Need help at work facing sack

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TonySark229
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Jan 13 2015 10:25
Need help at work facing sack

Hey libcom,

I am not an anarchist or communist I really don't do politics but I am looking for help regarding my work and likely imminent firing, my ex girlfriend (into politics and activist stuff) said it might be worth asking about on here for some advice, she has the libcom sub on facebook.

Basically I work for the agency the council use to do cleaning, catering and other crap jobs in schools, nursing homes, libraries etc.

I currently do a job as an assistant in a kitchen and a few months ago started doing cleaning, this is where the problem comes in.
I was told originally I would be getting 2 hours a day to clean the area I would be taking over, 5 days a week. The job was a 2 hour job and the cleaner who I took over from asked to make it a 1 3/4 hour a day job as she started in the kitchen and the jobs crossed over by 15 minutes, so I was asked if I wanted the job, I said yes.

On the first day I went in paid to take part in deep cleaning I was informed I was only getting an hour and three quarters and they also wanted me to clean the hall on the friday, meaning I would be getting paid 1 3/4 for what is a job that need 2 hours minimum (previous cleaner had her daughter who worked at the facility helping her unpaid and still could barely finish in 2 hours, the hall was a job that both cleaners were paid to do once in a while for cash money, £15 an hour and they shared the job.

But now I am being told I have to do a 2 hour cleaning job in 1 3/4 which ive been doing from the start when I found out, even though my area is way harder to clean than the other cleaners area, she is paid more, not asked to do the hall.

I think and others have said this seems like discrimination based on my gender, the only male cleaner I am aware of and they are paying me less hours to do more work.

I refused to do the hall today when the headteacher of the school said I had to do it, I told her I can't because it means I only have 4 days to do classrooms that are used 5 days and I already can't do proerly because of lack of time. I have not done the hall in weeks, in is too hard and impossible to do both and keep it tidy and finish on time (don't get paid for staying extra)

Basically she tried to bully me into it and I said no and that I need 2 hours and I won't do the hall, she basically implied i would be risking getting fired and I just said no she is being unfair and i won't do it.

Manager then rang once i got home and said the same, I told her I was told I would be getitng two hours and not old I would be doing the hall until I started, she said I was lying, tried to shout me down, I said if you wish to talk to me contact my union I have to go and hung up.

I have just spent 15 minutes frantically joining Unison as fast as I can.

I only earn about 5 grand a year and me and my girlfriend have been struggling to save up for a tiny flat and I am terrified I am going to be jobless. I won't however go back to what I see as unfair work, something I feel I was tricked into and being singled out for worse pay, more work and unequal treatment.

Problem is I think the manager has told the woman I took over from to say she didn't tell me it was 2 hours and ther manager will keep saying she told me it was 1 and three quarter hours, so I have no one to turn to for back up, they are scared to lose their jobs, even the ones who agree with me I can't drag into it because they are mainly single mums and I don't want to mess them up financially.

The manager is a complete awful person for example she cam einto the kitchen in saftey shoes and hers were painted in disney pattern for christmas, one of the staff asked could they do it and she said "do as I say not as I do" she is just a horrible person, she is generally hated amongst the workers for lying, promising contracts only to never give them to people etc.

If anyone can give me any help I will be extremely thankful.

TonySark229
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Jan 13 2015 10:32

Quick update, I am going to continue to do the cleaning for 105 minute 5 days a week and refuse the hall and keep saying i need extra 15 minutes.

Before I hung up on the manager she said she will be in soon and will see me, I imagine if I refuse she will try and fire me then and there.

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plasmatelly
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Jan 13 2015 10:38

Hi Tony, Manchester SolFed can possibly help you. They have members who are cleaners too. Send me a private message and I can pass you an email address- or contact via the main sf website

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2015 20:17

Hi Tony (I hope that's not your real name! If it is let me know so we can change it so you can't get in trouble)

What school, council and whereabouts is this? Don't say publicly on here but could you let me know in a private message?

I'm a Unison rep, and represent schools workers, outsourced cleaners etc.

When you say you work for an agency do you mean the school directly hires cleaners from a temp agency (like Hays), or do you work for a cleaning contractor like ISS? Or do you work for a company like ISS as an agency worker? (Again, don't mention the company name on here but you could put it in a private message to me)

Are you on a permanent contract, or are you a temp?

Either way unfortunately you're not in a very strong position, as even if you are legally permanent you only have rights against unfair dismissal after you've been there two years.

