Dear Professor Sir Adrian Smith,
I am writing you to share some musings on the statement you put out yesterday regarding outsourced workers (below).
For such a distinguished individual with quite the collection of titles – Vice Chancellor, Sir, Professor – the quality of writing, or lack thereof, is somewhat startling. I had to read it a few times in order to try and understand what you were saying and why- and even after that I’m a little confused. But then again, that may have been the intention.
So let me sum up what I think you’re trying to say, before going on to respond to it in rather clearer language: the University of London can’t handle anymore of the campaigning and strikes, and so whilst they’re unhappy about having to spend more money, they will bring the outsourced workers in house over the course of the next several years, with the help of the two unions on campus who have no mandate to act on behalf of the outsourced workers.
This announcement follows on the heels of seven years of campaigning around outsourced workers’ pay, terms, and conditions, and more specifically, several months of the IWGB’s Back in House Campaign, which has been calling for an immediate end to outsourcing. On the eve of the Board of Trustees’ meeting on 23 May, we even made clear that we could consider any proposal which brought workers back in house within 12 months, an incredibly generous concession on the part of the workers given how long you’ve been treating them unfairly.
Now I appreciate that you must find it frustrating to deal with the IWGB as you deem the union to be militant, radical, and uncompromising. This must be all the more frustrating when compared to your preferred method of conducting industrial relations. But whilst we may not take positions you agree with, one thing we are not is irrational.
Indeed, the mechanics of our motions and the rationality of our strategy is crystal clear and utterly coherent. When you adopt practices which are unfair, discriminatory, or exploitative, we will campaign, protest, strike, and expose you to the world. When you stop these practices, or announce you are planning to stop them with clear guarantees and within a reasonable time frame, we call off the campaigning. Simple.
You didn’t really expect over a hundred cleaners, porters, security guards, receptionists, gardeners and AV staff to call off their strike and campaign on the vague promise that at some point in the next several years they’d be brought back in house, did you? And you couldn’t possibly have expected to get favourable press coverage out of this rubbish announcement, could you? If the articles that came out within 24 hours of the announcement are anything to go by, you’re in store for quite a bit more negative press coverage in the coming weeks:
So in sum, the ball is entirely in your court. Your first offer is rejected. If you want the industrial strife to end, make an announcement that all outsourced workers will be brought back in house, on equal terms and conditions, within the next 12 months and we will give it serious consideration. Given that this matter has been a live issue for the past seven years, our position is more than reasonable.
Alternatively, continue to endure strikes, protests, campaigns, negative press coverage, staff malcontent, and spending exorbitant amounts of money on running UoL like a prison. If past experience is anything to go by, students, trade union branches (in particular UNISON and UCU branches from around the country), activists, politicians, and others will continue to support the workers’ cause until victory.
Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee