INVESTIGATION: THE LIFE AND PLIGHT OF ABH CLEANERS (PART 3 OF 3)
Contributions by Titus Adeolu Adekunle
This is the concluding article of a 3-part story exploring the plight of ABH cleaners. Read the preceeding parts here and here.
Here is a vox pop prequel to our story.
A week to Christmas, two cleaners met at the tank in front of F Block and spoke in vague terms about the salary they had just got. They could not seem to hide the delight and their disbelief too.
“I don’t think this has ever happened before”. One said. The other confirmed it has never happened. It turned sour quickly as one mentioned the debt she owed already. It is not hard to imagine that many of these cleaners have probably borrowed money. So, a chunk of what they just got would go into “debt servicing” and not necessarily having a jolly festive season.
Earlier that day, our sources had been full of appreciation. They believed our interest and articles had something to do with it. We cannot exactly draw that inference, but ABH cleaners were paid all their salary arrears for the first time (for most of them).
As we conclude this report, we shed more light on the interview with the contractor in charge of the ABH Cleaners, Mr Olawale Salako. After establishing that the problem was from UI, we decided to probe more into the other factors responsible for the late payment of salaries. Worthy of note among them was the hall management’s delay in signing of their papers.
For the contractor to receive the salaries of the cleaners, he needs to get some papers signed by the Hall Management. The papers will then be forwarded to the bursary at the University of Ibadan, and then disbursement of funds will follow (when they are ready to pay).
For some reason, the gardeners often do not complete the cutting of the grasses as and when due. The hall management might not sign the papers until the gardeners cut the grasses in these instances. Unfortunately, this works to the detriment of the cleaners who continue to do their work judiciously. However, this does not negate or solve the problem of late payment of salaries from the higher-ups.
When asked what had been done to ensure better remuneration for the workers, the contractor mentioned that, indeed, efforts had been made.
In a meeting with the current Vice-Chancellor in March 2021, the contractors in charge of cleaners and other workers across the various halls of residence in University requested that the then Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administrative), Professor Adebowale, review their contract as prices of cleaning materials, gardening tools, and the likes have increased. However, they were turned down and asked to “manage the money like that”.
To put this in context, the current ABH contractor claims he still collects the 204,000 naira the old contractor was getting as far back as 2014. With the heightening pricing of detergent, cleaning materials, lawnmowers, fuel, and so on, it is not hard to imagine that the business no longer looks attractive.
Regardless of the foregoing, the contractor promises that the new year will usher in increased pay. He mentioned that he recruited new cleaners with some old cleaners moving to the Ayodele Falase Postgraduate Hall, where the workload is presumably less, while the new recruits come to ABH. He hopes to ensure a pay of N9,900 for the first six months for the new workers and N10,000-N15,000 for the older cleaners. He was unclear about the plans in motion to attain this, but we can only hope that he effects this.
It was important to look within after conversations with the ABH cleaners and the contractor. We had to find out if the Hall Executives were aware of our cleaners’ hard times. Our first stop was the Health and Sanitation Minister, who referred us to the Hall Chair as he did not appear to have the answers or a clue. Consequently, we proceeded to reach out to the Hall Chairman informed us that he was aware of the situation with the cleaners.
I have two questions regarding the cleaners in ABH: Do you know how much they get paid and when last they got paid?
“They are paid N8,000 per month, and they have not been paid in like five months now.” (As at the time).
This response showed that the Hall Chairman was indeed aware of the plight of the ABH cleaners.
What next? Recent laudable developments have seen the Hall take a step to relieve our cleaners of this burden by raising funds through Brownites to support the cleaners. It is, however, a temporary solution and unsustainable as the money contributed can only last them so long.
Understanding how grossly underfunded education is in Nigeria, a pay raise for cleaners is only something we can achieve with concerted efforts at pressuring the appropriate quarters. There is only a limit to what we can do as a Press, seeing the problem is higher up. We will, however, forward the findings of this investigation to the Union of Campus Journalists and hope they can table it before the right people.
Apart from doing our bit to get this story out, at our end as a Press, we have sent in a token to the Hall’s account and bought some food items for some of the cleaners for this festive period.
As Brownites, you can also be a part of easing the hardship of these women by treating them with dignity, using the toilet like civil people, and giving to them. The Hall is currently crowdfunding for ABH cleaners. You can contribute a token or ask your parent. Bring things for them from home. You can reduce their workload by avoiding littering, clearing your disposables after eating at the chess area, using the kitchenettes, reading room, TV room, FCR, toilets and bathrooms like people with home training.