One university should mean one workforce: it is time to end discrimination at UoL — August 15, 2018

One university should mean one workforce: it is time to end discrimination at UoL

Despite the wishes of the majority of its staff, the biggest strikes by outsourced workers in higher education history, support from high-profile politicians, and £700,000 wasted on extra security, the University of London (UoL) refuses to commit to ending its discriminatory two-tier workforce.

Not even the acres of negative press nor the heartfelt pleas from outsourced staff, the majority of who are from BME backgrounds, have managed to make a chink in the armour of the university’s senior management team.

Incidentally, 80 per cent of the institution’s directly employed staff are white. And guess what? Unlike their outsourced BME colleagues, they have enviable pension arrangements and holiday entitlements, are entitled to sick pay and good maternity and paternity pay. Moreover, the university’s ‘dignity at work’ policy ensures they are treated with respect.

All of this point to institutionalised discrimination, and it is a disgrace.

Please email the university’s new vice-chancellor, Peter Kopelman (vice-chancellor@london.ac.uk) and ask him to end discrimination at UoL and bring workers in-house by June 2019.

 

 

 

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First aid allowance — August 8, 2018

First aid allowance

One of the issues raised by IWGB representatives at the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum at the end of July related to payments to first-aiders by the University of London (UoL).

It was pointed out that the allowance, which is currently £8.50 per month, has not increased for 15 years and is not in line with other organisations. Moreover, at the time of the meeting, it transpired that some first-aiders are not even being paid at all.

The university was asked to review this, and IWGB can now report that the human resources and organisational and staff development departments are looking into the issue. This includes a review of what other higher education institutions pay for such a role.

In the meantime, any first-aiders who are not getting paid for their duties or have any questions regarding back pay should email Elizabeth.Morcom@london.ac.uk.

Help us end discrimination against workers and #CleanUpOutsourcing — August 7, 2018

Help us end discrimination against workers and #CleanUpOutsourcing

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has launched a legal challenge that could help end discrimination against the ‘invisible’ outsourced workforce that ensures that our offices, schools and universities run smoothly day after day. They include those who work in cleaning, security, receptions, catering and maintenance.

Last year the IWGB started a legal challenge over the rights of 75 outsourced workers at the University of London (UoL) who are employed through Cordant, the facilities management company. The union believes the university is the de-factor employer with ultimate decision-making power over the workers’ terms and conditions. Therefore, they should be able to collectively bargain directly with UoL, but this has been denied putting the university, says the union, in breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees trade union rights.

If successful, the case, which has been given permission to be heard in the High Court, would change the lives of the 75 workers at the University of London and some 3.3 million other outsourced employees.

But the establishment is closing ranks to try and stop it. The Tory government has decided to join the University of London in resisting our challenge and will be arguing that the European Convention of Human Rights cannot be interpreted in a way that extends these workers’ rights.

Outsourced workers, the majority of whom are migrants and BAME, tend to suffer from far worse terms and conditions because they are not employed directly by the place where they work, but by third party facilities management companies.

As the Guardian columnist and economics commentator, Aditya Chakrabortty, points out “Outsourcing breeds economic apartheid, in which workers who are nearly all from ethnic minorities, including cleaners who are almost without exception women, are exploited in a way that would never happen to the mostly white academics and managers whose employment contracts are with the university.”

Despite the establishment’s attempt to stop us from taking on the anachronistic and exploitative practice of outsourcing we are determined to fight until the end. Our fantastic legal team of solicitors from Harrison Grant, and renowned barristers John Hendy QC and Sarah Fraser Butlin, will robustly challenge the university and the government.

Unfortunately, the court has denied the IWGB cost protection. This means that if the union loses it could be forced to pay the legal costs of the university, Cordant and the government. The final bill could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, but we are setting up an initial target for the crowdfund of £10,000.

Thankfully, we are not alone. The Good Law Project, aware of the importance of this case, has decided to back it with an initial donation of £5,000. Please Join them and help us #CleanUpOutsourcing by pledging whatever amount you can afford. See details here and here.

