On 20 March UCL announced that staff who work at UCL on an “as and when “ basis, i.e. casual and zero hours workers, will be paid their average weekly earnings over the closure period, calculated on the basis of their earnings over the last 12 weeks. This being paid whether they are required to work or not during the coronavirus outbreak.
We celebrate and welcome this important concession, which is the outcome of the fierce determination of the outsourced workers, the solidarity and support of the wider UCL community and the media and press attention brought to the treatment of casual staff at UCL.
However, UCL must take further steps:
Robust scrutiny of the implementation of policies by subcontractors
UCL must ensure that the policies announced are implemented accordingly by your subcontractors. Since UCL made the announcement on Friday we have already been informed by some of our members that Sodexo managers have stated that those employees who are sick will only receive SSP or that workers on zero hours contracts will not receive payment if they do not work. Our members working for Axis have also received similar confusing emails, which claim they are only entitled to SSP.
We therefore urge you to cascade the information properly and scrutinize carefully the implementation of the policies announced. As one part of this, UCL must provide confirmation of reengagement of all the zero hours contract workers laid off by Sodexo and ensure that they receive payment since the day they were laid off.
A ban on zero-hour contracts
The reason dozens of outsourced workers were laid off and left without their main source of income, with less that one day notice, is because of the nature of their contracts of employment. Without quality contracts their precarity will continue.
We therefore urge UCL to ban all zero hours contracts. All workers should be provided with written particulars of employment with contractual hours.
Lack of guarantees for Hospitality and Catering Staff
Furthermore, the announcement constitutes no guarantee for Hospitality and Catering staff. This is due to the nature of their contractual relation with the employer. There are two main areas of concern which must be immediately addressed:
a. Absence of yearly contracts
Not a single member of the Hospitality and Catering team at UCL have yearly contracts. (They are employed on 28week/40week contracts). This means that in most cases their contracts will terminate at the end of the month giving the subcontractor the right to refuse to provide them with any work.
UCL’s announcement therefore constitutes no guarantee against the precarious nature of their contracts of employment. We therefore demand For all members of the Hospitality/Catering Team to be provided with 52 week / yearly contracts of employment.
b. Contracts not reflecting the hours they work
Currently, the contracts of employment of the Catering and Hospitality Team do not reflect the hours they actually work, most of the hours being considered “overtime”. This must be resolved and all employees need to be provided with updated particulars of employment which reflect all the hours. The contracted hours reflected on these contracts will be based on the average of weekly hours over the last 6 months. The contracts should be for a minimum of 40 hours a week.
It is only by addressing the above that UCL can guarantee that no outsourced worker will suffer any detriment during the current crisis.
We therefore urge UCL to take immediate steps to address the matters above.
UCL may decide to continue to ignore the demands of outsourced workers and the IWGB. However, UCL will no longer be able to ignore the voices of the wider public and community calling for equality, justice and dignity for all outsourced workers during this crisis.