Outsourced Workers Strike At One Of UK’s Biggest Universities
News

Outsourced Workers Strike At One Of UK’s Biggest Universities

By Aaron Walawalkar, News and Digital Editor 19 Nov 2019
Discrimination, Workplace

Crowds of outsourced workers – including cleaners, porters, and security officers – have gone on strike and gathered in protest outside one of the UK’s biggest universities.

Protestors danced and chanted outside University College London (UCL) on Tuesday (19 November) during the “biggest” strike in a series of walkouts coordinated by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

The union argues that outsourced employees receive worse sick pay, pension, holiday pay, and parental leave than those directly employed by the university. They are also more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination, it said.

Image Credit: IWGB. 

“For decades, UCL has treated its majority migrant and BAME outsourced workers like second class citizens, condemning them to a system of bullying and discrimination,” said Maritza Castillo Calle,  IWGB University of London branch chair and former UCL cleaner.

“We gave UCL several opportunities to avoid this industrial action. But instead of doing the right thing by agreeing to treat these workers as equals, the university continues to drag its feet and only offer half measures. If the university continues to bury its head in the sand, we will not hesitate to take additional industrial action until we are heard.”

The university has engaged in negotiations with separate union UNISON and has said it is committed to ensuring security, cleaning, and catering staff receive the same – or equivalent – pay as directly employed staff. It has also promised to achieve parity on pay scales, overtime, sick pay, and maternity and paternity pay by August 2021.

A UCL spokeswoman said: “Our colleagues working in security, cleaning and catering fulfil essential roles at UCL, on which we all depend. We have listened carefully to their concerns and we are acting. We will continue to listen and respond to concerns raised by our community.”

However, IWGB has dismissed UCL’s statements as “vague” and without “a clear timeline.”

Ahead of today’s strike, the union balloted almost 300 workers over their terms and conditions, as part of its campaign to end outsourcing and zero-hour contracts at UCL. The strike action was backed by 98 percent of the cleaners and porters and 98.75 percent of the security officers that voted.

It demands that the facilities management companies that manage the security and cleaning contracts, Axis and Sodexo, give the outsourced workers the same terms and conditions as UCL’s direct employees.

Support the IWGB’s appeal to raise money for its strike fund here.

Featured Image Credit: IWGB / Twitter.

About The Author

Aaron Walawalkar News and Digital Editor

Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK.

Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK.