‘Convenors against outsourcing’ members asked to sign up for the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year — May 31, 2019

‘Convenors against outsourcing’ members asked to sign up for the Senate House boycott for the 2019-20 academic year

Dear all,

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:

  1. only 10% of workers have been brought in-house.
  2. current plans are so vague that all the rest are promised are ‘reviews’, some of which will not even occur until 2021.
  3. there are no guarantees that any of these 90%, including all the cleaners, catering staff and majority of security will ever be brought in.
  4. 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.

University crackdown

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.

Kind regards,

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.  

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What do Goldsmiths security officers want most? To be treated fairly and with dignity and respect — February 13, 2019

What do Goldsmiths security officers want most? To be treated fairly and with dignity and respect

Security officers at Goldsmiths, University of London are tired of their second-class treatment. As outsourced workers managed by CIS, they do not enjoy equal treatment and the same terms and conditions as the university colleagues they protect and defend every day.

They want to be treated with dignity and respect, and are taking action over inadequate holiday pay, sick pay and derisory pensions by launching a campaign to be brought back in house immediately. As part of this campaign, they are holding a protest on Valentine’s Day at Goldsmiths HQ, 8 Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW, 12–2.30pm.

So, come on Goldsmiths; do not continue to keep these men and women who serve you loyally at arms-length. Why don’t you just  Listen to what your security officers and students have to say.

You pride yourself on being a ‘close-knit community’ with a ‘special commitment to our local communities within south-east London’. Don’t you think it is time to end your dirty affair with CIS and show some love for your security officers?

Senior research fellows urge UoL to treat all workers the same — November 16, 2018

Senior research fellows urge UoL to treat all workers the same

While the University of London’s (UoL) senior management team continue to delay providing full details of how it will bring all staff in-house and confirm that they will do so by June 2019, academics continue to show their support for its precarious workers. Below is and open letter from fellows at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies confirming their concern for the workers in view of recent revelations about managers at Cordant Services.

Jules Winterton
Director
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
University of London
Charles Clore House
17, Russell Square
London                                                                                                                                                                                       16 November 2018

Dear Jules,

We are fellows of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) who have signed this letter in support of outsourced workers at the Institute as we believe that all staff at the Institute should be treated equally.

We support the bringing of all outsourced staff in-house as a priority.

We kindly request on behalf of these workers that the Institute provides full details of how it will seek to bring all staff in-house and confirm that it will seek to do so by June 2019.

We are especially concerned about the outsourced workers’ position in view of the recent revelations about managers in Cordant Services, the company that employs these workers. Three women workers have brought the exact same accusations of sexism and homophobia against one Cordant manager. Another manager in charge of these staff had to be moved from this role after he was found to have shared xenophobic and far-right posts on social media. Given that the many of the outsourced staff are women, migrant and BAME, we share their concerns that they cannot be assured that they will be treated in a fair and non-discriminatory way until the University of London takes direct responsibility for their employment and working conditions.

We value our association with the Institute, and wish this association to continue, and we hope to have your support in ensuring that we can continue our association with an institution where all workers are treated the same regardless of their role.

We, the undersigned,

  1. Dr Sinéad Agnew, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Faculty of Laws, University College London)

  2. Professor Diamond Ashiagbor, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Kent Law School, University of Kent)

  3. Professor Rosemary Auchmuty, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (School of Law, University of Reading)

  4. Professor Ilias Bantekas, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (College of Law & Public Policy, HBKU)

  5. Dr Francis Boorman, Associate Research Fellow, History of Arbitration Project, IALS

  6. Lydia Clapinska, Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Office of the Parliamentary Counsel)

  7. Clare Cowling, Associate Research Fellow and Project Director, Legal Records at Risk project, IALS

  8. Dr Richard Danbury, Associate Research Fellow, IALS

  9. Dermot Feenan, Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Law and Compassion Research Network)

  10. Professor Rosemary Hunter, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Kent Law School, University of Kent)

  11. Professor Harry McVea, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (Law School, University of Bristol)

  12. Professor Sa’id Mosteshar, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS (London Institute of Space Law and Policy)

  13. Professor Derek Roebuck, Senior Associate Research Fellow, IALS

IWGB’s University of London branch secretary responds to vice-chancellor’s email  — October 29, 2018

IWGB’s University of London branch secretary responds to vice-chancellor’s email 

Dear Peter

I am writing briefly in response to the email below, the tone of which I am afraid I find disappointing.

While I completely agree that professionalism, respect and mutual trust and indeed laudable principles on which to base an institution’s culture, I don’t see how that can be squared with the reality of the University of London.

