We’ve always argued that Cordant’s poor working practices risk harming the reputation of the Institutes and the University of London as a whole – and now the Institute for Historical Research Advisory Council agrees with us! Below is an excerpt from the minutes of the IHR Advisory Council, 12 May 2017 (draft minutes approved by Chair).
- The staff representative reported that he had been asked to raise the issue of the ongoing dispute between security officers employed at the University (including the IHR) and their employers, Cordant Security. It was reported to members of the Advisory Council that a two-day strike had taken place on 25-26 April 2017, and that a further strike was planned for 16-17 May 2017. Striking staff were requesting i) an end to zero- and low-hours contracts, ii) itemised pay slips, and iii) the maintenance of pay differentials between different types of workers on out-sourced contracts. The University’s position was that security staff were not employees of the University and that it did not intend to comment on the employment arrangements of another organisation.
- During the April strike the duties of regular security and reception staff had been covered by Cordant managers and Cordant staff normally employed at other (non-University) sites. The Acting Director reported that he had discussed with the Institute Manager whether to close the Institute during the April strike on health and safety grounds, although ultimately it had remained open. The Institute Manager reported some operational difficulties over that period, including visitors to the Institute being misdirected.
- IHR staff had submitted the issue for consideration with a view to the Advisory Council asking the University to intervene in the dispute in order to prevent further industrial action, on the basis that the treatment of security staff was unethical, and that this had a negative impact on the reputation of the University and the IHR. Concerns had also been expressed about the security of the building and the safety of staff given the lack of experience and training of temporary replacement staff, and in particular their ignorance of fire evacuation procedures and of the layout of the building itself.
- The Council discussed the issue in detail, and agreed that it was appropriate to make its views known on this issue, noting that one of its responsibilities was protecting the reputation of the Institute. It was agreed that if what had been reported was accurate, then there was a risk that the Institute’s reputation would be harmed through being associated with ethically-dubious working practices.
- It was agreed that the Advisory Council should express serious concern at the current situation, with regard to both ensuring safe and secure working arrangements at the Institute, and avoiding damage to the Institute’s reputation.
- Members asked that an update on this issue be provided at the next meeting of the Council, and also that a representative of the University be invited to the meeting to discuss it.