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

 

 

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University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts — July 10, 2018

University of London’s outsourcing manager under fire for racist Facebook posts

IWGB’s general secretary demand immediate action over racist and far-right posts by Cordant manager who oversees two of the University of London’s five outsourcing contracts

Dear Chris Cobb,

I am writing to you, in my capacity of General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), to express my grave dismay at the fact that the person you have chosen to oversee your outsourced contracts is openly xenophobic and racist.

The person in question is a Cordant manager who oversees two of your five outsourcing contracts, in particular with respect to cleaners, porters, security guards, receptionists, and postroom staff. As you are well aware, the overwhelming majority of these workers are migrants.

The matter has come to my attention as his Facebook page, which is accessible to the public and has been seen by various of the outsourced workers he oversees, is replete with anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, and race-baiting posts.

I suggest you give it a look yourself, but to see just a small taste on what is on offer, the below suffices: an homage to Enoch Powell, a joke about how immigrants in the UK are benefits scroungers, and a joke about how Polish people are cleaners. For good measure he also wants fascists to have free reign to propagate their hate (see post about Tommy Robinson).

Now for some time we have been making the case that outsourcing, at least the way you do it, is inherently discriminatory. You have a predominantly BAME and migrant workforce which work on far inferior pay, terms and conditions, and treatment compared to their predominantly white British directly employed colleagues. And our members certainly feel as though they are bearing the brunt of the discriminatory policy.  But these recent revelations take the matter to a whole new level.

For now, in addition to working under inferior terms and conditions, the workers are being supervised by someone who thinks they shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Given some of the hostile interactions some of the workers have had with Lee Smith, including on one occasion Lee Smith aggressively pushing and shoving one of our members, needless to say, some of our members are deeply unsettled.

Of course, there are also serious legal issues which you need to consider, such as the University’s Public Sector Equality Duty pursuant to the Equality Act 2010.

Now your usual tactic is to place the blame for all things outsourcing on the contractors themselves. Not this time. You and only you chose Cordant for your contracts. No one else made that decision except the University of London. This is your responsibility. I want to know what you’re going to do about it, and I want to know now.

Kind regards,

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee
General Secretary
IWGB