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Successful student cleaners' future in jeopardy

Students have handled cleaning at PharmaSchool for 40 years. The job is popular, well-paid and even has a waiting list. Despite this, it's uncertain whether the Faculty will extend their contract

A frustrated Martin Hjarsbæk Andersen is taking me for a walk down the long corridors of the University of Copenhagen’s PharmaSchool. They are clean and tidy thanks to the 40 student employees that Martin and his partner are in charge of.

Martin is co-ordinator for SOP Cleaning, a cleaning company run by the students’ own union, which handles a good chunk of the cleaning at PharmaSchool. It has cleaned this place since 1973.

But the future is uncertain. SOP Cleaning’s contract with the Faculty may well be running out on 31 May 2014 – the contract’s termination is phrased rather vaguely with an “unless otherwise agreed upon before then.”

Good for international students too

Martin’s frustration stems from several unanswered inquiries to Campus Services (CS). He cannot find out what will happen this summer, or on what criteria CS are basing their decision to extend or terminate the contract.

And Martin has tried, again and again, to extend it further, but it’s impossible to get his employers to reply: “I have sent so many e-mails to find out what is going to happen in May. But we can’t get an answer, and I honestly don’t understand why,” he says.

“There’s a lot of good to be said about our business. Four months ago, we started hiring international students, who otherwise have a hard time finding work in Copenhagen, and this is working really well. We have received a mad amount of applications lately.”

Campus Service ‘not aware of frustration’

“The cleaning job is excellent for our students, who have classes from 8:00 to 16:00 every day. A route is just four hours, which is doable after class or in the weekend, 1-3 times a week,” says Martin, who currently has 25 students on the waiting list for the popular job.

The union is a successful business. The students are trained and contracted, the wage is competitive, staff meetings are held, well-being surveys taken, and the finances are in order, to put it mildly: The turnover is at over DKK 2 million and the union ended 2013 with a surplus of DKK 420,130 before tax. And SOP Cleaning donated approx. DKK 250,000 to various unions, events and fresher trips in 2013.

On the phone to Danish site, the Head of Campus Services at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Henrik Kudal, said that he isn’t familiar with the frustration this article describes, but that Martin Hjarsbæk Andersen is very welcome to contact him.

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