Three ways you can support IWGB’s groundbreaking legal work — June 28, 2019

Three ways you can support IWGB’s groundbreaking legal work

What does IWGB’s legal team get up to? And what can you do to help?

IWGB is winning major changes for workers’ rights. We’ve won groundbreaking test cases against companies like Uber. These victories are helping to transform the lives of thousands of mostly low-paid, migrant workers.

Our case-workers also represent 100s of individual members each year, challenging unlawful deduction of wages, denial of sick pay or failure to respect maternity rights. In the last few months alone, we’ve won £118,000 in settlements for members facing gender discrimination, unfair dismissal and bogus self-employment.

We need your help to do more. Please support the work of IWGB’s legal team by:

1. Sponsoring our team for a half-marathon – please click here to donate

2.  Fundraising for the team – please share this post with 5 friends or colleagues

3. Joining the team to walk or run the half-marathon in London on 19 October. There’s an achievable fundraising target of just £75 each and we’ll have a great day. Contact amyhorton@iwgb.co.uk if you’re interested.

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Victory for striking IWGB couriers —

Victory for striking IWGB couriers

With support from IWGB’s UoL branch, courier members at The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) have won a decisive victory over pay and conditions.

Earlier this year TDL, a company that provides pathology services to the NHS, shelved its autumn 2018 pay proposal, using excuses such as “having to follow legal advice on employment status”. As result IWGB entered into dispute and prepared for the first ever TDL strike. A huge thank you to everyone who joined the picket line and sent messages of solidarity – it was really heart-warming and massively helped empower a work force that was feeling nervous standing up to their employers.

After two more negotiation meetings, IWGB has secured prompt improvements to the offer which will be implemented from 1 July (and backdated if delayed). The offer includes:

  1. Night work (between 10pm-7am) will be paid at an enhanced rate of 12.5% higher than the day rate.
  2. Couriers who accept the new hourly rate will be paid from when they call in from home or the Halo building (depending on what they currently do), and mileage will also start from this point.
  3. PAYE couriers will be offered motorbike/van/pushbike with fuel card.
  4. Couriers who prefer to stay on dockets (paid per job), or their current mode of payment are welcome to do so.
  5. Those using pushbikes will now get £13.50 as TDL accepts they should not be paid the same £13 hourly rate on offer for those who walk their deliveries.
  6. TDL has agreed that the hours couriers currently operate on will stay the same going forward. For example, if they currently work 60 hours per week they will continue to do so under the new proposal.
  7. TDL has agreed to meet with IWGB after 6 months to review how this new pay structure is working.
  8. TDL has agreed to an annual pay review in which issues such as inflation will be discussed and reflected in any adjustments. TDL confirmed that, prior to this agreement, there has never been an annual review, neither has there been an increase in pay.

This represents a huge pay rise (along with holiday pay etc) for the majority of the workforce and we would like to remind IWGB members and their supporters that their actions played a vital role in securing this victory. Solidarity works.

There will be a party to celebrate this huge win in the coming weeks. Details to follow.

Academics criticise UoL’s expensive and heavy-handed response to protests —

Academics criticise UoL’s expensive and heavy-handed response to protests

Soon after University of London management hired private security to evict student protesters from Senate House’s Chancellor’s Hall – which they were occupying in solidarity with outsourced workers – the Guardian reveals that the institution spent over £1.3 million on extra security measures between March and November last year.

IWGB University of London Branch Secretary Danny Millum comments: “We unequivocally condemn these violent acts against peaceful protesters by private security under the orders of university management. It is completely unacceptable that management would rather waste millions of pounds repressing peaceful protest than addressing the legitimate concerns of students, workers and the academic community. It is past due for the university to sit and negotiate with its outsourced workers and end this dispute that has dragged on for almost two years”.

Serious issues arising post-TUPE transfer for remaining Cordant security staff — June 21, 2019

Serious issues arising post-TUPE transfer for remaining Cordant security staff

See below for letter from our branch secretary re serious issues affecting Cordant security staff at the University of London:

Dear Ghaz,

I am writing as promised in yesterday’s ICE Forum to flag up a number of extremely serious issues affecting Cordant bench officers following the TUPE transfer of front of house staff.

