I am writing following last week’s massive strike and demonstration by outsourced workers to call on the University of London (UoL) to resolve this issue once and for all.
As you must be aware, the situation at UoL has now become untenable.
The year-long series of strikes, endless negative media and social media coverage, petitions from in-house staff and occupations by students have left the university’s reputation in tatters.
We are now at a point where the campus is on perpetual lockdown, and the university is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on additional security whose ID and bag searches are alienating staff and visitors alike. Meanwhile, outside the university gates MPs including the Shadow Chancellor line up to condemn the UoL stance.
And all of this is merely to perpetuate an obvious injustice – namely the continued discrimination in terms and conditions against one group of predominantly BME [black, minority and ethnic] staff.
As an aside, I know that one of accusation levelled against the IWGB is that it is in some way ‘extreme’ or ‘militant’.
In fact, our members’ behaviour has been consistently reasonable – how would you like it if you were given much worse terms and conditions than your in-house colleagues, ignored when you attempted to raise this issue, told that the university would talk with neither you nor your chosen representatives and then have your entirely peaceful strikes and protests policed in a completely different fashion to those of your mostly white UCU [University and College Union] colleagues?
Furthermore, I have on their behalf raised a series of issues relating to the behaviour of the outsourced companies to which the University has simply failed to respond. What other option have they been left with to have their voices heard?
As such, the university must realise that the in-house campaign will continue to intensify until all outsourced workers are brought back in house under the following conditions:
- That this covers all 5 outsourcing companies (Aramark, Bouygues, Cordant Security, Cordant Services and Nurture)
- That they are all brought onto exactly the same terms and conditions as all other University of London employees
- That there are NO redundancies as part of this process
- That there are no reductions of hours as part of this process
- That the issue of previously promised pay differentials is resolved
Please watch this space for details of our May protest – it’s going to be a big one!
As ever, and to combat any further accusations of unreasonableness, the IWGB remains open to direct talks over the implementation of the in-house process.
University of London IWGB
Two years ago, the University of London’s branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) had less than 300 members. Now that figure has swollen to nearly 500.
It has helped fightback against the planned changes to USS pensions, won backdated increases in the London Living Wage for members, won the support of students whose fees run the university, and seen its campaign to bring outsourced workers back into the fold at the University of London (UoL) continue apace.
These major achievements were celebrated at the annual branch meeting on 28 April, by a capacity crowd which packed the lecture theatre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London’s Bloomsbury.
The AGM reflected the international make-up of the union at the most basic level. Conducted in English and Spanish (Spanish and English lessons are offered free of charge to all members), it demonstrated the power of unity and cohesion among its members. They include security guards, cleaners, porters, academics and academic related staff, librarians and administrators.
And it underlined the importance of establishing the strength and basic dignity of some of the most exploited union members in the capital. The people who clean up after the very executives who want to outsource them and undermine their rights. Members also include an increasing number of in-house staff who believe in fairness and inclusion at work
Speaker after speaker highlighted the ongoing campaign for basic employment rights: sickness and holiday entitlements, pensions, and most important, a future to map out with their families.
It was celebration of a highly democratic organisation that is doing something new, demanding national institutions do the same. At least an hour’s worth of ballots resulted in a refreshed line-up of officers and representatives. The new officers are as follows:
List of officers
- Assistant Secretary – Rebecca Dooley
- Vice Chair – Abdul Bakhsh
- Treasurer – Lindsey Caffin
- Second Treasurer – Alison Hunter
- Trustees – George Orton, Frankie Cunha
- Recruitment Officer – Liliana Chavez
- Education Officer – Jamie Woodcock
- Communications Officer – Maureen McTaggart
- Campaigns Officer – Alex Gonzaga
- Branch Secretary – Danny Millum
- Branch Chair – Anibal Yepez
Delegates to the National IWGB AGM
- Catalina Punguil
- Joe Abdulahi
- Joe Trapido
- Margarita Cunalata
- Abdul Bakhsh
- Rebecca Dooley
- Rosalba Garcia
- Maritza Castillo Calle
- Jamie Woodcock
- Amparo Lema
- Amy Todd
On 25 and 26 April, almost 100 outsourced workers at the University of London took strike action as part of their campaign for equal terms and conditions with directly employed staff.