What do your colleagues think, are they broadly sympathetic? If they are all-female, I would avoid mentioning you think it's sex discrimination, as some of them could feel overloaded with work as well. Also legally you wouldn't get anywhere with that line of argument as it seems you couldn't prove what you are saying about it used to be a two-hour job (I'm not saying I don't believe you, of course I do, just you couldn't prove it to a court. And to disprove it all the employer would have to do is find a female cleaner they have given too much work to!)

I would try to talk to your local union rep to see what they say. Unfortunately it may well be that they are useless, but it is worth a try.

What I would do as a first step is try not to get into aggravation with your line manager, and don't threaten her with "the union" as it's basically an idle threat. I would try to de-escalate the situation at the moment, and put your concerns in writing and e-mail them to her. Basically stating that you are not refusing your duties (as refusing a reasonable management instruction is what they would try to discipline you on). However you are physically unable to do what they are asking of you in the time allotted. So you can clean the hall if they even increase your hours or reduce your other duties. And see what they say.

If this doesn't work, I would try to get your union rep to raise it as a health and safety issue. Your choice is either that you then do the whole at but inadequately (as you have insufficient time, which is then unsafe for children/staff) or you will have to work too fast for your own health and safety (because you can't be running around with a hoover, for example). Under the Health and Safety at Work Act workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. So as next step if management don't agree, say get your union rep to say that that work would be unsafe. And if they say it's not, then say you/your rep needs to see the risk assessment (which they won't have, but which they are legally required to have).

Now, if the rest of your colleagues were solidly behind you and equally pissed off, I would say you could take a more confrontational approach, but from what you say this is not the case (and it's not the case for most of the cleaners I know who are as you say very low paid, precarious workers who may also have immigration issues and so won't want to rock the boat)

Anyway best of luck mate let us know how you get on

TonySark229
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Jan 13 2015 20:46
Steven. wrote:
Hi Tony (I hope that's not your real name! If it is let me know so we can change it so you can't get in trouble)

What school, council and whereabouts is this? Don't say publicly on here but could you let me know in a private message?

I'm a Unison rep, and represent schools workers, outsourced cleaners etc.

When you say you work for an agency do you mean the school directly hires cleaners from a temp agency (like Hays), or do you work for a cleaning contractor like ISS? Or do you work for a company like ISS as an agency worker? (Again, don't mention the company name on here but you could put it in a private message to me)

Are you on a permanent contract, or are you a temp?

Either way unfortunately you're not in a very strong position, as even if you are legally permanent you only have rights against unfair dismissal after you've been there two years.

What do your colleagues think, are they broadly sympathetic? If they are all-female, I would avoid mentioning you think it's sex discrimination, as some of them could feel overloaded with work as well. Also legally you wouldn't get anywhere with that line of argument as it seems you couldn't prove what you are saying about it used to be a two-hour job (I'm not saying I don't believe you, of course I do, just you couldn't prove it to a court. And to disprove it all the employer would have to do is find a female cleaner they have given too much work to!)

I would try to talk to your local union rep to see what they say. Unfortunately it may well be that they are useless, but it is worth a try.

What I would do as a first step is try not to get into aggravation with your line manager, and don't threaten her with "the union" as it's basically an idle threat. I would try to de-escalate the situation at the moment, and put your concerns in writing and e-mail them to her. Basically stating that you are not refusing your duties (as refusing a reasonable management instruction is what they would try to discipline you on). However you are physically unable to do what they are asking of you in the time allotted. So you can clean the hall if they even increase your hours or reduce your other duties. And see what they say.

If this doesn't work, I would try to get your union rep to raise it as a health and safety issue. Your choice is either that you then do the whole at but inadequately (as you have insufficient time, which is then unsafe for children/staff) or you will have to work too fast for your own health and safety (because you can't be running around with a hoover, for example). Under the Health and Safety at Work Act workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. So as next step if management don't agree, say get your union rep to say that that work would be unsafe. And if they say it's not, then say you/your rep needs to see the risk assessment (which they won't have, but which they are legally required to have).

Now, if the rest of your colleagues were solidly behind you and equally pissed off, I would say you could take a more confrontational approach, but from what you say this is not the case (and it's not the case for most of the cleaners I know who are as you say very low paid, precarious workers who may also have immigration issues and so won't want to rock the boat)

Anyway best of luck mate let us know how you get on

Hey mate,

Thanks for the reply. By the way no not my real name so all good there.

To clarify I have been there 2 years in a kitchen job, as a GA, the recent job was a cleaning job ive been doing for a few months, the head cook in the kitchen was previously doing it but she couldn't do the hours so offered it to me.

