See below for an email from IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee to outgoing University of London Vice-Chancellor Adrian Smith:

Dear Professor Sir Adrian Smith,

I am writing to comment on the communication set out below this email from University of London regarding the University’s outsourced workers.  There’s quite a bit to comment on here, so you might want to refresh your memory by re-reading that post before continuing.

First, the charade which is the “FM Steering Group” has no legitimacy whatsoever.  I do appreciate that your PR strategy every time there is a campaign on behalf of outsourced workers is to come up with some alternative explanation of why you caved.  As a brief refresher:

  1. The £6,000 of overdue wages paid to outsourced cleaners and porters within 72 hours of an unofficial strike (and which was the main demand of the strike), was due to “negotiations”;
  2. The voluntary recognition agreement between Balfour Beatty and UNISON (back when UNISON actually had outsourced worker members) which followed on 3 weeks after the unofficial strike was also due to negotiations;
  3. Phased implementation of the London Living Wage for outsourced staff, which followed after just a few months of the UoL London Living Wage campaign, also down to “negotiations”;
  4. Increased sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced staff, following the IWGB 3 Cosas Campaign and two days of strike action called by IWGB, was somehow won by UNISON and of course, through negotiations;
  5. Following the launch of the IWGB campaign to end outsourcing at UoL in September this year, UoL suddenly announces a working group and progresses towards ending outsourcing because of this working group and the “recognised unions”.

Now believe me, I do see where you are coming from on the PR strategy- you don’t like IWGB and don’t want to legitimize IWGB, and don’t want to look like you caved to pressure, so you construct a parallel universe in which you came up with the idea to improve things for outsourced workers on your own, and in which the UoL UNISON and UCU branches are, for once, relevant to outsourced workers.  But given that PR and reputation is what you’re trying to address with the strategy, it might be worth pausing for a second to consider how utterly ridiculous you make the University look when the average bystander with even the vaguest notion of what’s going on thinks it’s a load of nonsense.

In the below note, UoL specifically mentions- again no doubt in furtherance of the PR strategy described above- the “recognised trade unions UCU and Unison”.  So it’s important to clarify that these unions have absolutely no mandate to speak on behalf of outsourced workers.  UCU doesn’t even claim to represent them, and Unison’s claims are absurd.  As the UoL is well aware, the overwhelming majority of outsourced workers at UoL are represented by the IWGB.  And many of these members made a conscious decision to leave Unison in disgust at the union’s lack of democracy and blatant collusion with management (for more on which see: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/24/cost-private-contracts-universities-documents-services-workers).  Therefore, whilst it is no doubt useful to UoL to have a few stooges nodding along with everything you say, so far as representation of the views of outsourced workers is concerned, their participation in the charade of a working group has a total significance of 0.

Next in the note, UoL says it is considering two options, one of which is only in-housing some of the workers.  So let me make the IWGB position clear: this campaign will continue until all outsourced workers currently engaged by Bouygues, Cordant, Nurture, and Aramark are brought in house.  Given that the only reason in-housing is an option for UoL at all is because of this campaign, it would be nonsensical, even from a purely self-interest perspective, for UoL to only bring some workers in house.  That will not stop the campaign.  Indeed it will encourage the campaign to step up its actions as UoL will have proved beyond doubt (yet again) that campaigning gets results.

With regard to the assurances the Board of Trustees requested of the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group, we of course have no problem with fiscal discipline.  Indeed it’s one of the best arguments for cutting your bloated salary which, by even generous methods of interpretation, you could not possibly be worth.  However, any moves by UoL to make staff redundant, cut workers’ hours against their will, change workers’ shifts against their will, or put previously outsourced staff on inferior terms and conditions to their other direct employee colleagues, will be strongly opposed by IWGB.  If your plan is to make the outsourced workers pay for their own improvements, I suggest you think again.  And again, the campaign will not stop if any of the above occurs.

It is ironic that one of the Board’s concerns was protecting day to day operations.  Continued outsourcing is by far the biggest threat to day to day operations.  This is due to the number of strikes by these workers which are occurring as a result, and because the longer you leave these contracts in the hands of the incompetent contractors- who would struggle to find their way out of a paper bag let alone run facilities management companies- the longer these contracts will be run incompetently.

In sum, by all means continue with your paper trail, working groups, consideration of options, etc.- although if cost-saving is a concern, cutting down on the amount of hyperbolic fluff might be a good start.  With the wages paid for just the time it’s taken you and the other managers involved to read this email we could probably cover a handful of cleaners’ occupational sick pay entitlement under UoL terms for a year.  I look forward to reading the announcement in March that UoL, its working group, the recognised unions, have all come to the conclusion that everyone should be in-housed on UoL terms and conditions.

Kind regards,

Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB

Original message: 

As described at the ASM held on 17 January, the University’s Board of Trustees considered a progress report from the FM Steering Group at its meeting yesterday. The Steering Group, which includes representation from the recognised trade unions UCU and Unison, recommended that two options are considered further:
a) in-sourcing and b) a hybrid of in-house/outsourced provision.

The Board of Trustees approved the recommendations and noted that some level of contracted support would still be likely to ensure flexibility/scalability, independent inspection and specialist capacity. This level of detail will be developed over the coming weeks for a final recommendation to the Board.​

The Board of Trustees asked the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group to ensure that:

      • The bottom line on the University budgets is not affected by any changes to the current arrangements, i.e. any increase in costs must be dealt with through savings, reduced service levels or reductions in other activity.
      • That the University’s day to day operations are not put at risk during implementation of changes to contracts.

Next Steps

While we wait for the feedback from the two surveys (contracted staff and University staff), work will be undertaken to develop variations on the options mentioned above to establish what a hybrid model could look like. This will be developed and costed alongside more detailed costings for an in-sourcing option. A full risk assessment will also be undertaken for the different approaches which will factor both time and milestone events such as the ability to recruit management and implement systems in order to bring work in-house.

The FM Steering Group will continue to meet in February and early March to consider the survey feedback and progress on the options analysis. The intention is to bring recommendations to the Board of Trustees meeting on 21 March 2018

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