Greenwich Security Officers Demand In-House from GoBo — November 23, 2020

Greenwich Security Officers Demand In-House from GoBo

Today IWGB Universities of London Branch Secretary Charlotte Powell sent two letters to every member of the University of Greenwich Governing Body on behalf of security officers ahead of their meeting on Tuesday 24 November to demand outsourced staff are brought in-house:


Dear all,

This email contains two letters, and I ask you all to read them both. Below is a collective letter from your security officers at Greenwich which I am passing on to you. Attached to this email is a letter from myself, as an elected trade union representative of your workers, detailing the practical case for bringing your outsourced staff in-house.

As your contract with Sodexo has a break clause in January, and we are preparing for industrial action should the university not agree to bring staff in-house, I urge you to make use of tomorrow’s meeting to discuss this urgent matter. I apologise for only sending this to you with only 1 day’s notice. However, we were only made aware of your meeting today.

To Ms Bronwyn Hill, as chair: I ask you to ensure that these items are discussed in the meeting tomorrow.

Kind regards,
Charlotte Powell

Letter from security officers at Greenwich to the members of the Governing Body:

Dear members of the University Governing Body,

We – the security officers at the University of Greenwich – urge you to listen to us in our demand to be taken In-House under the direct management of the University of Greenwich and to stop us being subcontracted to Sodexo by January 2021.

These are exceptional times and we are essential frontline workers that enable the University to remain open and to be safe. Moreover, recent figures have shown that as security guards we are some of the workers most at risk of dying of Covid-19. Recently the university has praised us as “heroes” for our work, but for too long we have not been treated as such.

We are very proud to work for the University of Greenwich, but like the other facilities staff, such as cleaners and porters, we are very unhappy with the outsourcing arrangement. It seems to us that Sodexo’s treatment of us is not in line with the University’s values: bullying and intimidatory treatment by Sodexo is frequent and they are rarely held accountable for it. Moreover, we have worse pay, pensions and parental leave entitlement than directly-employed staff.

We also do not understand why we were not paid a bonus for coming into work during the lockdown and for our hard work keeping the University safe throughout the pandemic (and taking on a lot of extra tasks to ensure health and safety). Other workers, such as the porters were given a £300 bonus, and we believe we deserve a bonus too.

Outsourcing is an inherently discriminatory, two-tier system where we are treated worse than direct employees for no good reason. Only bringing us in-house will right this wrong.

While the University is calling us heroes, we would like to kindly ask you to also follow these words with actions by treating us with the respect and dignity we deserve.

We therefore urge you to read the brief from our elected union branch secretary in which we lay out the reasons why everyone would benefit from the solution of bringing our services back in house by January 2021. We stand firm and united in our demands: please show us respect by including us in the University of Greenwich workforce and ending this practice of outsourcing.

We sign this letter as elected representatives of the security guards at the University of Greenwich:

Abdullah Kizito

Shereefdeen Johnson

Kingsley Osadolor

Redon Ceka

Olufemi Ojo

Abiodun Willhelm


Letter to Governing Body members from Charlotte Powell:

Dear members of the University Governing Body,


As you are aware, the outsourced workers at the University of Greenwich together with their trade union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), are campaigning to be brought in-house. At a time when your outsourced security officers are being celebrated as ‘heroes’ and have the highest coronavirus death toll of any UK profession, it is important that you act urgently and listen to their demands.


You might also be aware that there is a break clause in the contract the University of Greenwich has with Sodexo which allows the University to end the contract by January 2021. Contracts can furthermore be broken in special or exceptional circumstances (such as a pandemic).


It is therefore an urgent matter and golden opportunity to break the contract with Sodexo by January 2021. And we therefore request you to discuss this at your meeting tomorrow.

Several universities in London have already decided to bring their facility services back in-house. The University of Greenwich has an excellent in-house estates and facilities team as well as HR team. As such the University of Greenwich has the capacity to bring the service in-house by January. Due to the TUPE regulations everything would stay in place and if the University is still doubtful about the transition it can task consultants who specialise on these issues to manage the transition. In short, it has been done elsewhere and it can be done at the University of Greenwich by January 2021.


In this brief, we outline the reasons for in-housing the facility services in January in more detail. These are the points covered:

  1. The insourcing of services will either be cost neutral or most likely save money for the University of Greenwich.
  2. There is a trend towards insourcing in London’s Universities.
  3. The costs of campaigns and industrial action that not only harm the reputation of the University of Greenwich but also might harm the University financially can be avoided.

