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Wednesday, 11 December

Avoid Strikers - Work From Home Order Given

Tuesday November 19 saw cleaners, porters and security officers at UCL go on strike from 8:00am until 1:00pm supported by students and other unions
UCL strikers bang the drum
Strikers block the gates at UCL
IWGB strikers march on UCL gounds

Tuesday November 19 saw approximately four hundred outsourced workers, students and supporters marched on University College London causing the establishment to tell people to work from home.

this was the biggest strike of outsourced workers so far in a long-running dispute.

This strike by cleaners, porters and security officers this time around had a significant impact on several UCL buildings. The university suggested staff work from home to avoid disruption and some events, including the Orwell Memorial Lecture, were cancelled or postponed.

 

Speakers

The protests went on from 8:00am until 1:00pm, with workers and supporters taking to the streets and visiting several UCL buildings.

Speeches of support were given by Guardian columnist Owen Jones, Labour candidate for Cities of London and Westminster Gordon Nardell QC, UCU National Executive Committee member Deepa Driver,  PCS union Assistant General Secretary John Moloney, NUS Vice President for Higher Education Claire Sosienski Smith and UCL student union BME officer Sandy Ogundele.

In his speech to the striking workers, Owen Jones said: "UCL has picked a fight with the wrong workers and it's picked a fight with the wrong union. Their determination and courage is far greater than your determination to impose low pay and insecure contracts on your workers while you pay ridiculous, exorbitant salaries to those at the top."

Gordon Nardell QC said: "Workers who are themselves victims of outsourcing taking action for themselves; this is brilliant because it stands as a beacon to non-organised workers, to members of other trade unions who aren't taking action and they can see what a determined campaign can do."

 

UCL comment

When contacted by ThisWeekinFM, a UCL spokesperson said: “UCL has committed to ensuring that security, cleaning and catering staff will receive the same or equivalent pay and benefits as directly employed staff, following constructive negotiations with our recognised trade union UNISON.

“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.”

 

Intimidation

IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee told workers: "We've had lots of reports over the past couple of weeks of Sodexo and Axis managers trying to intimidate workers, trying to say they can't go on strike. Axis even hired a law firm to write us letters threatening to sue us if we go on strike. As if the IWGB is going to be intimidated by a court case!

"We take all this to be a good sign. It means we're having an impact."

 

Axis response

"Due to client confidentiality," an Axis spokesperson told ThisWeekinFM, "Axis is unable to comment on the ongoing negotiations with Unison, the officially recognised union within UCL, at this time."

 

Sodexo speak

A Sodexo spokesperson said: “We have been working with UCL, our people and recognised trade unions to address their concerns. All our employees are already paid the London Living Wage and it has been agreed that they will receive the same or equivalent pay and benefits as directly employed staff. As a first step, Sodexo staff will receive the same holiday entitlements as UCL’s directly employed staff from 1 December 2019.”

 

Public and Commercial Services Union

John Moloney told workers: "I'm bringing solidarity to you on behalf of more than 180,000 PCS members...Your bosses say you're a great team, I'm sure they say that; but at the end of the day all they'd have to do is lift a finger and you'd be staff with equal rights."

The dispute is over equal pay and equal rights to those directly employed by UCL.

 

UCL student union

Sandy Ogundele told workers: "This is so important to me because my mum's an outsourced worker so I know this struggle. I know the struggle of coming home to her when she's had to go to work sick, of having to picking up her shifts when she can't."

 

University College Union

Deepa Driver told workers: "This inequality is unacceptable in a civilised society where we educate people because the message we are giving is that this is ok. Your UCU comrades are with you." The UCU is to hold eight days of strikes during November and early December.

 

Right to strike

Striking UCL Security officer Oladitan Olasiende said: "Until our voice is heard, until our pay is paid, we will continue to fight our battle. Everybody deserves to be happy. That is why everybody deserves the right to go on strike."

 

October 21

On October 21, UCL committed paying the same or equivalent pay and benefits to outsourced cleaning, catering and security staff as those directly employed by the university.

As a first step, UCL offered these staff the same holiday entitlements as UCL’s directly employed staff - commencing on 1 December this year.

The decision, will affect around 800 security, cleaning and catering staff, who work for Sodexo or Axis.

UCL will also achieve parity on other employment benefits, including pay scales, overtime, sick pay, maternity and paternity payments and carers’ pay as soon as possible – subject to further negotiation and agreement with UNISON, with which UCL has recognition arrangements in place. The university is committed to having all changes in place by August 2021.

A further decision has been made to ensure these staff will also receive the same pension contributions as directly employed UCL staff. UCL is also committed to exploring the best options for pension arrangements for these staff.

 

President & Provost

On October 21, Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, 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 to ensure they will receive the same or equivalent pay and benefits as directly employed staff. We will continue to listen and respond to concerns raised by our community.”

Picture: Tuesday November 19 saw cleaners, porters and security officers at UCL go on strike from 8:00am until 1:00pm supported by students and other unions.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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