See below for letter from our branch secretary re serious issues affecting Cordant security staff at the University of London:
I am writing as promised in yesterday’s ICE Forum to flag up a number of extremely serious issues affecting Cordant bench officers following the TUPE transfer of front of house staff.
Since the transfer, Cordant have drastically cut down on the hours of many of their bench team, and have transferred responsibility for allocating shifts to a national call centre and away from the University of London site. In addition, staff are in many cases being advised of shifts on a daily basis, rather than rotas being provided a week ahead.
This of course amounts to breach of contract, as Cordant have either given staff less than their contracted hours OR less than than the hours which they had been customarily working for months or even years.
Furthermore, it is causing enormous amounts of misery and distress – long-standing staff with many dependents have suddenly had their incomes slashed, and have the added uncertainty of not even knowing from week to week what shifts they will be working and when.
Ridiculously there are plenty of shifts to go round – but for some reason Cordant are assigning them to new temporary staff who are completely untrained on site.
I am also attaching a contract received by one of these officers in September 2018 which (in contravention of the University’s declared policy of ending zero-hours contracts) is for just 336 hours a year – a zero hours contract in all but name. In addition I am attaching a recent message from a Cordant security manager to a guard stating that ‘we are obliged to allocate Bench officers a total of 336 hours annually’.
This practice by Cordant was meant to have been banned by the University – were you aware that it is still continuing?
These problems have undoubtedly been triggered by splitting the security contract in two, which has meant that staff who previously covered reception duties are no longer allowed to do so. But it has been exacerbated by Cordant’s introduction of temporary staff and removal of rota responsibility from this site.
We have already raised half-a-dozen individual grievances over this matter, and will continue to raise more. However, in order to resolve the situation collective action is needed – namely that the University recognise that Cordant is unfit and unwilling to run the security contract for a moment longer, and bring these officers in-house immediately, with a guarantee that their shifts and hours be respected.
Last week (7 June), members of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) converged on Brixton, South London, for their annual general meeting(AGM).
Their numbers were swollen by volunteers, employees, activists, supporters and friends, who have witnessed this small but feisty union rise rapidly since its inception in 2012. Over the years IWGB has fought many battles on behalf of its members and is showing how unions can thrive again.
Among the agenda items for the 2019 AGM were the election of national officers. And the following appointments can now be confirmed:
President: Henry Chango Lopez
General secretary: Jason Moyer-Lee
Vice-president: Max Dewhurst
Treasurer: James Tiplady
Women’s officer: Catherine Morrissey
BAME officer: Muhumed Ali
The meeting was voted a huge success, and the after party too!
As the University of London looks to press ahead with its plans to TUPE HEE staff to NHS employment, despite the negative impact on their terms and conditions, we have just submitted the following FOI request. Anyone with any questions drop us a line at email@example.com.
1. The total number of UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2015.
2. The total number of days lost to mental health related illnesses amongst UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2015.
3. The total number of UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2016.
4. The total number of days lost to mental health related illnesses amongst UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2016.
5. The total number of UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2017
6. The total number of days lost to mental health related illnesses amongst UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2017.
7. The total number of UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2018
8. The total number of days lost to mental health related illnesses amongst UOL employees seconded to HEE in the financial year of 2018.
Dear Guardian Letters Editor,
Michael Arthur may reflect ‘with pride that the university is now on a sound financial footing, with borrowing as a percentage of turnover below the Russell Group average’, but what your article does not mention is that this achievement has been built on the back of massive discrimination against UCL’s outsourced workers, the vast majority of whom are from BAME backgrounds and whose terms and conditions are far worse than those of their mostly white directly employed counterparts.
Nearly all UCL’s cleaners, caterers and security guards receive the legal minimum of holidays and sick pay, and are barred from the generous defined benefit pension schemes available to university staff. While all other adjacent institutions have either brought staff in-house or enhanced their benefits, UCL has steadfastly dragged its heels (despite posting a surplus of £156.4m last year according to its latest annual report). Had Peter Wilby spoken to one of these workers he might well have found a whole host of further reasons for the hostility to Professor Arthur he describes.
Branch Secretary, University of London IWGB
Read the letter on the Guardian website here.
The IWGB’s boycott of Senate House, the University of London’s (UoL) central administrative headquarters in Bloomsbury, has been given a boost.
Last week (25–29 May), the University and College Union (UCU) Congress overwhelmingly passed a boycott motion. This means that it is now official UCU policy to NOT attend nor organise any events in UoL’s central administrative buildings until all its outsourced workers have been brought in-house.
The UCU’s support has empowered the mainly BAME cleaners to release a short video asking higher education staff and academics to help their case by supporting the boycott – please check it out here. They have been fighting for some two years for equality of employment.
This level of national solidarity is unprecedented. At the Congress speaker after speaker pledged their support for our workers and Jo Grady, UCU’s new general secretary, also confirmed her commitment to the campaign.
The boycott motion was brought to the UCU Congress because, while the in-house campaign has forced the university to commit to the principle of in-housing, there are still many outstanding issues:
- only 10% of workers have been brought in-house
- current plans are so vague that the 90% of workers who are not in-house have only been promised ‘reviews’, some of which will not take place until 2021
- there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, which includes all the cleaners, catering staff and the majority of security staff will ever be brought in
- these workers are still being massively discriminated against in terms of sick pay, holidays, pensions and more
In addition, as outlined below, UoL has launched a crackdown on the workers and their union, the IWGB.
University of London crackdown
The university and the outsourced companies have not only refused all offers of talks with the workers and their union – the IWGB – its management has responded by attacking trade union rights. Moreover, it has increased discrimination against the outsourced workers.
First the IWGB’s branch secretary was threatened with disciplinary action for accepting an invitation to attend a seminar to talk about the boycott.