Insourcing is cost neutral or saves money:
As universities must pay VAT, the University of Greenwich would be eligible for the UK government’s full refund model, Section 41, which means that by insourcing these services the universities would save the cost of VAT. The facility contract with Sodexo is worth £105 million without VAT for a 5 year period. This means that the VAT for this is £21m for a five year period – a significant cost which can be saved if the service is in-sourced.


Several reports have reached the conclusion that insourcing of facility services would indeed be cheaper than outsourcing the service. In the 2016 report that SOAS commissioned from APSE, the following recommendation was made:
“The Mott MacDonald report was commissioned by SOAS Outsourced Contracts Working Group ‘partly as a result of pressure from Justice for Cleaners Group in 2013.’ In the report it is stated that ‘SOAS has asked APSE about the costing for in-house Integrated Facilities Management, which was already analysed as part of the Mott MacDonald Report in 2013; the in-house option was reported to be the lowest cost at that time.”


Reviewing the earlier Mott MacDonald report the APSE 2016 report finds that insourcing the services at SOAS should “achieve a cost neutral position”.


The cost neutral or cost saving impact of insourcing has been further evidenced by the Association for Public Service Excellence’ s 2019 report titled ‘Rebuilding Capacity: the case for insourcing public contracts’. This report also outlines exactly how insourcing can be done.


The trend towards insourcing facility services in London’s universities:
Insourcing has been successfully implemented at a number of universities and institutions.

  • The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) insourced its cleaning services in Spring 2018.
  • The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) stopped outsourcing its core support services, namely cleaning; catering; conferencing and events hospitality; portering; security; mechanical and electrical services; post room; helpdesk and reception teams – to private contractors from September 2018 onwards. The insourced workers were guaranteed equal pay and conditions to the existing inhouse SOAS employees, including sick pay, pensions and holiday entitlement. When announcing this decision SOAS stated that putting the ‘whole workforce on same terms and conditions reflects our [SOAS] values of social justice and equality’.
  • King’s College London brought its cleaning and security services inhouse in 2019. When announcing the decision to insource cleaning and security services King’s College referred to its moral obligation to do so and stated that ‘bringing the people who deliver these vital services onto our payroll and properly into the King’s community is the right thing to do’.
  • Goldsmiths, University of London brought its security services in-house this year in February 2020, following the insourcing of its cleaning service in May 2019.
  • Birkbeck brought its cleaning staff in-house at the beginning of 2020.
  • This month, November 2020, the University of London brought its cleaners in-house, having previously in-housed security officers, porters & receptionists.

The costs of campaigns and industrial action:
In-housing campaigns can harm the reputation of universities and cost the university money, so it is best to avoid them. Last year, at the University of Greenwich the café workers went on strike, which received national press coverage. In 2018, the University of London received public criticism for spending £415,000 on additional security during protests in support of outsourced workers. By the end of the dispute, it is estimated the University of London spent well over £1,000,000 on additional security measures.


In the last two weeks there has already been growing social media coverage around the institutional discrimination security guards at the University of Greenwich face and the security guards have now announced that they plan to ballot for strike action over in-house.

On a related note, for extra clarification on the point of institutional inequality: Outsourcing is systematic indirect racial discrimination as the outsourced workforce (majority BAME) is denied the better working conditions of in-house staff (majority White, as you know currently only 34.5% employees of UoG are BAME).


In all the insourcing examples stated in section 2, vibrant campaigns by workers and students have preceded the decision to insource these vital services. Such campaigns can cause reputational and financial damages.


For example the 2016 report that SOAS commissioned from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), a not-for-profit local government body which specialises in local authority front line services. APSE carried out an independent review of the SOAS facility management and found that:
‘the campaign has taken up a significant amount of time on all sides in recent years and has affected income in relation to the recent student occupation in November 2015. This is estimated to have cost the University £64,600 in terms of loss of conferencing and catering income and costs of relocating customers to external venues.’


By making the just and right decision to insource these vital services the University of Greenwich can avoid the risk that campaigns and industrial actions would negatively impact on the University’s image and potentially cause significant extra costs for the university. To avoid the dispute would be in everyone’s best interest.


The security officers and their union the IWGB would be happy to meet with representatives of the UoG Governing Body to discuss these matters further.