Currently, predominantly BME outsourced workers at the University suffer much worse terms and conditions than their mostly white directly employed counterparts. This is blatant discrimination and incompatible with the principles you outline.

In addition, the main outsourcing company Cordant have been allowed to employ first a manager that was an open supporter of the far right, and now another manager who has been accused by no fewer than 3 women of blatantly racist, sexist and homophobic behaviour and yet remains in post. These women continue to work in fear on a daily basis, a fact difficult to square with any declaration that no member of staff should work ‘in an environment where they feel uncomfortable’.

Finally, while it’s definitely a positive development that you have met with the cleaners, it is worth bearing in mind that they have just voted 100% yes for strike action following the failure of the University to engage with them.

It is these predominantly middle-aged Latina cleaners, along with your own security officers, who will be forming the bedrock of the 30 October demonstration. When UCU struck earlier this year for 14 days the University continued as usual with no additional security – yet when low-paid migrant workers take action this is cause for a massive lockdown and pre-emptive yet vague accusations of intimidation. This can only be seen as further double standards.

As stated in numerous emails, the IWGB as the chosen union of these workers remains open for negotiation. All of our offers have been ignored. Until the University engages in dialogue to end its discriminatory employment practices there will continue to be strikes and demonstrations, and we believe it’s clear the responsibility for any disruption clearly lies with the side that refuses to negotiate.

Best wishes

Danny

Danny Millum
Branch Secretary
University of London IWGB

 

From: Fiona Bernardone On Behalf Of Vice Chancellor
Sent: 26 October 2018 10:11
To: Central-University <central-university@london.ac.uk>
Subject: Message from the Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I have now met with most of the heads of member institutions and I have been impressed by their support for the University, and their wish to work closely with us. They all see membership of the University as a benefit to their institution. This is important when considering the University of London Bill which is currently passing through Parliament. The Bill establishes member institutions as universities in their own right. It was debated in the House of Commons last week and successfully passed through its second reading and now progresses on to the Bills Committee. Each Head sees the Bill as a means of consolidation within the federal university.

Evidence for this came from a recent visit by Chris Cobb and I to Paris. We were invited by Professor Ed Byrne, President of KCL and Deputy VC UoL, to attend the signing of a preliminary agreement between KCL and the Founding Institutions of the University of Paris for a strategic partnership. Ed was generous in his speech in emphasising UoL’s presence at the ceremony and the opportunities from closer working between the two federal universities. You will be aware of the University of London in Paris which I visited for the first time in the afternoon. It is an impressive building superbly located in the centre of the city. Our exploration with Member Institutions about how we may utilise this “asset in Europe” post Brexit has been met with considerable interest and positive proposals.

As you will have read, the Board of Trustees have firmly supported our plan for Facilities Management Services (intranet post here). I am conscious that this is a matter that has generated strong feelings, some of which have been expressed in communications directed at me and my executive team in a tone that I have found personally disappointing.

I am mindful of the planned demonstration on 30th October and of the feelings that some of you have expressed in relation to the impact of previous demonstrations at the University.  In this regard I would wish to echo the message expressed toward the end of the recent intranet post on this matter, that is, that I do not expect any member of staff to work in an environment where they feel uncomfortable.

My background as a doctor is one of professionalism, respect and mutual trust. I have previously worked closely elsewhere with colleagues and recognised representatives to foster a culture based on these principles. I will carry on with this approach here at UoL. I am continuing to visit the University’s departments and meet staff to enable as many as possible to connect with me directly. I have come in early to Senate House on a number of occasions to meet the cleaners and porters. I am constantly impressed by everyone’s very evident loyalty and commitment to the community of the University, whatever their background and would like to thank you all for the welcome you have given me.

 

Peter Kopelman
Vice-Chancellor

 

 

University of London launches race equality group — October 17, 2018

University of London launches race equality group

The University of London (UoL) is introducing its first race equality group “in recognition of the under-representation of black and minority ethnic staff in senior levels”. Membership is open to everyone at UoL and participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and insights to help the university improve its “working practices and promote a positive and inclusive workplace culture”.

The launch, which takes place on 24 October in Chancellor’s Hall, 1.30–3pm, includes a presentation by Jannett Morgan, associate director for Advance HE’s Diversifying Academic Leadership programme. She will discuss the empowerment and promotion of talented people from under-represented groups. See details here.

IWGB’s University of London branch appoints its first BME officer — October 12, 2018
University of London’s outsourced workers need you — April 20, 2018

University of London’s outsourced workers need you

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