Last week we brought you news of the victory of our members the cleaners at the University of London, and of the ongoing campaign of our members at the University of Greenwich, who are fighting against racial discrimination in regard to the payment of bonuses for working during the pandemic and against the victimisation of their colleague Kingsley. Our call to support our Fighting Fund to organise more campaigns like these raised nearly £1,000 so we’re well on the way to reaching our £5,000 target.
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Our membership is predominantly made up of BAME and migrant workers, who face the worst conditions in universities and (except where we have brought them in-house) are mostly outsourced to companies well known for their exploitation of workers!
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University College London (UCL) University of London – Senate House Greenwich University Royal College of Art (RCA)
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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.
“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:
that Kingsley’s suspension is lifted and that he returns to work
that all security officers that worked during the spring lockdown receive a bonus
that the university breaks the contract with Sodexo by January and brings all outsourced workers in-house
What you can do:
speak out on behalf of Kingsley,
speak out to support bonus payments to our essential workers
donate to the IWGB union Universities of London branch to support their campaign and their strike preparations
I am very proud to have been elected General Secretary of our great union to continue fighting to improve the working conditions of our members and defend their rights in every workplace.
I would like to congratulate all union officials who have been elected this year in each of the branches and the central union positions, and thank our staff for the amazing work they have been doing to represent and support our members.
The other newly elected officials are:
President – Alex Marshall
Vice-President – Catherine Morrissey
Treasurer – Arthur Salisbury
Women’s Officer – Hanna Beth Scaife
BAME Officers – Edward Wong and Emilse Ocampo
Branch Support Officer – Jamie Woodcock
The elections for Treasurer and Vice-President went to a postal ballot of all members. Arthur won the election for Treasurer with 72% of the vote and Catherine won the election for Vice-President with 84% of the vote. All the other elections were uncontested, so they were held at the AGM.
Delegates voted in favour of a motion to allow all IWGB members the right to propose motions for consideration for debate at the AGM. For future AGMs, any member will be able to propose a motion and seek sponsorship from delegates. Read the full motion.
The IWGB will continue to be a light at the end of the tunnel for workers who continue to be denied basic employment rights, those ignored and marginalised who see this union as a beacon of hope.
Henry Chango Lopez IWGB General Secretary
Estoy muy orgulloso de haber sido elegido Secretario General de nuestro gran sindicato para seguir luchando por mejorar las condiciones de trabajo de nuestrxs miembrxs y defender sus derechos en todos los lugares de trabajo.
Quiero felicitar a todos lxs oficiales del sindicato que han sido elegidxs este año en cada una de las ramas y en los puestos del sindicato central, y agradecer a nuestro personal por el increíble trabajo que han estado haciendo para representar y apoyar a nuestrxs miembrxs.
Los otros oficiales recién elegidos son:
Presidente – Alex Marshall
Vicepresidenta – Catherine Morrissey
Tesorero – Arthur Salisbury
Oficial de Mujeres – Hanna Beth Scaife
Oficiales de Minorias Etnicas (BAME)– Edward Wong y Emilse Ocampo
Oficial de apoyo de rama – Jamie Woodcock
Las elecciones para Tesorero y Vicepresidente se hicieron por correo postal para todxs lxs miembrxs. Arthur ganó la elección para Tesorero con el 72% de los votos y Catherine ganó la elección para Vicepresidente con el 84% de los votos. Todas las demás elecciones no fueron disputadas, por lo que se celebraron en la Asamblea General.
El tiempo de Jason Moyer-Lee como Secretario General del IWGB terminó oficialmente en esta última Asamblea General. Mira su discurso final.
Lxs delegadxs votaron a favor de una moción para permitir a todxs lxs miembrxs de la IWGB el derecho a proponer mociones para su consideración en el debate de la Asamblea General. Para futuras Asambleas, cualquier miembrx podrá proponer una moción y buscar el patrocinio de lxs delegadxs. Lea la moción completa.
La IWGB seguirá siendo una luz de guía para lxs trabajadorxs a que se les siguen negando los derechos laborales básicos, lxs ignoradxs y marginadxs que ven a este sindicato como un faro de esperanza.
If you haven’t seen this week’s fantastic victory, which made news around the world, here’s the Guardian on our cleaners:
Outsourced cleaners at the University of London are celebrating victory in a 10-year battle to be recognised as staff, which involved strikes, and a boycott of the university’s Senate House complex supported by academics and politicians.
Since the start of this week the cleaners, who previously worked under contracts for outsourcing firms including OCS, Balfour Beatty and most recently Cordant, have been working as directly employed staff. The Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union which led the campaign said it was an achievement that had cost a lot in terms of stress and energy for the workers since they started to organise in 2010.
We wanted to share the links of the University of London Facebook and Twitter page of the University of London Branch where you can follow the work and the latest news of our UoL Branch and the IWGB General Union, and everything we do as a union fighting, helping and representing all our members.
We at the IWGB are always here to help, inform and advise you.
Les comparto el link de nuestra página de Facebook y Twitter de la Rama de la Universidades de Londres donde siempre estamos dispuestos a mantenerte informado sobre el arduo trabajo y las últimas noticias de nuestra Rama UoL y del Sindicato General -IWGB, y también todo lo que hemos venido haciendo como sindicato durante todo este tiempo ,todo esto con el único objetivo de luchar , ayudar y representar a todos nuestros miembros .
En nuestro Sindicto IWGB estamos siempre para ayudarte , informarte y asesórarte.
My name is Charlotte Powell, and I’m the newly elected secretary of the UoL Branch. I was a zero-hours worker for Aramark at the outsourced bar in Student Central. At the beginning of the pandemic I organised with my coworkers at the bar with IWGB and we managed to win furlough pay, but were recently made redundant.
As secretary I will be mainly responsible for organising committee meetings and branch meetings, and making sure your officers have what they need to work in their roles. I will also represent you as your branch secretary in any large disputes or campaigns, communicating your demands and issues to managers and making sure they respond.
I want to work as hard as I can to support the day-to-day organisation of the branch, help build a strong committee, and ensure that all members have a voice and a stake in our organising and campaigns. I will be working closely with the Chair, Maritza, and the new Vice-Chair when they are elected, to represent the branch in the union’s central Executive Committee. The union belongs to you, and I want to make sure that as many of you as possible can raise ideas, questions, or motions at any level that you want to.
I look forward to meeting each of you soon!
If you want to ask me any questions or discuss any ideas about your workplace, items for branch meetings, or the IWGB as a whole, you can contact me:
Mi nombre es Charlotte Powell, y soy la recién elegida secretaria de la Rama de la UOL. Yo era una trabajadora de contracto cero horas para la compañía Aramark y estaba trabajando en el bar Student Central. Al principio de la pandemia el bar fue cerrado , y nos mandaron a casa sin sueldo . Yo me organicé con mis compañeros de trabajo con la ayuda del IWGB y conseguimos ganar un permiso de trabajo, pero hace poco nos despidieron.
Como Secretria me encargaré principalmente de organizar las reuniones del comité y las reuniones de las sucursales, y de asegurarme de que sus funcionarios tengan lo necesario para trabajar en sus funciones. También les representaré como secretaria de la Rama en cualquier disputa o campañas importantes y comunicando simpre sus demandas y problemas a los directivos y asegurándome de que cumplan y respondan.
Quiero trabajar tan duro como pueda para apoyar la organización diaria de la sucursal, ayudar a construir un comité fuerte y asegurar que todos los miembros tengan voz y participación en nuestra organización y campañas. Trabajaré en estrecha colaboración con el Presidente, Maritza, y el nuevo Vicepresidente cuando sean elegidos, para representar a la Rama en el Comité Ejecutivo central del sindicato. El sindicato les pertenece, y quiero asegurarme de que el mayor número posible de ustedes pueda plantear ideas, preguntas o mociones a cualquier nivel que deseen.
Espero conocer a cada uno de ustedes pronto!
Si quieren hacerme alguna pregunta o discutir alguna idea sobre su lugar de trabajo o temas para las reuniones de la rama, pueden ponerse en contacto conmigo:
The IWGB union Universities of London branch secretary, Charlotte Powell, has written today to Professor Jane Harrington, Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich on behalf of security officers to demand urgent action in the face of rising Covid cases on campus.
