On Tuesday 21, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) filed what could turn out to be a landmark test case.
The IWGB will argue that outsourced workers, including receptionists, security officers and porters, working at the University of London but technically employed through facilities management company Cordant Security, have the right to collectively bargain over pay and conditions directly with the university.
The IWGB says outsourced workers are amongst some of the most exploited workers in the UK.
Denying these workers the right to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer is a breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the union will argue, in the case that is was filed before the Central Arbitration Committee.
The law to date has been interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer. But, if successful, the test case would open the doors for workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer as well as their direct employer.
IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer Lee told ThisWeekinFM: “When it comes to the most important elements of pay and terms and conditions for the outsourced workers, it is the University of London and not Cordant which calls the shots. In order for these workers’ collective bargaining and human rights to mean anything, we need to be able to negotiate directly with the university, not the glorified middle man.”
IWGB President and University of London porter Henry Chango Lopez said: “Despite working for the university just like any other employee, even to the point of being given orders by the institution’s managers, I am denied basic rights and treated like a second class worker. All outsourced workers know that ultimately they are working for the University of London, now it is time for the law to acknowledge that.”
When contacted by ThisWeekinFM, a University of London spokesperson said: “The University has long recognised two trade unions, UCU and Unison. It has received a request from the Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union for recognition covering security guards, post-room workers, AV staff, porters and receptionists who are all employees of our contractors Cordant.
"The University does not employ any of these workers and does not accept that the relevant legislation recognises the concept of joint employment. We have therefore not agreed to the IWGB’s request for recognition.
"The IWGB is involved in a long-running dispute over the terms and conditions of the individuals employed by the University’s contractors. The University has already begun a review of the performance of the University's contracted facilities management services and as part of that review will be discussing with the contractor the pay, conditions, benefits and development opportunities for the contractor’s employees.”
Carefully timed protest
Guided by leading trade union barrister John Hendy QC and employment law barrister Sarah Fraser-Butlin (who will act for the IWGB), outsourced workers wrote to the University of London and went on strike on Tuesday 21, calling on the uni to take them back in house.
A protest in support of the workers’ demands, which will included workers, students and other supporters, took place from 6:00pm at Senate House. This was timed to coincide with the visit of the university’s Chancellor, Princess Anne, as part of the University of London’s Foundation Day celebrations.
There is a wider Back in-House campaign afoot.
The IWGB case will be backed by The Good Law Project.
SOAS University of London plans to stop outsourcing its core support services to private contractors from September 2018. To see ThisWeekinFm's coverage - Click Here
Picture: The University of London and Cordant Security face a legal challenge from IWGB. A strike and protest was timed to coincide with the visit of the university’s Chancellor, Princess Anne, as part of the University of London’s Foundation Day celebrations
Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 23 November 2017