This crisis has revealed again the extreme precarity that outsourcing brings to all workers employed under such contracts. While members of Aramark Bar staff at Student Central were laid off without pay on Monday, on friday dozens of Cleaners were informed that they would not receive full pay of their wages.
IWGB-UoL wrote to VC Wendy Thomson to demand immediate actions:
Dear Ms Thomson
I hope this email finds you well
I am writing to you once again to bring to your attention two instances of appalling treatment received by outsourced workers at University of London and the harmful indifference that your institution is showing towards them.
Your institution has a duty of care to these already precarious workers who are currently being put at great risk as a result of your actions in the context of the ongoing health crisis.
I am writing to alert you to the situation they are in, and I trust you will take immediate action to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Indefinite Lay-Off without pay of Student Central Bar Staff
On Monday 13 March, all 13 members of Bar Staff at Student central were informed that the bar was closing on that day for an indefinite period of time. Despite multiple questions and requests regarding their salary, Aramark failed to provide any answer with regards to this matter. The only response offered was that the staff members should seek to apply for Universal Credit, a wholly inappropriate response given the urgency of the matter and well-known wait time Universal Credit applications involve.
IWGB wrote to Wendy Thomson on Thursday stressing the importance of having this issue resolved as a matter of urgency, as some of the workers laid-off have been without pay for more than a week now. However, UoL has refused to provide any response with regards to this matter.
As mentioned in our previous email, we have now launched a public campaign and the situation of these workers has already gained public attention through the media: https://novaramedia.com/2020/03/21/coronavirus-shows-how-the-government-fails-precariousworkers/?fbclid=IwAR0s07qEnQPbmDWdpqafXfluL7Nnoe6kQmeeBQ1FdRs9wLPPjPQRMU8Gg0Y & https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/coronavirus-zero-hours-contract-workers-laid-off-text-a9419261.html
To guarantee the safety and wellbeing of these workers, the University of London must take immediate action and ensure that the following demands are met:
- All 13 employees will receive full payment of their wages, this based on an average of the hours work over the past 12 weeks (not considering Christmas closure),
- Aramark will provide all of them with a written statement of particulars. The terms and conditions reflected (hours of work) will be subject to consultation with all individuals involved.
Unlawful deduction of wages of cleaners during closure.
For months, cleaners employed by Cordant at UoL have persistently requested to be issued with updated contracts of employment. A group of them work 7 hours a day, 3 hours in Senate House and 4 hours in the Residence Halls. However, their contracts of employment only reflect 3 hours’ work a day. This is despite the fact that some of them have worked 7 hours every day since 2016.
Several cleaners have raised complaints about this over the past months. Recently, a collective formal grievance was raised. A first outcome was sent confirming that they were right and that they would therefore be provided with an updated contract of employment. However, following an intervention by Cordant management at UoL, the cleaners received an amended outcome confirming that they would not be receiving any updated contract and that any hours beyond 3 contracted hours would be considered overtime. This left the cleaners with no other option but to initiate tribunal proceedings against Cordant in order to obtain an updated contract of employment.
On Friday 20th March, Cordant management informed some of our members that during closure they would only be paid their contracted hours. This means that dozens of cleaners, to whom an updated contract was denied, will receive only 3 hours of payment instead of 7 per day.
This means that these workers will be left with only half of their income during this pandemic. This decision is not only unlawful but also shows the lack of the most basic humanity towards the cleaning staff at University of London. Several of our members are in a situation of extreme anxiety, unsure on how they will manage to make ends meet, with some of them taking care of family members who have been left out of work during the current crisis.
We therefore urge the University to take immediate measures to ensure that:
- All cleaners are paid based on the hours they have persistently worked over the past 12 weeks.
- All cleaners affected by this situation are to be provided contracts of employment reflecting the hours they work.
Time for University of London to step up
Whilst other Universities have announced that all staff, including zero hours and casual staff, will be paid their full salary during the whole length of this crisis, the University of London continues to drag its feet.
The current circumstances reveal which institutions are able to lead the way in adapting to offer compassionate and appropriate responses to the current crisis, and which are failing to. UoL has let down its workers in a time of great need, and left them to face poverty in the midst of a pandemic.
However, there is another way forward. You can listen to the voices of outsourced workers and of the wider community asking public institutions to show the way in protecting all members of staff.
The choice is yours: abandon those who work for you in a time of crisis, or show that the University of London cares for its community, in which these workers play a vital role. The public is watching: your actions in this critical period will not be forgotten. You choose how UoL’s handling of this crisis will be remembered in the future.