Following seven days of strike action earlier this year, cleaners at the LSE have achieved a historic victory by attaining the commitment (from LSE) to being brought in-house by “Spring 2018” as well as parity of working conditions with other staff at LSE. Despite this, however, the student group ‘Justice for LSE Cleaners’ feel the LSE is still some way off delivering on their goals of “Dignity, Equality and Respect”.
Since October 2016, Daniel, a cleaner at the LSE employed by the outsourcing company Noonan, claims to have faced homophobic bullying from his colleagues on campus. He describes hearing comments such as “all gay people should be murdered, burnt alive and hanged” and has reported feeling suicidal to his GP.
Six weeks after Daniel brought his grievances to the account manager Richard Seddon on the 16th of December, an initial investigation took place. During this time none of the accused were suspended and Seddon is reported to have dismissed the severity of the harassment by stating that “it’s in their culture”. Richard Seddon has since been removed from the account by Noonan, following pressure from the cleaners’ union United Voices of the World.
It has since taken Noonan seven and a half months to respond to Daniel’s initial complaint made in December. Noonan recognised only one case of the six aggressors accused, deeming the behaviour “inappropriate”, stating that “the contract manager should monitor the situation” and taking no further disciplinary action. They have also placed Daniel under suspicion of fabricating these allegations, threatening him with potential disciplinary procedures.
Daniel has said that this pervasive environment of homophobic bullying has not disappeared. After a recent group death threat was sent that induced a panic attack, he was left in a cleaner’s cupboard till 4pm when his supervisor told him he could go home. Despite being found guilty of harassment, the colleague responsible was sent to be ‘re-trained’ and not suspended.
Following Noonan’s response earlier this summer, Daniel was only given seven days to appeal. His case against Noonan will go to tribunal in January. However, due to the nature of outsourcing, LSE is able to avoid any legal liability for his treatment. Yet they do have the power to fire those responsible and force Noonan to take action. As such, the campaign is attempting to highlight what it sees as LSE’s complicity in this case of homophobia on campus.
The student-led group have issued five demands including the sacking “of all homophobic bullies from campus” as well as requesting LSE “publically recognise and apologise for their complicity in the perpetration of institutionalised homophobia and racism.” Following last week’s open meeting, the ‘Justice for LSE Cleaners’ group have begun preparations for an upcoming demo in an attempt to highlight the perceived injustice and build pressure on the LSE to intervene.