Protest cleaners at tropical medicine school given warnings

Police were called but left without taking action

Thursday, 26th May — By Harry Taylor

camden Image 2022-05-30 at 9.58.35 AM (6)

THREE cleaners who were suspended from work after taking part in a protest about pay at a leading university in Bloomsbury have been given written warnings.

One worker remains suspended after the demonstration at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on April 21. Cleaning staff, security guards and porters took part in the action organised by the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB).

The peaceful protest made its way inside the building at one point. Police were called but after turning up they left and took no action.

However the staff, including Narcisia Perez Salgado and Jenny Milet Villeda Sanchez, got text and WhatsApp messages the next day to say they were being suspended from work until further notice.

The notice said that it was after health and safety breaches and pushing security staff. The school said that the decision was made solely by Samsic, the external company through which the university contracts out its cleaning work.

Speaking through an interpreter, Ms Salgado said: “We were suspended for protesting. We were demanding equality, for better pay and for respect in work, which is what everyone deserves.”

Her colleague Ms Sanchez, 43, said: “We feel they did this to intimidate us and intimidate our colleagues and to silence us, but it won’t succeed. They are hoping that by doing this we will be quiet, but that won’t happen.”

The staff are currently paid £11.05 an hour, but are asking for it to be brought into line with the LSHTM pay scale of £14.38.

The contract is being brought in house, but the process won’t be finalised until the start of August. Their current levels of pay would leave them outside the university’s established pay scale.

Staff from the school and University College London will gather outside the institutions in Keppel Street and Malet Place today (Thursday) to protest again over outsourcing and low pay, in another demo organised by the IWGB.

Ms Salgado said: “The cost of living is rising every month, but my work has been undervalued for years. We deserve equality and dignified pay for the important work we do, not victimisation.”

A spokesman for Samsic said: “Four Samsic UK employees were placed on suspension as a holding measure to enable the company to investigate allegations that they facilitated access to the premises of the LSHTM during a protest organised by the IWGB union, when requested not to. Upon conclusion of the investigation three of the four employees questioned were given written warnings while a resolution regarding the remaining individual is still pending.”

A spokesman for the school said they would be reviewing job descriptions once the insourcing had been completed.
“LSHTM wholeheartedly supports the right to peaceful demonstration. However, it is not acceptable for our staff to be threatened and pushed aside under any circumstances.

“The safety of our staff and students is our top priority.”

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