On Friday the University of London announced that it would bring security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020. This is a welcome development and a vindication of the strategy chosen by the outsourced workers of combining strikes with a boycott of the university’s events.
This would have been impossible without your steadfast support, which was unflinching even in the face of several attempts by university management and others to spread misinformation.
However, the need to keep pressure on the university is now more important than ever. So far, no details have been given on what kinds of contracts the university will give the workers. This is an issue of huge importance, since the contracts that were negotiated for the receptionists that were brought in-house in May 2019, behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB, have led to a number of problems.
In the first two months following the introduction of these contracts, seven of the twelve in-sourced receptionists brought grievances against the university, in large part as a result of the terms that were negotiated by third parties that had no mandate from the workers to negotiate on their behalf.
The issues that the workers have raised, some of which form part of formal grievances, are:
- As a result of the new contracts, receptionists are being moved to different buildings and given different shift patterns on different days, even though previously they were based in one reception, some of them for as long as twenty years.
- One receptionist had to take several weeks off sick from stress as a result of the university’s attempts to move her, without her consent, out of the place where she had worked for over six years and to another building – a clear breach of TUPE legislation. The university’s justification was that, off the back of the negotiations, it was decided that the hours that she once did now belonged to the outsourcing company, Cordant, which would provide their own staff.
- Another receptionist, who needs to take breaks at specific times due to the fact he suffers from diabetes, has nearly fainted on several occasions because of changes to shift and break patterns meant no cover was available when he had to take time off.
- Failure of the university to properly staff one of its receptions, leading to significant overwork for the one remaining receptionist.
- Failure of the university to properly staff the Post Room following the resignation of a worker, leading to significant overwork for the remaining staff.
While some of these issues are unlawful (breach of TUPE regulations) and if not resolved could result in legal action by IWGB, it would have been preferable for the workers to have been represented in the in-housing talks, so that these issues could have been avoided altogether.
Therefore, being aware of the way the first wave of in-sourcing was handled, we would be failing our members in our duty as their chosen trade union, if we were to drop significant forms of leverage prior to seeing the actual contracts that our members will be asked to sign.
It is also wholly unreasonable that the security officers are being brought in-house six whole months before cleaners, and that gardeners, many of whom have taken a number of days of strike action, are being completely excluded from the deal.
For these reasons, the elected security, cleaning and gardening reps, have agreed that, as a gesture of goodwill, they are happy to call off the campaign and the boycott if two conditions are met:
- That there is an agreement that security staff, cleaners and gardeners are brought in-house by May 2020.
- That the elected IWGB security, cleaning and gardening reps, in consultation with the membership and their union, review and sign off on the contracts that will be presented to the members.
We are closer than ever to securing a fair deal for the cleaners and security officers that for so many years have been ignored by university management and others. With your continued support of the boycott we are certain to achieve that.