Another week, another breakfast stall! Students, ex-students and IWGB organisers have been greeting outsourced workers at UCL with tea, coffee and pastries one or two mornings each week since last summer. We’d like to express our gratitude to the activists who have shaken off sleep to make these stalls happen, but most of all to the cleaners who have stuck around after work to talk to us about how we can work together to improve their terms and conditions at UCL.
The stalls function as a community hub where strong relationships have developed between workers who might not see each other on shift and between workers and the union. As a result, union membership and solidarity more generally has blossomed among cleaners at UCL. We have been able to solve numerous complaints and grievances brought to us by cleaners at the stalls. At the Institute of Education, for example, cleaners told us about the imminent introduction of clock-in-clock-out fingerprint technology. After a mini-campaign by the IWGB, this was delayed indefinitely.
If you’d like to get involved with the stalls, message UCL Justice for Workers. If you’re in the area, you can find the stalls at the Malet Place entrance to UCL on Thursdays (and at different locations across UCL on Fridays).
Dear Professor Kopelman
I hope this email finds you well.
I am writing to you in order to raise a number of issues related to the recent TUPE transfer of front of house staff from Cordant Security to the University of London. I believe the issues raised below expose the incompetence of outsourced companies but also the lack of willingness of the University of London to commit to a genuine and honest in-house process.
It needs to be clarified to begin with that 90% of the outsourced workers remain employed by external contractors. Despite the fact that the university has maintained that it is ‘committed to the principle of in-sourcing’, it still refuses to make a clear statement committing to transferring the remaining staff into its employment. Understandably, this gives no reassurance to those left out of scope of the transfer.
With regard to the TUPE transfer itself, both Cordant and the University of London have failed to provide the workers affected by the TUPE with clear information on the methodology and criteria applied to define the scope. Instead, the whole process has been characterised by misinformation, incompetence and opacity.
Serious doubts over the information provided by Cordant relating to the transfer were initially triggered by the fact that our President Henry Chango Lopez received a letter informing him of his transfer into the university. This despite the fact that his employment with Cordant had terminated more than a year ago!
Another of our members, a receptionist at IALS, was originally excluded from the process and deemed out of scope by Cordant. She was only reinstated when the IWGB raised a grievance on her behalf.
Another IALS member, who has worked as a receptionist for more than seven years, and who was informed a month ago that her employment was going to be transferred into the University was told the day she went to collect her University of London uniform that she was considered out of scope and that she would remain outsourced. This case has now been taken to ACAS by the IWGB.
Two further Senate House night receptionists were originally given letters telling them they would be transferred to the University – only to be told casually in person a month later that they were being excluded. They too have now lodged grievances via the IWGB.
I would also like to highlight that despite the University affirming that all ‘front of house’ services would be brought in house, many officers whose EXCLUSIVE duty is to cover reception in the academic buildings remain outsourced and employed by Cordant.
This has led to the ludicrous position that reception positions (for instance in Senate House and Stewart House) which have not been filled by an outsourced member of staff TUPE-ing, and which cannot now be filled by Cordant Security (as they are no longer responsible for reception duties) are instead being advertised via CoSector, as are positions for a porter and a postroom operative.
In addition, these are being advertised as zero-hours posts with sub-London Living Wage pay – in total breach of the University’s commitments on both these issues.
Cordant Security have also failed in their statutory responsibilities in relation to the TUPE re the scheduling of appeals and hearing of grievances. More than 15 affected Cordant Security employees, who have been excluded from the TUPE, have submitted individual appeals more than a month ago and a half ago against their unfair and unjustified exclusion from the transfer. All of them are still awaiting a response from your contractor. Furthermore a number of requests sent to your institution asking for the methodology used to define the scope of the TUPE have received no answer.
The statutory rights of our members to choose their own trade union representation have also been repeatedly breached. Despite the fact that both Cordant and the University of London are well aware that a vast majority of outsourced workers belong to the IWGB they have still decided to nominate Unison as employee representatives instead of allowing workers to choose or elect their own.
In addition, during the 121 consultation meetings which have been taking place as part of the TUPE, we would highlight that it has been customary practice at the University of London for outsourced staff attending such meetings to bring a representative of their choice. The UoL IWGB branch secretary has attended those meetings before during previous TUPE transfers. Despite this, our trade union representatives have been informed in writing that they would not be allowed to attend our meetings and were physically prevented from doing so by an agency security officer hired by your institution specifically for that purpose. This occurred even though the letters received by our members informed them of their right to bring a colleague or trade union representative.
Several of our members who have been considered to be in scope and have been brought in house have also informed me that the University of London has provided all of them with a template contract that did not reflect the individual terms and conditions. This is consequence not only of the absence of a genuine consultation process but also to the exclusion of their trade union representatives, who should have been there to ensure that the information provided by the contractor was correct .
Due to all this more than 40 security officers have raised a grievance in relation to the lack of definition of the scope, the violation of the right to trade union representation and the unfair exclusion of the vast majority of the workforce from the transfer.
In conclusion, it seems clear that the root cause of these issues is the decision to split the Cordant Security contract and exclude the majority of workers from the in-house process. The result of this is:
1. Cordant have been left to make the decision on who was or was not in scope, when it was in their interest to exclude as many employees as possible. The more employees who remain with Cordant, the larger their profit on the contract.
