In an ‘open letter’ to Professor Peter Kopelman, the University of London’s new interim vice-chancellor, IWGB organiser and press officer Emiliano Mellino details his disappointment at the institution’s recent announcement about the future of the university’s out-sourced workers.
Dear Professor Kopelman,
I am writing to express my shock and disappointment with the message sent today by your director of facilities management, Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr.
I say shock, not because I expected anything different from the University of London’s senior management, but because I had hoped that your tenure as vice-chancellor would open up a new, more just chapter in the university’s relationship with its most precarious workforce.
Sadly, your announcement to not guarantee that cleaners, gardeners and catering staff will be brought in-house, but instead that in-house bids will be submitted alongside other bids when the contracts come to an end in 2020 and 2021, shows that it is business as usual at the university. Much like your predecessor, you seem to be happy to pocket a six-figure salary while keeping the university’s most vulnerable workers in a position of absolute precarity, employed as second-class workers and in a situation that amounts to nothing more than institutional discrimination.
So, while the University of London continues to drag its feet, other universities have promised to bring workers in house within six months as is the case with Goldsmiths, or within a year, as is the case of King’s, where your deputy Ed Byrne is the principal (Maybe you should get some tips off him).
It defies all logic that a year since the university started its sham review, which included no outsourced workers or the union that represents them, this is the best that it can offer. It defies all logic that an institution that is supposed to have some of the brightest minds in the UK, is so poor at managing its own facilities and can’t offer a decent in-house option for such a large proportion of its work force.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so naïve as to believe that you cared about the people who clean your toilets, your office and the hallways you walk around with other grandees who are also on obscene salaries. In your experience these workers are easy to ignore. After all they leave the university early in the morning before you arrive and are conveniently invisible.
Or maybe you thought that by making a small minority of workers – 95 per cent of who are men – direct employees by next summer and by ramping up security you would be able divide the workforce and quash the workers’ campaign.
I am happy to tell you that if that was your thinking, you are deluded.
In the face of this injustice the workers’ determination to fight on is stronger than ever, while community support is growing by the day.
The workers have one simple demand: make all outsourced workers direct employees by June 2019 or they, together with the university community and others, will escalate action to the point that you will no longer have the luxury of ignoring them.
You will have a taste of what I am talking about on 30 October when your workers will be on strike and our thousand-strong precarious workers demo descends on the University of London.
In the hope that you see sense and end this injustice, I send you my regards,