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

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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:

What do Goldsmiths security officers want most? To be treated fairly and with dignity and respect — February 13, 2019

What do Goldsmiths security officers want most? To be treated fairly and with dignity and respect

Security officers at Goldsmiths, University of London are tired of their second-class treatment. As outsourced workers managed by CIS, they do not enjoy equal treatment and the same terms and conditions as the university colleagues they protect and defend every day.

They want to be treated with dignity and respect, and are taking action over inadequate holiday pay, sick pay and derisory pensions by launching a campaign to be brought back in house immediately. As part of this campaign, they are holding a protest on Valentine’s Day at Goldsmiths HQ, 8 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW, 12–2.30pm.

So, come on Goldsmiths; do not continue to keep these men and women who serve you loyally at arms-length. Why don’t you just  Listen to what your security officers and students have to say.

You pride yourself on being a ‘close-knit community’ with a ‘special commitment to our local communities within south-east London’. Don’t you think it is time to end your dirty affair with CIS and show some love for your security officers?

26 February – Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court! — January 30, 2019

26 February – Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court!

On 26 Feb our Joint Employer case against the University of London comes to court! If we win it will not just be the outsourced workers at the University that benefit, but the 3.3m outsourced workers across the U.K. currently denied the opportunity to bargain directly with the employer that really determines their terms and conditions. So it’s a biggie!

To mark the day we are teaming up with a bunch of other unions to march against outsourcing – please make sure to join us!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1032313910310117/

 

IWGB launches in-house campaign for security guards at Goldsmiths — January 15, 2019

IWGB launches in-house campaign for security guards at Goldsmiths

Outsourced security guards at Goldsmiths, University of London have won the backing of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has today launched its campaign to bring them in-house with a letter to the university setting out its demands and next steps.

Dear Patrick Loughrey

I am writing to you in my capacity as President of the Independent Workers’ Union of GreatBritain (IWGB) on behalf of the security guards who are currently outsourced to CIS Limited at Goldsmiths University.

As you are aware, these outsourced workers have far inferior terms and conditions in comparison to directly employed members of staff at Goldsmiths, being treated as second class workers despite providing a vital and important job to without which the University could not function. The only way to end this injustice is to bring these outsourced staff back in house so that they benefit from the same payroll and HR departments, the same maternity and paternity pay, the same pensions, sick pay, and holidays, and the same standards of management as in-house employees.

This type of security, decency, and fairness will not be found by using the incompetent contractors you routinely use. We therefore call on Goldsmiths to take immediate action and bring the security guards in house by no later than 1 February 2019. If the workers are not brought in house by this date, the workers at Goldsmiths are prepared to wage a high profile “Goldsmiths Back In House Campaign”. These workers will have the full support ofthe IWGB in this campaign.

We of course remain open to dialogue and negotiations on these matters. However, given past examples where institutions like Goldsmiths have chosen the masochistic path todefeat by ignoring the workers’ demands until they had exerted enough public pressure toforce them into humiliating backpedaling and concessions, we can only assume you will do the same. So let me take this opportunity to be perfectly clear about what will follow should you choose to ignore these reasonable demands:

  • We will build support for the campaign among other trade unions, politicians, NGO’s and other organisations. Indeed you can expect public letters from a number of them right after the given deadline calling on you to accept the workers’ demands.
  • We will publicise on social media the ills of outsourcing and the stories of the workers who suffer the consequences of insufficient holiday, sick pay, paternity and maternity pay.
  • We will make and distribute videos where workers and supporters articulate the exploitation of being outsourced at Goldsmiths University.
  • We will be contacting the press to tell them about the two tier workforce at Goldsmiths University, where predominantly BAME migrant workers are on one set of terms and conditions and work without the respect of the University, and another set of predominantly white British workers operate in the same building but a different world.
  • We will be holding loud and disruptive protests. Indeed the first one will be scheduledright after the given deadline if we don’t have a positive response, which should see a few hundred people outside Goldsmiths.
  • The outsourced workers are ready to go on strike over their various demands if needed.
  • We will be flyering Goldsmiths University events to inform the public of the University’s exploitative practices.
  • Write to Goldsmiths donors and famous alumni to inform them of the exploitative working conditions of outsourced workers at the university and highlight the fact that the people who keep the university secure are exploited and treated like second class workers.

You and your colleagues may or may not be familiar with the IWGB and the campaigns this union has waged and is currently waging. However lest you have any doubts about the union’s track record on waging and winning campaigns, it might be worth your while to peruse the union’s website, the current campaign at the University of London at Senate House, including the current boycott, and the history and press coverage of the 3 Cosas Campaign at the University of London (http://3cosascampaign.wordpress.com/press- reports/).

In closing, I would advise that Goldsmiths not question the determination of the IWGB to achieve justice in this matter. There is nothing that the union treats with more seriousness and urgency than achieving improved wages, terms, and conditions for its members.

The workers at Goldsmiths University and the IWGB more generally look forward to receiving your response.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Kind regards,

Henry Chango Lopez
President
IWGB