Read the letter here:
I am writing to you from the IWGB union on behalf of the outsourced security officers at University of Greenwich, following on from my letter on 13 October raising concerns regarding the health and safety of these workers and of other staff and students at the university, to demand immediate action is taken to ensure safety.
Over the past few weeks new cases of coronavirus among students and staff of the University of Greenwich have consistently been reported on the University’s own portal, and it is likely there are more cases on campus that have not been reported. In your reply to my previous letter, you wrote that the health, safety and welfare of students and all workers is of the utmost importance to you. However, the University of Greenwich response to Covid-19 on campus so far is inadequate. Increased health and safety measures are required.
It is the university’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all staff (including its outsourced workers) and students on campus. We therefore urge you to take the following immediate actions:
The university must halt face to face teaching on campus to the greatest extent possible in order to reduce the number of students on campus and thereby reduce the risks of coronavirus transmission.
The university must ensure outsourced staff, on the frontline of keeping the university safe and secure through the last year, are properly supported. In particular, the University must make clear to your subcontractor Sodexo that the bonus pay provided to porters at University of Greenwich as compensation for the extra risk they are exposed to working through Covid must be extended to all outsourced workers. The roles and responsibilities of all Sodexo staff on campus have expanded in both scope and intensity during the pandemic, so this compensation should be provided across the board.
The university must ensure that its outsourced security officers are properly able to do their job of keeping staff and students safe without intimidation. Sodexo must withdraw all action against security officer Kingsley Osadolor, who is under investigation after a student complained about him for insisting the student wore a mask. The lack of appropriate guidance for security officers, on the front line of enforcing health and safety procedures, and the investigation against Kingsley have left security officers feeling intimidated and unable to effectively exercise health and safety measures, to the detriment of everyone on campus.
The university must invite a representative of security staff from IWGB to participate as a health and safety representative for security staff in any meetings, committees or consultations open to other workers (directly employed and outsourced) regarding regulations and safeguards on campus.
The university has ultimate responsibility over its contracts with Sodexo and all outsourced staff who work at the university. It is all the more critical for the university to live up to these responsibilities at this time when all staff, both direct employees and outsourced workers, are affected by the health and safety measures being put in place. We appreciate that the University of Greenwich is celebrating the facility workers as heroes, yet actions need to follow these words.
Please confirm what you plan to do to remedy this situation by close of business on Friday 23 October latest. If the university does not follow the entirely reasonable actions to ensure everyone’s health and safety outlined above, the security guards will have no choice but to consider taking actions to ensure that their voices are heard, their health and safety is protected and they are treated with dignity and respect they deserve.
Mi nombre es Rosa Jaramillo soy la nueva oficial de las mujeres de la Rama UoL.
Estaré trabajando duro en mi rol como Oficial de la Mujeres para ayudar y apoyar a todas nuestras mujeres miembros de la Rama UoL .También estaré trabajando con el Comité de Mujeres de la Rama UoL organizando reuniones , talleres y cursos de capacitación. Ello con el objetivo de hacer de este comité una base de apoyo y una voz para todas las trabajadoras, independientemente de su raza, cultura y religión con el fin de garantizar que todas las trabajadoras alcancen su potencial en el lugar de trabajo y se sientan seguras y valoradas.
Espero conocerlas a cada una de ustedes pronto .
Si nesecitas más informacion o ayuda pudes contactarme :
Rosa Jaramillo -07586 135619
Saludos – Rosa, Oficial de la Mujeres (UoL )
My name is Rosa Jaramillo. I am the new women’s officer of the UoL Branch.
I will be working hard in my role as Women’s Officer to help and support all of our female UoL Branch members. I will also be working with the UoL Branch Women’s Committee organizing meetings, workshops and training courses. This is done with the aim of making this committee a base of support and a voice for all female workers, regardless of their race, culture and religion, in order to ensure that all female workers reach their potential in the workplace and feel safe and valued.
I hope to meet each of you soon.
If you need more information or help you can contact me: