The battle for the outsourced workers at the University of London (UoL) has entered the lofty corridors of the House of Parliament.
This week (22 May), members of the IWGB union joined a panel led by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP to discuss how outsourcing is used to drive down working conditions and what can be done to fight back.
As well as John McDonnell, speakers included Maritza Castillo Calle, IWGB’s UoL’s branch chair, Liliana Almanza, union representative and cleaner. They were joined by Katie Leslie, London south branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) representing staff at Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, and representatives from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
Since 2017, IWGB has been campaigning for UoL, one of the UK’s largest university in terms of student numbers, to end outsourcing and directly employ the workers who provide cleaning, catering, security and other services.
Outsourcing is one of the underhanded methods used by employers for decades to drive down our employment conditions. By using middlemen in the form of outsourcing companies such as Cordant, employers are able to offer some workers far worse pay, holiday entitlements, sick pay and pension contributions.
But the abuse doesn’t stop there. The unaccountable nature of outsourcing companies means the workers (who are often from minority ethnic and migrant backgrounds), employed by them are much more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination.
But recent years have seen outsourced cleaners, security officers, receptionists and catering staff, win a number of important victories that have pushed back against some of the worst abuses of the outsourcing industry.
At the event in Westminster, Maritza Castillo Calle and cleaners’ representative, Liliana Almanza, spoke movingly about their experiences as outsourced migrant workers, and how they had been empowered by joining a union. John McDonnell pledged his support to end outsourcing in general AND for the Boycott Senate House campaign in particular.
Workers from other outsourced campaigns also spoke, including the representatives from the PCS and RMT unions. All committed to building closer links between unions to strengthen the fightback.