Campaigners against outsourcing take their battle to the Palace of Westminster — May 24, 2019

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.





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Questions raised by IWGB over pension implications for UoL HEE staff — September 19, 2018

Questions raised by IWGB over pension implications for UoL HEE staff

Following recent reports that the UoL is considering transferring staff to HEE, the IWGB has flagged up various issues – including that of pensions…see below for full correspondence and ask Danny (dannymillum@iwgb.co.uk) if you have any questions:

Dear Simon

Thanks for getting back to me, and sorry myself for this slightly delayed response. I note that you should now have met with HEE HR, and look forward to hearing more.

I am sure this will have been covered in your discussions, but I wanted to flag up the issue of pensions.

Staff have essentially been assured that there are no plans as yet to transfer them to HEE, and if they are transferred they will keep their UoL terms and conditions (as per TUPE).

However, we are not clear as to whether this would cover pensions. My experience of TUPE is limited to transfers to and between outsourcing companies, but in these instances the pension scheme does NOT transfer.

Can you therefore confirm that should HEE staff currently employed by UoL be TUPE’d to HEE, they would not just retain their terms and conditions, but also membership of the SAUL / USS pension scheme?

Best wishes

Danny

From: Simon Cain
Sent: 10 September 2018 17:10
To: Danny Millum <Danny.Millum@sas.ac.uk>; Elaine Walters <Elaine.Walters@sas.ac.uk>

Subject: RE: TUPE transfer of HEE staff – URGENT

Dear Danny,

I would first like to apologise for the delay in providing you with a response.

I will be meeting with my HR counterpart from Health Education England (HEE) on 18th September, after which I hope to be in a position to comment further on this matter as it relates to the University’s obligations under the ICE regulations.

In the meantime, I note that you have been forwarded a communication issued on behalf of HEE and UNISON, which clarifies that there is currently no discussion underway to transfer UoL HEE staff onto AfC contracts.

On a final note, I would like to reassure you that in that event that there is a transfer of staff, myself and my HEE counterparts, are fully aware of our respective obligations under the TUPE regulations.  The University would of course also ensure it complies with its obligations under the ICE Regulations.

Best wishes,

Simon

From: Danny Millum
Sent: 09 September 2018 19:08

Dear Simon

I have still not had a reply to the email below – would you be able to get back to me as a matter of some urgency?

I understand that you have confirmed to UNISON that even if a transfer of staff from UoL to HEE were to take place, staff would be able to retain their existing UoL terms and conditions.

I would like to clarify that this is in fact the legal position – that under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), an employee’s terms and conditions of employment are protected when a business is transferred from one owner to another. In other words, it would be illegal for HEE to force staff onto AFC terms and conditions.

I would further note that that staff are still suffering the consequences of the massive workforce cuts implemented in 2016, and any suggestion that these staff should pay through worsened terms and conditions for an accounting error by HEE / UoL is completely unacceptable.

Best wishes

Danny

From: Danny Millum
Sent: 06 September 2018 11:29

Subject: TUPE transfer of HEE staff – URGENT
Importance: High

Dear Elaine and Simon

I understand that there are discussions underway to transfer UoL HEE staff onto AFC contracts.

Could you confirm full details of these plans if this is the case, and explain why these proposals have not been brought before the ICE forum in line with ICE Regulations?

This is a matter of some urgency so I would appreciate a response as soon as possible.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum

IWGB ICE Representative

USS Pensions – the Joint Expert Panel reports… — September 13, 2018

USS Pensions – the Joint Expert Panel reports…

….the full report is here, but this is probably the key section:

Our analysis has highlighted a number of issues arising out of the methodology and
assumptions which we believe should be addressed. Furthermore, since the consultation on the 2017 valuation with employers, there have been a number of developments of relevance to the valuation assumptions. We have examined the impact of all these factors.

On the basis of our analysis we have made a number of recommendations, the overall effect of which would be to reduce the valuation estimates of the future service cost and deficit to the point where the increase is small enough to allow the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) to be able to reach an agreement so that the issues currently facing the Scheme can be resolved, recognising that compromise may be needed on all sides.

This thread from the FT’s Josephine Cumbo summarises the main recommendations.

Jo Grady has a useful take on what it all means here.

The IWGB believes:

  • some of the recommendations relating to the valuation are to be welcomed as they show that USS have used low valuations as an argument for cutting pensions.
  • the non-binding nature of the proposals is problematic
  • the suggestion of increased contributions from workers is ridiculous, as this would be a defacto pay cut (especially given the low ball offer on pay)
  • and finally that there is clear evidence of mismanagement at USS and UUK from the report, and therefore those responsible need to go.

We’ll be discussing all this at our next branch meeting on 26 September BUT if you have any thoughts please do drop our Education Officer Jamie a line (jamie.woodcock@gmail.com).

Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum update — August 1, 2018

Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum update

Last Wednesday was the third meeting of the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) forum.

HR’s official minutes will be posted on the intranet soon (with old ones kept here) but in the meantime, detailed notes taken by one of your IWGB staff reps is available here. It was a long meeting with lots of discussion, so edited highlights are below.

As always, please feel free to contact ICE representatives with any questions, comments or matters to raise next time.

With the exception of information about policies they’re updating, everything we’ve discussed so far has been originally raised by staff so it really does work. In particular, please do let us know your views on the issue of the London weighting debate being reopened as this has the potential to positively impact staff in all areas.

IN BRIEF – matters discussed 25.7.18

London weighting

IWGB reps raised that the final amount from the previous agreement will be paid in August but the issue can be re-opened because the London Living Wage rose by more than 6 per cent (it rose by 11.5 per cent).

There will be a JNCC meeting on 6 August about it but all staff cannot attend. We will push for another meeting on this – we want your views. We will continue to raise this and keep you posted.

Business World (BW)

It was noted that staff are not happy with the delivery of the system, although Ghazwa Alwani-Starr (GA-S), present in a managerial capacity, said her impression is that everyone in her department thinks it’s great.

Reasons cited for issues with BW were that UoL (University of London) had to move quickly from Northgate (old system) to Business World in a short period of time to deliver the basic requirements needed. Market was tested and apparently Agresso is the only thing that can deliver ‘what we need’.

A lot of work was done, especially on background functions, but did not have enough time. Also issues with ‘holes in the data’ inherited from Northgate.

Problems were particularly raised re Saturday working in the Library: system was unprepared for this. The manager responsible undertook to meet library employees to discuss.

Facilities Management services review

A robust discussion took place.

G Alwani-Starr reported that a revised customer services/security model will be put to the Board of Trustees (BoT) in November.

ICE reps noted this is irrelevant. What the workers want to know is when they will be treated equally. There is a deadline for that. If that is not met, their campaign continues. Every worker who was shown the Uni’s statement on this was uncomprehending or angry. Noted that UoL is taking completely the wrong approach to this.

GA-S responded that the BoT has stated they are concerned about charitable objects and return on investment.

IWGB ICE reps noted that workers in these fields weren’t always outsourced in the past so there is no contradiction with the university’s charity or business aims, just a return to the state of 15 years ago. Reps invited Board of Trustees to come to the ICE forum and discuss it if this is confusing.

Asbestos

A standing item after the re-discovery of asbestos that had supposedly been removed.

The asbestos management plan is being finalised and will go to Chair of Health and Safety committee for comments/approval soon.

Referrals should be made to Occupational Health for anyone concerned.

DM: Kim Frost promised for 6 months that he would provide us with history of how asbestos issue has been handled, and left before doing so. Asked for this to be supplied.

USS pensions reform

The ‘deficit’ has been revised already – from £17bn quoted before, now saying £8bn.

Nonetheless, a proposal will be put to staff to increase contributions from 8 per cent:18 per cent to 8.8 per cent members’ contributions, 19.5 per cent employers, followed by further increases.

Information will be on intranet and Q&A sessions for staff will be held in autumn.

Dignity at work policy

… has been finalised. Much discussion about whether or not it also applies to outsourced staff. To be confirmed by next meeting.

Family friendly policies

… are being reviewed, including redundancy policy. A full list of policies under review will be communicated and circulated for comment once finalised.

University to confirm whether these policies will apply to HEE staff on UoL contracts.

First aid policy

IWGB Reps raised that payments to first-aiders have not increased for 15 years and appear not to be in line with other organisations. Some first aiders are not even being paid at all. The university was asked to review this and report back.

SAS website costs

Quote is £0.25 million. EW confident we will not pay that amount.

Lower ground floor access

CW noted staff had enjoyed use of staircase briefly. GA-S said Deller Hall staircase will reopen soon.

 

UCU pensions update — July 31, 2018

UCU pensions update

Below is copy of a letter from Tim Hall, UCU’s Senate House Branch Chair, updating its members on the issues around pensions and the latest information from the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

 

Dear Members,

I understand that this is a bit of a long one but I wanted for you all to be as informed as possible so please do take the time to read it.

