(c) Annabel Church Smith; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationDear Professor Sir Adrian Smith,

I am writing to raise serious concerns relating to Cofely GDF-Suez, the University of London’s current facilities management provider.

It is understood that the University and Cofely are currently in the process of negotiating a potential ten-year extension of their existing contract, and as a consequence it is particularly important that the University be fully apprised of the appropriateness of Cofely as a partner.

Our concerns in this instance relate to Cofely’s treatment of its maintenance and maintenance support staff, who work across the University of London’s estate, largely at Senate House and Stewart House, but also in the Inter-collegiate Halls of Residence.

Since the initial bundling together of the hard and soft services contract in 2010 (awarded at the time to Balfour Beatty Workplace, subsequently bought wholesale by Cofely) the team responsible for maintaining the University’s estate have been rewarded for their loyalty with an ever-increasing workload coupled with ever-shrinking staff numbers.

This approach to profit-maximisation is neither in the interests of Cofely’s employees, nor of the staff and students in the University itself, who rely on their Cofely colleagues to ensure that the buildings they use are maintained to an appropriate standard. Indeed, this is key to the University’s stated Aims, which include ‘property that is valued and relevant’ as part of its core mission.

Cofely have systematically sought to avoid engaging with the concerns of these workers, to such an extent that they feel that they have no alternative than to appeal to the University itself.

The specific case which has brought matters to a head relates to London Weighting. Currently the University is in the process of increasing the level of London Weighting that its staff receive, yet shamefully the people who keep our buildings going have been excluded completely from these considerations.

The majority of Cofely’s maintenance and maintenance support staff (those who did not TUPE from University of London employment in 2010) still receive no London Weighting at all.

In an attempt to resolve this issue amicably and fairly, a number of efforts have been made to raise it with BBW / Cofely:

  1. At a restructuring meeting in 2011, these employees were told they would be moved onto the same terms and conditions as their TUPE’d colleagues (and thus receive London Weighting at £2134) within 18 months at the latest.
  2. Despite this being raised informally during the 18-month period, the company continually deferred or avoided resolving the issue.
  3. When the 18 months elapsed, they sought to raise this issue formally. The Cofely response has been to refuse to negotiate in any way, despite an official grievance and subsequent appeal.
  4. Following this appeal, the group entered pre-dispute early conciliation talks via ACAS.
  5. However, Cofely have failed even to answer ACAS’s call or respond to their letters.

These staff now feel that they have no option but to raise their concerns publicly, and call on the University of London to use its power to insist that any company bidding for this contract undertakes:

  1. To pay London Weighting at the same level as that received by directly employed staff
  2. To consult meaningfully with its staff over London Weighting and other issues of concern to them.

Many of these workers have been through a number of TUPE processes, have worked loyally for the University for many years (frequently going above and beyond the call of duty) and are highly respected by the client. However, inevitably a long period of being ignored and treated like second-class citizens has had its effect on morale, which is currently extremely low.

These are vital staff, forced to appeal to you and to take the steps outlined above by the intransigence of their employer. We hope that the University of London will make clear to Cofely that it faces the choice of making a fair deal with its staff over London Weighting, or being considered an unfit partner for the University in the future.

I await your response.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Morrissey

Branch Secretary

University of London IWGB