The group, which included cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post-room workers and audiovisual staff, arrived at the picket line from 6am and stayed all day. They were joined on the evening of the 25th by hundreds of in-house staff, students and other supporters at a protest outside Senate House. Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, trade unionists, students and activist groups spoke at the event in a show of solidarity, and Laura Pidcock MP joined the picket line the next morning. Continue reading
We, students at the institutes of the School of Advanced Study, would like to request your support in a matter that is relevant for all of us as members of this prestigious institute and of a larger academic community.
As students at the School of Advanced Study, it is important for us to know that our school and the University of London is more than merely a place for research and teaching, and that it also aims to be involved in its community and in society in general – through events such as the Being Human festival, public lectures and consideration of opportunities to reach out to the community.
We are proud of this involvement with community and social issues, and believe a responsibility towards our most imminent community, that of university workers, is an inherent part of this approach. We are sure the School of Advanced Study and its institutes would be proud to see its graduates taking an active part in the betterment of society. We want SAS to feel that pride, and we want to be proud of our Schools and our Institutes’ true commitment to workers.
The community of SAS students includes those studying about the lives of migrants and the hardships they face, about human rights, law and social struggles. We cannot, and our institutes cannot, ignore those issues at our own home. Because we deeply care about this home, and we know you do, too.
The University of London employs a significant number of outsourced employees. We meet them every day, at the entrance to the buildings, in cleaning and providing catering for events. Those employees are currently struggling for direct employment and decent working conditions.
The IWGB is the biggest union on campus, both for outsourced and direct employees, representing over 90% of the outsourced workers at the University of London central administration.
As such, we call you, the directors of SAS institutions, to demand the IWGB will be invited to participate in the review of facilities management contracts being undertaken by the University. This is required as a step reflecting democracy, respect for workers’ rights and the basic rights to collective bargaining and free association.
We also call you as directors to demand the University of London will guarantee the review will not result in any job losses among the outsourced workers and that it will ensure that all outsourced workers, in all roles and functions, are brought in-house.
Last, we request that as directors, leaders of our prominent institutes, you will engage the SAS community in an open discussion about the social responsibility of the School of Advanced Study and the University of London towards its members, workers and larger community.
Lilija Alijeva, ICWS
Charlotte Berry, IHR
Alex Curry, ILAS
Martina Mastandrea, IES
Maayan Niezna, IALS
Daniela Zanini, IMLR
Olga Iskra, ICwS
Dean Thompson, ICwS
Ala Al-Mahaidi, ICwS
Cheryl Bellisario, ICwS
Cassandra Soderstrom, ICwS
Dallia Mitchell, ICwS
Jennifer Clancy, ICwS
Isobel Archer, ICwS
Cara Priestley, ICwS
Tanishtha Bhatia Sen Gupta, ICwS
Ellie McDonald, ICwS
Celine Denisot, ICwS
Jose Guevara, ILAS
For two days next week – 25 and 26 April – more than 100 cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post room and audio-visual staff at the University of London (UoL) will be striking for fairness and equality. And they need your support on the picket line outside Senate House.
This is expected to be the biggest ever strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education history. Continue reading
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) have voted to accept Universities UK’s (UUK) offer, which establishes a joint expert panel to evaluate the pensions provided by the University Superannuation Scheme (USS).
This decision puts all currently planned strike action – including that scheduled for next week – on hold. As the IWGB position was to support national UCU industrial action, this means its members are now standing down as well.
Nearly two thirds of eligible UCU members (33,973) took part in the consultation, with 64 per cent (21,683) voting to accept the offer from Universities UK, and 12,230 voting to reject it.
Writing to members following the vote, UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt said that, “In line with the decision of members the union will suspend its immediate industrial action plans but keep our legal strike mandate live until the agreement between UCU and UUK is noted by USS.
“For the avoidance of doubt, all currently planned industrial action – including that scheduled for next week – is suspended and members should work normally.”
Strike action that began in February, centred on UUK’s plans to overhaul the USS, which has 400,000 members at 67 universities and colleges and 300 specialist institutions such as the Royal Society and Cancer Research UK. The first UUK offer to end the strike in March was unanimously rejected by UCU.
