The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain want workers to be directly employed by the University
On Tuesday 21st November, the IWGB staged a protest at Senate House as part of the University of London “Back in House” Campaign. It was held to coincide with the visit of the UoL Chancellor Princess Anne.
Workers have been striking for months, and there has been a range of demos, videos as well as petitions. The protesters are demanding the end of a two-tier system that sees them employed by contractors on far worse terms and conditions than staff directly employed by the University. They can be subject to zero-hour contracts as well as receive different sick and holiday pay. Outsourced workers receive 1% employer pension contributions compared to the 18% received by direct employers. These workers are employed at the UoL administration buildings such as Student Central and Connaught Hall.
Although UoL promised that all outsourced staff would be paid the new London living wage, differentials are said to have since re-emerged. The University responded to the press stating that the outsourced workers were not directly employed by UoL.
Over 500 people protested, including 70 workers (security officers, receptionists and porters) who were on a strike earlier that day, as well as students and other supporters. The protest began at Senate House, although they missed the entrance of Princess Anne before they proceeded to march around Russell Square. The crowd walked and danced with banners illustrating slogans such as ‘United voices of the world,’ ‘Fair pay and respect for all workers’ and ‘Justice for cleaners.’ There were various speakers and representatives, including Christina Paine (UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee) and Henry Chango Lopez (IWGB). Police officers were also present.
Lopez, who is employed by Cordant Security and works at Senate House, proclaimed that outsourced workers were “denied basic rights and treated like second class workers.” He told Pi that many outsourced workers have reported issues with bullying and harassment. He stated that the protest was “just the beginning of the campaign” and the UoL should be prepared that the Union “will create more disruption.”
Amidst this conflict, the IWGB have just filed a group legal claim with the Central Arbitration Committee in a bid to establish UoL as their joint employer and broaden trade union rights. Currently, Cordant Security has the right to collectively bargain with UoL over workers’ pay and conditions. The Union stated that this is a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. If successful, the case could open doors for workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de facto employer.
The UCL Students’ Union Women’s Officer, Justine Canady, is said to have attended the event. The SU has sent a message of support for the campaign to the UoL vice chancellor Adrian Smith.
More information, including videos and photos of the event, can be viewed on the IGWB Facebook page: link
Featured image: Penelope Barritt Photography