The University of London Branch approved the creation of a Women’s Committee last year.
This committee is a core group of women members of the UoL Branch (IWGB) where we created this fundamental space to organize, support and develop ourselves.
This committee of the Universities of London Branch has been working and helping women members throughout this pandemic, organizing Workshops on Metal Health, Empowerment, Social Housing, cycle of violence, benefits and gender based violence. The committee also allows us to support each other to solve the problems we face.
This body has also become a place to make decisions and strategies within the branch with the objective of helping and supporting other women, which has made this committee a base of support and a single voice for all women of the branch, regardless of race, culture and religion, giving all members in this committee a fundamental role in the vision and future of our union.
We want to make this committee a force, a support and a source of solidarity among us, so that all women feel safe, valued and respected.
We invite all women in our branch to join this committee to continue building this project. If you would like to join us, please write to Maritza Chair Universities of London Branch firstname.lastname@example.org
We also call on activists to financially support our branch, which has made possible the existence of this committee and the training cycles that have been developed. All the money you donate goes directly to supporting our members, campaigning and reaching new people.
Tenemos el placer de invitarles a nuestra Reunión Mensual de la Rama, el próxima Sábado a las 2pm por video conferencia – Zoom.
Hablaremos sobre el arduo trabajo que hemos venido haciendo durante todo este tiempo, discutiremos los desafíos actuales y las estrategias para el futuro.
Tu asistencia nos motiva a seguir trabajando y ayudándoles con los problemas laborales. También tu presencia tus ideas y sugerencias nos ayudan a hacer un sindicato democrático y participativo . Cada miembro tiene voz y Voto en esta Reunión .
Ven a pasar un momento en compañía de todos los miembros de tu Sindicato❤️
On 15 December, University of Greenwich Vice Chancellor wrote individually to all security staff at UoG, following a series of visits she had made to meet staff individually.
These letters and visits were a response to the launch of the campaign for in-house and equality of terms and conditions by outsourced security officers, cleaners and porters at UoG.
In her letter, the Vice Chancellor made clear she refuses to negotiate with the security staff and our union the IWGB regarding our demands.
Today, the vast majority of the Greenwich security officers have written and signed a collective later in response to the VC, restating our demands and making clear we will not accept her attempts to undermine our union.
Read the security officers’ letter here:
And you can read the Vice Chancellor’s letter from 15 December here:
Today IWGB Universities of London Branch Secretary Charlotte Powell sent two letters to every member of the University of Greenwich Governing Body on behalf of security officers ahead of their meeting on Tuesday 24 November to demand outsourced staff are brought in-house:
This email contains two letters, and I ask you all to read them both. Below is a collective letter from your security officers at Greenwich which I am passing on to you. Attached to this email is a letter from myself, as an elected trade union representative of your workers, detailing the practical case for bringing your outsourced staff in-house.
As your contract with Sodexo has a break clause in January, and we are preparing for industrial action should the university not agree to bring staff in-house, I urge you to make use of tomorrow’s meeting to discuss this urgent matter. I apologise for only sending this to you with only 1 day’s notice. However, we were only made aware of your meeting today.
To Ms Bronwyn Hill, as chair: I ask you to ensure that these items are discussed in the meeting tomorrow.
Kind regards, Charlotte Powell
Letter from security officers at Greenwich to the members of the Governing Body:
Dear members of the University Governing Body,
We – the security officers at the University of Greenwich – urge you to listen to us in our demand to be taken In-House under the direct management of the University of Greenwich and to stop us being subcontracted to Sodexo by January 2021.
These are exceptional times and we are essential frontline workers that enable the University to remain open and to be safe. Moreover, recent figures have shown that as security guards we are some of the workers most at risk of dying of Covid-19. Recently the university has praised us as “heroes” for our work, but for too long we have not been treated as such.
We are very proud to work for the University of Greenwich, but like the other facilities staff, such as cleaners and porters, we are very unhappy with the outsourcing arrangement. It seems to us that Sodexo’s treatment of us is not in line with the University’s values: bullying and intimidatory treatment by Sodexo is frequent and they are rarely held accountable for it. Moreover, we have worse pay, pensions and parental leave entitlement than directly-employed staff.
