The IWGB union Universities of London branch secretary, Charlotte Powell, has written today to Professor Jane Harrington, Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich on behalf of security officers to demand urgent action in the face of rising Covid cases on campus.

Read the letter here:

Dear Jane,

I am writing to you from the IWGB union on behalf of the outsourced security officers at University of Greenwich, following on from my letter on 13 October raising concerns regarding the health and safety of these workers and of other staff and students at the university, to demand immediate action is taken to ensure safety.

Over the past few weeks new cases of coronavirus among students and staff of the University of Greenwich have consistently been reported on the University’s own portal, and it is likely there are more cases on campus that have not been reported.  In your reply to my previous letter, you wrote that the health, safety and welfare of students and all workers is of the utmost importance to you. However, the University of Greenwich response to Covid-19 on campus so far is inadequate. Increased health and safety measures are required.

It is the university’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all staff (including its outsourced workers) and students on campus. We therefore urge you to take the following immediate actions:

  1. The university must halt face to face teaching on campus to the greatest extent possible in order to reduce the number of students on campus and thereby reduce the risks of coronavirus transmission.
  2. The university must ensure outsourced staff, on the frontline of keeping the university safe and secure through the last year, are properly supported. In particular, the University must make clear to your subcontractor Sodexo that the bonus pay provided to porters at University of Greenwich as compensation for the extra risk they are exposed to working through Covid must be extended to all outsourced workers. The roles and responsibilities of all Sodexo staff on campus have expanded in both scope and intensity during the pandemic, so this compensation should be provided across the board.
  3. The university must ensure that its outsourced security officers are properly able to do their job of keeping staff and students safe without intimidation. Sodexo must withdraw all action against security officer Kingsley Osadolor, who is under investigation after a student complained about him for insisting the student wore a mask. The lack of appropriate guidance for security officers, on the front line of enforcing health and safety procedures, and the investigation against Kingsley have left security officers feeling intimidated and unable to effectively exercise health and safety measures, to the detriment of everyone on campus.
  4. The university must invite a representative of security staff from IWGB to participate as a health and safety representative for security staff in any meetings, committees or consultations open to other workers (directly employed and outsourced) regarding regulations and safeguards on campus.

The university has ultimate responsibility over its contracts with Sodexo and all outsourced staff who work at the university. It is all the more critical for the university to live up to these responsibilities at this time when all staff, both direct employees and outsourced workers, are affected by the health and safety measures being put in place. We appreciate that the University of Greenwich is celebrating the facility workers as heroes, yet actions need to follow these words.

Please confirm what you plan to do to remedy this situation by close of business on Friday 23 October latest. If the university does not follow the entirely reasonable actions to ensure everyone’s health and safety outlined above, the security guards will have no choice but to consider taking actions to ensure that their voices are heard, their health and safety is protected and they are treated with dignity and respect they deserve.

Best regards,
Charlotte Powell