Basically the cleaning job was running into her hours in the kitchen, it was initially 2 hours, she requested it to be changed to 1 and 3/4 so she could go straight from cleaning to the kitchen on time, thats why it was changed to a 1 and 3/4 hour job, for her circumstances but she used to have 2 hours. She also got cash in hand with the other cleaner to do the hall and they split it.

When I was offered the job I was asked by her do you want my cleaning job its two hours, no mention of the hall being included.

I went in paid when the school was out of term to clean with her (she showed me the area, helped each other in the deep clean) that is when I found out I would be on 1 and 3/4 and have to do the hall. Problem was I had already accepted the job and I have already used the expected income for expenses I needed so couldn't just then not work, but I did ring and say I didn't know it was not 2 hours and I did say I needed more to do the job.

I don't want to point out my area needs more cleaning than the other and that the other cleaner literally spends half the time reading a magazine because to be honest, I feel like while the other cleaners area is easy to do and she can have it done in an hour, she is a nice woman and I generally am not ok with grassing on someone else earning hardly anything, even though I think she is actively making sure none of her time is transfered to even our time up.

Even if it would be fairer to me, at the end of the day we shoudln't have to fight over 15 minutes pay, the company which makes like 30 quid for each of us a day should pay me when they know I am constantly staying over time to finish.

I really appreciate you bothering to take the time to try and help me but I am just sick of it. I am going to the armed forces careers office after work and starting my application process. I have pretty much given hope of finding a decent living from a civvie job. My brothers, some cousins and mates have done so recently and it seems the only realistic option of me ever not being flat out broke.

Will keep you guys updated.

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2015 23:27

Definitely don't grass on your colleague, I'm aware of many cases where people have done this and it has never helped them. The best case scenario is that you won't be any better off and your colleague will get sacked as well.

If you're not an agency worker and you have done regular hours there for more than two years then you will have rights against unfair dismissal (but you will still need to tread carefully so making your argument on health and safety grounds will be better than just flat-out refusing which could get you disciplined)

Obviously work wise you do what you need to do but I would advise against joining the Army! Not just because I disagree with things the Army does (that basically it is poor and working class British people sent to kill poor and working class foreigners), but because they treat their employees like crap and they forbid you from leaving (at least for a while).

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Chilli Sauce
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Jan 14 2015 08:56

Hi Tony, just to say there's been lots of great advice on this thread and before throwing in the towel, I'd really try to sit down with someone to discuss your optiosn - maybe your UNISON rep (although as Steven says, they might be shit), maybe someone from a supportive organisation like SolFed. But just having those conversations and a game plan can make all the difference in giving you a bit of heart for the fight!

Good luck!

TonySark229
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Jan 15 2015 14:08

Update

My area and line managers came in today, basically had a meeting, head teacher was not present, she won't even make eye contact with me in the halls after I called her out for basically treating me like shit.

I really held back and said I won't do any work after my cleaning shift ends and would do the hall but the area will likely suffer because i won't have time to do it.

I wanted to make sure I had my job before I try and get the union to help me.

My head cook I work with who used to do the cleaning said its disgusting, it is a 2 hour a day job and was always that and it was only supposed to go down in time for her until they found someone else to do it.

She said her and the other cleaner were both paid 20 pounds each cash in hand to do the hall and were both paid 2 hours for their cleaning.

My line manager just kept saying the head simply does not have the money, but I don't see how she used to be able to pay for 2 hours a day for each cleaner and £40 cash in hand for the hall, but now she can't afford my two hours or extra cash to do the hall.

So I have said I will do the hours I am paid and do the hall one day a week instead of the classrooms but will not stay a minute over the time I am paid, they said OK.

Where can I take it from here? Is there anything I can do?

When I mentioned the Union and said someone from solfed had advised me that paying me under 2 hours and having me run around to make up for time is a health and safety hazard etc, she asked for a name so I just said alan and she looked a bit worried and said well talk to the union they know what we are dealing with, we are all lucky to have a job, maybe if i can't do it it isnt the job for me etc.

Also went down to my Armed forces careers office and got some leaflets and career magazines and stuff to take home, not sure if I will join but if I can't find any other work I will probably have to at some point.

TonySark229
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Jan 15 2015 14:08
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Hi Tony, just to say there's been lots of great advice on this thread and before throwing in the towel, I'd really try to sit down with someone to discuss your optiosn - maybe your UNISON rep (although as Steven says, they might be shit), maybe someone from a supportive organisation like SolFed. But just having those conversations and a game plan can make all the difference in giving you a bit of heart for the fight!

Good luck!

Thanks mate.