We also do not understand why we were not paid a bonus for coming into work during the lockdown and for our hard work keeping the University safe throughout the pandemic (and taking on a lot of extra tasks to ensure health and safety). Other workers, such as the porters were given a £300 bonus, and we believe we deserve a bonus too.
Outsourcing is an inherently discriminatory, two-tier system where we are treated worse than direct employees for no good reason. Only bringing us in-house will right this wrong.
While the University is calling us heroes, we would like to kindly ask you to also follow these words with actions by treating us with the respect and dignity we deserve.
We therefore urge you to read the brief from our elected union branch secretary in which we lay out the reasons why everyone would benefit from the solution of bringing our services back in house by January 2021. We stand firm and united in our demands: please show us respect by including us in the University of Greenwich workforce and ending this practice of outsourcing.
We sign this letter as elected representatives of the security guards at the University of Greenwich:
Letter to Governing Body members from Charlotte Powell:
Dear members of the University Governing Body,
As you are aware, the outsourced workers at the University of Greenwich together with their trade union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), are campaigning to be brought in-house. At a time when your outsourced security officers are being celebrated as ‘heroes’ and have the highest coronavirus death toll of any UK profession, it is important that you act urgently and listen to their demands.
You might also be aware that there is a break clause in the contract the University of Greenwich has with Sodexo which allows the University to end the contract by January 2021. Contracts can furthermore be broken in special or exceptional circumstances (such as a pandemic).
It is therefore an urgent matter and golden opportunity to break the contract with Sodexo by January 2021. And we therefore request you to discuss this at your meeting tomorrow.
Several universities in London have already decided to bring their facility services back in-house. The University of Greenwich has an excellent in-house estates and facilities team as well as HR team. As such the University of Greenwich has the capacity to bring the service in-house by January. Due to the TUPE regulations everything would stay in place and if the University is still doubtful about the transition it can task consultants who specialise on these issues to manage the transition. In short, it has been done elsewhere and it can be done at the University of Greenwich by January 2021.
In this brief, we outline the reasons for in-housing the facility services in January in more detail. These are the points covered:
The insourcing of services will either be cost neutral or most likely save money for the University of Greenwich.
There is a trend towards insourcing in London’s Universities.
The costs of campaigns and industrial action that not only harm the reputation of the University of Greenwich but also might harm the University financially can be avoided.
Insourcing is cost neutral or saves money: As universities must pay VAT, the University of Greenwich would be eligible for the UK government’s full refund model, Section 41, which means that by insourcing these services the universities would save the cost of VAT. The facility contract with Sodexo is worth £105 million without VAT for a 5 year period. This means that the VAT for this is £21m for a five year period – a significant cost which can be saved if the service is in-sourced.
Several reports have reached the conclusion that insourcing of facility services would indeed be cheaper than outsourcing the service. In the 2016 report that SOAS commissioned from APSE, the following recommendation was made: “The Mott MacDonald report was commissioned by SOAS Outsourced Contracts Working Group ‘partly as a result of pressure from Justice for Cleaners Group in 2013.’ In the report it is stated that ‘SOAS has asked APSE about the costing for in-house Integrated Facilities Management, which was already analysed as part of the Mott MacDonald Report in 2013; the in-house option was reported to be the lowest cost at that time.”
Reviewing the earlier Mott MacDonald report the APSE 2016 report finds that insourcing the services at SOAS should “achieve a cost neutral position”.
The cost neutral or cost saving impact of insourcing has been further evidenced by the Association for Public Service Excellence’ s 2019 report titled ‘Rebuilding Capacity: the case for insourcing public contracts’. This report also outlines exactly how insourcing can be done.
The trend towards insourcing facility services in London’s universities: Insourcing has been successfully implemented at a number of universities and institutions.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) insourced its cleaning services in Spring 2018.
The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) stopped outsourcing its core support services, namely cleaning; catering; conferencing and events hospitality; portering; security; mechanical and electrical services; post room; helpdesk and reception teams – to private contractors from September 2018 onwards. The insourced workers were guaranteed equal pay and conditions to the existing inhouse SOAS employees, including sick pay, pensions and holiday entitlement. When announcing this decision SOAS stated that putting the ‘whole workforce on same terms and conditions reflects our [SOAS] values of social justice and equality’.