By now, most of you will have received an email from HR sent on behalf of USS. The email explained what their plan for cost sharing will look like:

Under the 2017 valuation that USS approved in November 2017, contributions will eventually rise by 10.6 per cent from 26 per cent of salary (18 per cent employer, 8 per cent member) to 36.6 per cent (24.9 per cent employer, 11.7 per cent member) in order to retain the status quo.

Why is the cost-sharing rule being implemented in USS?
Members will already know that under its current valuation, USS is in deficit. USS has been claiming for months that it is legally obliged to have a plan in place for dealing with that deficit. But the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) will not make any decisions about the current valuation until September 2018, and the previous plan to recover the deficit by removing the Defined Benefit element of the scheme was left in tatters after strike action by our members: you!

As a result, USS has chosen to trigger a process known as ‘cost-sharing’, although it is better described by the phrase ‘shared contribution increases’. Under Rules 76.4–8 of the scheme, the trustee can require employers and members to increase their contributions to the rate which they deem sufficient. This decision has been made without the pension regulator’s enforcement – they are still happy for UUK, USS, and UCU to resolve this without their intervention.

We must stay vigilant because there are few signs that UUK has abandoned its long-standing goal of transferring as much of the cost and the risk of pension provision onto employees as possible. Prior to the USS dispute, UUK used a manufactured deficit in USS to represent Defined Benefit pensions as unaffordable. The JEP arose out of USS members’ growing appreciation that the deficit was, in fact, illusory, and the reforms which it had been used to justify were not needed. More information on the JEP can be found on the UCU website at this address: https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss

Pension Contribution Calculator
Here’s a tool that lets you get an idea of how much more you can expect to pay in contributions under this new plan: https://beta.observablehq.com/@scjoss/uss-cost-sharing.

It’s important to note that UniversitiesUK had the option of taking up the extra member increases themselves should they have wished to do so, but turned it down. That would have been possible by a resolution of the JNC. UCU negotiator Sam Marsh pushed for UniversitiesUK to cover the full burden of interim cost sharing, given strike was entirely UUK’s fault and we’ve already lost a lot of money via strike deductions. This seemed a fair compromise. Again, UUK said no – hence it falls to us all.

Now it looks like USS are prepared to listen to a rethink from UUK on their ‘risk-appetite’ (which if you remember, most said they were willing to stay will current level, with some saying they’d be happy with increase – UUK decided to go with the minority of employers and push through a low-risk appetite strategy). This is an area the JEP are likely to comment on. The hope will be that a change to the Test 1 parameter will lead to a resolution to this dispute but it’s important to keep informed.

Pay Dispute
If you haven’t been following UCU’s national email communications: following the e-ballot on pay and equality members completed in late spring 2018, UCU members will now be asked to vote formally in a statutory ballot opening towards the end of August and closing in mid-October. The current employer offer is 2%. When taking inflation into account as well, it’s clear that our take-home pay will go down by more than 2% in the next year.

Bill Galvin, Chief Executive of USS, has seen a 31% pay rise over last 2 years. On top of drastic increases to the cost of living and a decade of pay-rises below inflation, we’re getting hit again with increased pension contributions. All this adding up to a hefty pay-cut. The latest imposed pension arrangements amount to a 3.7% pay cut, plus 6.9% loss of potential pay. All of this so university leaders can remove USS (i.e. our future pay) from their financial liabilities. Please bear this in mind when the UCU ballots on their 2% pay offer.

Excellent information can be found on https://ussbriefs.com – A website built and populated with content by UCU members volunteering their time and expertise to keep the rest of us informed.

If you have any questions please email ucu@london.ac.uk.

All my best,

Tim Hall
UCU Senate House Branch Chair

 

UCU members vote to accept employers’ latest pensions offer — April 15, 2018

UCU members vote to accept employers’ latest pensions offer

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted to accept Universities UK’s (UUK) offer, which establishes a joint expert panel to evaluate the pensions provided by the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).

This decision puts all currently planned strike action – including that scheduled for next week – on hold. As the IWGB position was to support national UCU industrial action, this means its members are now standing down as well.

Nearly two thirds of eligible UCU members (33,973) took part in the consultation, with 64 per cent (21,683) voting to accept the offer from Universities UK, and 12,230 voting to reject it.

Writing to members following the vote, UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt said that, “In line with the decision of members the union will suspend its immediate industrial action plans but keep our legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.

“For the avoidance of doubt, all currently planned industrial action – including that scheduled for next week – is suspended and members should work normally.”