Since the transfer, Cordant have drastically cut down on the hours of many of their bench team, and have transferred responsibility for allocating shifts to a national call centre and away from the University of London site. In addition, staff are in many cases being advised of shifts on a daily basis, rather than rotas being provided a week ahead.

This of course amounts to breach of contract, as Cordant have either given staff less than their contracted hours OR less than than the hours which they had been customarily working for months or even years.

Furthermore, it is causing enormous amounts of misery and distress – long-standing staff with many dependents have suddenly had their incomes slashed, and have the added uncertainty of not even knowing from week to week what shifts they will be working and when.

Ridiculously there are plenty of shifts to go round – but for some reason Cordant are assigning them to new temporary staff who are completely untrained on site. 

I am also attaching a contract received by one of these officers in September 2018 which (in contravention of the University’s declared policy of ending zero-hours contracts) is for just 336 hours a year – a zero hours contract in all but name. In addition I am attaching a recent message from a Cordant security manager to a guard stating that ‘we are obliged to allocate Bench officers a total of 336 hours annually’. 

This practice by Cordant was meant to have been banned by the University – were you aware that it is still continuing?

These problems have undoubtedly been triggered by splitting the security contract in two, which has meant that staff who previously covered reception duties are no longer allowed to do so. But it has been exacerbated by Cordant’s introduction of temporary staff and removal of rota responsibility from this site.

We have already raised half-a-dozen individual grievances over this matter, and will continue to raise more. However, in order to resolve the situation collective action is needed – namely that the University recognise that Cordant is unfit and unwilling to run the security contract for a moment longer, and bring these officers in-house immediately, with a guarantee that their shifts and hours be respected.


Best wishes
Danny

New officers elected at annual general meeting — June 14, 2019

New officers elected at annual general meeting

Last week (7 June), members of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) converged on Brixton, South London, for their annual general meeting(AGM). 

Their numbers were swollen by volunteers, employees, activists, supporters and friends, who have witnessed this small but feisty union rise rapidly since its inception in 2012. Over the years IWGB has fought many battles on behalf of its members and is showing how unions can thrive again.  

Among the agenda items for the 2019 AGM were the election of national officers. And the following appointments can now be confirmed:

President: Henry Chango Lopez
General secretary: Jason Moyer-Lee
Vice-president: Max Dewhurst
Treasurer: James Tiplady
Women’s officer: Catherine Morrissey
BAME officer: Muhumed Ali

The meeting was voted a huge success, and the after party too!

UCL Provost’s achievements are built on the back of exploitation – letter from our branch secretary to the Guardian — June 6, 2019

UCL Provost’s achievements are built on the back of exploitation – letter from our branch secretary to the Guardian

Dear Guardian Letters Editor,

Michael Arthur may reflect ‘with pride that the university is now on a sound financial footing, with borrowing as a percentage of turnover below the Russell Group average’, but what your article does not mention is that this achievement has been built on the back of massive discrimination against UCL’s outsourced workers, the vast majority of whom are from BAME backgrounds and whose terms and conditions are far worse than those of their mostly white directly employed counterparts.

Nearly all UCL’s cleaners, caterers and security guards receive the legal minimum of holidays and sick pay, and are barred from the generous defined benefit pension schemes available to university staff. While all other adjacent institutions have either brought staff in-house or enhanced their benefits, UCL has steadfastly dragged its heels (despite posting a surplus of £156.4m last year according to its latest annual report). Had Peter Wilby spoken to one of these workers he might well have found a whole host of further reasons for the hostility to Professor Arthur he describes.

Best wishes

Danny Millum

Branch Secretary, University of London IWGB

Read the letter on the Guardian website here.

UCU congress votes overwhelming to support Senate House boycott — May 31, 2019

UCU congress votes overwhelming to support Senate House boycott

The IWGB’s boycott of Senate House, the University of London’s (UoL) central administrative headquarters in Bloomsbury, has been given a boost.

Last week (25–29 May), the University and College Union (UCU) Congress overwhelmingly passed a boycott motion. This means that it is now official UCU policy to NOT attend nor organise any events in UoL’s central administrative buildings until all its outsourced workers have been brought in-house.

The UCU’s support has empowered the mainly BAME cleaners to release a short video asking higher education staff and academics to help their case by supporting the boycott – please check it out here. They have been fighting for some two years for equality of employment.

This level of national solidarity is unprecedented. At the Congress speaker after speaker pledged their support for our workers and Jo Grady, UCU’s new general secretary, also confirmed her commitment to the campaign.

The boycott motion was brought to the UCU Congress because, while the in-house campaign has forced the university to commit to the principle of in-housing, there are still many outstanding issues:

  • only 10% of workers have been brought in-house
  • current plans are so vague that the 90% of workers who are not in-house have only been promised ‘reviews’, some of which will not take place until 2021
  • there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, which includes all the cleaners, catering staff and the majority of security staff will ever be brought in
  • these workers are still being massively discriminated against in terms of sick pay, holidays, pensions and more

In addition, as outlined below, UoL has launched a crackdown on the workers and their union, the IWGB.

University of London crackdown

The university and the outsourced companies have not only refused all offers of talks with the workers and their union – the IWGB – its management has responded by attacking trade union rights. Moreover, it has increased discrimination against the outsourced workers.

First the IWGB’s branch secretary was threatened with disciplinary action for accepting an invitation to attend a seminar to talk about the boycott.

Second, cleaning company Cordant Services introduced a draconian new sickness phone-in policy solely for the cleaners. Rather than reporting to managers or supervisors they must now call a centralised number to report all absences. Failure to do so will result in instant disciplinary action. 

There was just one catch. Many of the cleaners speak little or no English while no-one in the call centre speaks anything but. Listen here as an Ecuadorian cleaner tries to call in sick.

Third, Cordant Security has refused to allow trade union representation for migrant security staff at the university. The company has gone so far as to hire EXTRA security to physically block the IWGB representative from attending a meeting to which he was invited by the worker.

This is all happening at OUR university and is in response to pleas by the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in the building to be treated equally.

‘Convenors against outsourcing’ members asked to sign up for the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year —

‘Convenors against outsourcing’ members asked to sign up for the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year

Dear all,

We are writing following the UCU Congress last weekend to bring you an update on the Senate House Boycott and to ask for your (continuing) support.

Congress overwhelmingly passed the boycott motion, which means that it is now official UCU policy NOT to attend or organise any events at the central University of London administration buildings (essentially Senate House, Stewart House, Student Central, the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (Charles Clore House)) until all outsourced workers have been brought in-house.

In addition, University of London cleaners have just released a short video asking for support for the boycott – please check it out here.

The reason the boycott motion was brought to Congress is that while the in-house campaign has forced the University to commit to the principle of in-housing:

  1. only 10% of workers have been brought in-house.
  2. current plans are so vague that all the rest are promised are ‘reviews’, some of which will not even occur until 2021.
  3. there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, including all the cleaners, catering staff and majority of security will ever be brought in.
  4. furthermore, as we outline in more detail below, the University has launched an unprecedented crackdown on the workers and their union.

We are therefore writing to you as signatories of our original letter in support of insourcing and the outsourced workers to sign up to the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year.

It is important to remember that this is a boycott of the University of London, not the IHR – events of all sorts are being moved from the University, and we are determined to maintain our relationship with the Institute to allow the seminar programme to return once everyone working in the building the IHR is housed in is treated equally. As part of this we have set up a Convenors Against Outsourcing group to provide a conduit between the IWGB union and convenors and are also able to offer help in finding rooms for any seminars which need to relocate.

University crackdown

The University and the outsourced companies have not just REFUSED all offers of talks with the workers and their union, the IWGB – they have responded by attacking trade union rights at the University of London and increasing discrimination against outsourced workers.

First they threatened the branch secretary of the IWGB with disciplinary action for attending a seminar to talk about the boycott.

Second, cleaning company Cordant Services introduced a draconian new sickness phone-in policy JUST for cleaners – rather than reporting to managers / supervisors they were now expected to call a centralised number for ALL absences or face disciplinary action.

There was just one catch – most of the cleaners speak little or no English – but no-one in the call centre speaks anything but. Listen here as an Ecuadorian cleaner tries to call in sick.

Third, Cordant Security refused trade union representation to migrant worker security staff at the University – hiring EXTRA security to physically block entry to a meeting to the IWGB representative.

This is all happening at OUR University – and all in response to the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in the building asking to be treated equally.

It is vital that we show that we will not tolerate this – and therefore we are asking ALL seminars to sign up to the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year. This will force the University to see sense, end its policies of repression and discrimination and return to being an institution that we can all be proud of.

We are asking that you speak to your fellow convenors, confirm that you will be supporting the boycott and if possible volunteer one person from each seminar to join our Convenors Against Outsourcing committee.

Please do let us know if you have any questions at all.

Kind regards,

Dr Dion Georgiou
Convenors Against Outsourcing Group

Background to the boycott
At the central University of London a huge in-house campaign has been raging since September 2017. Security and cleaning staff have held no fewer than 17 strikes, as well as innumerable protests, with students also occupying Senate House in support of their campaign.

The demands of the campaign are simple – for equality of terms and conditions. Currently outsourced workers have much worse holidays, pensions, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay than their directly employed colleagues. They also suffer from vastly higher levels of bullying and harassment from the outsourced companies they work for.

Eighty per cent of these workers are from BME backgrounds. Ninety per cent 90% of the cleaners are women.

The University’s response has been draconian – they have threatened TU activists, allowed their hired goon security to beat students, spent £1.3m in just 6 months on additional security and turned Senate House into a fortress.

The campaign has forced them to commit to the principle of in-housing, but this far only 10% of workers have been brought in-house, and their current plans are so vague that there are no guarantees that any of the others, including all the cleaners will ever be brought in.

To win this campaign the workers need external help, and in December 2018 they called for a boycott of events at the University of London central administration in support of the campaign.

The response has been fantastic – More than 35 Senate House seminars  and 180 events have relocated in support of the boycott and more than 440 academics have individually pledged solidarity. In addition, more than 25 UCU branches have passed a motion of support.

The boycott is working, in that the University is now looking to speed up its in-housing. We are on the verge of winning this campaign and achieving equality and dignity for these workers but without your help many of these gains could evaporate.  

Academic explains why he is proud to back the IWGB’s University of London boycott — May 24, 2019

Academic explains why he is proud to back the IWGB’s University of London boycott

Dr Dion Georgiou, a senior lecturer at the University of Chichester, calls on academics to “stand in solidarity with cleaners and security staff, and fight precarious employment.”

Writing in the Guardian, Dr Georgiou who has been organising seminars and events at Senate House for more than a decade, said outsourcing has to end and he is proud to back the University of London boycott.

In his article he also points out that universities routinely invest huge amounts in real estate while neglecting to invest in their staff. And commenting on the difficulties the outsourced workers at the University of London have been facing since their campaign began in 2017, he said “… they face an intransigent university management with skewed priorities, whose response has all too frequently blended short-termism with heavy-handedness.

“Refusing to negotiate directly with the workers’ chosen union representatives, it has instead expended heavily on policing the workers’ industrial action and student protests taken in support of them, spending over £400,000 on additional security over a two-month period last year alone.”

Remembering the IWGB members who supported academics who themselves had to take industrial action against their employers, Dr Georgiou said “Last year, while I was stood on the picket line outside King’s College London (where I myself was then precariously employed) during our strike over pensions, IWGB members supported our action, with some refusing to cross UCU picket lines. Now we must stand with them. We are all in this fight together.”

Read the full article here.