I often feel like mounting a one-person protest outside Facebook, which so often seems to be misbehaving in some way or other. It messes up my posts and hides the posts of many of my friends from me, so often I only find out about things too late. Of course it isn’t all Facebook’s fault, and I’d like to see a complete ban on all the automated software that people use to post to Facebook that clutters it up with so much rubbish. Perhaps one of those checks to show your were not a robot on every post would be annoying, but it would make Facebook much more useful for users, if not for marketing.

Men from company that employs the cleaners at Facebook watches me as I photograph them watching the protest

But my frustrations with Facebook are nothing compared to those suffered by some who work in their offices, though the cleaners are not actually employed by Facebook; as I point out on My London Diary:

There are two redundant levels of management at these offices; rather than employing cleaners directly, Facebook uses the property management company JLL who in turn use Peartree cleaning services to employ the cleaners; money which should go to the workers goes to these unnecessary levels of management and profit.

People often talk about the greater efficiency of outsourcing, but it is a myth. It isn’t greater efficiency but a lowering of standards, almost always of the actual services delivered but invariably of the conditions of employment of the people who actually do the work.  Companies that claim to be ethical employees with good conditions of service – pensions, sick pay, holidays etc – seem happy to give contracts to companies that employ for people who work for them, providing services at their workplaces which have minimal concern for their employees and provide only the basic minimum possible under our laws, often combined with poor management practices – bullying, discrimination etc – and a failure to properly engage with trade unions, often attempting to prevent union organisation by victimisation.

Both the Grenfell disaster and the failure of Carillion have exposed some of the problems caused by the contracting out of services – with level after level taking their unfair share and problems in communication. If Facebook employed their cleaners they would know what was happening, would ensure fair processes and conditions and not be able to say it was none of their business, denying responsibility for people who keep their business working.

The protest was organised by the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU) who say managers on site are guilty of racism, bullying and nepotism and who are also demanding to be paid the London Living Wage. At the end of the protest CAIWU organiser Alberto Durango talked briefly with Peartree’s commercial director Stuart Conroy who had been in a group watching the protest and there seemed to be some hope that a dialogue might emerge.

The protest took place in one of London’s now many privately owned public spaces, and I was pleased that the security there actually intervened when a couple of people tried to interfere with the protest.

The CAIWU had agreed with them that the protest would be a short one so as not to interfere greatly with a community event that was taking place. Photographers I know have been stopped when taking photographs in this area, but I and others covering the protest were not approached – nor have I been at other protests in this area.

Cleaners protest at Facebook HQ


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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