Hundreds of UCL cleaners, porters and security to vote on strike action over pay and conditions — November 6, 2019

Hundreds of UCL cleaners, porters and security to vote on strike action over pay and conditions

9 October: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is to ballot cleaners, porters and security officers for strike action at London’s largest university, UCL, in what could be the biggest strike ever of outsourced workers in UK higher education history.

The IWGB will be balloting almost 300 workers over their terms and conditions, as part of the union’s campaign, launched yesterday (8 October), to end outsourcing and zero hours contracts at UCL. The strike ballot will specifically demand the outsourcing companies that manage the security contract, Axis, and the cleaning contract, Sodexo, put cleaners, porters and security officers on the same terms and conditions as UCL’s direct employees. The results of the ballot are expected on 5 November.

Outsourced workers receive worse sick pay, pension, holiday pay, and parental leave than their in-house colleagues. They are also more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination than directly employed workers.

Specifically, while direct employees can receive up to 26 weeks of pay when they are off sick, outsourced workers are on the statutory minimum, which means that they get no pay on the first three days they are off sick, after which they are entitled to £94.25 a week. This means that many workers chose to work while sick, rather than risk losing a day’s pay. (See comparisons of other conditions in notes below)

IWGB University of London branch chair and former UCL cleaner Maritza Castillo Calle said: “UCL would not be able to function without its cleaners, porters and security officers, however for years the university and its contractors have been happy to treat them like second class workers. They are overworked, underpaid and mistreated, while UCL is happy to look the other way when issues are raised about the abject failure of its contractors to treat people with basic dignity. We gave UCL a clear deadline by which to present a plan to end outsourcing which it failed to abide by. Now we are left with no option but to strike.”

Over the last year the IWGB has also documented a number of severe management failures and discriminatory practices by the outsourcing companies.

The IWGB brought complaints on behalf of 30 Axis security officers that were owed over £15,000, when the company failed to properly pay their holiday pay over a period of three months, between December and February. Following these formal complaints by the University of London branch secretary, the money was paid, but there have been other instances of non-payment of holiday pay since.

In March, Sodexo tried to introduce a biometric time management system, which would require cleaners, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, to have their fingerprints scanned when logging in and out of work. Following a collective grievance, and protests by the IWGB and its members, the introduction of this discriminatory system to monitor workers was called off.

In September, the IWGB launched a collective grievance on behalf of 30 cleaners and porters who complain that managers assign them an excessive amount of work, resulting in significant levels of exhaustion and stress. Attempts by management to further increase these workloads have so far been stopped by the intervention of IWGB reps.

You can donate to the Strike fund: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ucl-outsourced-workers-strike-fund

Notes to Editors:

  • Conditions of outsourced workers vs direct employees
  • Sick pay: outsourced workers are on statutory sick pay, while direct employees are entitled to up to 26 weeks of fully paid sick pay, depending on length of service.
  • Holiday pay: outsourced workers are entitled to as little as the statutory minimum of 28 holiday days, including bank holidays. Direct employees get a total of 41 days, including 27 days of annual leave, 8 bank holidays and 6 closure days.
  • Parental leave: outsourced workers are only entitled to the statutory maternity leave, while direct employees get 18 weeks full pay (or 9 weeks full pay and 18 weeks half pay) statutory maternity pay.
  • Pensions: Outsourced security officers and some cleaners get a 3% employer pension contribution, while direct employees get enrolled into the SAUL pension scheme with up to 19.5% employer pension contribution.
  • On 16 September, the IWGB gave UCL a three week deadline (7 October) by which to publicly commit to end outsourcing or engage in good faith negotiations with that end.
  • Previously, the biggest strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education took place in 25 and 26 April 2018. More info here and here.
  • Sodexo and Axis took over the cleaning/portering and security contracts, respectively in November 2018.
  • UCL has 42,100 students according to its website. It is the biggest university in London and the third biggest in the UK, by number of students, according to the HESA.
  • Following a separate campaign launched in September 2017, the IWGB won a commitment by the University of London (Central Administration) to bring outsourced workers in-house in July 2018. Since then, only 10% of the workers have been brought in-house, and a boycott of the university is ongoing until there are concrete plans for the insourcing of the remaining 90%.
  • In 2013, following the landmark 3 Cosas Campaign, the IWGB won improved sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced workers at the University of London (Central Administration).