We wish to make it extremely clear at this point that should you not agree to our extremely reasonable request for outsourced staff to be brought in-house, then we will proceed towards a campaign and industrial action.
Yours sincerely,

Charlotte Powell
Secretary, IWGB Universities of London

Response to the Vice Chancellor: The truth about treatment of security officers at University of Greenwich — November 13, 2020

Response to the Vice Chancellor: The truth about treatment of security officers at University of Greenwich

A letter from IWGB UoL Secretary, Charlotte Powell, to staff and students at University of Greenwich:

You may have read already about the situation of security officers at the University of Greenwich and our campaign against intimidation and discrimination.

Yesterday University of Greenwich Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington published a statement in response to our campaign which is factually wrong on several points and wilfully misleading on others.

I would like to set the record straight on these points, and clarify the concerns and demands of the security officers, so that together we can push to ensure fair treatment of all workers at the University of Greenwich.

To quote the Vice-Chancellor’s statement:

“We are committed to challenging racism and discrimination as a university and we hold all our contractors to the same standard.”

At the IWGB we welcome all public commitments by employers to challenge racism and discrimination, but having contacted Jane directly with our concerns on four occasions we received only copy & pasted replies from others on her behalf. We have yet to see any evidence that University management has followed through on a commitment even to investigate racism and discrimination in Sodexo, let alone challenge it. As for the standard to which they are holding contractors, it seems to be a standard of the lowest common denominator, in which University management abnegates responsibility while allowing Sodexo managers to treat workers however they like.

“There is wilful misrepresentation and misinformation circulating about the actions the university has taken, and my personal beliefs, so let me be clear: there is no evidence of discrimination in the way Sodexo have paid their staff.

They have confirmed that recent payments have been made solely on the basis of hours worked during the pandemic.  There is no evidence that any payments have been made based on ethnicity.

This is wrong, as I will demonstrate. Moreover it is deeply concerning that, when Black and Brown workers at the university have raised, in good faith, the concern that they believe they have been discriminated against, the Vice-Chancellor should respond in essence by saying “prove it.” We have presented our case publicly, after being ignored when raising this directly, the management must take this seriously and transparently demonstrate any evidence to the contrary.

While the security officers were celebrated as ‘heroes’ for coming in during lockdown and for now ensuring that the University is safe during the pandemic by taking on extra tasks (eg checking that people do not go in without masks and the frequent opening of windows to ensure good air ventilation) they have not been rewarded with Sodexo’s bonus scheme, while other workers, such as the porters, have. The security officers who have been coming in during lockdown deserve a bonus too. 

The fact that the porters, who are all White British, have been paid while the security officers , the vast majority of whom are BAME, have not is deeply concerning and potentially discriminatory. The fact that the University has refused to clarify the rationale for these decisions by its subcontractor when asked on multiple occasions by myself and other representatives of the workers from the IWGB union also raises serious concerns about their commitment to racial equality in the workplace.

Jane states that the rationale for paying the bonus payment to porters was “solely on the basis of hours worked during the pandemic.” However, this is contrary to what the porters were told: that it was a payment for coming in during lockdown; there was never any mention of hours. Moreover, many security officers worked similar hours during the pandemic to porters who received the bonus. We have therefore urged the University to ensure all the outsourced staff who worked during the pandemic receive this bonus and to investigate and provide staff with a breakdown of who has received this bonus so far by race and ethnicity.


It’s best to hear this from the workers themselves. Watch this video and read what Abi, a Nigerian security officer has to say:

“I have been working at the University of Greenwich for almost 14 years. During this pandemic period, my life has been placed on the line notwithstanding my health conditions to keep staff and students safe. Nonetheless, the University has denied our requests to give us majority BAME security staff hazard pay for the risks we undertake. Meanwhile, other staff that are LARGELY WHITE BRITISH have been given bonuses for working during the pandemic. Still, we are referred to as “heroes” but we are being used in an expendable manner. When we ask questions or speak out, then intimidation and victimisation tactics are employed against us. We therefore ask to be given the bonus and brought IN-HOUSE for fair treatment and to end racist treatment of us. In these critical times, we protect you and the community at large. We ask you to protect us as well and treat us as the “heroes” that you call us.”

Watch this video and read what Clive, a white British porter, has to say. He too has worked for the University of Greenwich for a long time, over 15 years:

“I am a porter currently working at Greenwich university on the Greenwich maritime site. While working through the lockdown from the 23rd of march I was working for Interserve until the 18th of May. For the first two weeks of starting with Sodexo on the 18th may I worked random days approximately 2 days per week on random hours with no fixed hours. After that I was in on a full time basis up to the present and at no stage was I furloughed in this period at all. As regards the £300 I received, I was called by the office and told by my manager that I would receive a £300 pound payment for coming in all through covid and I was being  rewarded for my hard work and I received this payment approximately a month later.”

You can watch more videos from other security officers here.

In her statement, Jane goes on to write, “there is no evidence of discrimination in the way [Sodexo] are managing allegations of a serious incident involving one of their security officers and one of our students.  

This has been subject to a thorough investigation that will shortly conclude. I appreciate that this has taken time, but it is right and fair that such issues are properly looked into, for everyone involved.”

Kingsley, one of the security officers, is facing an extremely harsh disciplinary procedure, following a complaint from a student after he tried to physically prevent them from entering the library without a mask. Kingsley maintains he was following the policies given to him, but wishes to apologise for any offence or hurt caused to the student. Kingsley has a clear record and is a dedicated member of the UoG staff. Nonetheless, it appears Sodexo is eager to dismiss him and are acting unreasonably harshly towards him. It seems that they are acting so harshly in order to undermine the collective organising of the security staff more widely. This comes in the context of several smaller incidents that point towards trade union victimisation of active union members by Sodexo. 

Given the lack of training provided, the unclear guidance and the amount of pressure that was put on the officers that no student should enter the University without face masks, it is totally disproportionate to dismiss him over this matter. 

The “thorough investigation” to which Jane refers is one in which Sodexo has refused to provide key evidence repeatedly requested by Kingsley’s trade union representative in advance of his disciplinary hearing. This is a highly concerning breach of Kingsley’s rights and brings the legitimacy of the entire disciplinary process into question.

The University is responsible for its subcontractors. It is therefore the university’s responsibility to ensure a fair disciplinary process and prevent him being dismissed purely for Sodexo managers’ ulterior motive of undermining trade union organising. The Vice-Chancellor’s statement yesterday suggests she has full confidence in the actions of Sodexo. If she maintains this position and refuses to intervene in this injustice, then Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington is enabling trade union victimisation and intimidation.

Jane continues:

“Our contract with Sodexo has enabled us to ensure that contracted staff are paid the Real Living Wage and will provide enhanced training and employment opportunities for our students.”

It is disingenuous to imply that outsourcing key workers to a multinational corporation “enables” the university to pay the Real Living Wage, when this wage was only introduced to the outsourced workers after the cafe workers’ strike at the University of Greenwich in autumn 2019. Even after the victory of that strike forced a renegotiation of the contract with the university’s subcontractor, the wages outsourced staff are paid are lower than the wages these workers could expect elsewhere, for instance security staff at University College London are paid up to £15 per hour dependent on their length of service. These staff deserve better than to be told the University’s contract with Sodexo is something they should value. 

“We will not shy away from difficult discussions or from challenging discrimination of any kind. This willingness to celebrate our strengths and to face and explore our own weaknesses should not be mistaken for privilege or complacency and neither will we be moved from our course by those who wish to undermine our commitment to this work.”

Factual inaccuracies and wilful misrepresentations aside, this conclusion is the most insulting and egregious part of the entire statement. The implication is that the “course” the university is following in “challenging discrimination” is being “undermined” by the campaign of Greenwich’s security officers. Simply put, these Black and Brown workers who are concerned that they are being discriminated against, intimidated, and disrespected are the problem. Their campaign, which has escalated in the face of a deafening silence from university management, is undermining the university’s work on diversity and challenging discrimination. The University management are suggesting that the university’s BAME workers speaking out about their concerns of discrimination is undermining the university’s anti-racist work.

Frankly I can’t believe that Jane felt able to say this on public record, and I urge her to apologise promptly and publicly to the security officers for making such a remark. 

These are the issues at hand over which the security officers have taken the decision to take strike action: the uneven allocation of bonuses, the attack on Kingsley, and their conditions as outsourced workers.

The security officers want to be brought in-house. We welcome the Vice-Chancellor’s clear words on challenging racism and discrimination at the Univeristy of Greenwich and believe that, by bringing the outsourced workers (security officers, porters, cleaners, cafe workers and others) in-house, the University of Greenwich can make good on those words. 

Outsourcing is indirect discrimination. It systematically denies a group of workers that is, in the large majority, BAME from enjoying the better terms and conditions of in-house staff that is, in the large majority, White. The Vice-Chancellor can break the contract with Sodexo, which has a break clause in January, it is time now that she commits to challenging discrimination and to breaking the contract.

The security officers therefore demand:

  1. that Kingsley’s suspension is lifted and that he returns to work 
  2. that all security officers that worked during the spring lockdown receive a bonus 
  3. that the university breaks the contract with Sodexo by January and brings all outsourced workers in-house

What you can do:

  1. speak out on behalf of Kingsley, 
  2. speak out to support bonus payments to our essential workers
  3. donate to the IWGB union Universities of London branch to support their campaign and their strike preparations

To stay informed follow us on twitter @IWGBUoL

Kind regards,


Charlotte Powell

Secretary

IWGB Universities of London Branch

IWGB ‘Housewarming party’ for UoL’s new Vice Chancellor – Friday 12 July 5pm — July 5, 2019

IWGB ‘Housewarming party’ for UoL’s new Vice Chancellor – Friday 12 July 5pm

The new Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Wendy Norman,has now taken office, and exploited outsourced workers are organising a welcome party for Friday 12 July at 5pm.

Workers will be writing to Wendy to request a meeting, and we are hopeful that the new VC will mark a break with the disastrous and discriminatory policies of the past, and that this party will be a celebratory one!

To give the VC a warm welcome on behalf of all the exploited outsourced workers of UoL, join us and demonstrate outside Senate House on Malet St. We’ll be demanding the University of London ends discrimination, takes direct responsibility for the employment and working conditions of outsourced workers and brings them in-house now!

Issues relating to the current TUPE transfer – letter from our branch secretary to the University — May 28, 2019

Issues relating to the current TUPE transfer – letter from our branch secretary to the University

Dear Professor Kopelman

I hope this email finds you well.

I am writing to you in order to raise a number of issues related to the recent TUPE transfer of front of house staff from Cordant Security to the University of London. I believe the issues raised below expose the incompetence of outsourced companies but also the lack of willingness of the University of London to commit to a genuine and honest in-house process.

It needs to be clarified to begin with that 90% of the outsourced workers remain employed by external contractors. Despite the fact that the university has maintained that it is ‘committed to the principle of in-sourcing’, it still refuses to make a clear statement committing to transferring the remaining staff into its employment. Understandably, this gives no reassurance to those left out of scope of the transfer.

With regard to the TUPE transfer itself, both Cordant and the University of London have failed to provide the workers affected by the TUPE with clear information on the methodology and criteria applied to define the scope. Instead, the whole process has been characterised by misinformation, incompetence and opacity.

Serious doubts over the information provided by Cordant relating to the transfer were initially triggered by the fact that our President Henry Chango Lopez received a letter informing him of his transfer into the university. This despite the fact that his employment with Cordant had terminated more than a year ago!

Another of our members, a receptionist at IALS, was originally excluded from the process and deemed out of scope by Cordant. She was only reinstated when the IWGB raised a grievance on her behalf.

Another IALS member, who has worked as a receptionist for more than seven years, and who was informed a month ago that her employment was going to be transferred into the University was told the day she went to collect her University of London uniform  that she was considered out of scope and that she would remain outsourced. This case has now been taken to ACAS by the IWGB.

Two further Senate House night receptionists were originally given letters telling them they would be transferred to the University – only to be told casually in person a month later that they were being excluded. They too have now lodged grievances via the IWGB.

I would also like to highlight that despite the University affirming that all ‘front of house’ services would be brought in house, many officers whose EXCLUSIVE duty is to cover reception in the academic buildings remain outsourced and employed by Cordant.

This has led to the ludicrous position that reception positions (for instance in Senate House and Stewart House) which have not been filled by an outsourced member of staff TUPE-ing, and which cannot now be filled by Cordant Security (as they are no longer responsible for reception duties) are instead being advertised via CoSector, as are positions for a porter and a postroom operative.

In addition, these are being advertised as zero-hours posts with sub-London Living Wage pay – in total breach of the University’s commitments on both these issues.

Cordant Security have also failed in their statutory responsibilities in relation to the TUPE re the scheduling of appeals and hearing of grievances. More than 15 affected Cordant Security employees, who have been excluded from the TUPE, have submitted individual appeals more than a month ago and a half ago against their unfair and unjustified exclusion from the transfer. All of them are still awaiting a response from your contractor. Furthermore a number of requests sent to your institution asking for the methodology used to define the scope of the TUPE  have received no answer.

