Climate Strike – 20 September 2019 — July 11, 2019

Climate Strike – 20 September 2019

A recent SOAS UNISON branch committee meeting passed a motion to organise a branch-wide walkout in support of the climate strike planned for the 20 September 2019 and to host a meeting with other central London colleges and workplaces to co-ordinate activity on the day.

The climate strike on the 20 September is supported by UK Student Climate Network, Extinction Rebellion, Campaign Against Climate Change and more.

All interested local trade union activists, students and climate activists are welcome to attend this gathering on 18 July, which is provisionally booked to take place in room B202, SOAS (second floor of the Brunei Gallery building opposite the main entrance), 6pm.

It is an opportunity to both update each other on what actions are being planned for the climate strike day, and to attempt to co-ordinate and collaborate as much as possible.

UoL’s campaigning cleaners extend olive branch to new vice-chancellor — July 8, 2019

UoL’s campaigning cleaners extend olive branch to new vice-chancellor

Cleaners at the University of London (UoL) have extended an olive branch to the university’s incoming vice-chancellor asking her to meet with them. Welcoming Professor Wendy Thomson to her new role, their letter (published below in English and Spanish) also expressed the hope that this presages a new approach to resolving the issue of outsourcing which has dogged the university under her predecessors.

Dear Professor Thomson,

We are writing on behalf of University of London’s outsourced workers to welcome you to your new job.

We wish to express our frustrations regarding our treatment at the hands of the institution you now represent, but we want to take this opportunity to invite you to change this situation and get rid of the shameful legacy left by your predecessors.

Most of us have had to migrate to London due to the crisis or lack of opportunities in our countries of origin. In many ways we were lucky to find work here. However, at the same time we are deeply disappointed by how little value is given to the work that we provide every day to the university.

The University of London, hiding behind outsourced contracts, has refused to recognize us as part of its community and to value our work, which makes this institution possible. Despite strikes, protests, multiple petitions and public campaigns, your predecessors refused to recognize us as a legitimate party and to negotiate with us and our union. This expresses the discrimination and prejudice that permeates an institution that has decided to systematically ignore migrant workers who have fought with for their rights with determination.

We would like to take this moment of your arrival as new Vice Chancellor to extend an invitation to:

  • have dialogue with us in order that we can express our wishes as to why we want and deserve to be part of the University of London
  • negotiate with us in order to terminate outsourcing so that the university takes direct responsibility for our employment.

If we do not have the opportunity to meet with you, do not doubt that we will continue fighting for our rights to be treated with equality and enjoy the same terms and conditions as the rest of the workers of this university.

Our struggle will continue in the form of protests, boycotts, strikes, and publicity campaigns and you can be sure that we will not stop until your institution ensures equality for all workers.

Our warmest regards,

The IWGB In-House Committee (on behalf of the outsourced workers of the University of London)

Liliana Almanza, Margarita Cunalata, Alex Gonzaga, Olga Alvarez Perez, Elisabeth Cárdenas and Onaily Carreno

Spanish translation

Estimada Wendy Thomson,

Deseamos darle la Bienvenida a su nuevo puesto de trabajo, aprovechando su llegada a su cargo como Vicerrectora de la UoL queremos manifestarle nuestras frustraciones con respecto al trato recibido por parte de la institución que representa. No obstante, también queremos aprovechar este momento para invitarle a cambiar esta situación y desembarazarse del vergonzoso legado de sus predecesores en el cargo.

La mayor parte de nosotros hemos tenido que inmigrar a este país por debido a la crisis o falta de oportunidades en nuestros países de origen. Tuvimos la suerte de poder encontrar trabajo en esta institución. No obstante, al mismo tiempo nos sentimos profundamente decepcionados por el poco valor que se da al trabajo que cada día prestamos a la universidad.

La Universidad, escondiéndose detrás de la subcontratación, ha rehusado a reconocernos como parte de su comunidad y valorar el trabajo que hace posible esta Institución. Pese a las huelgas, protestas, múltiples peticiones y campanas públicas, sus predecesores se negaron a reconocernos como una parte legítima y a negociar con nosotros. Esto expresa la discriminación y perjuicio que permea una institución que ha decidido ignorar sistemáticamente a trabajadores migrantes que han luchado con determinación por sus derechos.

Aprovechando la oportunidad de su nuevo desempeño laboral como Vicerrectora de la UoL, como trabajadores que somos parte también de la Universidad de Londres, nos gustaría extenderle una invitación:

  • a dialogar con n el fin de manifestarle nuestros deseos de porque queremos y merecemos se parte de la Universidad de Londres
  • a negociar con el fin de poner fin subcontratación de manera que la universidad asuma la responsabilidad de nuestro empleo.

Si no tenemos la oportunidad de reunirnos con usted, no dude en que continuaremos luchando por nuestros derechos a ser tratados con igualdad y disfrutar de los mismos términos y condiciones que el resto de trabajadores de esta universidad. Nuestra lucha seguirá en la forma de protestas, boycotts, huelgas, campanas de comunicación….no dude que nuestra determinación no cesará hasta que su institución asegure igualdad para todos los trabajadores.

Un cordial saludo,

Los trabajadores subcontratados de la universidad de Londres, a través de sus representantes:

Liliana Almanza, Margarita Cunalata, Alex Gonzaga, Olga Alvarez Perez, Elisabeth Cárdenas and Onaily Carreno

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 if you’re interested.

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

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.