Cambridge Labour councillors and activists, along with representatives from trade unions, have heavily criticised plans by Trinity College, revealed last week in leaked documents, to make 50% of their cleaning and housekeeping staff redundant.
Trinity, the richest of the University’s 31 colleges, is alleged to be consulting on redundancies in a range of non-academic departments including catering, maintenance and the Porters Lodge. The largest number of proposed redundancies are in housekeeping and cleaning. In total, 93 jobs are potentially at risk. Queen’s College are also thought to be considering redundancies, and 15% of non-academic staff at Downing College are now out of work.
Cllr Anna Smith who, as Executive Councillor for Communities, leads on the city council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy as well as emergency food provision across the city, expressed her frustration at the news;
“Back in the 1920s, Cambridge Labour’s Leah Manning was fighting for the rights of college cleaning staff, and it looks as if nothing has changed almost a hundred years on. At a time when public health should be at the top of our agendas, it’s very concerning to see colleges cutting back on cleaning staff, especially when one of those colleges is one of the wealthiest in Cambridge University.
“This period has seen many sink deeper into poverty, and many experience poverty for the first time. The council and its partners are doing all we can to ensure that no-one goes hungry, but the end of the government furlough scheme risks so many more people losing their jobs and falling into poverty. Trinity’s plans risk putting extra pressure on families.”
County Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, who is also chair of Cambridge Labour CLP, joined calls for Trinity to halt any job losses;
“Cleaning and housekeeping staff in colleges are essential to make the environment as safe as possible for both students and the wider community.
“The economy in Cambridge is already suffering from the long-term absence of students and the recession that’s affecting the whole country. Trinity has broad shoulders, and plenty of resources; they should be looking after these staff – and their students. It’s irresponsible of them to be planning redundancies at a time when people are suffering.
“Cambridge Labour Party, our city council and Daniel Zeichner our MP will be fighting to defend these jobs and any others put at risk, like those at Queen’s and Downing Colleges.”
Local trade union representatives have also attacked the redundancy plans, and the college’s lack of transparency. Pete Monaghan, co-chair of Cambridge Trades Council condemned the college’s plans;
“Trinity College should be ashamed of itself for proposing these redundancies. As the wealthiest college in the country, with assets of around £1.3billion, they should be leading the example and using their resources to help all those suffering at the moment. Instead they are making some of the lowest paid workers in our city redundant.
“Trinity need those workers – those cleaners and housekeepers – to keep the college COVID secure when students return in October and help prevent a rise in infections. They have a responsibility to those staff.
“The trades council and our affiliated unions will stand in solidarity with those at risk of redundancy – both at Trinity and any other colleges.”