On 25 and 26 April, almost 100 outsourced workers at the University of London took strike action as part of their campaign for equal terms and conditions with directly employed staff.
The group, which included cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post-room workers and audiovisual staff, arrived at the picket line from 6am and stayed all day. They were joined on the evening of the 25th by hundreds of in-house staff, students and other supporters at a protest outside Senate House. Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, trade unionists, students and activist groups spoke at the event in a show of solidarity, and Laura Pidcock MP joined the picket line the next morning.
Protesters have been campaigning for more than a year for the university to abolish zero-hour contracts, bring all outsourced workers back in-house, give them the same terms and conditions as those directly employed, and implement pay rises it promised six years ago. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley have backed the campaign.
Outsourced workers receive worse pensions, holiday pay, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay entitlements than their in-house colleagues and are more likely to face bullying and deductions from wages.
For example, in-house employees receive 13 per cent employer pensions’ contribution compared to 1 per cent for outsourced workers.
Women who work directly for the university get 8 weeks full maternity pay, 16 weeks of half pay, 15 weeks of statutory maternity leave and 13 weeks leave without pay. Men receive a week of full paternity pay and a week of statutory paternity pay. Outsourced workers only get statutory maternity and paternity pay.
Since its campaign began last April, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has succeeded in putting pressure on the university to review its contracts. However, it has denied the outsourced workers and their union a voice in this process. This has left the union with no option other than to escalate its campaign.
Speaking to journalists covering the demonstration on 25 and 26 April, IWGB president Henry Chango-Lopez said, “The university has repeatedly refused all attempts by the outsourced workers and their union to engage in a constructive discussion over outsourcing.
‘This intransigence has led to increasing anger among the workers, which is demonstrated by the growing number of workers that are choosing to take industrial action. The university would be well advised to heed the demands of the workers and make them direct employees.”
See IWGB’s Facebook page for more information and images.