On February 13th, Cardiff University students and staff conducted a ‘Love Your Cleaner’ campaign to celebrate and publicise the successful negotiation of the Living Wage for all subcontracted cleaners on the university campus. The event was publicised over twitter using the hashtag #LoveYourCleaner.
Standardised memos thanking the cleaners on behalf of the students and staff were posted around the toilets and cleaning cupboards in many of the university’s main campus, including the Law, Sir Martin Evans, Bute, Glamorgan, Redwood, and John Percival Buildings. Several academics wrote personalised thank-you cards and letters to the cleaners, leaving them in their own personal offices where they could easily be found.
Some students and staff expressed doubt regarding the action, as putting up memos and cards that would eventually have to be disposed of might be construed as causing more work for the cleaners, and self-contradictory. However, the visible reaction to the action has been very positive, with many academics finding personalised replies to their memos the following morning.
The ‘Love Your Cleaner’ action was also a celebration of the hard work that cleaning staff at Cardiff University do. Many of them have commented that the action was a refreshing break from the usual feeling of being overlooked by the university, despite the important contribution their work makes to the smooth functioning of the institution.
In addition, the standardised notes provided cleaners with the option to text in with feedback or any significant complaints that they had with their current work conditions. Texts received since have included suggestions for further campaigns and action, and expressions of gratitude for the appreciative gesture.
The action follows a milestone achievement realised by the Cardiff University Living Wage campaign that has lasted over one and a half years, though the campaigners emphasise that the accreditation of Cardiff University as an official Living Wage employer is still their final goal.
The effects of the Living Wage on the university’s cleaning staff has immediately become apparent, with one of the university’s cleaners saying that they could now afford to buy presents for their grandchildren. Another cleaner expressed how the Living Wage allowed them to rent out a flat in Cardiff, rather than having to live in and commute from Newport, where their living conditions had been highly unpleasant.
Thank-you cards were also issued to several members of the university’s Executive Board and Council, to express gratitude for their decision to work towards a Living Wage. Enclosed within these cards were blank thank-you cards and envelopes, in an attempt to encourage these members of staff to acknowledge the difficult work of the cleaning staff themselves.
This event was organized by Citizens UK, a community-organising body who aim to unite members of local communities and galvanise them into taking action to improve the lives of everybody involved.
Sum Sze Tam
Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Cox