Following UoL’s announcement of dates of in-sourcing, outsourced workers’ Reps give conditions under which Boycott can be called off. — October 28, 2019

Following UoL’s announcement of dates of in-sourcing, outsourced workers’ Reps give conditions under which Boycott can be called off.

On Friday the University of London announced that it would bring security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020. This is a welcome development and a vindication of the strategy chosen by the outsourced workers of combining strikes with a boycott of the university’s events.

This would have been impossible without your steadfast support, which was unflinching even in the face of several attempts by university management and others to spread misinformation.

However, the need to keep pressure on the university is now more important than ever. So far, no details have been given on what kinds of contracts the university will give the workers. This is an issue of huge importance, since the contracts that were negotiated for the receptionists that were brought in-house in May 2019, behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB, have led to a number of problems.

In the first two months following the introduction of these contracts, seven of the twelve in-sourced receptionists brought grievances against the university, in large part as a result of the terms that were negotiated by third parties that had no mandate from the workers to negotiate on their behalf.

The issues that the workers have raised, some of which form part of formal grievances, are:

  • As a result of the new contracts, receptionists are being moved to different buildings and given different shift patterns on different days, even though previously they were based in one reception, some of them for as long as twenty years.
  • One receptionist had to take several weeks off sick from stress as a result of the university’s attempts to move her, without her consent, out of the place where she had worked for over six years and to another building – a clear breach of TUPE legislation. The university’s justification was that, off the back of the negotiations, it was decided that the hours that she once did now belonged to the outsourcing company, Cordant, which would provide their own staff.
  • Another receptionist, who needs to take breaks at specific times due to the fact he suffers from diabetes, has nearly fainted on several occasions because of changes to shift and break patterns meant no cover was available when he had to take time off.
  • Failure of the university to properly staff one of its receptions, leading to significant overwork for the one remaining receptionist.
  • Failure of the university to properly staff the Post Room following the resignation of a worker, leading to significant overwork for the remaining staff.

While some of these issues are unlawful (breach of TUPE regulations) and if not resolved could result in legal action by IWGB, it would have been preferable for the workers to have been represented in the in-housing talks, so that these issues could have been avoided altogether.

Therefore, being aware of the way the first wave of in-sourcing was handled, we would be failing our members in our duty as their chosen trade union, if we were to drop significant forms of leverage prior to seeing the actual contracts that our members will be asked to sign.

It is also wholly unreasonable that the security officers are being brought in-house six whole months before cleaners, and that gardeners, many of whom have taken a number of days of strike action, are being completely excluded from the deal.

For these reasons, the elected security, cleaning and gardening reps, have agreed that, as a gesture of goodwill, they are happy to call off the campaign and the boycott if two conditions are met:

  1. That there is an agreement that security staff, cleaners and gardeners are brought in-house by May 2020.
  2. That the elected IWGB security, cleaning and gardening reps, in consultation with the membership and their union, review and sign off on the contracts that will be presented to the members.

We are closer than ever to securing a fair deal for the cleaners and security officers that for so many years have been ignored by university management and others. With your continued support of the boycott we are certain to achieve that.

IWGB STATEMENT on UCL’s announcement of commitment to parity of terms and conditions — October 23, 2019

IWGB STATEMENT on UCL’s announcement of commitment to parity of terms and conditions

23.10.2019

On 21 OCTOBER UCL announced its commitment to give outsourced workers the same Annual Leave entitlements as direct employees, starting in December this year. This is good news and a good first step. From December outsourced workers should now receive 27 days + 6 Closure days + public holidays. This is the result of the pressure of the IWGB campaign. UCL have also said they are committed to levelling up all pay and benefits for outsourced workers to an equal level with direct employees by August 2021. Finally, there is no mention of ending outsourcing and bringing all outsourced workers in-house. In-housing would be a significant improvement on parity of terms and conditions

UCL has claimed that this announcement has come as a result of constructive negotiations with the outsourced staff. However, this concession has only happened in the context of an ongoing ballot where 300 outsourced workers, members of the IWGB, are currently voting in favour of strike action.

We would therefore like to provide some insights regarding UCL’s recent announcement:

  • It comes 2 weeks after 300 outsourced workers, members of the IWGB, decided to launch a campaign to end outsourcing at UCL. The day after the launch of their campaign on 8 October the workers sent a formal notice of Strike Ballot to UCL and the subcontractors Axis and Sodexo and initiated an intense social media and public campaign that involved public speeches, flyering, videos and a petition. It is the powerful campaign by the outsourced security officers, cleaners and porters at UCL in the IWGB union that has ended UCL’s years of silence on this issue. UCL can no longer neglect and ignore the workers that make it possible for UCL to open its doors every day.
  • These concessions are nothing but a sign that UCL is cracking under pressure, mainly as a consequence of potentially facing the biggest strike of outsourced higher education workers in the history of the UK.
  • Despite this, UCL has not once opened up discussions with the workers themselves and they have so far refused to negotiate with the IWGB union, which represents the vast majority of the security staff and hundreds of cleaners and porters at UCL.  In failing to do so, UCL are excluding the outsourced workers and treating them with extreme disrespect. Which is no surprise considering that UCL has treated them like second class workers for all these years. UCL’s pretend claims that they have consulted and negotiated with the outsourced workforce have no basis in fact.

UCL cannot continue to ignore the outsourced workers. They will learn the perils of doing so when the majority of the workforce goes on strike after not being listened to and their time for negotiations runs out.

  • The announcement gives no serious guarantees and no clear timetable for delivery. Years ago when UCL announced that they would introduce the living wage for UCL staff within a year, they ended up dilly dallying for 5 years before it was delivered. Empty PR statements are no substitute for concrete action or for firm commitments with clear deadlines. UCL has said they will act within 22 months by August 2021. UCL is one of the richest universities in the country and has the resources to deliver parity of terms and conditions within several months should they choose to. The outsourced workers are clear that 2 years is not good enough. It is patently an attempt to kick this issue into the long grass.
  • What is more, the announcement does not mention the end of outsourcing, which has been the central demand raised by the outsourced workers. Ending outsourcing is significantly different to just parity of terms and conditions. We require the removal of the incompetent and exploitative subcontractors under which UCL has allowed the outsourced workforce to suffer for over a decade. The IWGB has a clear position: Outsourced workers demand full equality which can only be delivered by ENDING OUTSOURCING.


Taking into consideration the above, we would like to express our determination to continue to fight until FULL EQUALITY is given to all outsourced workers at UCL and the outsourced workers are brought back in-house.

We once again extend an invitation to UCL and encourage its management to find another way forward: Commit to end outsourcing and to sit down and negotiate with the outsourced workers and their representatives.

Until then, the struggle continues!

See you on the picket line UCL 

Good deed for the day: sponsor your colleagues to walk a marathon for IWGB! — October 18, 2019
UoL: Major concession won – Boycott continues until full victory — October 17, 2019

UoL: Major concession won – Boycott continues until full victory

Yesterday the University of London’s new Vice Chancellor, Wendy Thompson, announced to staff that the university would begin to bring cleaners and security officers in-house. This is a major step forward and a vindication of the outsourced workers’ strategy of combining strikes with a boycott of the university’s events. More information here and here.

Thompson admitted in her email that her decision was a reaction to the boycott and the rising cost of security. If you remember, a few months ago the Guardian wrote that in the space of nine months, the university had spent £1.3m in extra security to police the IWGB’s strikes – the full figure for the whole of the campaign will surely turn out to be a lot higher.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported the boycott. It is clear from Thompson’s email that moving the dial this way would have been impossible without your steadfast support.

However, while this change in position is welcome, it is not yet a concrete committent on the timeline for in-sourcing or on the conditions the cleaners and security officers will have once in-house. Also, there is still no clarity on what will happen with the catering staff. In the next few weeks we will ask the university to clarify these points and to accelerate as much as possible the process of in-housing.

This means it is more important than ever to maintain a firm boycott of all events at Senate House and the other University of London central administration buildings. It is our determination that will decide whether the university finally starts to treat its outsourced workers with dignity or continues to systematically discriminate against them.

UCL: WILL THEY, WON’T THEY? —

UCL: WILL THEY, WON’T THEY?

UC

Since the 7th of October rumours have been circulating that UCL will improve terms and conditions for outsourced workers, although UCL has not yet communicated anything concrete to the workers themselves. It is no coincidence the 7th of October was also the deadline date the IWGB gave to UCL to commit to ending outsourcing or face an IWGB campaign.

On Tuesday afternoon this week, there was a meeting of the UCL Council where the issue of outsourcing was discussed.  Supporters of the IWGB campaign to end outsourcing asked UCL Chief Operating Officer Fiona Ryland who attended the UCL Council meeting, what their decision was. Fiona Ryland told supporters that there will soon be a public announcement from UCL regarding improvements in terms and conditions for outsourced workers at UCL.

This is the result of the powerful campaign by the outsourced security officers, cleaners and porters at UCL in the IWGB union. It is their threat of strike action that has ended UCL’s years of silence on this issue. Finally, outsourced workers at UCL are no longer invisible!

It is not clear what improvements UCL is considering. Half measures will not suffice and until UCL commit to equality for security officers, cleaners and porters the campaign will march forward.  Outsourced workers demand full equality which can only be delivered by an END to OUTSOURCING.

We hope that UCL will take the right path and commit to bringing workers in-house. However, we must state our regret at UCL’s approach to this dispute so far. Since September when our members initiated the dispute, UCL has not once opened up discussions with the workers themselves and they have so far refused to negotiate with the IWGB union, which represents the vast majority of the security staff and hundreds of cleaners and porters at UCL.

In failing to do so, UCL are excluding the outsourced workers and treating them with extreme disrespect. UCL cannot continue to ignore the outsourced workers. They will learn the perils of doing so when the majority of the workforce goes on strike and they have no one to negotiate with.

However, we extend an invitation to UCL, there is another way forward: Commit to end outsourcing and to sit down and negotiate with the outsourced workers and their representatives.  Until then, the fight continues!

TO ALL OF OUR MEMBERS:

It is not clear what UCL will offer to members or if they will do it at all. It might be a rubbish offer, or it might be something quite substantial. If an offer is made by UCL regarding improvements in terms and conditions for members, the IWGB will call an urgent meeting of all members to discuss the offer and decide democratically on whether to accept it, or to fight for a better offer: mainly to end outsourcing. This decision will be up to you.

UCL’s Bad Move — October 11, 2019

UCL’s Bad Move

💥BREAKING NEWS💥

Today, UCL outsourced workers at IOE were given letters stating that “they should not speak to press” and were told they could breach company policy if they decided to speak out about their working conditions.

IWGB’s General Sectetary has written to UCL’s Provost to warn him about this bad move and alert him of the possible consequences:

Dear Professor Arthur,


I am writing to give you the opportunity to correct yet another idiotic blunder of your contractors.  You might remember that when I wrote to you on 16 September, offering the opportunity to avoid a campaign (which you rejected), I put a little side note to your contractors (who were copied in), saying: 


“I know it might be tempting when reading this to try and prove your worth to UCL by reacting in some way towards the workers. Let me take this opportunity to tell you that’s not a good idea.”It seems unfortunately my advice as not been followed as the attached document was handed out to cleaners, porters, etc.  As you can see, and not for the first time, Sodexo management is a little confused as the document is clearly meant to be instructions for them on what to say to staff and not a document to be handed directly to staff.  Or, in the terminology of Sodexo, the message was meant “to be cascaded via line manager during team huddle”.  But as you and the general public will become more and more aware of over the coming months, this sort of incompetence is par for the course with cowboy contractors.


But more seriously, the message says that workers are not to speak to press or express views about their work on social media.  Apparently this is set out in the “what to do in a crisis” document.  I’m glad you guys are recognising UCL is now in a crisis, but having your contractors attempt to silence your workers through intimidation is no way to deal with it.  
Professor Arthur, if you don’t want UCL cleaners to talk about their exploitative working conditions, then don’t exploit them.  If you don’t want them to talk about the inherently discriminatory outsourcing regime at UCL, then end the regime.


I suggest you correct this and I suggest you do it now.  Given that this threat comes off the back of widespread coverage of the proposed strike of outsourced workers, which comes as part of an anti-outsourcing campaign against UCL, it is quite clear that the threat is being made on your behalf.  If not corrected, this will have consequences for you both from a campaign perspective and a legal perspective.  I’d also encourage you to think for a moment about the backlash UCL would receive if you actually followed through on the policy and discipined a cleaner for telling the Guardian how she is compelled to work sick because she has no occupational sick pay.  I’ll give you a hint: it would be a PR disaster.


I look forward to the correction being made as a matter of urgency.  The IWGB and its members will not be intimidated by these desperate tactics, and we will not hesitate to take whatever legal action is required to put an end to them.  And as long as you continue to exploit and discriminate, we will make sure the world knows about it.


Kind regards,  


Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB

Hundreds of UCL cleaners, porters and security to vote on strike action over pay and conditions — October 9, 2019

Hundreds of UCL cleaners, porters and security to vote on strike action over pay and conditions

Hundreds of UCL cleaners, porters and security to vote on strike action over pay and conditions

  • Strikes will be part of the IWGB’s campaign, launched on 8 October, to end outsourcing at UCL.
  • Workers have far worse conditions than directly employed staff, including not being paid the first three days they are off sick.
  • The IWGB has documented a number of management failures and discriminatory practices, including the failure to pay over £15,000 in holiday pay to 30 workers.

9 October: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is to ballot cleaners, porters and security officers for strike action at London’s largest university, UCL, in what could be the biggest strike ever of outsourced workers in UK higher education history.

The IWGB will be balloting almost 300 workers over their terms and conditions, as part of the union’s campaign, launched yesterday (8 October), to end outsourcing and zero hours contracts at UCL. The strike ballot will specifically demand the outsourcing companies that manage the security contract, Axis, and the cleaning contract, Sodexo, put cleaners, porters and security officers on the same terms and conditions as UCL’s direct employees. The results of the ballot are expected on 5 November.

Outsourced workers receive worse sick pay, pension, holiday pay, and parental leave than their in-house colleagues. They are also more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination than directly employed workers.

Specifically, while direct employees can receive up to 26 weeks of pay when they are off sick, outsourced workers are on the statutory minimum, which means that they get no pay on the first three days they are off sick, after which they are entitled to £94.25 a week. This means that many workers chose to work while sick, rather than risk losing a day’s pay. (See comparisons of other conditions in notes below)

IWGB University of London branch chair and former UCL cleaner Maritza Castillo Calle said: “UCL would not be able to function without its cleaners, porters and security officers, however for years the university and its contractors have been happy to treat them like second class workers. They are overworked, underpaid and mistreated, while UCL is happy to look the other way when issues are raised about the abject failure of its contractors to treat people with basic dignity. We gave UCL a clear deadline by which to present a plan to end outsourcing which it failed to abide by. Now we are left with no option but to strike.”

Over the last year the IWGB has also documented a number of severe management failures and discriminatory practices by the outsourcing companies.

The IWGB brought complaints on behalf of 30 Axis security officers that were owed over £15,000, when the company failed to properly pay their holiday pay over a period of three months, between December and February. Following these formal complaints by the University of London branch secretary, the money was paid, but there have been other instances of non-payment of holiday pay since.

In March, Sodexo tried to introduce a biometric time management system, which would require cleaners, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, to have their fingerprints scanned when logging in and out of work. Following a collective grievance, and protests by the IWGB and its members, the introduction of this discriminatory system to monitor workers was called off.

In September, the IWGB launched a collective grievance on behalf of 30 cleaners and porters who complain that managers assign them an excessive amount of work, resulting in significant levels of exhaustion and stress. Attempts by management to further increase these workloads have so far been stopped by the intervention of IWGB reps.

BREAKING NEWS: Imminent Campaign at UCL — October 7, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: Imminent Campaign at UCL

BREAKING NEWS: Just hours before the IWGB’s in-housing deadline to UCL expired this afternoon, we heard that UCL intends to offer parity of terms and conditions with in-house staff to outsourced security guards, which would be a massive improvement on the status quo.

But parity of terms and conditions is not the same as going back in house, as it does not address issues of accountability, mistreatment and mismanagement. What’s more, there is no clear timetable for delivery of this and nothing has been offered to the cleaners and porters.

Later this evening we received an insultingly lazy response email from  UCL to our letter of demands, which was totally non-committal and offered no guarantees of any progress whatsoever.

UCL Clearly thought they could prevent an IWGB campaign with this last ditch move. But it has not worked. The deadline has expired. Our members will be launching their campaign tomorrow morning!