One university should mean one workforce: it is time to end discrimination at UoL — August 15, 2018

One university should mean one workforce: it is time to end discrimination at UoL

Despite the wishes of the majority of its staff, the biggest strikes by outsourced workers in higher education history, support from high-profile politicians, and £700,000 wasted on extra security, the University of London (UoL) refuses to commit to ending its discriminatory two-tier workforce.

Not even the acres of negative press nor the heartfelt pleas from outsourced staff, the majority of who are from BME backgrounds, have managed to make a chink in the armour of the university’s senior management team.

Incidentally, 80 per cent of the institution’s directly employed staff are white. And guess what? Unlike their outsourced BME colleagues, they have enviable pension arrangements and holiday entitlements, are entitled to sick pay and good maternity and paternity pay. Moreover, the university’s ‘dignity at work’ policy ensures they are treated with respect.

All of this point to institutionalised discrimination, and it is a disgrace.

Please email the university’s new vice-chancellor, Peter Kopelman (vice-chancellor@london.ac.uk) and ask him to end discrimination at UoL and bring workers in-house by June 2019.

 

 

 

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Help us end discrimination against workers and #CleanUpOutsourcing — August 7, 2018

Help us end discrimination against workers and #CleanUpOutsourcing

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has launched a legal challenge that could help end discrimination against the ‘invisible’ outsourced workforce that ensures that our offices, schools and universities run smoothly day after day. They include those who work in cleaning, security, receptions, catering and maintenance.

Last year the IWGB started a legal challenge over the rights of 75 outsourced workers at the University of London (UoL) who are employed through Cordant, the facilities management company. The union believes the university is the de-factor employer with ultimate decision-making power over the workers’ terms and conditions. Therefore, they should be able to collectively bargain directly with UoL, but this has been denied putting the university, says the union, in breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees trade union rights.

If successful, the case, which has been given permission to be heard in the High Court, would change the lives of the 75 workers at the University of London and some 3.3 million other outsourced employees.

But the establishment is closing ranks to try and stop it. The Tory government has decided to join the University of London in resisting our challenge and will be arguing that the European Convention of Human Rights cannot be interpreted in a way that extends these workers’ rights.

Outsourced workers, the majority of whom are migrants and BAME, tend to suffer from far worse terms and conditions because they are not employed directly by the place where they work, but by third party facilities management companies.

As the Guardian columnist and economics commentator, Aditya Chakrabortty, points out “Outsourcing breeds economic apartheid, in which workers who are nearly all from ethnic minorities, including cleaners who are almost without exception women, are exploited in a way that would never happen to the mostly white academics and managers whose employment contracts are with the university.”

Despite the establishment’s attempt to stop us from taking on the anachronistic and exploitative practice of outsourcing we are determined to fight until the end. Our fantastic legal team of solicitors from Harrison Grant, and renowned barristers John Hendy QC and Sarah Fraser Butlin, will robustly challenge the university and the government.

Unfortunately, the court has denied the IWGB cost protection. This means that if the union loses it could be forced to pay the legal costs of the university, Cordant and the government. The final bill could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, but we are setting up an initial target for the crowdfund of £10,000.

Thankfully, we are not alone. The Good Law Project, aware of the importance of this case, has decided to back it with an initial donation of £5,000. Please Join them and help us #CleanUpOutsourcing by pledging whatever amount you can afford. See details here and here.

Any money that isn’t spent will go into the IWGB’s fighting fund, to take on other exploitative companies and practices.

 

Details on the SOAS in-house transfer — July 20, 2018

Details on the SOAS in-house transfer

At a recent FM Services meeting at Senate House, Chris Cobb, the University of London’s chief operating officer, attempted to play down SOAS’s plans to bring their outsourced workers back in-house by 1 September. Below Danny Millum, the IWGB’s branch secretary, responded to his claims that the SOAS situation does not compare to that of the University of London.

Dear Chris

Following last week’s FM Services meeting, I just wanted to clarify a couple of issues that were raised relating to the SOAS in-house process.

Firstly, I can confirm that this is proceeding as planned, and will be completed on the planned date of 1 September 2018. The relevant documents are attached, and I think it’s very clear from these what a straightforward process this is. Secondly, you stated in the meeting that the University of London was 4 times bigger than SOAS. However, I have had it confirmed that the SOAS transfer will involve 160-170 employees, and at the University we are probably talking about around 300, so I think it’s important to be clear that the difference between the two cases is much less than was claimed.

Thirdly, it is worth noting that prior to their in-house announcement SOAS was occupied for weeks and had been subject to endless protests and bad publicity. Since Baroness Amos made her clear announcement they have had a year without problems and controversy.

I hope this clearly shows that SOAS provides a straightforward model that the UoL could and should adopt tomorrow, which would be benefit workers and University alike.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum
Branch Secretary
University of London IWGB

 

University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts — July 10, 2018

University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts

IWGB’s general secretary demand immediate action over racist and far-right posts by Cordant manager who oversees two of the University of London’s five outsourcing contracts

Dear Chris Cobb,

I am writing to you, in my capacity of General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), to express my grave dismay at the fact that the person you have chosen to oversee your outsourced contracts is openly xenophobic and racist.

The person in question is Lee Smith, the Cordant manager who oversees two of your five outsourcing contracts, in particular with respect to cleaners, porters, security guards, receptionists, and postroom staff. As you are well aware, the overwhelming majority of these workers are migrants.

The matter has come to my attention as his Facebook page, which is accessible to the public and has been seen by various of the outsourced workers he oversees, is replete with anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, and race-baiting posts.

I suggest you give it a look yourself, but to see just a small taste on what is on offer, the below suffices: an homage to Enoch Powell, a joke about how immigrants in the UK are benefits scroungers, and a joke about how Polish people are cleaners. For good measure he also wants fascists to have free reign to propagate their hate (see post about Tommy Robinson).

Now for some time we have been making the case that outsourcing, at least the way you do it, is inherently discriminatory. You have a predominantly BAME and migrant workforce which work on far inferior pay, terms and conditions, and treatment compared to their predominantly white British directly employed colleagues. And our members certainly feel as though they are bearing the brunt of the discriminatory policy.  But these recent revelations take the matter to a whole new level.

For now, in addition to working under inferior terms and conditions, the workers are being supervised by someone who thinks they shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Given some of the hostile interactions some of the workers have had with Lee Smith, including on one occasion Lee Smith aggressively pushing and shoving one of our members, needless to say, some of our members are deeply unsettled.

Of course, there are also serious legal issues which you need to consider, such as the University’s Public Sector Equality Duty pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

Now your usual tactic is to place the blame for all things outsourcing on the contractors themselves. Not this time. You and only you chose Cordant for your contracts. No one else made that decision except the University of London. This is your responsibility. I want to know what you’re going to do about it, and I want to know now.

Kind regards,

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB

 

Birkbeck Justice for Workers Campaign Update #2 —

Birkbeck Justice for Workers Campaign Update #2

Below, is an extract from a letter from Birkbeck Justice for Workers, which provides an update on its campaign to bring Birkbeck, University of London’s cleaning, catering and security staff back in house. They also share a letter in solidarity received from the South Africa’s Outsourcing Must Fall movement.

Dear all,

Our campaign is gathering pace. We have over 450 signatures on our petition – we’d love to get that to 500, so please keep sharing with your friends and colleagues. Birkbeck UNISON are having positive negotiations with management and we know the weight of support for our campaign is strengthening our hand. We have also received a heart-warming message of solidarity from the Outsourcing Must Fall movement in South Africa – you can read that below.

The message of solidarity mentions fighting unions. We’d like to thank the University of London IWGB for joining us at our demonstration last month.

Best wishes

Birkbeck Justice for Workers

 

Solidarity from #OutsourcingMustFall Campaign, South Africa

We write to you in solidarity with your struggle for the insourcing of workers at Birkbeck College. Our struggle against outsourcing received national prominence during the student protest against fee increases in 2015 when insourcing of workers was included as part of #FeesMustFall movement’s demands. The solidarity from students raised the profile of our struggle against poor working conditions and wages we had endured since our universities introduced outsourcing of what it called, ‘non-core functions’ in the late 1990s.

Although outsourcing is commended as ‘cost effective’, ‘efficient’, ‘productive and strategic’, it has been shown through a cost accounting analysis based on the experience of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, that it results in increased ‘transaction costs’. These include cost creep from an increase in complaints and worker unrest, the loss of coordination efficiencies and of tacit skills and organisational memory (Adler et al., 2000, in Dumba, 2014).  The combination of these elements have shown the opposite of organisational efficiencies claimed to justify outsourcing.

Notwithstanding the victories scored to be insourced at some of the institutions in South Africa, there is still a long road ahead against outsourcing in our country. Not only are many higher education institutions still using workers from outsourced companies, the #OMF  has had to extend its campaign to include the whole of the public sector where cleaning, security, catering and landscaping services have been outsourced at local, provincial and national government level including parastatals.

We have combined different tactics of protests such as pickets, occupations and strikes to make our voices heard. We have also approached political parties to pass motions against outsourcing in the Legislature but we have yet to see results from this approach.

While we have worked with a union, and many members of #OMF have subsequently joined this union, we have had to fight on two fronts, of the union and #OMF campaign. The latter has proven to be much more flexible to respond to the immediate concerns of workers. We are also of the view that our campaign has the potential to revive and rebuild fighting unions in the process of struggling to ensure outsourcing does fall.

We wish you all the success with your struggle against outsourcing at Birkbeck College.

Yours in solidarity

#OMF Co-ordinating Committee Convenor

Executive Mukhwevho

 

IWGB applauded for standing up to the ‘gig economy giants’ — July 1, 2018

IWGB applauded for standing up to the ‘gig economy giants’

IWGB’s fight against organisations such as the University of London, which continues to trample over the employment rights of its outsourced workers, features on the politics page of the Guardian.

The article, “The tiny union beating the gig economy giants”, describes IWGB’s grassroots fightback that is helping to win basic rights for couriers, cleaners and other workers on zero-hours contracts.

It highlights a range of the union’s successful actions including last month’s Deliveroo case in which 50 couriers won a six-figure payout because they had been denied rights including the legal minimum wage and paid holiday. More important, the article pays particular attention to IWGB’s ongoing ‘back in house campaign’ at the University of London.

Written by Yvonne Roberts, it quotes from Glen Jacques’ letter in which the receptionist warns: “Every pyramid is only as strong as its foundation, and if the foundation is not maintained to a high standard, the pyramid will, in time, collapse.” And it includes profiles of three of the workers who run the union – Mags Dewhurst, part-time bicycle courier and IWGB vice-president; Sarah Anderson, chair of the union’s first foster care workers’ branch; and our president, Henry Chango Lopez.

Read the full Guardian article here.

IWGB #LeadingWomen event to highlight University of London’s unfair treatment of outsourced women — June 25, 2018

IWGB #LeadingWomen event to highlight University of London’s unfair treatment of outsourced women

The University of London’s ‘vague and noncommittal assurances’ to bring workers in house creates a back door out of which it can retreat at any time. As a result, IWGB Women’s Officer Catherine Morrissey has written to the University of London to annouce that in the absence of a concrete date for bringing outsourced workers in-house tthe IWGB will be holding its own #LeadingWomen event on 10 July at Senate House (https://www.facebook.com/events/384636605363013/) to highlight the negative impact of outsourcing on women.

Dear Chris,

As you will be aware, outsourced staff at the University of London recently voted to continue their ‘back in house’ campaign, after receiving vague and noncommittal assurances – via an announcement made not to them, but to their directly employed colleagues – of the University’s intention to bring workers in house ‘where there is an opportunity and clear rationale’.

I am sure you can understand why this wording (which creates a back door out of which the University can retreat at any time), and the lack of a clear and accountable timescale, is not acceptable to the workers, and is wholly insufficient to halt the campaign which has already seen the university spend well in excess of £500,000 on additional security, not to mention the financial and reputational losses it has suffered from disruption and cancellation of events.

The next planned event in the campaign will be a protest on 10 July, coinciding with the rescheduled ‘Leading Women’ event with which the University presumably aims to bolster its credentials as a forward-thinking and aspirational institution.

As Women’s Officer of a trade union representing a diversity of marginalised groups, naturally I’m delighted to see the University of London promoting equality. But while the University pushes ahead with a series of events celebrating its historic steps to advance the rights of one group, current University management seem unaware of the irony of prolonging a situation which denies rights to another.

The focus of our protest will be our very own outsourced #LeadingWomen, who for years have been leading the fight to be treated with dignity and respect by the institution in which they work. They are determined to continue the campaign until they receive a direct and unambiguous commitment to bring all outsourced workers in house within 12 months.

The workers and their demands are perfectly reasonable. So, if you would like to enter into meaningful discussions to prevent further disruption, we would invite you to do so at the earliest opportunity.

Kind regards,

Catherine Morrissey
Women’s Officer, IWGB
Chair, IWGB Legal Department Subcommittee
University of London IWGB member
https://iwgb-universityoflondon.org

 

University of London claims over zero-hours contracts immediately exposed — June 13, 2018

University of London claims over zero-hours contracts immediately exposed

zerohourstweet
Quite a few people noticed your original announcement, so it’s probably not ideal if it turns out to be completely untrue…

It was too good to be true. Last week the University of London responded to the latest strike by its outsourced workers with this headline grabbing concession, stating in an intranet post that:

In addition it can now be confirmed that zero hour contracts will be eliminated by the end of the summer.

The IWGB immediately wrote to the University to confirm the details of this. We were told that this was being handled by the University’s catering contractor Aramark. So we wrote to Aramark. Here’s the response of their Director of Operations:

We are currently  considering changes to our current contracts of employment in line with the University’s recent statement. Aramark will meet each of our employees individually to ascertain what contract best suits them; as there are a number of variables that they will need to consider given individual circumstances.

Should any of our team wish to be accompanied by you then I have no objection to you accompanying them to the meeting and with regards the time-frame, we are planning to complete our consultations and implement any agreed changes with our teams by the end of the 2018 calendar year.

Within the space of a few days, the University’s public statement has been completely contradicted by its contractor, who have added another 4 months at least onto the process before it has even begun.

If anyone was in any doubt as to why the campaign will continue until workers have a cast-iron guarantee and a firm date in the next year when they be in-house – now you see what we are dealing with!

 

University of London commits to abolishing zero-hours contracts by new academic year — June 11, 2018

University of London commits to abolishing zero-hours contracts by new academic year

A strike and subsequent demonstration from the IWGB on Wednesday 6 June has pushed the University of London to release a statement regarding the future of outsourced contracts at the university’s central properties.

While concessions were made with regards to zero-hour contracts – which will be abolished by the end of the summer vacation – they continue to lack a commitment to bring all outsourced staff back in-house over the coming 12 months. Until this is promised, the IWGB will continue its campaign to support the brave outsourced staff at the University of London who are still needing to fight for equality in terms and conditions, and treatment. Continue reading