The statutory rights of our members to choose their own trade union representation have also been repeatedly breached.  Despite the fact that both Cordant and the University of London are well aware that a vast majority of outsourced workers belong to the IWGB they have still decided to nominate Unison as employee representatives instead of allowing workers to choose or elect their own.

In addition, during the 121 consultation meetings which have been taking place as part of the TUPE, we would highlight that it has been customary practice at the University of London for outsourced staff attending such meetings to bring a representative of their choice. The UoL IWGB branch secretary has attended those meetings before during previous TUPE transfers. Despite this, our trade union representatives have been informed in writing that they would not be allowed to attend our meetings and were physically prevented from doing so by an agency security officer hired by your institution specifically for that purpose. This occurred even though the letters received by our members informed them of their right to bring a colleague or trade union representative.

Several of our members who have been considered to be in scope and have been brought in house have also informed me that the University of London has provided all of them with a template contract that did not reflect the individual terms and conditions. This is consequence not only of the absence of a genuine consultation process but also to the exclusion of their trade union representatives,  who should have been there to ensure that the information provided by the contractor was correct .

Due to all this more than 40 security officers have raised a grievance in relation to the lack of definition of the scope, the violation of the right to trade union representation and the unfair exclusion of the vast majority of the workforce from the transfer.

In conclusion, it seems clear that the root cause of these issues is the decision to split the Cordant Security contract and exclude the majority of workers from the in-house process. The result of this is:

1.       Cordant have been left to make the decision on who was or was not in scope, when it was in their interest to exclude as many employees as possible. The more employees who remain with Cordant, the larger their profit on the contract.

2.       Services have been split in a way that is not operationally viable – receptionists, the bench team, relief officers and Halls reception staff all provide cover for each other and work across different sites and shifts. By only bringing in-house 13 receptionists the University now does not have enough resource to cover this service, and cannot now rely on the larger pool of staff.

3.       Staff who were previously colleagues have now been divided – with those arbitrarily left out of scope understandably extremely upset and now preparing legal challenges.

4.       Staff and their chosen representatives have not been properly consulted, with the result that the process has been far more stressful and problematic than necessary.

The resolution to all of these issues is straightforward – to act immediately to bring in house the remainder of the Cordant Security contract. We would be happy to work with you and the PFM team to ensure that this happens as smoothly as possibly, for the benefit of both staff and the University.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum

Branch Secretary, University of London IWGB

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.





A reasonable approach – IWGB offers negotiations on in-housing — April 3, 2019

A reasonable approach – IWGB offers negotiations on in-housing

Our branch secretary Danny wrote today to the VC and the heads of SAS:

Dear Peter

I am writing to you and to the SAS Directors with regard to the ongoing in-house campaign and boycott of Senate House

SAS have indicated to us and to the campaign on numerous occasions the extremely serious impact the boycott is having on the School, particularly if it continues into the long term.

The University meanwhile has reiterated that the wellbeing of the School is a top priority.

It would therefore make sense that if there were a course of action that could lead to the boycott being lifted the University should take it.

We want to make clear that this course of action is available – we are offering direct negotiations with the outsourced workers and their chosen union which could start immediately. Only through negotiation will we find a solution that will convince workers to call off the boycott. Once an agreement is reached, the boycott will be lifted.

If the University wishes to find a way to resolve this issue and has the interests of the School at heart, all it needs to do is accept this offer, which would cost it nothing.

We are looking forward to your response, and moving forward with a solution that will benefit everyone at the University in the long term.

Best wishes

Danny  

IWGB raises grave concerns with in-housing TUPE process —

IWGB raises grave concerns with in-housing TUPE process

The first phase of in-housing at the University of London has now begun.

After 18 months of campaigning by outsourced workers, around 10% of them are now scheduled to become direct employees of the UoL on 20 May 2019.

The group selected for inclusion consists of porters, postroom staff, AV technicians and receptionists.

Notwithstanding the fact that 90% of outsourced staff still have no guarantees as to their fate, even those who should have been included in this first phase have found this to be a confusing and stressful process.

Meetings have been scheduled at the last minute, with little information given and no allowance made for language issues.

Even more worrying, there has been no clarity as to who should and should not be included in the process, with many of those receptionists who should fall within the scope of the TUPE not having received letters of notification. The IWGB has already received 10 such complaints, and this far Cordant have not responded to any of the workers who have raised this.

The IWGB’s position is clear – any worker illegally left out will have our full support in challenging the process AND until the other 90% of affected workers are brought in-house the campaign will continue to escalate.

Hasta la victoria siempre!


UCL security officers detail “serious issues” relating to outsourcing contractor — March 11, 2019

UCL security officers detail “serious issues” relating to outsourcing contractor

Nearly 100 security officers working at University College London have signed an open letter to the University Council drawing its attention to extremely serious issues relating to Axis, the university’s outsourcing contractor.

Dear Professor Arthur,

We are writing as security officers currently employed by Axis on the University College London contract to bring to your attention and that of the wider UCL community the conditions, which those staff who keep your buildings and people safe currently endure.

The security contract was taken over by Axis on 1 November 2018, more than four months ago. We consider this to have been a probationary period, and one which they have unfortunately failed, as a result of their inability to resolve the following issues:

1. Loss of personal data

As part of the TUPE process when an employee moves over to a new company they are asked to supply a comprehensive schedule of data. This includes bank details, copy of passport, national insurance number, full name, addresses in the last 5 years and other biographical details.

Guards provided this information to Axis (in hard copy), only to be later contacted and asked to supply data that had already been provided. We estimate around 70% of the guards were asked to resupply data, including passports and bank details.

We believed that Axis had lost a quantity of the hard copy data we had given them, and this was confirmed in an email by an Axis manager in response to union enquiries. Despite this, Axis have subsequently denied losing the data and claimed that it had just not been sent in the first place by the guards.

Not only the loss of this data extremely serious, but the fact that Axis have chosen to blame officers and cover up the truth makes them unfit to hold this contract. The matter has now been referred to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

2. Loss of all holiday information

Despite Axis having had 3 months prior to the 1 November 2018 transfer to shadow the outgoing contractor (CIS), they made the astonishing revelation after the handover that they had not obtained any of the holiday records for the 200 or so officers who had TUPE’d from CIS.

Quite simply, this meant that they had no record of the holiday that had already been taken that year, and no way of knowing what their officers were entitled to. When this came to light, rather than take responsibility for the situation, they blamed CIS.

We believe that it is one of the basic requirements of an employer to be able to handle holiday issues, and would add that the failure to flag this up prior to handover casts grave doubts on the capability of the UCL facilities team tasked with overseeing the transfer.

3. Failure to pay holidays correctly, as well as other pay problems

As a consequence of the above, the payment of holidays to Axis staff has been utterly chaotic for the last 4 months. Issues regarding holidays and pay break down into a number of categories:

  • Paying guards at a rate lower than their usual hourly rate.
  • Holiday pay missing completely from pay.
  • Paying holiday at less than the 12 hours that they work in a shift.
  • Not recognizing the correct number of holidays a guard had remaining for the pay year.
  • Not recognizing when guards had been given permission to carry over holiday from the previous year by the previous security company.
  • Guards unable to book holiday on the company’s holiday system (Timegate).
  • Guards being placed for months on the wrong tax code, in some cases depriving them of thousands of pounds.

For December alone, the IWGB union reported more than 30 cases where errors had been made, and there were doubtless many more errors, which were not brought to their attention. That this should occur for one month is shameful. That four months after the contract was taken over by a company that boasted of their record of low payroll issues guards should continue to be underpaid on a regular basis is unacceptable.

Indeed, given the frequency of these payroll errors for a predominantly BAME outsourced workforce versus the virtually zero rate of error for mostly white in-house staff, this constitutes indirect discrimination.

It should be re-iterated that we (with cleaners and caterers) are the lowest paid staff in the University – one missed or reduced wage packet can lead to direct debits bouncing, mortgage payments failing and overdraft charges being incurred. It is a scandal that this has been allowed to occur with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders from UCL.

4. Failure to communicate

Since taking over the contract, the communication from Axis has been extremely poor. Some key examples of this are:

  • Failure to remedy mistakes. Despite the fact that they must have realised that they did not have the correct holiday information for any of their guards (see above) Axis made no effort to contact them. When the IWGB flagged this up, they then promised to send a letter to all staff to elicit the relevant missing information. No such letter was sent – and when challenged on this Axis first lied and claimed it had been, and then when confronted with the truth said they had email ‘some’ of their staff.
  • Lack of response. Axis managers often do not reply to or even acknowledge emails. Staff were constantly being told another manager is dealing with a problem, or that they need to talk to head office, who then passes them back to a site manager. Now they have one manager to deal with problems, but it took too long to appoint and communicate this to the guards.
  • Passing the blame. First of all they blamed CIS, the previous security company, saying that they had not supplied the information they were required to supply, or that it was just inaccurate. They seemed to suggest that the very guards who they were failing to pay properly were LYING about having supplied information to them and about the details of the holiday entitlement. They hinted that individual CIS managers, some of whom themselves were TUPE’d over to Axis, were taking actions designed to sabotage the handover. This is very subjective, but they seemed, at times, to suggest that UCL had not told them everything they should have been told before tendering for the contract.
  • Failure to honour promises. At and IWGB meeting on 9 January with Mark West and Lesley May we asked Mark and Lesley to request Axis send a written apology to each guard’s home address, as a first step in winning back the guard’s confidence in Axis. They promised this would happen. We assume Mark and Lesley relayed our request. A letter was sent, but it did not contain anything we believe could pass as an apology. Finally an email containing an apology was sent – on the 5 February, nearly a month later.

5. Failure to provide uniform

Despite the contract having been in place for more than 4 months, many security guards at UCL are still without proper uniforms. Some guards are still wearing CIS uniforms, while others have had to purchase their own garments have been issued with inappropriate items for their gender. This has been flagged up by guards on many occasions but without resolution.

6. Worst terms and conditions of security staff in the whole of Bloomsbury

The terms and conditions under which security at UCL work are a disgrace to the institution. Security are the lowest paid staff (along with cleaners and caterers) and work extremely long hours. We do not have work related pensions (only have the Statutory Enrolment Pensions).

Unlike outsourced security in other Bloomsbury universities, UCL guards receive only the statutory minimum 28 holidays (in-house staff get 41), and just 4 weeks company sick pay (in-house staff get 6 months full and 6 months half-pay). In addition many security guards (working 3 on 3 off etc) are only receiving 22 days holiday, not 28.

There are no additional payments for overtime, whether that be at weekends or nights.In addition, staff are forced to stand outside without relief for huge stretches of the day, and breaks are frequently missed or delayed.

While Axis have failed to resolve these issues, it is at least fair to say that many of them pre-date them. The issue here lies with the very nature of outsourcing itself, which is a cruel, inhuman and discriminatory way for a supposedly progressive institution like UCL to avoid its responsibilities to its most vital workers.

As a consequence, we would contend that although Axis are demonstrably unfit to run this contract, these problems would exist to a greater or lesser extent under any outsourcing company (under CIS payroll problems were rife, as was the rapid turnover of managerial staff which continues to hamper efforts to run a competent service).

UCL therefore does not just need to cancel this particular contract (re which, if the above evidence is not enough, the IWGB can provide copious detail on Axis’ failings and incompetence) but to end the process of contracting out entirely, and restore security to their rightful place as UCL employees, with the humane treatment and decent terms and conditions this implies.

We are calling on you too make this decision as soon as possible – before UCL’s reputation is permanently tarnished before the wider world and its security staff lose their patience entirely.

Best wishes,

Your security guards

Landmark outsourcing protest strikes a chord with the world’s media — February 27, 2019

Landmark outsourcing protest strikes a chord with the world’s media

Yesterday (26 February) hundreds of London’s outsourced workers, including cleaners, security and catering staff, walked out in the latest in a series of strikes over pay and conditions.

Coming together in a show of solidarity, they timed their protest to mark what the Guardian describes as a “landmark case on collective bargaining that could empower the UK’s 3.3 million outsourced workers to negotiate directly with their de-facto employers – the companies buying the outsourced services – as well as their direct employers.”

Starting from Senate House, home to the University of London’s administrative offices, members of unions including the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), United Voices of the World (UVW), and PCS, marched through central London. University of London students and the RMT union’s London Regional Council supported them.

Each group of workers had their own particular grievances, but what they all had in common was the desire to end the “discrimination between those who count and those who don’t count at all,” as eloquently voiced by IWGB member, Emma Margarita Cunalata.

Speaking in front of Winston Churchill’s statue opposite the Houses of Parliament she said, “We have the right to earn money, and to the profits that are taken from us. We have the right to a better life.”

Their employers might have chosen to turn a deaf ear to their pleas to clean up outsourcing, but the UK’s media organisations were listening.

More than 15 national and regional publications such as the Financial Times, the Press and Journal, The Times and the iNews, covered the walkout.

Others include: