Today, UCL outsourced workers at IOE were given letters stating that “they should not speak to press” and were told they could breach company policy if they decided to speak out about their working conditions.
IWGB’s General Sectetary has written to UCL’s Provost to warn him about this bad move and alert him of the possible consequences:
Dear Professor Arthur,
I am writing to give you the opportunity to correct yet another idiotic blunder of your contractors. You might remember that when I wrote to you on 16 September, offering the opportunity to avoid a campaign (which you rejected), I put a little side note to your contractors (who were copied in), saying:
“I know it might be tempting when reading this to try and prove your worth to UCL by reacting in some way towards the workers. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that’s not a good idea.”It seems unfortunately my advice as not been followed as the attached document was handed out to cleaners, porters, etc. As you can see, and not for the first time, Sodexo management is a little confused as the document is clearly meant to be instructions for them on what to say to staff and not a document to be handed directly to staff. Or, in the terminology of Sodexo, the message was meant “to be cascaded via line manager during team huddle”. But as you and the general public will become more and more aware of over the coming months, this sort of incompetence is par for the course with cowboy contractors.
But more seriously, the message says that workers are not to speak to press or express views about their work on social media. Apparently this is set out in the “what to do in a crisis” document. I’m glad you guys are recognising UCL is now in a crisis, but having your contractors attempt to silence your workers through intimidation is no way to deal with it.
Professor Arthur, if you don’t want UCL cleaners to talk about their exploitative working conditions, then don’t exploit them. If you don’t want them to talk about the inherently discriminatory outsourcing regime at UCL, then end the regime.
I suggest you correct this and I suggest you do it now. Given that this threat comes off the back of widespread coverage of the proposed strike of outsourced workers, which comes as part of an anti-outsourcing campaign against UCL, it is quite clear that the threat is being made on your behalf. If not corrected, this will have consequences for you both from a campaign perspective and a legal perspective. I’d also encourage you to think for a moment about the backlash UCL would receive if you actually followed through on the policy and discipined a cleaner for telling the Guardian how she is compelled to work sick because she has no occupational sick pay. I’ll give you a hint: it would be a PR disaster.
I look forward to the correction being made as a matter of urgency. The IWGB and its members will not be intimidated by these desperate tactics, and we will not hesitate to take whatever legal action is required to put an end to them. And as long as you continue to exploit and discriminate, we will make sure the world knows about it.
Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee