- Five members of Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union, contractors hired by CCM Facilities Management, were dismissed from a London WeWork between January and May.
- The union, which is pushing to be officially recognised by CCM, has led demonstrations outside of London WeWorks to protest the dismissals, which it says lack compelling evidence to justify the firings.
- Some tenants of another London WeWork sent a letter to then-CEO and cofounder Adam Neumann about the cleaners, asking that the company require its contractor to recognise the union.
- Read all of Business Insider’s WeWork coverage here.
WeWork, the coworking company that recently delayed its IPO due to lack of investor interest and concerns about former CEO Adam Neumann, is now being criticised after five cleaners that worked in its No. 1 Poultry Office Central London location were terminated.
WeWork contracts out cleaning services to CCM Facilities Management for this office. According to a press release from the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU), each of the five members of the cleaning staff was dismissed after a WeWork staffer intervened to request that they be removed from the premises. At least one of the dismissed workers was offered alternative positions by CCM, but then he was fired before he had the chance to actually accept the position, the press release said.
CAIWU, a union that represents over a thousand workers in London, mainly in the cleaning industry, has been posting about the dismissals at WeWork since August 20, when it wrote “It’s a shame they picked on the wrong union – because we have no intention of holding back from publicizing their scandalous employment practices.” By this point, one of the dismissed workers had been reinstated, but CAIWU claimed CCM was refusing to consider the other 4 cases. The CAIWU is also pushing CCM to officially recognise the union.
“The reasons offered by WeWork for the removal requests vary from a serious allegation of racism to a minor complaint about the cleaner having spoken out of turn to a WeWork manager,” the union press release reads. It goes on to say that none of the allegations have witnesses or “compelling evidence.”
Jonathan Castillo was a supervisor hired by CCM, where he had worked for almost two years before he was suspended, he told Business Insider in a phone interview. Based on his account, he worked in the WeWork along with two other cleaners, and each of them was responsible for cleaning one floor of the building. Part of Castillo’s job as a supervisor included ordering supplies for himself and the other cleaners, including toilet paper for the restrooms. He said that he would bring the order requests to the community associate, who was employed directly by WeWork. Castillo says that the community associate made mistakes on orders, and was angry when Castillo corrected the orders. He told Business Insider that on March 6, his CCM manager told him that he was suspended over an allegation of racism, “something I’ve never said or done.” Castillo denies the accusation, and believes that the WeWork community associate made the accusation to retaliate against him.
Castillo said that he had a meeting with his union representative and CCM after his dismissal. At the meeting, it was determined that the accusation was lacking proof to back it up, and the allegation was dropped, he told Business Insider. However, he said that he was informed that WeWork didn’t want him working at any of its London sites.
Castillo said that nearly three weeks after the original dismissal, on March 26, his manager contacted him again to offer him a job at another London WeWork at a lower hourly rate. Despite the lower pay, Castillo wanted to accept the job and asked for an offer in writing, which was confirmed through text screenshots viewed by Business Insider. Later that same day, he received a letter from CCM stating that he had declined the job alternative, although he had accepted over the phone, and asked for an offer in writing.
The union press release raised two issues with the workers’ dismissals:
• “Under normal circumstances, a company cannot dismiss an employee without having conducted a proper disciplinary process first. However, outsourcing clients routinely insist on the inclusion of contractual terms with their suppliers reserving their right to determine who is and is not allowed on their premises.
• Under such circumstances, the employer is obliged to make reasonable attempts to find alternative work for the employee – CCM claims it has done so in some of these cases, but workers were subsequently dismissed before being given a reasonable opportunity to consider the offer or to consult with their trade union first.”
— Adam McGibbon ???? (@AdamMcGibbon) September 6, 2019
In a statement to Business Insider, CCM pushed back on the union’s characterization of the dismissals.
“Of the four individuals, [because one was rehired] two were offered alternative employment, which was declined in both cases,” it said in a statement. “The two other cases resulted in dismissals, which were both upheld at appeal. To CCM Facilities Ltd knowledge, none of these individuals have filed Employment Tribunal cases for unfair dismissal or any other reasons.”
WeWork declined to comment.
WeWork tenants sent a letter to company leadership, pushing it to require CCM recognise the union
Other WeWork tenants took notice, like Adam McGibbon, who works in a different WeWork office about half a mile away. According to McGibbon, employees of Global Witness, which occupies the top floor of an East London WeWork, wrote and sent a letter to Adam Neumann on September 16 but did not receive a response. Neumann stepped down from his role as CEO on September 24.
The letter calls the cases for dismissal “dubious,” and alleges that WeWork deprived the workers of proper investigations and disciplinary processes. The tenants called out WeWork, accusing it of not living up to its mission. “Your brand is being damaged by this dispute and it is making a mockery of your image as a compassionate company,” they wrote in the letter to Neumann.
Global Witness’ letter echoes the demands of the union. The tenants asked that:
- The dismissed workers immediately get their jobs back.
- WeWork commits to a straightforward and fair disciplinary process for all building staff, with a clear process for dealing with grievances.
- WeWork require CCM to recognise the union as part of its contract with them.
- WeWork recognise unions of directly employed workers.
Union members and supporters protested outside the No. 1 Poultry WeWork on Wednesday, September 18, and they have two more protests planned for the afternoon of September 25.