Academics, students and politicians to boycott University of London — December 10, 2018

Academics, students and politicians to boycott University of London

More than 100 academics, politicians and others are backing a boycott of the University of London, including the iconic Senate House building, over the institution’s continued use of outsourced workers to provide essential services.

The supporters of the boycott, which include shadow chancellor John McDonnell MP, the National Union of Students and several high-profile professors, are demanding that the university end outsourcing and directly employ the outsourced workers that provide cleaning, catering, security and other services.

A full list of current signatories to the boycott will be found on the page http://www.boycottsenatehouse.com and https://iwgb.org.uk/boycottsenatehouse from Monday 10 December.

Outsourced workers at the University of London have been campaigning to be made direct employees with equal terms and conditions as other staff for over a year. These workers – who have worse sick pay, holiday pay, maternity pay and pension contributions than directly employed staff – have taken up to 15 days of strike action.

Instead of agreeing to negotiate with the workers, the majority of which are migrant and BME, the university has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on heightened security in an attempt to stave off industrial action and protests. More information here, here and here.

After initially stating that it would bring services in-house last May, the university has now gone back on its commitment, only guaranteeing that a small portion of the workforce will be made direct employees by this summer.

The bulk of outsourced workers – maintenance, cleaners and catering – will remain outsourced at least until their contracts are up for tender in 2019, 2020 and 2021. At that point an in-house bid will be presented alongside other commercial bids, leaving the door open for the workers to remain outsourced indefinitely.

In the meantime, outsourced workers continue to suffer under a regime of bullying and discrimination. In 2018, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain handled over 50 complaints on behalf of outsourced workers a the University of London. Notably the IWGB raised a complaint in July when it discovered that a senior manager of outsourcing company Cordant was supporter of the far right.

In October, the IWGB raised a separate complaint when the university failed to act after three separate women brought complaints of sexism and homophobia against a separate Cordant manager.

London School of Economics Anthropology Professor Dr David Graeber said: “It is completely reprehensible that people that provide such an essential service continue to be treated as second class workers by the University of London. As academics who benefit from the work of the cleaners, catering staff and other outsourced workers, we have a moral duty to stand in solidarity with them and boycott the university until it ensures that they are given the same terms and conditions as other staff.”

University of London cleaner Margarita Cunalata said: “For over a year, we have been asking the university to respect us as equal members of staff, yet it has made clear that it sees us as less than human. We have sent letters, we have been on protests and we have gone on strike, but the university doesn’t even have the basic decency to sit down with us and negotiate. We are tremendously grateful that academics are willing to support our fight by boycotting the university until it makes us direct employees.”

Kings College London Lecturer Nick Srnick said: “At a time when university Vice Chancellor pay is surging across the country, it is an outrage that the least well-off workers of the university continue to face a situation of hyper-exploitation and abuse. Yet there’s an easy solution to immediately improve the lives of the workers that keep the university running: join numerous other universities in bringing them back in-house and paying them a decent wage.”

The boycott asks supporters to not attend or organise events at the University of London central administration, which besides Senate House includes Stewart House, The School of Advanced Studies, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and Student Central (formerly ULU).

Events make up a significant proportion of the university’s income. According to its latest financial report, the University of London made GBP 43m from residences, catering and conferences in the year ending July 2018.

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UoL’s outsourced workers to benefit from UK living wage rise — November 17, 2018

UoL’s outsourced workers to benefit from UK living wage rise

At last some good news. The lowest paid staff at the University of London (UoL) are set for a pay increase as both Cordant Security and Cordant Cleaning, the university’s outsourcing companies, confirm they will adopt the uplift in the rate of pay set by the Living Wage Foundation on 5 November.

It means the outsourced workers struggling with the rising cost of living in London will see their pay rise to £10.55 an hour, an increase of 3.5%. For workers in the rest of the country the rate will rise 2.9% to £9 an hour.

The salary boost for Cordant’s UoL staff, which is effective from 5 November, was confirmed in an email from Guy Pakenham, Cordant Cleaning Limited’s managing director.

In his response to repeated requests for information from Danny Millum, the University of London IWGB branch secretary, Pakenham said, “I can confirm that both Cordant Security and Cordant Cleaning [will] introduce the new LLW rate from the date of announcement and it is paid on the next applicable pay rate, which in this case, falls within November for all our affected staff.”

The UK living wage pay rate is a voluntary measure adopted by more than 4,700 employers and is calculated by assessing how much workers need to meet the basic cost of living in Britain. It is £1.17 higher an hour than the statutory national minimum wage imposed by the government for those over the age of 25.

Currently £7.83 an hour for workers who are over 25, the government’s national living wage, will itself rise to £8.21 an hour from next April. For 21–24-year-olds, the current rate of £7.38 will become £7.70; and the rate for 18-20-year-olds rises from £5.90 to £6.15.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

IWGB applauded for standing up to the ‘gig economy giants’ — July 1, 2018

IWGB applauded for standing up to the ‘gig economy giants’

IWGB’s fight against organisations such as the University of London, which continues to trample over the employment rights of its outsourced workers, features on the politics page of the Guardian.

The article, “The tiny union beating the gig economy giants”, describes IWGB’s grassroots fightback that is helping to win basic rights for couriers, cleaners and other workers on zero-hours contracts.

It highlights a range of the union’s successful actions including last month’s Deliveroo case in which 50 couriers won a six-figure payout because they had been denied rights including the legal minimum wage and paid holiday. More important, the article pays particular attention to IWGB’s ongoing ‘back in house campaign’ at the University of London.

Written by Yvonne Roberts, it quotes from Glen Jacques’ letter in which the receptionist warns: “Every pyramid is only as strong as its foundation, and if the foundation is not maintained to a high standard, the pyramid will, in time, collapse.” And it includes profiles of three of the workers who run the union – Mags Dewhurst, part-time bicycle courier and IWGB vice-president; Sarah Anderson, chair of the union’s first foster care workers’ branch; and our president, Henry Chango Lopez.

Read the full Guardian article here.

IWGB #LeadingWomen event to highlight University of London’s unfair treatment of outsourced women — June 25, 2018

IWGB #LeadingWomen event to highlight University of London’s unfair treatment of outsourced women

The University of London’s ‘vague and noncommittal assurances’ to bring workers in house creates a back door out of which it can retreat at any time. As a result, IWGB Women’s Officer Catherine Morrissey has written to the University of London to annouce that in the absence of a concrete date for bringing outsourced workers in-house tthe IWGB will be holding its own #LeadingWomen event on 10 July at Senate House (https://www.facebook.com/events/384636605363013/) to highlight the negative impact of outsourcing on women.

Dear Chris,

As you will be aware, outsourced staff at the University of London recently voted to continue their ‘back in house’ campaign, after receiving vague and noncommittal assurances – via an announcement made not to them, but to their directly employed colleagues – of the University’s intention to bring workers in house ‘where there is an opportunity and clear rationale’.

I am sure you can understand why this wording (which creates a back door out of which the University can retreat at any time), and the lack of a clear and accountable timescale, is not acceptable to the workers, and is wholly insufficient to halt the campaign which has already seen the university spend well in excess of £500,000 on additional security, not to mention the financial and reputational losses it has suffered from disruption and cancellation of events.

The next planned event in the campaign will be a protest on 10 July, coinciding with the rescheduled ‘Leading Women’ event with which the University presumably aims to bolster its credentials as a forward-thinking and aspirational institution.

As Women’s Officer of a trade union representing a diversity of marginalised groups, naturally I’m delighted to see the University of London promoting equality. But while the University pushes ahead with a series of events celebrating its historic steps to advance the rights of one group, current University management seem unaware of the irony of prolonging a situation which denies rights to another.

The focus of our protest will be our very own outsourced #LeadingWomen, who for years have been leading the fight to be treated with dignity and respect by the institution in which they work. They are determined to continue the campaign until they receive a direct and unambiguous commitment to bring all outsourced workers in house within 12 months.

The workers and their demands are perfectly reasonable. So, if you would like to enter into meaningful discussions to prevent further disruption, we would invite you to do so at the earliest opportunity.

Kind regards,

Catherine Morrissey
Women’s Officer, IWGB
Chair, IWGB Legal Department Subcommittee
University of London IWGB member
https://iwgb-universityoflondon.org

 

University of London commits to abolishing zero-hours contracts by new academic year — June 11, 2018

University of London commits to abolishing zero-hours contracts by new academic year

A strike and subsequent demonstration from the IWGB on Wednesday 6 June has pushed the University of London to release a statement regarding the future of outsourced contracts at the university’s central properties.

While concessions were made with regards to zero-hour contracts – which will be abolished by the end of the summer vacation – they continue to lack a commitment to bring all outsourced staff back in-house over the coming 12 months. Until this is promised, the IWGB will continue its campaign to support the brave outsourced staff at the University of London who are still needing to fight for equality in terms and conditions, and treatment. Continue reading

London university criticised for spending £415,000 on protest security — June 4, 2018

London university criticised for spending £415,000 on protest security

The Guardian has published a story highlighting the amount of money that the University of London has spent money on security during protests in support of outsourced workers.

Below is an excerpt from the article, which is generating attention on Facebook.

 

A university has been criticised for spending more than £400,000 on extra security during student protests in support of striking outsourced workers.

Politicians, students and unions criticised the “astonishing” cost of security during protests at the University of London (UoL), which took place in support of striking outsourced workers and their calls for equal terms on conditions such as sick pay.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that the UoL would spend hundreds of thousands of pounds turning itself into a prison rather than agree to the reasonable demand of its outsourced workers to be treated fairly, equally and with respect,” said Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary at the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain.

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green party, said: “It is astonishing to see a university which failed to give workers the pay it promised spend nearly £415,134 on security for a peaceful protest.”

A freedom of information request revealed that the university spent £99,690 on extra security guards for a sit-in between 19 and 28 March. This security is believed to have been in place until 23 May.

The university said it could not confirm figures for May 2018 but that the total sum spent on additional security in March and April 2018 was £415,134.88.

Read the full story

 

 

University outsourced workers announce further industrial action after historic strike — May 15, 2018

University outsourced workers announce further industrial action after historic strike

  • More than 100 cleaners, porters, receptionists and other outsourced workers of the University of London will strike on 6 June
  • Workers demand an end to outsourcing, an end to zero-hours and pay rises
  • Last strike and protest was attended by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP, Shadow Minister for Labour Laura Pidcock MP, and musician Billy Bragg.

University of London workers organised by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are to go on strike on 6 June, following the biggest-ever strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education history. Continue reading