Recently, UCL students received an email that condemned a case of ‘exceptionally poor behaviour’ in Schafer House, which resulted in some students facing potential disciplinary action. Students were allegedly throwing microwaves and televisions out of the window, and vandalising hallways and lifts.
UCL has advised that all UK students return home immediately, if possible, due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in London. However, as it is not possible for many students to return home straight away, or for the foreseeable future, many have remained in UCL accommodation. With rising concerns about the spread of the virus, the atmosphere right now can understandably be tense in halls of accommodation, where some students have to stay out of necessity.
However, this behaviour has also placed an additional burden on cleaners and hall staff, who would have had to clear the mess made. Beyond a general inconvenience, cleaning workers at UCL are already subjected to increased risks, as a report from IWGB suggests that they have not been provided with adequate safety equipment such as gloves and masks.
IWGB are calling on UCL to “immediately complete robust health and safety risk assessments and demonstrate the implementation of strict health and safety protocols”. The provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as hand sanitisers, masks, and two sets of gloves a day, is a basic necessity, which would help reduce harm to workers’ health. Additionally, IWGB also want to ensure that safety measures are tightened for students living in halls of residence at UCL.
Student accommodation has been deemed ‘high risk’ because of the volume of students living in close proximity to each other; cleaners nevertheless are expected to clean these areas. To maximise workers’ safety, they are proposing that spaces which students are self-isolating in, including kitchens and toilets, are cleaned by specialist subcontractors, to ensure these areas are disinfected properly.
The closure of most UCL buildings has unfortunately halted any prospect of visiting campus, meaning that students who are staying in halls are required to remain there as a safety precaution against COVID-19. However, it is unfair to expect the cleaning staff – who are already working in unfavourable conditions– to put themselves at higher risk because of irresponsible behaviour.
With the escalating cases of COVID-19, and at a time when many are practising social distancing, cleaning staff are still trying their best to work to their capacity, and we need to ensure that their safety is prioritised in the same way as all other staff and students at UCL.
This featured in CG Issue 72