UCL’s subcontractor Axis is trying to cut the frontline security staff who risked their lives to keep everyone safe in the pandemic.

On 10 June, UCL’s subcontractor Axis announced that it would be conducting consultations with security staff with a plan of ‘rationalising’ their shift patterns. Axis stated that “the current irregular shift patterns are damaging to the service delivery requirements and performance indicators.”

Many security staff at UCL work irregular shift patterns, due to family or caring responsibilities or other jobs – as is typical in most workplaces. We were immediately concerned that Axis might try to change our members’ shift patterns unilaterally. But now we have learnt Axis’s plan is even worse than that.

Yesterday, Axis held the first meeting with security officers as part of this consultation process. Axis announced they plan to make a series of changes with a serious impact on the terms and conditions of many security officers.

Most of the officers who were invited to the meeting, and whose shifts are being lined up for changes, are already working a regular ‘5 days ON, 2 days OFF’ shift pattern. This is not what we expected. These officers are already on highly regular shift patterns – in fact they are on one of the 3 shift patterns that Axis said it wants to move officers onto. Why is Axis trying to change their shifts?

Despite their shift pattern being one of the standard patterns Axis said it was planning to move everyone onto, officers were informed that their shift pattern would change resulting in a significant loss to their contractual hours of work. This means that some officers who are currently working on 5 days ON 2 days OFF will now have their shift pattern changed to 4 days ON 4 days OFF which means that their average weekly hours will drop from 60 hours to 42 hours, leading to a substantial loss of wages and threatening their livelihoods.

This not only means that Axis will breach the contract of employment of dozens of security officers, but that it will also jeopardize the financial position of dozens of families.

This amounts to a unilateral change to the terms and conditions of employment and would constitute a breach of the contract of employment of all officers affected. Axis have not attempted to obtain our consent to make these changes and have made it clear that our consent will not be sought to go ahead with these changes.

Axis said that the rationale for the changes is that they want to make the site easier to manage, but when it came to the first consultation meeting yesterday the real plan was clear to see – they are trying to make extensive cuts.

Axis’s stated rationale for the changes makes no sense here, as they are changing the patterns of people who are already on a regular pattern. During the meeting, a number of officers highlighted how their sites did not have any staffing issues and they had a regular and consistent shift pattern, which is supposedly the purpose of the suggested changes. Axis has failed to provide any real business rationale to breach the contract of employment of these officers who mostly work in buildings that are properly staffed and have no operational challenges.

Yesterday’s meeting, rather than a consultation, amounted to a situation in which an already drafted plan is being imposed upon staff. Furthermore, the deadline for this process is extremely short – concluding on 28 July. AXIS is attempting to address this process in an expedite manner without properly consulting nor providing any transparent information to employees.

At no point did Axis present the officers with alternative arrangements to ensure that the officers affected could continue to work their contracted hours. This is despite AXIS having a number of vacancies at present, which puts in question the necessity of the changes suggested.

Concerningly, during the meeting an Axis HR manager also mentioned that some officers’ employment might be terminated as a result of this process. If this is the case then this is a redundancy process, and as such Axis are already in breach of the law for the failure to follow an appropriate collective consultation process, which requires a minimum 30 days consultation process.

It seems clear that Axis is trying to make cuts by the backdoor. This is entirely unacceptable and will throw many of UCL’s security staff into financial difficulties.

At the meeting yesterday, Axis confirmed that these unilateral changes were being proposed at the request of UCL. For this reason, the IWGB has written to UCL to make these demands:

  1. The process must be halted.
  2. All information must be provided to security staff so they can suggest alternative proposals.
  3. A genuine consultation process must be held.

We hope that UCL will attempt to resolve this matter in a way that does not impact the livelihoods of some of the most vulnerable members of UCL, who have also been those at the frontline during this pandemic.