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Cleaners at the University of East London enter official dispute

Cleaners at the University of East London enter official dispute with their employer Nviro Limited

The cleaners at the University of East London (“UEL”) are now in official dispute with their employer Nviro Limited (“Nviro”).

The Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (“CAIWU”), who represent the cleaners at UEL, have announced the beginning of the campaign for better pay and working conditions.

The cleaners at UEL are facing a real terms pay cut. Like many working people across the country, the cleaners at UEL are facing rampant inflation, with the price of food rising to a 14 year high and extortionate energy bills. While the Government has set out a support scheme capping energy bills, many of the cleaners will be facing the choice between heating and eating this winter.

The cleaners currently receive the London Living Wage (£11.05 per hour) and the statutory minimum in respect of sick pay, holiday, and pension. The terms and conditions of the cleaners sits in stark contrast to the security guards at UEL, who have considerably more favourable terms and conditions. The security guards are in receipt of guaranteed contractual sick pay, 60% employer contribution to their pension, double pay on bank holidays and Sundays as well as 5 additional days annual holiday entitlement after 5 years of employment.

The cleaners refuse to be treated as second-class employees. They have proved time and time again their importance and value to UEL. For example, UEL is recognised as a leader within the Higher Education sector, particularly in Covid-19 security. The rates of on-campus Covid-19 at UEL remained extremely low throughout the pandemic and the role of the cleaners was critical. Their status as “key workers” during the pandemic and their subsequent work in ensuring that students and other staff at UEL continue to feel safe in their workplace cannot be overstated.

The cleaners have therefore been left with no option but to act against their employer, Nviro, and UEL who have the ultimate control over their terms and conditions. CAIWU wrote to both UEL and Nviro in September, but they have refused to meet and made no concessions to the demands set out by the cleaners, which are as follows:

  1. A pay increase to £15 per hour.

  2. Guaranteed contractual sick pay.

  3. 5 additional days holiday entitlement after 5 years of employment.

  4. 60% employer’s pension contribution.

  5. Double pay on bank holidays and Sundays.

UEL cleaners are in dispute to get better pay because London life is very expensive now and we cannot afford our expenses at home and transport. Everything is very expensive that is why we are asking for a pay rise to £15 per hour. Also, Nviro does not pay us sick pay and we are fighting for equality in our workplace, and we want to stop discrimination against the black and Asian cleaners in our workplace.” (Marc Preira, cleaner, UEL)

UEL advocates for equality, and this should be natural for an institution that should teach values to students but what it shows in practice is different, the working conditions of the direct workers are much better than the cleaners who work for an outsourced company, a great hypocrisy.” (Alberto Durango, CAIWU General Secretary)

Contact Henry Tufnell on 07927 451462. Email: Twitter: @caiwuunion. Web:

CAIWU is the union for cleaners in the United Kingdom. The general secretary is Alberto Durango.

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