Strike action that began in February, centred on UUK’s plans to overhaul the USS, which has 400,000 members at 67 universities and colleges and 300 specialist institutions such as the Royal Society and Cancer Research UK. The first UUK offer to end the strike in March was unanimously rejected by UCU.

Industrial action took place at 65 universities across the UK, with a loss of some 14 days of teaching. There were fears that further action would disrupt final examinations and prevent students on some courses from graduating.

“Now we have agreement to move forward jointly, looking again at the USS valuation alongside a commitment from the employers to a guaranteed, defined benefit scheme,’ explains Sally Hunt.

“We hope this important agreement will hearten workers across the UK fighting to defend their pension rights and was won through the amazing strike action of UCU members.”

 

 

USS pensions update: new proposal sent to UCU members — March 27, 2018
Pensions meeting update and breaking news — March 22, 2018

Pensions meeting update and breaking news

The 22 March all-staff meeting held by the University and College Union (UCU) at Senate House attracted nearly 40 people keen to receive an update on the current UK-wide universities pensions dispute.

It was led by Tim Hall, UCU’s Senate House branch chair, who provided a summary of events to date including a day-by-day picket report. He also recognised the ongoing support from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), and confirmed there will be a further 14 days of strike action starting in late May or early June. Continue reading

Pensions – what happens next? — March 18, 2018

Pensions – what happens next?

demob
Some IWGB members a little demob happy on the last day…

This is just a quick summary of the position following the end of the first wave of strikes.

What did the strikes achieve?

It’s important to remember that before the strike action began, we were told that not only were these massive cuts to our pensions inevitable, but that no further negotiations would take place. Defined benefit was dead.

That position has been completely overturned – the employers (via Universities UK) have been forced to return to talks, and to make an offer which retained a defined benefit component.

Furthermore, rather than turning against staff, students have been totally supportive, taking part in demos, pickets, marches and occupations which have hugely helpful in the the campaign.

dad
Friday was also bring your dad to the picket day…

Role of IWGB members

Your contribution at Senate House has been absolutely crucial – many IWGB members refused to cross the picket line for 14 days and instead stood along their UCU colleagues. Many more took action on some of these days. This included members who are not in USS, acting in solidarity with their colleagues and in recognition that SAUL will be next! Everyone has done what they can – it’s been a really heartwarming experience to be part of the strike and we want to thank everyone who has taken part.

It’s also been a pleasure to support the revitalised Senate House UCU branch – check out their blog here for some really insightful write-ups.

Why was the offer rejected?

This offer would still have left us far worse off – contributions would have risen, the protection against inflation would have been reduced, accruals would be 1/85 rather than 1/75, the ceiling for DB would have fallen to £42K and the direction of travel would have been towards getting rid of DB next time around.

The fact that the deal also seemed to commit staff to rescheduling lectures didn’t go down well either…

However, in addition to this during the strikes something important had happened – staff had started researching the overall pension position, and it had become clear that it was not a question of negotiating over how to plug the deficit, but rather demonstrating that the very idea of a deficit was down to the extremely flawed November 2017 valuation of USS.

It was therefore pointless to start from these false premises – instead, we needed to return to the September 2017 valuation, which showed the scheme to be perfectly healthy, and would save both employers and employees money!

The strike has also thrown up a whole host of questions as too how our universities are run, the excessive role of marketisation, the absurd administrative burdens placed on frontline staff by unaccountable senior management and a general feeling that an entire change of ethos is required.

What will happen next?

UCU have called for 14 more days of strike action in April and May, to be chosen at a local level. As soon as we have those dates we will let you know more – again, your participation will be crucial!

In the meantime, talks between UCU and UUK are likely to resume, and in addition discussions are going on over a new ‘independent’ valuation of USS – we’ll try and keep you posted!

At the same time various actions short of a strike are being carried out, including the resignation of external examiners – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-2elwhGtmSZJI-WA2iIlZr_dmodeiiNMV4pDXrbKhxw/edit

Oh – and thanks to pressure from Senate House UCU strike deductions will now be made over 4 months! If you have any questions about this OR have any issues with HR or management please email dannymillum@iwgb.org.uk!

Further reading

http://www.notesfrombelow.org/article/after-first-wave-strikes-how-can-we-win

https://ucu.london.ac.uk/2018/03/16/a-note-of-thanks/

https://www.jasonhickel.org/blog/2018/3/15/this-isnt-just-about-pensions-anymore-theres-a-revolution-afoot

https://narrativeofastrike.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/narrative-of-a-strike

Twitter hashtags: #ussstrike #ussstrikes #ucustrike #NoCapitulation