King’s College London brought its cleaning and security services inhouse in 2019. When announcing the decision to insource cleaning and security services King’s College referred to its moral obligation to do so and stated that ‘bringing the people who deliver these vital services onto our payroll and properly into the King’s community is the right thing to do’.
Goldsmiths, University of London brought its security services in-house this year in February 2020, following the insourcing of its cleaning service in May 2019.
Birkbeck brought its cleaning staff in-house at the beginning of 2020.
This month, November 2020, the University of London brought its cleaners in-house, having previously in-housed security officers, porters & receptionists.
The costs of campaigns and industrial action: In-housing campaigns can harm the reputation of universities and cost the university money, so it is best to avoid them. Last year, at the University of Greenwich the café workers went on strike, which received national press coverage. In 2018, the University of London received public criticism for spending £415,000 on additional security during protests in support of outsourced workers. By the end of the dispute, it is estimated the University of London spent well over £1,000,000 on additional security measures.
In the last two weeks there has already been growing social media coverage around the institutional discrimination security guards at the University of Greenwich face and the security guards have now announced that they plan to ballot for strike action over in-house.
On a related note, for extra clarification on the point of institutional inequality: Outsourcing is systematic indirect racial discrimination as the outsourced workforce (majority BAME) is denied the better working conditions of in-house staff (majority White, as you know currently only 34.5% employees of UoG are BAME).
In all the insourcing examples stated in section 2, vibrant campaigns by workers and students have preceded the decision to insource these vital services. Such campaigns can cause reputational and financial damages.
For example the 2016 report that SOAS commissioned from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), a not-for-profit local government body which specialises in local authority front line services. APSE carried out an independent review of the SOAS facility management and found that: ‘the campaign has taken up a significant amount of time on all sides in recent years and has affected income in relation to the recent student occupation in November 2015. This is estimated to have cost the University £64,600 in terms of loss of conferencing and catering income and costs of relocating customers to external venues.’
By making the just and right decision to insource these vital services the University of Greenwich can avoid the risk that campaigns and industrial actions would negatively impact on the University’s image and potentially cause significant extra costs for the university. To avoid the dispute would be in everyone’s best interest.
The security officers and their union the IWGB would be happy to meet with representatives of the UoG Governing Body to discuss these matters further.
We wish to make it extremely clear at this point that should you not agree to our extremely reasonable request for outsourced staff to be brought in-house, then we will proceed towards a campaign and industrial action. Yours sincerely,
Charlotte Powell Secretary, IWGB Universities of London
A letter from IWGB UoL Secretary, Charlotte Powell, to staff and students at University of Greenwich:
You may have read already about the situation of security officers at the University of Greenwich and our campaign against intimidation and discrimination.
Yesterday University of Greenwich Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington published a statement in response to our campaign which is factually wrong on several points and wilfully misleading on others.
I would like to set the record straight on these points, and clarify the concerns and demands of the security officers, so that together we can push to ensure fair treatment of all workers at the University of Greenwich.
To quote the Vice-Chancellor’s statement:
“We are committed to challenging racism and discrimination as a university and we hold all our contractors to the same standard.”
At the IWGB we welcome all public commitments by employers to challenge racism and discrimination, but having contacted Jane directly with our concerns on four occasions we received only copy & pasted replies from others on her behalf. We have yet to see any evidence that University management has followed through on a commitment even to investigate racism and discrimination in Sodexo, let alone challenge it. As for the standard to which they are holding contractors, it seems to be a standard of the lowest common denominator, in which University management abnegates responsibility while allowing Sodexo managers to treat workers however they like.
“There is wilful misrepresentation and misinformation circulating about the actions the university has taken, and my personal beliefs, so let me be clear: there is no evidence of discrimination in the way Sodexo have paid their staff.
They have confirmed that recent payments have been made solely on the basis of hours worked during the pandemic. There is no evidence that any payments have been made based on ethnicity.”
