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.

Campaigners against outsourcing take their battle to the Palace of Westminster —

Campaigners against outsourcing take their battle to the Palace of Westminster

The battle for the outsourced workers at the University of London (UoL) has entered the lofty corridors of the House of Parliament. 

This week (22 May), members of the IWGB union joined a panel led by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP to discuss how outsourcing is used to drive down working conditions and what can be done to fight back.

As well as John McDonnell, speakers included Maritza Castillo Calle, IWGB’s UoL’s branch chair, Liliana Almanza, union representative and cleaner. They were joined by Katie Leslie, London south branch secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) representing staff at Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, and representatives from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

Since 2017, IWGB has been campaigning for UoL, one of the UK’s largest university in terms of student numbers, to end outsourcing and directly employ the workers who provide cleaning, catering, security and other services.

Outsourcing is one of the underhanded methods used by employers for decades to drive down our employment conditions. By using middlemen in the form of outsourcing companies such as Cordant, employers are able to offer some workers far worse pay, holiday entitlements, sick pay and pension contributions. 

But the abuse doesn’t stop there. The unaccountable nature of outsourcing companies means the workers (who are often from minority ethnic and migrant backgrounds), employed by them are much more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination. 

But recent years have seen outsourced cleaners, security officers, receptionists and catering staff, win a number of important victories that have pushed back against some of the worst abuses of the outsourcing industry. 

At the event in Westminster, Maritza Castillo Calle and cleaners’ representative, Liliana Almanza, spoke movingly about their experiences as outsourced migrant workers, and how they had been empowered by joining a union. John McDonnell pledged his support to end outsourcing in general AND for the Boycott Senate House campaign in particular.

Workers from other outsourced campaigns also spoke, including the representatives from the PCS and RMT unions. All committed to building closer links between unions to strengthen the fightback.

Couriers working for The Doctors Laboratory strike over pay and conditions — May 17, 2019

Couriers working for The Doctors Laboratory strike over pay and conditions

On Thursday and Friday next week (23 and 24 May) medical couriers at The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) will be going on strike, and IWGB members are encouraged to show solidarity for our cycle couriers who provide blood delivery services to more than 50 NHS and private hospitals on behalf of this private company.

The focus of the action will take place at TDL’s Euston Road headquarters (95 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2RA) from 7.30am–1.30pm on both days. However, the main event that as many people as possible are being encouraged to attend will be from 12 noon–1.30pm on the Thursday. A range of speakers have accepted invitations to take part. 

All sorts of activities are lined up for the two days and a Facebook event “SAVE LIVES NOT PENNIES” has been launched. IWGB members are urged to show their support at this Facebook page, which will reassure and empower the workers taking part in the strike – a decision that was not taken lightly.

After years of mistreatment TDL couriers unionised in 2018 in the hope of achieving better working conditions and an increase in pay that had stagnated for years. The IWGB has been engaged in talks with TDL for the last year, but the company has done everything it can to delay negotiations and has continued to treat the couriers with contempt. 

Indeed, TDL decided to cease negotiations and instead pursue forced employment on its self-employed couriers which would mean huge pay cuts. This was the final straw. The couriers decided there was no other option than to ballot for a strike with 84.6 per cent voting to take industrial action.

A large part of TDL’s ridiculous wealth is founded on the dismantling of the NHS through privatisation. As the NHS is slowly broken down TDL hoovers up services and transform them into huge profit for the senior management and shareholders.  

TDL’s refusal to meet the workers’ demands for modest increases in pay is in sharp contrast to the generous pay rises it has given its top two executives. They earned a combined £2.6 million in 2017with the highest paid director doubling his pay since 2013 to £1.6m,far more than any NHS manager. The company’s Australian owner, Sonic Healthcare, has received £60 million from the business over the last 5 years. While this company is turning over such astronomical profits, it is looking for ways to squeeze the long-serving, hardworking couriers.

As Alex Marshall, a TDL courier and IWGB member, said: “While TDL investors and managers get fat off NHS contracts, the couriers that risk their lives every day to deliver emergency blood and pathology samples are being left to suffer under a regime of pay cuts and neglect.”

Huge victory at University of London as first workers come back in house! —

Huge victory at University of London as first workers come back in house!

Next week marks a watershed moment in IWGB’s ‘back in house’ campaign as the first outsourced workers will formally be transferred to University of London employment.

Selected members of staff from reception, portering, postroom and audio-visual support will be the first in 20 years to reverse the trend of outsourcing at UoL.

This is a huge victory for the workers’ campaign as just two years ago the University refused to discuss the issue of in-housing, claiming that issues with the workers’ employment conditions were not a matter for the University to consider.

In recent communications to directly employed staff, the University has changed its line and sought to claim credit for the decision to bring the workers in house and for the beneficial effects of doing so. But it won’t be forgotten that the decision to bring these workers back in house comes after a huge campaign and massive pressure applied to the University by the workers and their union, IWGB!

IWGB has now been able to scrutinize the terms and conditions of incoming workers’ contracts and confirm that existing working patterns will be respected while everyone will be entitled to the University’s pensions, sick pay, annual leave and other benefits such as closure days – all of which mark a significant improvement on terms and conditions available to outsourced staff.

“This is an incredible day for us,” said Abdul Bakhsh, one of the affected workers and UoL IWGB Vice Chair. “We are finally getting what we have been asking for – to be treated equally with our colleagues at the University.”

But workers are determined to carry on the campaign until all their outsourced colleagues are brought in-house: the number transferring on 20 May is a tiny proportion of affected staff. The University maintains in communications that it is ‘committed to the principle of in-sourcing’ but still refuses to make a clear statement committing to transferring the remaining 200+ staff into its employment. Understandably, this gives no reassurance to those left out of scope. The workers will fight on until the campaign is won!

Have you made your check call??? — May 16, 2019
AGM and end of year celebration for IWGB’s University of London branch — May 10, 2019

AGM and end of year celebration for IWGB’s University of London branch

The IWGB’s annual branch meeting on 27 April, was attended by a capacity crowd at SOAS in London’s Bloomsbury.

It was the once-a-year chance for members to find out everything the branch had done in the last action-packed year; approve the union’s finances, stand for election, vote for our officers, and make plans for next year.

Voting for officers at 2019 AGM

Just as important though, it was an opportunity to meet with colleagues, and to show their appreciation for the tireless volunteers and activists whose vital day-day-day role is instrumental in helping the union give its members a voice.

The AGM reflected the international make-up of the union at the most basic level. Conducted in English and Spanish (Spanish and English lessons are offered free of charge to all members), it demonstrated the power of unity and cohesion among its supporters.

Arguably the most important date in the branch calendar, the AGM was celebration of a highly democratic organisation that is doing something new, demanding national institutions do the same.

Ballots resulted in a refreshed line-up of officers and representatives. The new officers are as follows:

Delegates for central union AGM

  • David Kalanzi
  • Adbul Bakhsh
  • Joe Trapido
  • Rebecca Dooley
  • Catalina Punguil
  • Marty Steer
  • Talitha Wachtelborn
  • Jose 
  • Mark Murphy
  • Franki Cunha

Branch officials 2019

  • Chair: Maritza Castillo Calle
  • Secretary: Danny Millum
  • Vice chair: Abdul Bakhsh
  • Assistant secretary (job share): Rebecca Dooley and Mark Murphy
  • Treasurer: Lindsey Caffin
  • BME officer: David Kalanzi
  • Women’s officer: Talitha Wachtelborn 
  • Recruitment officer: Abubakar Mohamed
  • Education officer: Jamie Woodcock
  • H&S officer: Jonathan Blaney
  • Campaigns officer: Joe Maggs
  • Trustees: George Orton and David Kalanzi
Serious concerns re the ongoing TUPE process for Cordant staff — May 9, 2019

Serious concerns re the ongoing TUPE process for Cordant staff

Danny Millum, secretary of the University of London’s (UoL) branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), locked out of Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) meeting between UoL’s contractor Cordant, and IWGB member. See below his letter to UoL’s director of property and facilities management, which raises some serious concerns about this denial of an employee’s right to be accompanied to such meetings by a ‘representative of their choice’.

Dear Ghaz

I am writing following an incident on Tuesday to raise serious concerns with regard to the ongoing TUPE process.

As you will be aware, as part of this process Cordant have been conducting 121 consultation meetings with transferring staff.

It is normal practice at the University of London for outsourced staff attending such meetings to bring a representative of their choice. I have attended dozens of such meetings in the past, as part of TUPE transfers from the University to Balfour Beatty, as part of the transfer from Cofely to Cordant etc. The union affiliation of the rep has NEVER been an issue.

Furthermore, the invite letters stated that ‘You will also have the right to be accompanied to the consultation with [sic] a fellow employee or trade union official.’

Even more egregiously, this would never be an issue for a direct employee, who would always be allowed a rep of their choice at any meeting of this sort.

Obviously, these are very important meetings, and it is very important that these workers be able to be accompanied by someone that they trust and have chosen themselves.

Despite all of the above, when members notified Cordant that I would be accompanying them, the response from Darren Cox (Operations Manager) was to inform them that I would not be allowed to attend, but that should they wish to be accompanied by a Unison rep he could help arrange this.

I wrote to Mr Cox and made the points above – to which he replied that he was acting on advice from Cordant HR.

I confirmed that nevertheless I would be attending.

On Tuesday I arrived at Stewart House basement with my member only to be confronted by a security officer who refused to allow me entrance to the corridor outside the room where the meeting was to take place. When I asked him on what authority he was denying me access, he told me it was neither Cordant nor the University of London, but that he had been given these instructions by his manager. He refused to tell me what company he worked for.

After explaining to him the situation and still being denied access myself and the member left.

I would like to put on record that I consider this behaviour to be completely unacceptable – for all the reasons above, my presence was completely legitimate. Furthermore, it is clear that the member concerned, a vulnerable migrant worker for whom English is a second language, was denied their right to a representative of their choice for a meeting of the utmost importance, an experience which they found extremely distressing.

The importance of having a rep present was confirmed when I spoke to another member who had attended the meeting alone – they were asked to sign a form giving permission for Cordant to pass their personal details to the University. When they asked what details were involved, they were told that this could not be specified, and then pressured to sign anyway, which they did despite having strong reservations.

Workers have been therefore left in a nightmarish scenario where either they take part in a meeting they are not properly equipped for OR refuse to take part and therefore leave part of the TUPE process undone.

I would like to know:

1. If the University signed off on this behaviour on the part of its contractor?
2. Who is paying the bill for the additional security officer employed solely to exclude me from these meetings?
3. That now the University is aware of this situation it will commit to ensuring that all workers get the representative of their choice at these 121 meetings?

Could you please respond to me as a matter of urgency as the date of transfer is rapidly approaching?

Best wishes


Office warming – Sat 4 May! All welcome! Todos bienvenidos! — May 2, 2019

Office warming – Sat 4 May! All welcome! Todos bienvenidos!

After lots of hard work from our amazing employees our new office is finally up and running! So please come and see it yourself and meet the IWGB office team on Saturday 4 May from 16:00 – 18:00.

There will be soft drinks and nibbles, and we will move to a close-by pub afterwards.

Address: St. Margaret’s House, Room 1, 15 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL.

2 mins from Bethnal Green underground station.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Hola a todos!! Despues de un trabajo arduo de nuestros maravillosos empleados, nuestra nueva oficina esta finalmente lista! Así que por favor vengan a verlo por ustedes mismos y conozcan a nuestro equipo de trabajo de la oficina de IWGB este sabado 4 de mayo de 4pm-6pm.

Habra bebidas y bocadillos. Despues de eso estan invitados a ir a un pub cercano.

Direccion: St. Margaret’s House, Room 1, 15 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PL.

2 minutos de la estacion de metro de Bethnal Green. Los esperamos a todos!

Call for action over ethnicity and gender bias in UoL holiday allowances — April 17, 2019

Call for action over ethnicity and gender bias in UoL holiday allowances

Our branch secretary has written to the University to raise once again the issue of the discrepancy in holidays between 1-6 and 7-10 staff, and to call for immediate action! Happy Easter!

Dear Mark and Simon

I am writing with regard to the issue of the disparity in holiday allowances between staff on grades 1-6 and those on 7-10.

As you know, staff in the latter group receive 3 days more annual leave per annum than those in the former.

This is not just unfair, but I believe it raises issues of race and gender discrimination, as BAME staff and women are disproportionately represented among grades 1-6.

This was originally raised at the ICE Forum a year ago (see here for the full document submitted then)  but no action has yet been taken.

Could you please get back to me and confirm that the University will be taking steps to resolve this issue, and the timescale in which it will be doing so?

Best wishes