The facilities management firm for Facebook has demanded that a union activist leading a campaign against “impossible workloads” imposed on exhausted cleaners at the company’s London offices be fired.
JLL @ Facebook, which manages the social media firm’s London sites, asked Churchill Group, which employs the cleaners, to remove Guillermo Camacho, the workers’ elected union rep, from Facebook’s offices after he helped organize protests against a doubling of cleaning duties in July, according to emails obtained by a news outlet.
“The number of floors we have to clean has gone up from five to 12 [at Facebook’s offices on Brock Street]. But they haven’t brought in more staff. It’s impossible – I was having to come before my shift and leave late to get it done,” stated Camacho. “It’s making us all really stressed and sick. That’s why we had to protest.”
After a manager timed her cleaning the Brock Street offices in June, one cleaner claims she suffered internal bleeding. Another cleaner claims that excruciating back pain has forced her to take painkillers to work.
“A manager threatened me with a sanction if I didn’t clean one-and-a-half floors,” Miriam Palencia, 42, who has cleaned Facebook’s Brock Street offices for more than three years, said. “He timed how long I took. It was hell. I had a heamorrhage on one of my shifts because of the stress.”
The cleaners, who earn £10.85 an hour and are represented by the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU), claim they were given one minute and 30 seconds to clean a washroom with five toilet cubicles and a shower.
Camacho, 39, has an unblemished disciplinary record in the building dating back seven years. Despite this, an email from JLL @ Facebook requests that “Camacho… be removed from the [Facebook] account” due to a “lack of proactiveness in managing the team and maintaining a high cleaning standard.” It was sent the same day, in July, that he led protests outside the offices.
Churchill Group stated that it could not comment on specific cases, but that “any employee relations matters are unrelated to any protest activity or union involvement.” According to the company, the additional floor space was added to the account, but it did not result in an increase in workload because the cleaners’ tasks had been realigned. “Each task has been timed and undertaken by our own management to ensure they are realistic and achievable; this has been backed up by time-and-motion reviews designed to each site,” a spokesperson said.
The union’s general secretary, Alberto Durango, has called on Facebook to accept responsibility for the plight of its office cleaners. In July and August, the union raised the cleaners’ concerns with Facebook, which saw its profits more than double to $10.39 billion.
However, emails obtained by the Observer show Facebook executives repeatedly referring the union to Churchill, claiming that “we are not the correct organisation to correspond.”
Camacho, who is currently suspended following the removal request, will have a crucial meeting this week. According to minutes from his last meeting with Churchill, he will be fired if he cannot find another job “specifically due to a third-party removal request.”
“I have two young children and a wife to support – as well as my extended family in Bolivia. My kids keep asking me why I’m not at work. I don’t know what to say. I’m worried about losing my job. It makes me feel depressed. I won’t be able to pay the rent.”Guillermo Camacho
Facebook stated that the safety of anyone working in its offices was paramount, and that it had ensured that all of its contract workers were paid throughout the pandemic.