Massive YES vote in latest University of London outsourced worker ballot — October 16, 2018

Massive YES vote in latest University of London outsourced worker ballot

Strike! Outsourced workers at the University of London have, yet again, voted in favour of strike action, with a 100% YES vote among cleaners. We will see you at the picket line on the 30 October.

cleanersvote

Despite the University’s cynical attempts to divide the workforce, porters, security, receptionists, post room workers, audiovisual staff and gardeners have also voted in favour of strike action. For some of them this is their fourth ballot in two years.

This is a level of unprecedented unity among outsourced workers fighting together the UoL’s recent disgraceful announcement  – https://twitter.com/3CosasCampaign/status/1046808688672034822

Their demands are simple – more than a year after the in-house campaign and the FM Services Review was announced, they want to end the current discriminatory 2-tier employment system at the University and be treated as equals.

Full details of the huge strike on 30 October, part of the ‘Rise of the Precarious Workers’ National IWGB demo, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2337254349835594/.

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IWGB General Secretary writes to UoL VC Peter Kopelman following latest in-house announcement — October 7, 2018

IWGB General Secretary writes to UoL VC Peter Kopelman following latest in-house announcement

Dear Professor Kopelman,

On 5 September, 2018 I wrote you a long email, entitled “finding another way”, in which I extended an olive branch and offered constructive engagement, dialogue, and negotiation as a way out of the industrial relations disaster playing out at University of London.  In addition to not having the courtesy to respond to my email, it seems you are deliberately trying to make matters worse with your actions since.  Indeed, so far in your short tenure:
1. Industrial relations have worsened;
2. Outsourced workers are currently being balloted for further industrial action;
3. A national demonstration on 30 October will target UoL;
4. Not one but two of your outsourced managers have engaged in racist, homophobic, or sexist behaviour in a particularly egregious way (UoL didn’t do anything about it until we made the matter public);
5. You’ve utterly failed to understand the pressing nature of the outsourcing issue by announcing that some workers won’t be brought back in house until 2021;
6. You’ve continued to engage in the destructive game of ignoring the outsourced workers and the union they have chosen to represent them by instead schmoozing with your preferred sycophants in UNISON, which these workers interpret as a slap in the face;
7. Students have engaged in flash demos inside Senate House;
8. Plans are under way for further high profile actions which, purely as a result of your own decisions, will have a lasting and damaging impact on UoL’s reputation.
The house is on fire and you’re pouring petrol on the flames.  It’s hard to imagine how you could go about things in a worse manner, even if you tried.
If paying a bloated salary is supposed to attract the best talent, I can only imagine how bad things would be if you were paid £10.20 like the cleaners!
If at any point you care to remove your head from the sand long enough to see the writing on the wall and decide to opt for engagement rather than obstinance, feel free to get in touch.
Kind regards,

 

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB
In-House Campaña – Noticias! — October 3, 2018

In-House Campaña – Noticias!

Como algunos de ustedes ya sabrán, hace un par de dias la universidad traiciono a los trabajadores de limpieza, jardineros y a los de catering, diciendo que en el mejor de los casos los haria trabajadores directos (in house) en 2020 y 2021. La universidad a dicho que un pequeño grupo de trabajadores ( porteros, Audio Visual y Recepcionistas) trabajaran directamente para la Universidad a partir del verano del 2019, lo cual por un lado es claramente un intento cinico por parte de la universidad para dividir los trabajadores, pero tambien demuestra que poco a poco estan cediendo debido a nuestra presion.

Nosotros consideramos que esta oferta es completamente inacceptable y por eso le hemos escrito directamente al director de la universidad para decirle que continuaremos he intensificaremos la campaña (traduccion del correo debajo).
Ayer un grupo de estudiantes hizo una protesta sorpresa en la universidad, pero lo más importante es seguir presionandolos con huelgas.

El plan es hacer huelga a fin de mes para dejarle claro a la universidad que no nos van a dividir y que vamos a seguir luchando. Por eso es importantisimo que TODOS devulevan las papeletas de votos lo mas pronto posible!!

La universidad va interpretar el resultado de la votación de huelga como un consulta sobre su propuesta de no hacer nada hasta 2020. Si los trabajadores no votan a favor de la huelga, la universidad pensara que están contentos con lo que ha propuesto. Es importante decirles que NO ESTAMOS CONTENTOS.

Hoy mas que nunca tenemos que estar unidos todos, incluido los que se han beneficiado de esta ultima decision de la Universidad!!

Hasta la victoria compañeros!✊

Carta al Director
——
Estimado Profesor Kopelman,

Le escribo para expresar mi sorpresa y decepción con el mensaje enviado hoy día por su director de gestión de servicios Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr. Y escribo sorpresa, no porque esperaba algo diferente de los altos directivos de la Universidad de Londres, pero porque esperaba que su mandato como Vice-Rector abriría un nuevo y más justo capítulo en la relaciones de la universidad con su fuerza de trabajo más precaria.

Lamentablemente su anuncio de no garantizar que los limpiadores, jardineros y el personal de cáterin sean empleados por la universidad directamente, pero que de lo contrario se vayan a enviar propuestas de emplearlos directamente junto con otras propuestas en 2020 y 2011, muestra que está ocurriendo lo de siempre en la universidad. Tal y como su predecesor, parece estar satisfecho con ganar un salario de 6 cifras al mismo tiempo que mantiene a los trabajadores más vulnerables de la universidad en una posición de absoluta precariedad, empleados como trabajadores de segunda clase y en una situación que constituye nada menos que discriminación institucional.
Así que mientras que la Universidad de Londres continua dando largas al asunto, otras universidades han prometido emplear a los trabajadores directamente en 6 meses, como es el caso de Goldsmiths, o en un año, como el caso de Kings, donde su adjunto Ed Byrne es el director (quizá debería pedir algunos consejos).

Desafía toda lógica  que un año después de que la Universidad empezara su falsa revisión, que no incluía ningún trabajador tercerizado o el sindicato que los representa, esto sea lo mejor que pueda ofrecer. Desafía toda lógica que una institución que se supone que cuenta con las mentes más brillantes del Reino Unido, sea tan mala en gestionar sus propios servicios y no pueda ofrecer una opción in-house decente para una proporción tan grande de su fuerza laboral.

Pero quizá no debería haber sido tan ingenuo de creer que le importa la gente que limpia sus baños, su oficina y los pasillos por los que anda con otros grandes con salarios obscenos. En su experiencia estos trabajadores son fáciles de ignorar. Después de todo, se van de la Universidad pronto por la mañana antes de que usted llegue y son convenientemente invisibles.

O quizá pensaba que al hacer a una pequeña minoría de trabajadores – 95% de los cuales hombres- trabajadores directos el verano que viene y al aumentar la seguridad, podría dividir la fuerza de trabajo y aplastar la campaña de los trabajadores.
Me alegra decirle que si eso es lo que piensa, es un iluso.
Ante esta injusticia la determinación de los trabajadores de luchar es más fuerte que nunca, mientras que el apoyo comunitario crece por momentos.

Los trabajadores tienen una sola demanda: emplear a todos los trabajadores directamente para junio del 2019, o si no, junto con la comunidad universitaria y otros, intensificarán su acción hasta el punto de que usted no tendrá el lujo de ignorarlos.
Tendrá una muestra de lo que estoy hablando el 30 de octubre cuando sus trabajadores vayan a la huelga y la marcha de miles de trabajadores precarios descienda hasta la Universidad de Londres.

Con la esperanza de que entre en razón y termine esta injusticia, le envío un saludo.

Emiliano Mellino
Organiser / Press officer

Latest outsourcing developments: letter to UoL’s interim vice-chancellor — September 27, 2018

Latest outsourcing developments: letter to UoL’s interim vice-chancellor

Dear Professor Kopelman

I am writing on behalf of our outsourced members at the University of London to inform you that we are currently balloting for further strike action as a consequence of the University’s failure to make any meaningful progress on the issue of bringing workers in-house, despite its earlier commitments.

The University has completely failed to engage with workers and their chosen representatives, and as a consequence will be the focal point of the national demonstration of precarious workers on 30 October, with all of the associated negative publicity and media attention.

There is no question that the University has brought this on itself, and as a longstanding member of staff I am extremely disappointed that my institution has damaged its reputation and by association that of its staff by its failure to take decisive action to resolve its discriminatory two-tier employment situation.

This is even more galling when other institutions have shown how this can be done swiftly and in a way that maximises good-will.

At Goldsmiths [Goldsmiths, University of London], they have announced that they will bring more than 100 cleaners in-house WITHIN SIX MONTHS.

Yesterday at KCL [King’s College London] they announced that all cleaners and security would be brought in house, stating 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‘.

The University of London could and should be doing the same thing – and will be forced to do so eventually anyway. The longer it delays, the more unnecessary harm and suffering it causes.

As ever, we await your response.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum
Branch Secretary
University of London IWGB

 

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.

 

 

 

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