Danny Millum, secretary of the University of London’s (UoL) branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), locked out of Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) meeting between UoL’s contractor Cordant, and IWGB member. See below his letter to UoL’s director of property and facilities management, which raises some serious concerns about this denial of an employee’s right to be accompanied to such meetings by a ‘representative of their choice’.
I am writing following an incident on Tuesday to raise serious concerns with regard to the ongoing TUPE process.
As you will be aware, as part of this process Cordant have been conducting 121 consultation meetings with transferring staff.
It is normal practice at the University of London for outsourced staff attending such meetings to bring a representative of their choice. I have attended dozens of such meetings in the past, as part of TUPE transfers from the University to Balfour Beatty, as part of the transfer from Cofely to Cordant etc. The union affiliation of the rep has NEVER been an issue.
Furthermore, the invite letters stated that ‘You will also have the right to be accompanied to the consultation with [sic] a fellow employee or trade union official.’
Even more egregiously, this would never be an issue for a direct employee, who would always be allowed a rep of their choice at any meeting of this sort.
Obviously, these are very important meetings, and it is very important that these workers be able to be accompanied by someone that they trust and have chosen themselves.
Despite all of the above, when members notified Cordant that I would be accompanying them, the response from Darren Cox (Operations Manager) was to inform them that I would not be allowed to attend, but that should they wish to be accompanied by a Unison rep he could help arrange this.
I wrote to Mr Cox and made the points above – to which he replied that he was acting on advice from Cordant HR.
I confirmed that nevertheless I would be attending.
On Tuesday I arrived at Stewart House basement with my member only to be confronted by a security officer who refused to allow me entrance to the corridor outside the room where the meeting was to take place. When I asked him on what authority he was denying me access, he told me it was neither Cordant nor the University of London, but that he had been given these instructions by his manager. He refused to tell me what company he worked for.
After explaining to him the situation and still being denied access myself and the member left.
I would like to put on record that I consider this behaviour to be completely unacceptable – for all the reasons above, my presence was completely legitimate. Furthermore, it is clear that the member concerned, a vulnerable migrant worker for whom English is a second language, was denied their right to a representative of their choice for a meeting of the utmost importance, an experience which they found extremely distressing.
The importance of having a rep present was confirmed when I spoke to another member who had attended the meeting alone – they were asked to sign a form giving permission for Cordant to pass their personal details to the University. When they asked what details were involved, they were told that this could not be specified, and then pressured to sign anyway, which they did despite having strong reservations.
Workers have been therefore left in a nightmarish scenario where either they take part in a meeting they are not properly equipped for OR refuse to take part and therefore leave part of the TUPE process undone.
I would like to know:
1. If the University signed off on this behaviour on the part of its contractor?
2. Who is paying the bill for the additional security officer employed solely to exclude me from these meetings?
3. That now the University is aware of this situation it will commit to ensuring that all workers get the representative of their choice at these 121 meetings?
Could you please respond to me as a matter of urgency as the date of transfer is rapidly approaching?