2. Services have been split in a way that is not operationally viable – receptionists, the bench team, relief officers and Halls reception staff all provide cover for each other and work across different sites and shifts. By only bringing in-house 13 receptionists the University now does not have enough resource to cover this service, and cannot now rely on the larger pool of staff.
3. Staff who were previously colleagues have now been divided – with those arbitrarily left out of scope understandably extremely upset and now preparing legal challenges.
4. Staff and their chosen representatives have not been properly consulted, with the result that the process has been far more stressful and problematic than necessary.
The resolution to all of these issues is straightforward – to act immediately to bring in house the remainder of the Cordant Security contract. We would be happy to work with you and the PFM team to ensure that this happens as smoothly as possibly, for the benefit of both staff and the University.
Branch Secretary, University of London IWGB
Next week marks a watershed moment in IWGB’s ‘back in house’ campaign as the first outsourced workers will formally be transferred to University of London employment.
Selected members of staff from reception, portering, postroom and audio-visual support will be the first in 20 years to reverse the trend of outsourcing at UoL.
This is a huge victory for the workers’ campaign as just two years ago the University refused to discuss the issue of in-housing, claiming that issues with the workers’ employment conditions were not a matter for the University to consider.
In recent communications to directly employed staff, the University has changed its line and sought to claim credit for the decision to bring the workers in house and for the beneficial effects of doing so. But it won’t be forgotten that the decision to bring these workers back in house comes after a huge campaign and massive pressure applied to the University by the workers and their union, IWGB!
IWGB has now been able to scrutinize the terms and conditions of incoming workers’ contracts and confirm that existing working patterns will be respected while everyone will be entitled to the University’s pensions, sick pay, annual leave and other benefits such as closure days – all of which mark a significant improvement on terms and conditions available to outsourced staff.
“This is an incredible day for us,” said Abdul Bakhsh, one of the affected workers and UoL IWGB Vice Chair. “We are finally getting what we have been asking for – to be treated equally with our colleagues at the University.”
But workers are determined to carry on the campaign until all their outsourced colleagues are brought in-house: the number transferring on 20 May is a tiny proportion of affected staff. The University maintains in communications that it is ‘committed to the principle of in-sourcing’ but still refuses to make a clear statement committing to transferring the remaining 200+ staff into its employment. Understandably, this gives no reassurance to those left out of scope. The workers will fight on until the campaign is won!
After lots of hard work from our amazing employees our new office is finally up and running! So please come and see it yourself and meet the IWGB office team on Saturday 4 May from 16:00 – 18:00.
There will be soft drinks and nibbles, and we will move to a close-by pub afterwards.
Address: St. Margaret’s House, Room 1, 15 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL.
2 mins from Bethnal Green underground station.
Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Hola a todos!! Despues de un trabajo arduo de nuestros maravillosos empleados, nuestra nueva oficina esta finalmente lista! Así que por favor vengan a verlo por ustedes mismos y conozcan a nuestro equipo de trabajo de la oficina de IWGB este sabado 4 de mayo de 4pm-6pm.
Habra bebidas y bocadillos. Despues de eso estan invitados a ir a un pub cercano.
Direccion: St. Margaret’s House, Room 1, 15 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL.
2 minutos de la estacion de metro de Bethnal Green. Los esperamos a todos!
Our branch secretary has written to the University to raise once again the issue of the discrepancy in holidays between 1-6 and 7-10 staff, and to call for immediate action! Happy Easter!
Dear Mark and Simon
I am writing with regard to the issue of the disparity in holiday allowances between staff on grades 1-6 and those on 7-10.
As you know, staff in the latter group receive 3 days more annual leave per annum than those in the former.
This is not just unfair, but I believe it raises issues of race and gender discrimination, as BAME staff and women are disproportionately represented among grades 1-6.
This was originally raised at the ICE Forum a year ago (see here for the full document submitted then) but no action has yet been taken.
Could you please get back to me and confirm that the University will be taking steps to resolve this issue, and the timescale in which it will be doing so?
ASAMBLEA GENERAL ANUAL DE LA RAMA UNIVERSIDAD DE LONDRES 2019
ESTE DIA SÁBADO 27 DE ABRIL A LAS 2PM
¡TU SINDICATO TE NECESITA!
Todos los miembros de la rama IWGB – Universidad de Londres están cordialmente invitados a la reunion mas importante del año.
Esta es la oportunidad del año en donde puedes:
Enterarte de todo las acciones y acontecimientos que la rama y el sindicato han hecho durante este año
Entérarte y aprobar las finanzas del sindicato.
• Reunirte con tus compañeros de toda la rama.
• Postularte para un puesto en las elecciones y votar por nuevos oficiales.
• Agradecer a nuestros voluntarios y activistas.
• Planear juntos para el próximo año.
¡Esta reunion es una vez al año y por lo tanto tu presencia es muy importante! asi que esperamos que todos hagan el esfuerzo necesario para asistir.
Para obtener más información sobre la Asamblea General Anual y de cómo postularse para ser oficial envía un mensaje o un correo electrónico a Jordi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Habra servicio de bocadillos y bebidas disponibles.
Salon: SOAS, sala B103
Direccion: SOAS, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0XG
Metro más cercano: Russell Square.
Autobuses: 59, 168, 68, 91, 188.
Por favor llegar con puntualidad! Los esperamos a todos!
Rama UoL branch
Our branch secretary Danny wrote today to the VC and the heads of SAS:
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.