TonySark229
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Jan 16 2015 09:02

I am planning on doing the following:

Drafting a letter to the head teacher for monday morning saying I will do which ever areas she asks me whatever days for the same 1 and 3/4 hours but I will be taking it upon myself to do the following in accordance with what I feel is my moral duty and my right

1. Contact the appropriate authorities when I feel my area has become a health and safety risk area due to my inability to manage it on the reduced hours I am being paid.

2. Contact local press expressing concern that the welfare of the children under her care is being ignored in order to try and get away with paying member of staff less to cover the same area.

3. Allow other workers to distribute posters and leaflets on my behalf around (not on) school premises highlighting that the school is looking to reduce staff time for a quick economic insentive of saving a mere 300 pounds a year which is making their childs learning enviorement unfit.

4. Use social media to raise awareness of the issue

5. Express to my union I was mislead about what hours I would recieve and what duties I would be asked to perform.

Can anyone please let me know what they think?

Max_Anarchies
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Jan 16 2015 13:50

In my opinion, 2, 3 and 4 look like good options, not that 1 and 5 aren't of course, they're just independent of any potentially crippling bureaucracy. But you might want to be careful, I think the threat of "concerned parents" for the school is more likely to work in your favour than the reality of it, but then that probably depends on a lot of factors that would be very specific to the school and the community.

As others have expressed earlier, getting in direct contact with a sympathetic organisation, like SolFed or the IWW is probably the best way to go. Not that I don't welcome you as a new poster here, but the more you post the more there is to tie this to you and risk making the situation worse.

Here's a link to a list of current SF locals: http://www.solfed.org.uk/local

I'd strongly suggest you get in touch with the closest one to you if you haven't already, even if it isn't physically that close as many of our locals have a larger geographical spread than is implied by their names.

Good luck!

Max_Anarchies
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Jan 16 2015 13:20
TonySark229 wrote:
I really appreciate you bothering to take the time to try and help me but I am just sick of it. I am going to the armed forces careers office after work and starting my application process.

I just want to add, basically everyone I've ever met who has been in the forces has come out of it pretty badly. Ultimately, you need to do what you need to do to survive, but don't take this decision lightly, there's a reason they make it so easy to apply.

TonySark229
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Jan 16 2015 14:10

OK so this happened today.

Basically I was going to go ahad with the plan outlined above.

Manager rang saying she would get the other cleaner to do the hall with me one day so id have an hour to do the classrooms, I said no its fine I will just do it, because obviously my plan was to accept the unsustainable hours and then use the health and safety hazard etc to try and twist the heads arm into giving me more hours.

Turns out the head cook and ex cleaner has been ringing the managers defending me and saying both cleaners should at least be splitting the hall, she was just looking out for me and if the outcome of my plan would not of gotten me two hours at least I have now got an hour to do classrooms on hall days.

Me saying I would do the hall alone probably has made me look like a pushover on the phone but she did ring back and say the other clenaer agreed anyway after I said I would just do it alone.

Anyway guess it is the end of all of this, keep this shitty job for now.

As for the advice about the forces, I understand peoples points about it not being worth it, but to me a starting training wage for the royal marines being 14 and a half grand and once I have seved a year it going up to 17 and a half, that is a massive wage increase, basically tripling what I earn. would also get me out of being a cleaner which, is somewhat humiliating and demeaning, cleaning up other peoples shit for almost no money.

My brother joined out of school and now at 28 he has enough money to buy a house, has a car, will have an awesome pension and has job security. Plus both wars are over now so hopefully I wouldn't have to do anything that would mess me up.

Thanks for the advice, some really nice people on here. Been browsing the site, feel like wolfe smith smile

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Steven.
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Jan 16 2015 19:09
Quote:
So I have said I will do the hours I am paid and do the hall one day a week instead of the classrooms but will not stay a minute over the time I am paid, they said OK.

well this sounds like an okay resolution for the time being.

Quote:
Where can I take it from here? Is there anything I can do?

Basically, what is it you want from here? Hopefully with this new arrangement you won't have an impossible task. So is the main thing you want just more hours? In that case you could just see how things go, and remind them shortly that if they want the hall cleaned more regularly they could pay you for an extra 15 min. Or you could see if additional hours become available, but there's not really a lot else you can do to try to get more hours.

Quote:
When I mentioned the Union and said someone from solfed had advised me that paying me under 2 hours and having me run around to make up for time is a health and safety hazard etc, she asked for a name so I just said alan and she looked a bit worried and said well talk to the union they know what we are dealing with, we are all lucky to have a job, maybe if i can't do it it isnt the job for me etc.

FYI, I'm not in Solfed, I'm in the Anarchist Federation. I wouldn't tell your bosses you have got advice from Solfed or the Anarchist Federation TBH!

Anyway, best of luck with everything