Yesterday morning over 50 students, trade unionists and community residents occupied the tallest building in Europe, the Shard, in central London. They were protesting plans to make 80 cleaners and support staff redundant – mostly migrant women.
The main target of the occupation was the French firm COFELY, one of the outsourcing companies at the University of London, which also runs the technical and estates services at the Shard.
The University of London has announced the closure of three of its intercollegiate student Halls of Residence, with over 80 redundancies threatened, effective from 30 June 2014.
Campaigners fear that the halls are set to be sold off and privatised.
Many of those facing redundancy will be low-paid and long-serving cleaners, porters, catering and security staff. Many of the workers have also been at the forefront of campaigns for the London Living Wage, as well as the high-profile 3 Cosas campaign which has successfully fought for improved terms and conditions for outsourced workers at the prestigious institution.
The workers’ trade union, the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), along with the University of London Union (ULU), has launched a campaign against the job losses, and a calendar of protests and other actions. These included the occupation of the COFELY HQ in Islington last week, and of the Shard today.
Workers are currently being balloted for strike action, which will potentially see industrial action begin at the University of London halls of residence at the beginning of June.
Sonia Chura, a cleaner in the student halls of residence and Vice President of the IWGB branch, said: “We workers will fight united until we are all transferred to new positions with the same pay, terms and conditions, and with our length of service respected.”
Daniel Lemberger Cooper, Vice President of the University of London Union, said: “The occupation is a sign of things to come for COFELY and the University of London. It is only the start of a programme of protests and occupations. Students fully support the staff that havecleaned and taken care of them for countless years. They take out the rubbish and now they are being thrown out themselves. They deserve better than COFELY and the University of London throwing them onto the streets”
The IWGB trade union – which represents workers at the University of London – is demanding:
• a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies
• full and meaningful consultation
• the same wage levels for any workers transferred to contracts outside the UoL
• the same terms and conditions for any transferred workers