This is wrong, as I will demonstrate. Moreover it is deeply concerning that, when Black and Brown workers at the university have raised, in good faith, the concern that they believe they have been discriminated against, the Vice-Chancellor should respond in essence by saying “prove it.” We have presented our case publicly, after being ignored when raising this directly, the management must take this seriously and transparently demonstrate any evidence to the contrary.
While the security officers were celebrated as ‘heroes’ for coming in during lockdown and for now ensuring that the University is safe during the pandemic by taking on extra tasks (eg checking that people do not go in without masks and the frequent opening of windows to ensure good air ventilation) they have not been rewarded with Sodexo’s bonus scheme, while other workers, such as the porters, have. The security officers who have been coming in during lockdown deserve a bonus too.
The fact that the porters, who are all White British, have been paid while the security officers , the vast majority of whom are BAME, have not is deeply concerning and potentially discriminatory. The fact that the University has refused to clarify the rationale for these decisions by its subcontractor when asked on multiple occasions by myself and other representatives of the workers from the IWGB union also raises serious concerns about their commitment to racial equality in the workplace.
Jane states that the rationale for paying the bonus payment to porters was “solely on the basis of hours worked during the pandemic.” However, this is contrary to what the porters were told: that it was a payment for coming in during lockdown; there was never any mention of hours. Moreover, many security officers worked similar hours during the pandemic to porters who received the bonus. We have therefore urged the University to ensure all the outsourced staff who worked during the pandemic receive this bonus and to investigate and provide staff with a breakdown of who has received this bonus so far by race and ethnicity.
It’s best to hear this from the workers themselves. Watch this video and read what Abi, a Nigerian security officer has to say:
“I have been working at the University of Greenwich for almost 14 years. During this pandemic period, my life has been placed on the line notwithstanding my health conditions to keep staff and students safe. Nonetheless, the University has denied our requests to give us majority BAME security staff hazard pay for the risks we undertake. Meanwhile, other staff that are LARGELY WHITE BRITISH have been given bonuses for working during the pandemic. Still, we are referred to as “heroes” but we are being used in an expendable manner. When we ask questions or speak out, then intimidation and victimisation tactics are employed against us. We therefore ask to be given the bonus and brought IN-HOUSE for fair treatment and to end racist treatment of us. In these critical times, we protect you and the community at large. We ask you to protect us as well and treat us as the “heroes” that you call us.”
Watch this video and read what Clive, a white British porter, has to say. He too has worked for the University of Greenwich for a long time, over 15 years:
“I am a porter currently working at Greenwich university on the Greenwich maritime site. While working through the lockdown from the 23rd of march I was working for Interserve until the 18th of May. For the first two weeks of starting with Sodexo on the 18th may I worked random days approximately 2 days per week on random hours with no fixed hours. After that I was in on a full time basis up to the present and at no stage was I furloughed in this period at all. As regards the £300 I received, I was called by the office and told by my manager that I would receive a £300 pound payment for coming in all through covid and I was being rewarded for my hard work and I received this payment approximately a month later.”
You can watch more videos from other security officers here.
In her statement, Jane goes on to write, “there is no evidence of discrimination in the way [Sodexo] are managing allegations of a serious incident involving one of their security officers and one of our students.
This has been subject to a thorough investigation that will shortly conclude. I appreciate that this has taken time, but it is right and fair that such issues are properly looked into, for everyone involved.”
Kingsley, one of the security officers, is facing an extremely harsh disciplinary procedure, following a complaint from a student after he tried to physically prevent them from entering the library without a mask. Kingsley maintains he was following the policies given to him, but wishes to apologise for any offence or hurt caused to the student. Kingsley has a clear record and is a dedicated member of the UoG staff. Nonetheless, it appears Sodexo is eager to dismiss him and are acting unreasonably harshly towards him. It seems that they are acting so harshly in order to undermine the collective organising of the security staff more widely. This comes in the context of several smaller incidents that point towards trade union victimisation of active union members by Sodexo.
Given the lack of training provided, the unclear guidance and the amount of pressure that was put on the officers that no student should enter the University without face masks, it is totally disproportionate to dismiss him over this matter.