Any money that isn’t spent will go into the IWGB’s fighting fund, to take on other exploitative companies and practices.

 

Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum update — August 1, 2018

Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum update

Last Wednesday was the third meeting of the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum.

HR’s official minutes will be posted on the intranet soon (with old ones kept here) but in the meantime, detailed notes taken by one of your IWGB staff reps is available here. It was a long meeting with lots of discussion, so edited highlights are below.

As always, please feel free to contact ICE representatives with any questions, comments or matters to raise next time.

With the exception of information about policies they’re updating, everything we’ve discussed so far has been originally raised by staff so it really does work. In particular, please do let us know your views on the issue of the London weighting debate being reopened as this has the potential to positively impact staff in all areas.

IN BRIEF – matters discussed 25.7.18

London weighting

IWGB reps raised that the final amount from the previous agreement will be paid in August but the issue can be re-opened because the London Living Wage rose by more than 6 per cent (it rose by 11.5 per cent).

There will be a JNCC meeting on 6 August about it but all staff cannot attend. We will push for another meeting on this – we want your views. We will continue to raise this and keep you posted.

Business World (BW)

It was noted that staff are not happy with the delivery of the system, although Ghazwa Alwani-Starr (GA-S), present in a managerial capacity, said her impression is that everyone in her department thinks it’s great.

Reasons cited for issues with BW were that UoL (University of London) had to move quickly from Northgate (old system) to Business World in a short period of time to deliver the basic requirements needed. Market was tested and apparently Agresso is the only thing that can deliver ‘what we need’.

A lot of work was done, especially on background functions, but did not have enough time. Also issues with ‘holes in the data’ inherited from Northgate.

Problems were particularly raised re Saturday working in the Library: system was unprepared for this. The manager responsible undertook to meet library employees to discuss.

Facilities Management services review

A robust discussion took place.

G Alwani-Starr reported that a revised customer services/security model will be put to the Board of Trustees (BoT) in November.

ICE reps noted this is irrelevant. What the workers want to know is when they will be treated equally. There is a deadline for that. If that is not met, their campaign continues. Every worker who was shown the Uni’s statement on this was uncomprehending or angry. Noted that UoL is taking completely the wrong approach to this.

GA-S responded that the BoT has stated they are concerned about charitable objects and return on investment.

IWGB ICE reps noted that workers in these fields weren’t always outsourced in the past so there is no contradiction with the university’s charity or business aims, just a return to the state of 15 years ago. Reps invited Board of Trustees to come to the ICE forum and discuss it if this is confusing.

Asbestos

A standing item after the re-discovery of asbestos that had supposedly been removed.

The asbestos management plan is being finalised and will go to Chair of Health and Safety committee for comments/approval soon.

Referrals should be made to Occupational Health for anyone concerned.

DM: Kim Frost promised for 6 months that he would provide us with history of how asbestos issue has been handled, and left before doing so. Asked for this to be supplied.

USS pensions reform

The ‘deficit’ has been revised already – from £17bn quoted before, now saying £8bn.

Nonetheless, a proposal will be put to staff to increase contributions from 8 per cent:18 per cent to 8.8 per cent members’ contributions, 19.5 per cent employers, followed by further increases.

Information will be on intranet and Q&A sessions for staff will be held in autumn.

Dignity at work policy

… has been finalised. Much discussion about whether or not it also applies to outsourced staff. To be confirmed by next meeting.

Family friendly policies

… are being reviewed, including redundancy policy. A full list of policies under review will be communicated and circulated for comment once finalised.

University to confirm whether these policies will apply to HEE staff on UoL contracts.

First aid policy

IWGB Reps raised that payments to first-aiders have not increased for 15 years and appear not to be in line with other organisations. Some first aiders are not even being paid at all. The university was asked to review this and report back.

SAS website costs

Quote is £0.25 million. EW confident we will not pay that amount.