Industrial action took place at 65 universities across the UK, with a loss of some 14 days of teaching. There were fears that further action would disrupt final examinations and prevent students on some courses from graduating.
“Now we have agreement to move forward jointly, looking again at the USS valuation alongside a commitment from the employers to a guaranteed, defined benefit scheme,’ explains Sally Hunt.
“We hope this important agreement will hearten workers across the UK fighting to defend their pension rights and was won through the amazing strike action of UCU members.”
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is challenging the decision by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to not hear an application for trade union recognition that would broaden the rights of outsourced workers and introduce the concept of a “joint-employer” to the UK.
- IWGB is arguing that denying outsourced workers the right to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer, the University of London, is a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights
- The CAC refused to hear the application made by the IWGB in November
- If the challenge is successful, the High Court will force the CAC to hear the case
The claim for judicial review has been filed in the High Court and, if successful, would force the CAC to consider the union’s application.
The law to date has been interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer, in this case facilities management company Cordant Security. But, if successful, the test case would open the doors for workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer as well as their direct employer, introducing the concept of a joint-employer to UK law.
The IWGB is arguing that denying the outsourced workers the right to collectively bargain with the university, which is their de-facto employer, is a breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The proposed collective bargaining unit would include security officers, porters and post room workers.
This case is trying to push the boundaries of employment law and make sure domestic law is keeping up with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. Due to its groundbreaking nature, the IWGB expected that the matter would ultimately be decided by the appellate courts.
The case backed by The Good Law Project.
IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Low paid outsourced workers across the country routinely have their pay and terms and conditions decided by their de-facto employers, whose premises they clean or maintain. In this set-up the contractors are often little more than glorified middle men. For the collective bargaining rights of these low paid workers to mean anything, they must be able to negotiate with the actual decision maker.”
Good law Project founder Jolyon Maugham QC said “There are many ways bad employers dodge the cost of workers’ rights and outsourcing can be one of them. The treatment of workers with modest bargaining power and little influence, can be hidden from view, but it shouldn’t be hidden from the law through the use of faceless outsourcing companies. I’m proud to be supporting this case that will ensure that domestic law protects the human rights of some of the most vulnerable workers in the UK.”
Outsourced workers at the University of London have been campaigning since September to be made direct employees of the university and plan to stage the biggest ever outsourced workers strike in the history of UK higher education on 25 and 26 April.
For more information, please contact Emiliano Mellino, IWGB press officer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The IWGB has been in touch with the University over the ongoing leak at Stewart House reception, to flag up concerns raised by members of potential health and safety implications.
We received the following response today:
Having made enquiries I understand our maintenance teams have found a toilet had been blocked with what looks like clothing fabric jammed further down the soil stack causing the leak. Whilst Bouygues await their specialist drain maintenance company the leak has stopped having been made safe. Cordant have a cleaner attending every half hour.
If anyone does have further concerns please contact us at email@example.com.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are currently voting on the latest proposals put forward by Universities UK (UUK) to end the nationwide industrial action against cuts to university staff pension benefits.
Ahead of the 13 April voting deadline, UCU has called an emergency general meeting for members wishing to discuss the e-ballot and the proposals. This will take place in Senate House, 10 April, room G4, 12–1pm. In the meantime, see here for a range of useful analysis of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pensions dispute written by academics in response to UUK’s 23 March proposal.
If members say YES to the proposal, UCU will suspend its immediate plans for industrial action, but keep the legal strike mandate live until the proposal is formally noted at the board of the USS.
If there is a NO vote, the next strike action scheduled for 23–27 April, which coincides with IWGB’s outsourced worker strikes on 25 and 26 April, will go ahead.
A further 14 days of industrial action is on the cards for May and June in almost all institutions, and there are plans for a fresh ballot of UCU members to escalate the action further in the autumn. Employers will be asked to improve their proposal so that it contains a ‘no detriment’ clause.
An overwhelming show of hands at the recent IWGB branch meeting confirmed its members’ commitment to continue their support for any UCU action should the current UUK offer be rejected.