The “thorough investigation” to which Jane refers is one in which Sodexo has refused to provide key evidence repeatedly requested by Kingsley’s trade union representative in advance of his disciplinary hearing. This is a highly concerning breach of Kingsley’s rights and brings the legitimacy of the entire disciplinary process into question.
The University is responsible for its subcontractors. It is therefore the university’s responsibility to ensure a fair disciplinary process and prevent him being dismissed purely for Sodexo managers’ ulterior motive of undermining trade union organising. The Vice-Chancellor’s statement yesterday suggests she has full confidence in the actions of Sodexo. If she maintains this position and refuses to intervene in this injustice, then Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington is enabling trade union victimisation and intimidation.
“Our contract with Sodexo has enabled us to ensure that contracted staff are paid the Real Living Wage and will provide enhanced training and employment opportunities for our students.”
It is disingenuous to imply that outsourcing key workers to a multinational corporation “enables” the university to pay the Real Living Wage, when this wage was only introduced to the outsourced workers after the cafe workers’ strike at the University of Greenwich in autumn 2019. Even after the victory of that strike forced a renegotiation of the contract with the university’s subcontractor, the wages outsourced staff are paid are lower than the wages these workers could expect elsewhere, for instance security staff at University College London are paid up to £15 per hour dependent on their length of service. These staff deserve better than to be told the University’s contract with Sodexo is something they should value.
“We will not shy away from difficult discussions or from challenging discrimination of any kind. This willingness to celebrate our strengths and to face and explore our own weaknesses should not be mistaken for privilege or complacency and neither will we be moved from our course by those who wish to undermine our commitment to this work.”
Factual inaccuracies and wilful misrepresentations aside, this conclusion is the most insulting and egregious part of the entire statement. The implication is that the “course” the university is following in “challenging discrimination” is being “undermined” by the campaign of Greenwich’s security officers. Simply put, these Black and Brown workers who are concerned that they are being discriminated against, intimidated, and disrespected are the problem. Their campaign, which has escalated in the face of a deafening silence from university management, is undermining the university’s work on diversity and challenging discrimination. The University management are suggesting that the university’s BAME workers speaking out about their concerns of discrimination is undermining the university’s anti-racist work.
Frankly I can’t believe that Jane felt able to say this on public record, and I urge her to apologise promptly and publicly to the security officers for making such a remark.
These are the issues at hand over which the security officers have taken the decision to take strike action: the uneven allocation of bonuses, the attack on Kingsley, and their conditions as outsourced workers.
The security officers want to be brought in-house. We welcome the Vice-Chancellor’s clear words on challenging racism and discrimination at the Univeristy of Greenwich and believe that, by bringing the outsourced workers (security officers, porters, cleaners, cafe workers and others) in-house, the University of Greenwich can make good on those words.
Outsourcing is indirect discrimination. It systematically denies a group of workers that is, in the large majority, BAME from enjoying the better terms and conditions of in-house staff that is, in the large majority, White. The Vice-Chancellor can break the contract with Sodexo, which has a break clause in January, it is time now that she commits to challenging discrimination and to breaking the contract.
The security officers therefore demand:
that Kingsley’s suspension is lifted and that he returns to work
that all security officers that worked during the spring lockdown receive a bonus
that the university breaks the contract with Sodexo by January and brings all outsourced workers in-house
What you can do:
speak out on behalf of Kingsley,
speak out to support bonus payments to our essential workers
donate to the IWGB union Universities of London branch to support their campaign and their strike preparations
All remaining Security Officers on the University of London contract have been brought in-house today, following a vibrant and relentless campaign that led to the in-sourcing of their reception-based colleagues last year.
This is a huge VICTORY for the workers’ campaign and gives many families cause for celebration today!
Thanks to the tireless efforts of IWGB’s branch organiser Jordi Lopez the workers have also won all of their individual cases relating to the transfer. All IWGB members will now transfer on contracts that accurately represent their hours of work.
Demonstrating the struggle these workers have faced in being passed from company to company and mistreated over the years, one officer brought in-house today said: “At long last the UOL Security staff are free.”
This transfer ensures important material gains for every member of staff: now that the University isn’t squandering money on creating profits for outsourcing firms, the workers will receive a pay rise, enhanced annual leave and dignified pensions, bringing them into line with other directly-employed staff at the University of London.
“These rights should have never been denied to outsourced workers,” says Jordi. “We are so happy to have helped these workers achieve their victory. But the job is not done!
Cleaners are waiting to go In-House in November, with no date given yet. In the meantime, they remain employed by ruthless subcontractors who during the current crisis are withholding wages from dozens of them. There is still a lot of work to do.”
In challenging times for precarious workers, we hope that this victory will bring hope and shows other outsourced workers the path to follow: a path of determination, boldness, unity and solidarity.
Congratulations to Security Officers for winning their struggle! Hasta la victoria siempre!
✊ CALLING ALL IWGB MEMBERS, VOLUNTEERS & ACTIVISTS ✊
Want to get involved and help but not sure how? IWGB is mobilising volunteers to help the union’s members at this unprecedented time. All sorts of skills are needed, so sign up, come along to the zoom calls and see what you can do!
Join us on our weekly volunteer calls where we hear from volunteer activists, branch updates from the frontline of the crisis, and a weekly guest speaker. This week we have the brilliant Nadia Whittome MP.
Open to all – so GET INVOLVED and sign up below! It is only through powerful trade unions that we can deal with this crisis and build a better world 💪
We have launched a **MASS MOBILISATION OF VOLUNTEERS** in response to COVID-19. Our members are on the sharp edge of this crisis and urgently need your assistance.
IWGB makes call for solidarity and defence of free assembly as Chair of United Private Hire Drivers’ Branch faces charges over use of a megaphone
In a case which could have chilling effects on the right to peaceful protest in the UK, the Chair of one of IWGB’s branches, UPHD, faces a criminal charge of ‘assaulting’ two police officers, allegedly having hurt their ears by using a megaphone at a protest.
IWGB’s Executive Committee (EC) has committed £15,000 to support legal costs for the case, following a unanimous vote of support in 2019.
IWGB is now calling on the public to donate to the crowdfund that has been set up in the last few days to find the remainder of the higher-than-expected legal costs. Please see further details of how to donate at:
Further details of this shocking case can be found below, in a shortened/amended version of a motion of solidarity passed by the IWGB EC over the weekend.
IWGB wishes James all the best at court today and stands with him in the fight for justice!
IWGB stands in solidarity with James Farrar in his criminal trial for actions that took place while he was undertaking legitimate Trade Union activities. The IWGB Executive Committee (EC) backs James 100%.
We understand that this is a very difficult and personally distressing time for James Farrar and his family and wish to do all we can to support him. This union also notes that this is a case of critical importance for campaign groups, activists and unions across the UK.
In a unanimous motion of support from the EC, IWGB has already allocated £15,000 of central union funds to support the case at trial. A barrister has been retained to represent him, supported by a reputable firm of solicitors that were found by IWGB. IWGB officials and staff plan to attend court en masse in support of their union colleague and fellow activist.
The situation has arisen that the legal costs for this case were underestimated due to (i) a misunderstanding re the legal fees, (ii) the advice that a QC should be retained in addition to the current representation, and (iii) the fact that the case will run for longer than thought. James Farrar therefore stands in need of additional money to support the case at trial for the full four days. The total cost is estimated at around £21,000.*
Whilst organising a UPHD-branch protest on 4 March 2019, UPHD-Branch Chair James Farrar used a megaphone to rally supporters and make statements on behalf of the protest, as is common at IWGB protest events.
Around this time, he made a formal complaint about police behaviour during the demonstration.
Several weeks later, he was himself accused of ‘assaulting’ two police officers by using the megaphone (it is alleged that the noise hurt the officers’ ears). James is now facing a criminal charge and may be imprisoned for up to a year if he loses the case.
The IWGB Executive Committee (EC) has previously passed a motion, with unanimous support, which gave James Farrar IWGB’s full support in fighting a case which has the effect of intimidating him and others in IWGB and the wider Trade Union/activist movement from making legitimate, peaceful protests. It is vital that we support his case as strongly as we are able, and that others do likewise.
* Since this motion was passed, it appears the this figure may be inaccurate and may, in fact, be higher. See the crowdfund page for further details.