Lower ground floor access

CW noted staff had enjoyed use of staircase briefly. GA-S said Deller Hall staircase will reopen soon.

 

UCU pensions update — July 31, 2018

UCU pensions update

Below is copy of a letter from Tim Hall, UCU’s Senate House Branch Chair, updating its members on the issues around pensions and the latest information from the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

 

Dear Members,

I understand that this is a bit of a long one but I wanted for you all to be as informed as possible so please do take the time to read it.

By now, most of you will have received an email from HR sent on behalf of USS. The email explained what their plan for cost sharing will look like:

Under the 2017 valuation that USS approved in November 2017, contributions will eventually rise by 10.6 per cent from 26 per cent of salary (18 per cent employer, 8 per cent member) to 36.6 per cent (24.9 per cent employer, 11.7 per cent member) in order to retain the status quo.

Why is the cost-sharing rule being implemented in USS?
Members will already know that under its current valuation, USS is in deficit. USS has been claiming for months that it is legally obliged to have a plan in place for dealing with that deficit. But the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) will not make any decisions about the current valuation until September 2018, and the previous plan to recover the deficit by removing the Defined Benefit element of the scheme was left in tatters after strike action by our members: you!

As a result, USS has chosen to trigger a process known as ‘cost-sharing’, although it is better described by the phrase ‘shared contribution increases’. Under Rules 76.4–8 of the scheme, the trustee can require employers and members to increase their contributions to the rate which they deem sufficient. This decision has been made without the pension regulator’s enforcement – they are still happy for UUK, USS, and UCU to resolve this without their intervention.

We must stay vigilant because there are few signs that UUK has abandoned its long-standing goal of transferring as much of the cost and the risk of pension provision onto employees as possible. Prior to the USS dispute, UUK used a manufactured deficit in USS to represent Defined Benefit pensions as unaffordable. The JEP arose out of USS members’ growing appreciation that the deficit was, in fact, illusory, and the reforms which it had been used to justify were not needed. More information on the JEP can be found on the UCU website at this address: https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss

Pension Contribution Calculator
Here’s a tool that lets you get an idea of how much more you can expect to pay in contributions under this new plan: https://beta.observablehq.com/@scjoss/uss-cost-sharing.

It’s important to note that UniversitiesUK had the option of taking up the extra member increases themselves should they have wished to do so, but turned it down. That would have been possible by a resolution of the JNC. UCU negotiator Sam Marsh pushed for UniversitiesUK to cover the full burden of interim cost sharing, given strike was entirely UUK’s fault and we’ve already lost a lot of money via strike deductions. This seemed a fair compromise. Again, UUK said no – hence it falls to us all.

Now it looks like USS are prepared to listen to a rethink from UUK on their ‘risk-appetite’ (which if you remember, most said they were willing to stay will current level, with some saying they’d be happy with increase – UUK decided to go with the minority of employers and push through a low-risk appetite strategy). This is an area the JEP are likely to comment on. The hope will be that a change to the Test 1 parameter will lead to a resolution to this dispute but it’s important to keep informed.

Pay Dispute
If you haven’t been following UCU’s national email communications: following the e-ballot on pay and equality members completed in late spring 2018, UCU members will now be asked to vote formally in a statutory ballot opening towards the end of August and closing in mid-October. The current employer offer is 2%. When taking inflation into account as well, it’s clear that our take-home pay will go down by more than 2% in the next year.

Bill Galvin, Chief Executive of USS, has seen a 31% pay rise over last 2 years. On top of drastic increases to the cost of living and a decade of pay-rises below inflation, we’re getting hit again with increased pension contributions. All this adding up to a hefty pay-cut. The latest imposed pension arrangements amount to a 3.7% pay cut, plus 6.9% loss of potential pay. All of this so university leaders can remove USS (i.e. our future pay) from their financial liabilities. Please bear this in mind when the UCU ballots on their 2% pay offer.

Excellent information can be found on https://ussbriefs.com – A website built and populated with content by UCU members volunteering their time and expertise to keep the rest of us informed.

If you have any questions please email ucu@london.ac.uk.

All my best,

Tim Hall
UCU Senate House Branch Chair

 

Opportunity – new post of University of London IWGB ‘women’s officer’ — July 27, 2018

Opportunity – new post of University of London IWGB ‘women’s officer’

womenAt next week’s branch meeting we’ll be voting on an exciting proposal – to create a new post of ‘women’s officer’ for our local branch.

As women’s officer you would:

  • Support and encourage women members to take an active role in the branch
  • Work closely with the national women’s officer on campaigns affecting branch members
  • Form connections with other women’s groups to promote solidarity
  • Be point of contact for campaigns and issues affecting women members in particular

As well as anything else you want to bring to the role!

Contact Catherine Morrissey (catherinemorrissey@iwgb.co.uk) for details.

We’re looking to build on the success of the fantastic 10 July IWGB Leading Women event, which highlighted the discrimination that outsourced women at the University of London face, and featured a fantastic line-up of speakers:

Mildred – LSE cleaners/UVW

Catherine Mayer – women’s equality party

Ayesha Hazarika – comedian/former labour adviser

Liliana Almanza – UoL cleaner/IWGB

Councillor Bélgica Guanía – 1st Ecuadorean councillor in U.K. – lab (newham))

Nilufer – activist in TGI Fridays campaign

Marta Luna Marroquín – retired cleaner & veteran of 3 cosas campaign at uol / IWGB

Lucia Zapata – general secretary of Socialist Youth, Uruguay

Meg Brown – Chair, Couriers & Logistics branch IWGB

lw2

Details on the SOAS in-house transfer — July 20, 2018

Details on the SOAS in-house transfer

At a recent FM Services meeting at Senate House, Chris Cobb, the University of London’s chief operating officer, attempted to play down SOAS’s plans to bring their outsourced workers back in-house by 1 September. Below Danny Millum, the IWGB’s branch secretary, responded to his claims that the SOAS situation does not compare to that of the University of London.

Dear Chris

Following last week’s FM Services meeting, I just wanted to clarify a couple of issues that were raised relating to the SOAS in-house process.

Firstly, I can confirm that this is proceeding as planned, and will be completed on the planned date of 1 September 2018. The relevant documents are attached, and I think it’s very clear from these what a straightforward process this is. Secondly, you stated in the meeting that the University of London was 4 times bigger than SOAS. However, I have had it confirmed that the SOAS transfer will involve 160-170 employees, and at the University we are probably talking about around 300, so I think it’s important to be clear that the difference between the two cases is much less than was claimed.

Thirdly, it is worth noting that prior to their in-house announcement SOAS was occupied for weeks and had been subject to endless protests and bad publicity. Since Baroness Amos made her clear announcement they have had a year without problems and controversy.

I hope this clearly shows that SOAS provides a straightforward model that the UoL could and should adopt tomorrow, which would be benefit workers and University alike.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum
Branch Secretary
University of London IWGB

 

University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts — July 10, 2018

University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts

IWGB’s general secretary demand immediate action over racist and far-right posts by Cordant manager who oversees two of the University of London’s five outsourcing contracts

Dear Chris Cobb,

I am writing to you, in my capacity of General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), to express my grave dismay at the fact that the person you have chosen to oversee your outsourced contracts is openly xenophobic and racist.

The person in question is Lee Smith, the Cordant manager who oversees two of your five outsourcing contracts, in particular with respect to cleaners, porters, security guards, receptionists, and postroom staff. As you are well aware, the overwhelming majority of these workers are migrants.

The matter has come to my attention as his Facebook page, which is accessible to the public and has been seen by various of the outsourced workers he oversees, is replete with anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, and race-baiting posts.

I suggest you give it a look yourself, but to see just a small taste on what is on offer, the below suffices: an homage to Enoch Powell, a joke about how immigrants in the UK are benefits scroungers, and a joke about how Polish people are cleaners. For good measure he also wants fascists to have free reign to propagate their hate (see post about Tommy Robinson).

