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02.03.2023 / News / Worker's Story /

Veteran cleaner and strike leader fights trade union victimisation at London School of Economics

“This constant picking on me seemed to intensify after our successful strike against outsourcing. I suspect this repetitive singling out has to do far more with my union activities than anything else.”

Mildred Simpson, UVW member, strike leader and cleaner at LSE

A cleaner of 21 years at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), who successfully led her colleagues to strike in late 2016 ending inequitable outsourcing at the LSE, is facing disciplinary action on flimsy grounds, which could get her dismissed just before she reaches retirement age. We believe this is trade union victimisation because of her role in the cleaners’ victory in 2017.

Mildred Simpson, hailing from Jamaica, is a Black, female, migrant and on the verge of retirement. She is also a fervent trade unionist and strike leader who is going strong and working two shifts at LSE Monday to Friday: as a cleaner from 6am to 8.30am and as a janitor from 9am to 5pm. “My shift starts at 6am but I’m in LSE every morning from around 5:15am because I’m a team leader and I want to have enough time before my actual shift starts so everything is ready before my team arrives. This is my own time”, she explains. 

Despite being a conscientious employee, she’s being subjected to a formal disciplinary investigation for being accused of leaving her post 15 minutes before the end of her shift on three occasions as far back as two years ago. “In my view, it’s all down to bullying and victimisation. I feel that they’ve been targeting me for years” she tells us.

She continued “I’ve been in and out of meetings over the years, I’ve had several meetings about minor issues which have fizzled out without any result, but this constant picking on me seemed to intensify after our successful strike against outsourcing. I suspect this repetitive singling out has to do far more with my union activities than anything else.”  

In late 2016, Mildred successfully led the LSE cleaners, mostly Black, brown and migrant, to strike. Their action highlighted the stark disparities (in pay, sick pay, paid leave, maternity pay and pensions) between outsourced and in-house staff, who even wore different uniforms at the time! The contractor system was ditched and they were brought in-house. 

Mildred has been complaining that there doesn’t seem to be as many staff as there needs to be to do the work comfortably. She feels this appears to have been interpreted as her not being able to do her job properly, which she feels is unfair.

The pressure on Mildred has taken its toll. She had to be signed off sick by a doctor and go to counselling to be able to cope. “This situation at the school is putting me under a lot of stress. – she says – I’ve been struggling for a long time. The reality of what’s happening to me is real, it’s not a joke. It is real. So I have reached a state where I want to put everything out there, because people ought to see what the school is all about. Because so many see the LSE as a good school, the best school… but no. People here, especially us, the cleaners, we are suffering and I feel like I’m being put down like we are nothing. But I’m Mildred and I’m not staying in the shadows any longer.”

Mildred is back at work now and is waiting to hear what happens next. She is adamant that she is going to fight: “What they are doing to me they are bound to be doing to others too, but people are afraid to speak up when things go wrong. But I’m not standing down, I’m not shutting down. I’m not stepping down about this,” Mildred says. 

She also advises any worker in a similar situation to do the same. “The union is behind me 100 percent. I know this. If you are suffering like I’m suffering. keep your spirits up, keep your strength up, because we, in the union, support each other. Whatever they are doing to us, we are not standing down.“

UVW is backing Mildred all the way. Stay tuned for more updates! 


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