students, almost 350 of whom have signed a petition in support of the campaign. A similar number of UEL staff have also signed the petition, showing the strength of support for the cleaners’ campaign for improved conditions.

The event will involve speakers from the cleaners’ collective at UEL, and from CAIWU’s General Secretary.

Please come along on March 3rd and give us your support. The more noise we make, the harder it is for the university to ignore us!

UEL protest leaflet - back

Join the UEL Protest – Tuesday March 3rd, 8am

The UEL cleaners have had enough. Despite Nviro’s promises to look into the issues they first raised back in November, progress appears to have stalled with the award of the London Living Wage a few weeks back.

But if Nviro thinks its problems are about to disappear, then they’re about to be disappointed.

CAIWU and the cleaners are planning a huge protest for Tuesday March 3rd. We have promises of support from among the 600 staff and students who’ve signed the petition in solidarity. And we’re expecting speakers representing the cleaners, the students and the union.

It’s going to be a big day – so make sure it’s in your diary!

UEL Protest leaflet 11-02-2020 0.3 back

Cleaners at UEL make gains in 2020!

Support is growing for our campaign at UEL with member working there for contractor NViro. Over 600 students and staff have signed a petition in solidarity with cleaners’ demands for better working conditions, which has led to NViro agreeing to pay the London Living Wage! We have much more work to do here, but it’s a great start!

December 10th meeting postponed

We have had to postpone the open we had planned for December 10th. But fear not, we are still extremely hard on the UEL campaign – it just isn’t practical to go ahead with the meeting just yet. Apologies to anyone who’d made room in your diary for it.

We are in the process of rearranging the meeting for a new date, which we’ll be announcing here and on our Facebook and Twitter as soon as it’s been decided.

Thank you for your involvement. Do please keep checking back for updates.

UEL Campaign leaflet 29-10-2019 0.6 front

Support the UEL Cleaners – Open Meeting, December 10th

All staff and students at UEL are invited to an open meeting on December 10th in support of the UEL cleaners’ campaign.

The venue is yet to be decided, but please be sure to check back, as we will be announcing full details on this page nearer the time.

Being a cleaner at UEL isn’t easy

For one thing there’s the impossible workload to worry about — the cleaners often have to do the work of two or three people in a single shift.

Then there’s the unfair pay system — they get nothing extra for antisocial shifts. And everyone receives exactly the same rate — even those with special skills, like operating complex machinery.

The holiday system isn’t fair either. Annual leave allowances have been cut, and some cleaners who work two shifts a day never get a holiday at all because leave is only allocated for one shift at a time. It sounds completely mad, but a cleaner can be on leave for one shift yet still have to come in to work for the other!

And there are other issues, like the lack of uniforms, training, and opportunities for promotion.

Nviro, the cleaners’ employer, has even introduced a new position of ‘Charge Hand’, with virtually the same responsibilities of a supervisor but less money.

Perhaps worst of all, Nviro has cut the cleaners’ contracts from 52 weeks a year to 29 or 39. Nviro say this is because cleaners aren’t required in vacations — but that’s a lie. They’re always being asked to do ‘extra’ hours in the summer, for things like deep cleaning and servicing vacation-time events.

It’s really just a ruse to try and save money.

The cleaners like working at UEL. They like the university. But they don’t like the way Nviro is treating them, and they aren’t putting up with it any more.

Everyone understands things aren’t easy for universities at the moment. Everyone knows they’ve been hit in the pocket by the government. And everyone knows that cleaners must look like an easy target when it comes to trimming the budget.

But UEL’s senior Vice-Chancellor earns a quarter of a million pounds a year, and no one, as far as we know, is suggesting they should take a pay cut.

It’s funny how, when money needs to be saved, it’s always the poorest who are expected to tighten their belts.

CAIWU is a not-for-profit organisation. We rely on contributions from our members and supporters in order to carry out our work. If you like what we do, please consider making a donation. Thank you.