Now for some time we have been making the case that outsourcing, at least the way you do it, is inherently discriminatory. You have a predominantly BAME and migrant workforce which work on far inferior pay, terms and conditions, and treatment compared to their predominantly white British directly employed colleagues. And our members certainly feel as though they are bearing the brunt of the discriminatory policy.  But these recent revelations take the matter to a whole new level.

For now, in addition to working under inferior terms and conditions, the workers are being supervised by someone who thinks they shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Given some of the hostile interactions some of the workers have had with Lee Smith, including on one occasion Lee Smith aggressively pushing and shoving one of our members, needless to say, some of our members are deeply unsettled.

Of course, there are also serious legal issues which you need to consider, such as the University’s Public Sector Equality Duty pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

Now your usual tactic is to place the blame for all things outsourcing on the contractors themselves. Not this time. You and only you chose Cordant for your contracts. No one else made that decision except the University of London. This is your responsibility. I want to know what you’re going to do about it, and I want to know now.

Kind regards,

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB

 

Birkbeck Justice for Workers Campaign Update #2 —

Birkbeck Justice for Workers Campaign Update #2

Below, is an extract from a letter from Birkbeck Justice for Workers, which provides an update on its campaign to bring Birkbeck, University of London’s cleaning, catering and security staff back in house. They also share a letter in solidarity received from the South Africa’s Outsourcing Must Fall movement.

Dear all,

Our campaign is gathering pace. We have over 450 signatures on our petition – we’d love to get that to 500, so please keep sharing with your friends and colleagues. Birkbeck UNISON are having positive negotiations with management and we know the weight of support for our campaign is strengthening our hand. We have also received a heart-warming message of solidarity from the Outsourcing Must Fall movement in South Africa – you can read that below.

The message of solidarity mentions fighting unions. We’d like to thank the University of London IWGB for joining us at our demonstration last month.

Best wishes

Birkbeck Justice for Workers

 

Solidarity from #OutsourcingMustFall Campaign, South Africa

We write to you in solidarity with your struggle for the insourcing of workers at Birkbeck College. Our struggle against outsourcing received national prominence during the student protest against fee increases in 2015 when insourcing of workers was included as part of #FeesMustFall movement’s demands. The solidarity from students raised the profile of our struggle against poor working conditions and wages we had endured since our universities introduced outsourcing of what it called, ‘non-core functions’ in the late 1990s.

Although outsourcing is commended as ‘cost effective’, ‘efficient’, ‘productive and strategic’, it has been shown through a cost accounting analysis based on the experience of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, that it results in increased ‘transaction costs’. These include cost creep from an increase in complaints and worker unrest, the loss of coordination efficiencies and of tacit skills and organisational memory (Adler et al., 2000, in Dumba, 2014).  The combination of these elements have shown the opposite of organisational efficiencies claimed to justify outsourcing.

Notwithstanding the victories scored to be insourced at some of the institutions in South Africa, there is still a long road ahead against outsourcing in our country. Not only are many higher education institutions still using workers from outsourced companies, the #OMF  has had to extend its campaign to include the whole of the public sector where cleaning, security, catering and landscaping services have been outsourced at local, provincial and national government level including parastatals.

We have combined different tactics of protests such as pickets, occupations and strikes to make our voices heard. We have also approached political parties to pass motions against outsourcing in the Legislature but we have yet to see results from this approach.

While we have worked with a union, and many members of #OMF have subsequently joined this union, we have had to fight on two fronts, of the union and #OMF campaign. The latter has proven to be much more flexible to respond to the immediate concerns of workers. We are also of the view that our campaign has the potential to revive and rebuild fighting unions in the process of struggling to ensure outsourcing does fall.

We wish you all the success with your struggle against outsourcing at Birkbeck College.

Yours in solidarity

#OMF Co-ordinating Committee Convenor

Executive Mukhwevho