Second, cleaning company Cordant Services introduced a draconian new sickness phone-in policy solely for the cleaners. Rather than reporting to managers or supervisors they must now call a centralised number to report all absences. Failure to do so will result in instant disciplinary action.
There was just one catch. Many of the cleaners speak little or no English while no-one in the call centre speaks anything but. Listen here as an Ecuadorian cleaner tries to call in sick.
Third, Cordant Security has refused to allow trade union representation for migrant security staff at the university. The company has gone so far as to hire EXTRA security to physically block the IWGB representative from attending a meeting to which he was invited by the worker.
This is all happening at OUR university and is in response to pleas by the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in the building to be treated equally.
We are writing following the UCU Congress last weekend to bring you an update on the Senate House Boycott and to ask for your (continuing) support.
Congress overwhelmingly passed the boycott motion, which means that it is now official UCU policy NOT to attend or organise any events at the central University of London administration buildings (essentially Senate House, Stewart House, Student Central, the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (Charles Clore House)) until all outsourced workers have been brought in-house.
In addition, University of London cleaners have just released a short video asking for support for the boycott – please check it out here.
The reason the boycott motion was brought to Congress is that while the in-house campaign has forced the University to commit to the principle of in-housing:
- only 10% of workers have been brought in-house.
- current plans are so vague that all the rest are promised are ‘reviews’, some of which will not even occur until 2021.
- there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, including all the cleaners, catering staff and majority of security will ever be brought in.
- furthermore, as we outline in more detail below, the University has launched an unprecedented crackdown on the workers and their union.
We are therefore writing to you as signatories of our original letter in support of insourcing and the outsourced workers to sign up to the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year.
It is important to remember that this is a boycott of the University of London, not the IHR – events of all sorts are being moved from the University, and we are determined to maintain our relationship with the Institute to allow the seminar programme to return once everyone working in the building the IHR is housed in is treated equally. As part of this we have set up a Convenors Against Outsourcing group to provide a conduit between the IWGB union and convenors and are also able to offer help in finding rooms for any seminars which need to relocate.
The University and the outsourced companies have not just REFUSED all offers of talks with the workers and their union, the IWGB – they have responded by attacking trade union rights at the University of London and increasing discrimination against outsourced workers.
First they threatened the branch secretary of the IWGB with disciplinary action for attending a seminar to talk about the boycott.
Second, cleaning company Cordant Services introduced a draconian new sickness phone-in policy JUST for cleaners – rather than reporting to managers / supervisors they were now expected to call a centralised number for ALL absences or face disciplinary action.
There was just one catch – most of the cleaners speak little or no English – but no-one in the call centre speaks anything but. Listen here as an Ecuadorian cleaner tries to call in sick.
Third, Cordant Security refused trade union representation to migrant worker security staff at the University – hiring EXTRA security to physically block entry to a meeting to the IWGB representative.
This is all happening at OUR University – and all in response to the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers in the building asking to be treated equally.
It is vital that we show that we will not tolerate this – and therefore we are asking ALL seminars to sign up to the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year. This will force the University to see sense, end its policies of repression and discrimination and return to being an institution that we can all be proud of.
We are asking that you speak to your fellow convenors, confirm that you will be supporting the boycott and if possible volunteer one person from each seminar to join our Convenors Against Outsourcing committee.
Please do let us know if you have any questions at all.
Dr Dion Georgiou
Convenors Against Outsourcing Group
Background to the boycott
At the central University of London a huge in-house campaign has been raging since September 2017. Security and cleaning staff have held no fewer than 17 strikes, as well as innumerable protests, with students also occupying Senate House in support of their campaign.
The demands of the campaign are simple – for equality of terms and conditions. Currently outsourced workers have much worse holidays, pensions, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay than their directly employed colleagues. They also suffer from vastly higher levels of bullying and harassment from the outsourced companies they work for.
Eighty per cent of these workers are from BME backgrounds. Ninety per cent 90% of the cleaners are women.
The University’s response has been draconian – they have threatened TU activists, allowed their hired goon security to beat students, spent £1.3m in just 6 months on additional security and turned Senate House into a fortress.
The campaign has forced them to commit to the principle of in-housing, but this far only 10% of workers have been brought in-house, and their current plans are so vague that there are no guarantees that any of the others, including all the cleaners will ever be brought in.
To win this campaign the workers need external help, and in December 2018 they called for a boycott of events at the University of London central administration in support of the campaign.
The response has been fantastic – More than 35 Senate House seminars and 180 events have relocated in support of the boycott and more than 440 academics have individually pledged solidarity. In addition, more than 25 UCU branches have passed a motion of support.
The boycott is working, in that the University is now looking to speed up its in-housing. We are on the verge of winning this campaign and achieving equality and dignity for these workers but without your help many of these gains could evaporate.
Another week, another breakfast stall! Students, ex-students and IWGB organisers have been greeting outsourced workers at UCL with tea, coffee and pastries one or two mornings each week since last summer. We’d like to express our gratitude to the activists who have shaken off sleep to make these stalls happen, but most of all to the cleaners who have stuck around after work to talk to us about how we can work together to improve their terms and conditions at UCL.
The stalls function as a community hub where strong relationships have developed between workers who might not see each other on shift and between workers and the union. As a result, union membership and solidarity more generally has blossomed among cleaners at UCL. We have been able to solve numerous complaints and grievances brought to us by cleaners at the stalls. At the Institute of Education, for example, cleaners told us about the imminent introduction of clock-in-clock-out fingerprint technology. After a mini-campaign by the IWGB, this was delayed indefinitely.
If you’d like to get involved with the stalls, message UCL Justice for Workers. If you’re in the area, you can find the stalls at the Malet Place entrance to UCL on Thursdays (and at different locations across UCL on Fridays).