A reasonable approach – IWGB offers negotiations on in-housing — April 3, 2019

A reasonable approach – IWGB offers negotiations on in-housing

Our branch secretary Danny wrote today to the VC and the heads of SAS:

Dear Peter

I am writing to you and to the SAS Directors with regard to the ongoing in-house campaign and boycott of Senate House

SAS have indicated to us and to the campaign on numerous occasions the extremely serious impact the boycott is having on the School, particularly if it continues into the long term.

The University meanwhile has reiterated that the wellbeing of the School is a top priority.

It would therefore make sense that if there were a course of action that could lead to the boycott being lifted the University should take it.

We want to make clear that this course of action is available – we are offering direct negotiations with the outsourced workers and their chosen union which could start immediately. Only through negotiation will we find a solution that will convince workers to call off the boycott. Once an agreement is reached, the boycott will be lifted.

If the University wishes to find a way to resolve this issue and has the interests of the School at heart, all it needs to do is accept this offer, which would cost it nothing.

We are looking forward to your response, and moving forward with a solution that will benefit everyone at the University in the long term.

Best wishes


IWGB raises grave concerns with in-housing TUPE process —

IWGB raises grave concerns with in-housing TUPE process

The first phase of in-housing at the University of London has now begun.

After 18 months of campaigning by outsourced workers, around 10% of them are now scheduled to become direct employees of the UoL on 20 May 2019.

The group selected for inclusion consists of porters, postroom staff, AV technicians and receptionists.

Notwithstanding the fact that 90% of outsourced staff still have no guarantees as to their fate, even those who should have been included in this first phase have found this to be a confusing and stressful process.

Meetings have been scheduled at the last minute, with little information given and no allowance made for language issues.

Even more worrying, there has been no clarity as to who should and should not be included in the process, with many of those receptionists who should fall within the scope of the TUPE not having received letters of notification. The IWGB has already received 10 such complaints, and this far Cordant have not responded to any of the workers who have raised this.

The IWGB’s position is clear – any worker illegally left out will have our full support in challenging the process AND until the other 90% of affected workers are brought in-house the campaign will continue to escalate.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

Hunter gatherers, Candy Crush Saga and excess workload at the University of London — March 24, 2019

Hunter gatherers, Candy Crush Saga and excess workload at the University of London

Many of us working at the University of London feel pressure at the moment to work extra hours beyond their contracts to meet increasingly burdensome demands and expectations, and it is sometimes difficult to take a step back and realise that this is a) not necessary and b) not something you need to put up with in silence!

If in the basement of Senate House you should come across the skeleton of a woman that’s about 10,000 years old you might idly wonder if she belonged to a hunter-gatherer group or a farming community that grew grain. Simply examine the skeleton’s back, knees and toes: if they’re deformed it’s because the woman spent many hours rocking back and forth grinding grain, to give her severe RSI.[1]

It’s widely accepted that the gradual move from a mixed lifestyle of hunting and harvesting to the backbreaking raising of a monocrop was a terrible deal for humans. Hunter-gatherers were healthier, bigger and less prone to disease than their counterparts. Their lifestyle was more varied and, arguably, more skilled. Long hours doing the same thing are bad for us physically, mentally and emotionally.

In modern times we can congratulate ourselves on many achievements: The Daily Mail, Candy Crush Saga, BaeWatch. How do our working lives compare with the hunter-gatherer? The University of London is obviously not the worst place in Britain to work: just ask fruit pickers, workers in massage parlours who rely on tips, or many others. But owners of massage parlours do not generally crow about work-life balance so perhaps we can and should hold UoL to a higher standard.

The University has, for several years, operated a “recruitment chill”. This normally means that if someone leaves they are not replaced for a minimum of six months. Who does their work? Who do you think? Were these colleagues previously sitting around looking to fill their time? Scarcely. Were they already in fact overworked? You betcha. The recruitment chill should more honestly be called the Exploit Existing Workers Doctrine.

A number of people in my department regularly work more than 70 hours a week. Because they love the job? Not so much. Chronic under-resourcing means they have to do it or everything would break down (and they would be blamed for it). What’s being selected for here is goodwill and self-sacrifice. Those who won’t do it will leave or push work onto others. A cash- and resource-rich institution is making its most dedicated workers ill through excessive hours in the name of “bearing down on costs” or similar self-serving nonsense.

Leaving aside the morality of this, it’s nonsensical on a practical level. It is well known that the quality of work falls as people become more and more tired. That’s kind of obvious but Quartz recently reported on a study that shows how quickly this happens.[2] If the eight-hour work day produces low-quality work what effect is the recruitment chill having, on top of all the other extra loads being rammed onto our shoulders?

If you want a quick way to know if an institution actually cares about the quality of work being done there look no further than open-plan offices. These are such a bad idea that kids today probably learn “don’t work in an open-plan office” from their parents at about the same time they learn “don’t drink bleach”. Open-plan offices reduce work and reduce communication between colleagues; the only thing they increase is sickness rates. [3]

Despite this the University has put a lot of effort into creating a giant open-plan office in Senate House’s basement. In a gesture of solidarity the managerial elite of the University have moved down there too. But open-plan is especially harmful for deep, thoughtful work, so the output of our senior managements remains unaffected.

If anyone complains about this situation the managerial response varies between sympathetic head-nodding, which does very little to reduce anyone’s workload, and injunctions to think creatively about that workload, to ensure that you are working smarter not harder. To be fair the mantra work smarter not harder is pretty useful: it tells you that the person saying it is an imbecile whose views can be conveniently ignored.

If there are any humans left in 10,000 years’ time they can examine our skeletons. If they’re deformed in the hands, wrists and shoulders it’s because of RSI, produced by long hours at a computer or tablet. I don’t think they’ll be able to tell if we were working smarter not harder.

Are you forced to work beyond your contractual hours because of workload? You’re not alone. Contact uol@iwgb.org.uk if you want to discuss this issue in confidence.

1. James C. Scott, Against the Grain, p.83.


3. See, for example, https://m.signalvnoise.com/the-open-plan-office-is-a-terrible–horrible–no-good–very-bad-idea/, or just ask your parents if going open-plan/drinking bleach is a smart move.



La reunión general anual de la Rama Universidad de Londres de este año tendrá lugar el sábado 27 de abril, ¡y todos los miembros están invitados!

Esta es una oportunidad de escuchar todo lo que la sucursal ha hecho en el último año (¡cuando hemos crecido a más de 600 miembros!), Elegir a los oficiales para el próximo año y comer algunas empañadas …

Todos los detalles para seguir, ¡pero por favor póngalos en el diario ahora!

Cualquier pregunta a uol@iwgb.org.uk.



This year’s University of London Annual General Meeting will take place on Saturday 27 April, and all members are invited!

This is your chance to hear about everything the branch has done in the last year (when we have grown to over 600 members!), elect officers for the next year and eat some empañadas…

Full details to follow – but please put in the diary now!

Any questions to uol@iwgb.org.uk.

No to the fingerprint! Joint letter of protest from UCU and IWGB —

No to the fingerprint! Joint letter of protest from UCU and IWGB

The IWGB and UCL UCU have written jointly to Sodexo and UCL in protest at their plans to introduce biometric testing for cleaners at UCL – full letter below!

We are writing in response to the announcement by Sodexo that the company plans to introduce a Time Management System using biometric technology for cleaners employed on the UCL contract.

Both we and the affected workers (many of whom are members of the IWGB union) believe that this proposal is ill-considered, discriminatory and likely to be in breach of the Biometrics Institute’s2017 Biometric Privacy Guidelines, as well as the UK’s 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with regard to the principle of proportionality.

These workers are already the most heavily scrutinised in the University. They have passes in order to clock in and out, as well as a signing in book, and their supervisors control their entry to and exit from work. The introduction of additional monitoring systems is out of step with contemporary practice in relation to cleaning jobs in buildings of this type, and therefore excessive.

We are therefore calling on Sodexo and UCL to halt the implementation process immediately, and to provide answers to the following questions:

1)      Why is this system being introduced for cleaners, but not for any other group of staff working at UCL?

2)      Why is it being introduced at UCL and not at other comparable institutions (indeed, plans for a similar system at Birkbeck were recently abandoned)?

3)      Given the disproportionate number of BAME staff working on the cleaning contract, has an Equality Impact Assessment been conducted to ensure that these plans are not in breach of the Equalities Act 2010?

4)      Can Sodexo please provide references to their own policies to show that they have addressed the following guidelines as laid out in the 2017 Biometric Privacy Guidelines?

i)        Principle 1 Respect for Individuals/Data Subject Privacy

ii)       Principle 2 Proportionality

iii)     Principle 3 Informed Consent

iv)     Principle 4 Truth and Accuracy in Business Operations

v)      Principle 5 Protection of Biometric Data Collected

vi)     Principle 6 Complaints and Enquiries

vii)   Principle 7 Purpose

viii)  Principle 8 Non Discrimination

ix)     Principle 9 Accountability

x)      Principle 10 Sharing of Biometric Data

xi)     Principle 11 Provision of Advance Warnings of Surveillance

xii)   Principle 12 Transmission of Biometric Data Beyond National Boundaries

xiii)  Principle 13 Employee Biometric Data Must be Protected

xiv) Principle 14 Limit the Extent of Personal Data Exchanged and Retained

xv)   Principle 15 Maintain a Strong Privacy Environment

xvi) Principle 16 Maintain Privacy Logs

5)      If the Biometrics Institute Privacy Guidelines have not been incorporated into the policy, could  Sodexo please send a copy of the relevant Privacy Impact Assessment that has been carried out in relation to the proposed implementation?

The IWGB and UCU are extremely concerned both at these plans and at the way they are being implemented with little consultation or consideration for the privacy rights of our colleagues. If this is not halted then we will be passing the matter to our respective legal departments and considering a representation to the Information Commissioner., especially in relation to any areas of GDPR-related non-compliance.

A failure on the part of Sodexo to address our concerns within 10 working days will leave us no option but to alert all UCL staff and students to this inconsiderate and disproportionate approach to the privacy rights of the most vulnerable and low-paid of our colleagues on campus.

Yours sincerely

Maritza Castillo Calle (President UoL IWGB)
Danny Millum (Branch Secretary UoL IWGB)
Sean Wallis (President UCL UCU)
Saladin Meckled-Garcia (Vice President UCL UCU)
Tony Brown (Branch Secretary UCL UCU)

Axis and Unison team up to block IWGB recognition request at UCL — February 19, 2019

Axis and Unison team up to block IWGB recognition request at UCL

Despite the IWGB being by far the largest and most active union among security guards at UCL, the security contractor Axis has chosen to thwart our formal bid for recognition by choosing to voluntarily recognise Unison instead.

As Axis are well aware, the IWGB is the largest union among the UCL security bargaining unit, and has consistently flagged up issues on behalf of those members since the company took over the contract.

Indeed, UCL’s Security Manager admitted when the IWGB met him to discuss the innumerable problems with officers’ holidays and pay under Axis that the IWGB had raised around 30 cases, while Unison had raised just one.

It is thus quite clear that Axis have entered into this voluntary recognition agreement simply to block the IWGB’s application. Had they genuinely wished to engage with their workforce, they would of course have chosen to deal with the union actually representing those workers.

It is an indication of the contempt in which Axis holds its employees that it believes that they will not see through this transparent attempt too substitute a management-approved union for the real thing.

The IWGB in reply has written to Axis stating that it is not up to decide what union workers belong to and choose to represent them, and that we will continue to represent members, raise issues with Axis management, and resolve them if necessary via the appropriate legal steps. In addition, we will continue to publicise Axis’s failings, both to the UCL community and to the wider world.

We added that the IWGB has never been recognised in any University workplace – and this has not stopped us from waging and winning multiple campaigns for the improvement of workers’ rights – most recently at Senate House where the first tranche of our members are about to be brought in-house. Oh – and check out Goldsmith’s security guards as well (https://hyperallergic.com/484990/protesters-demand-londons-goldsmiths-university-stops-outsourcing-workforce/).

Hasta la victoria siempre!

26 February – Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court! — January 30, 2019

26 February – Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court!

On 26 Feb our Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court! If we win it will not just be the outsourced workers at the University that benefit, but the 3.3m outsourced workers across the U.K. currently denied the opportunity to bargain directly with the employer that really determines their terms and conditions. So it’s a biggie!

To mark the day we are teaming up with a bunch of other unions to march against outsourcing – please make sure to join us!



Relief for HEE staff as IWGB pressure helps postpone TUPE — January 23, 2019

Relief for HEE staff as IWGB pressure helps postpone TUPE

The University of London have confirmed to the ICE Forum that plans to TUPE all employees currently working for Health Education England under UoL contracts have been postponed.

IWGB reps on the Forum had been vociferous in their opposition to the plans, opposed by the majority of staff, and had tabled over 30 in-depth and largely unanswered legal and financial questions relating to the process.

The IWGB wanted the whole process scrapped, whereas the University’s position now is that it has been paused and will be returned to at an as-yet-unspecified date.

We will of course keep you posted as to developments – any questions do drop us a line at uol@iwgb.org.uk!