Over the past months, one of the issues we have organized around as a union was the issue of better working conditions for the cleaning staff at the university. Together with the colleagues of the Women’s Strike at Ghent University, we organized a campaign to demand the insourcing for the cleaning staff. In this way, they would be able to enjoy the same working conditions as similar staff at Ghent University, conditions that are much better than in the cleaning sector. Under pressure from this campaign, the Board of Governors decided in September 2020 not to pursue an insourcing for now, but to demand better working conditions in the new public tender procedure.
This morning Friday May 21st 2021, the Ghent University Board has decided to grant the new cleaning contract in this public tender. We notice that there is indeed a certain increase in salary and working conditions, even if it’s a limited increase. Wages will increase to 14€/hour, for the lowest salaries this means an increase by 44 cents/hour, or about 30€/month in net salary. The cleaners will also receive extra paid holidays: 2 extra days for all the cleaning staff, and some additional days for staff older than 50. The details about this can be found on the website of Ghent University.
On itself, this is already a step forward: the cleaning sector is known to be very resistant to any increase of salaries or working conditions, no matter how small. The fact that ISS was prepared to raise conditions is a first victory for the campaign we did. We want to thank everybody who has taken part in this.
At the same time, we can’t fail to notice that the offered conditions are very limited compared to working conditions at Ghent University: our cleaners will still work in much worse conditions than those applicable to comparable university staff.
Besides that, it appears now that one of major arguments against insourcing, the possible increase in costs, no longer is present. The new contract will be significantly more expensive, and if the extra cleaning tasks Ghent University asks every year outside the contract are taken into account, it seems like insourcing is now not only better for the cleaning staff, but could even be cheaper for the university as well.
We have promised our colleagues at the cleaning staff to present these new conditions to them, and we will do so in the coming month. They will decide collectively if and how we continue this campaign. If they still want to go for insourcing, we will continue that struggle.
In that case, we will need to count on the solidarity of staff and students at Ghent University. Those who want to participate in that campaign with us, can contact us at email@example.com. This solidarity was crucial in achieving this first step to fairer working conditions for the cleaning staff. This solidarity will be needed to take the next steps as well.