The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is challenging the decision by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to not hear an application for trade union recognition that would broaden the rights of outsourced workers and introduce the concept of a “joint-employer” to the UK.

  • IWGB is arguing that denying outsourced workers the right to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer, the University of London, is a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • The CAC refused to hear the application made by the IWGB in November
  • If the challenge is successful, the High Court will force the CAC to hear the case

The claim for judicial review has been filed in the High Court and, if successful, would force the CAC to consider the union’s application.

In November, the IWGB brought a case to the CAC to require the University of London to recognise the union for the purposes of collective bargaining on behalf of some of its outsourced workers.

The law to date has been interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer, in this case facilities management company Cordant Security. But, if successful, the test case would open the doors for workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer as well as their direct employer, introducing the concept of a joint-employer to UK law.

The IWGB is arguing that denying the outsourced workers the right to collectively bargain with the university, which is their de-facto employer, is a breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The proposed collective bargaining unit would include security officers, porters and post room workers.

This case is trying to push the boundaries of employment law and make sure domestic law is keeping up with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. Due to its groundbreaking nature, the IWGB expected that the matter would ultimately be decided by the appellate courts.

The case backed by The Good Law Project.

IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Low paid outsourced workers across the country routinely have their pay and terms and conditions decided by their de-facto employers, whose premises they clean or maintain. In this set-up the contractors are often little more than glorified middle men. For the collective bargaining rights of these low paid workers to mean anything, they must be able to negotiate with the actual decision maker.”

Good law Project founder Jolyon Maugham QC said “There are many ways bad employers dodge the cost of workers’ rights and outsourcing can be one of them. The treatment of workers with modest bargaining power and little influence, can be hidden from view, but it shouldn’t be hidden from the law through the use of faceless outsourcing companies. I’m proud to be supporting this case that will ensure that domestic law protects the human rights of some of the most vulnerable workers in the UK.”

Outsourced workers at the University of London have been campaigning since September to be made direct employees of the university and plan to stage the biggest ever outsourced workers strike in the history of UK higher education on 25 and 26 April.


For more information, please contact Emiliano Mellino, IWGB press officer. Email: