The IWGB’s boycott of Senate House, the University of London’s (UoL) central administrative headquarters in Bloomsbury, has been given a boost.

Last week (25–29 May), the University and College Union (UCU) Congress overwhelmingly passed a boycott motion. This means that it is now official UCU policy to NOT attend nor organise any events in UoL’s central administrative buildings until all its outsourced workers have been brought in-house.

The UCU’s support has empowered the mainly BAME cleaners to release a short video asking higher education staff and academics to help their case by supporting the boycott – please check it out here. They have been fighting for some two years for equality of employment.

This level of national solidarity is unprecedented. At the Congress speaker after speaker pledged their support for our workers and Jo Grady, UCU’s new general secretary, also confirmed her commitment to the campaign.

The boycott motion was brought to the UCU Congress because, while the in-house campaign has forced the university to commit to the principle of in-housing, there are still many outstanding issues:

  • only 10% of workers have been brought in-house
  • current plans are so vague that the 90% of workers who are not in-house have only been promised ‘reviews’, some of which will not take place until 2021
  • there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, which includes all the cleaners, catering staff and the majority of security staff will ever be brought in
  • these workers are still being massively discriminated against in terms of sick pay, holidays, pensions and more

In addition, as outlined below, UoL has launched a crackdown on the workers and their union, the IWGB.

University of London crackdown

The university and the outsourced companies have not only refused all offers of talks with the workers and their union – the IWGB – its management has responded by attacking trade union rights. Moreover, it has increased discrimination against the outsourced workers.

First the IWGB’s branch secretary was threatened with disciplinary action for accepting an invitation to attend a seminar to talk about the boycott.

Second, cleaning company Cordant Services introduced a draconian new sickness phone-in policy solely for the cleaners. Rather than reporting to managers or supervisors they must now call a centralised number to report all absences. Failure to do so will result in instant disciplinary action. 

There was just one catch. Many of the cleaners speak little or no English while no-one in the call centre speaks anything but. Listen here as an Ecuadorian cleaner tries to call in sick.

Third, Cordant Security has refused to allow trade union representation for migrant security staff at the university. The company has gone so far as to hire EXTRA security to physically block the IWGB representative from attending a meeting to which he was invited by the worker.

This is all happening at OUR university and is in response to pleas by the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in the building to be treated equally.