Outsourced workers protest at University of London in fight for dignified pay and end to exploitative outsourcing

Tue, May 24, 2022, 8:21 AM
  • Over 100 outsourced cleaners and security staff at University College London (UCL) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) set to protest on Thursday at 5PM to demand dignified pay and an end to exploitative outsourcing at UCL.
  • Outsourced cleaners and security staff at UCL who face precarious work and chronic mismanagement by subcontractors launched a campaign earlier this month demanding an end to outsourcing and pay of £15/hr.
  • Majority-migrant outsourced cleaners and security staff at LSHTM launched a campaign last month over a discriminatory pay structure.

Tuesday 24 May: Hundreds of outsourced cleaners and security staff employed at UCL and LSHTM will protest this Thursday at 5PM over pay and exploitative outsourcing. The protest, organised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), is the latest in two recent campaigns launched at UCL and LSHTM amidst the cost of living crisis.

Outsourced cleaners and security at UCL launched a campaign in 2019 and won improved rights and conditions, including pensions, sick leave and parental leave. But outsourced cleaners still face precarious zero-hour contracts and overworking, following sweeping redundancies at the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, outsourced security staff face regular attempts to change their working hours without consultation, as well as repeated payroll errors. Workers are demanding an end to outsourcing and £15/hr, the same wage paid to workers before outsourcing began (and to many still on TUPE contracts).

Outsourced cleaners and security staff employed by LSHTM launched a campaign last month over a discriminatory pay gap that paid the majority-migrant workforce below the lowest rung of the university-wide pay structure. Since the campaign launched, workers have been moved onto pay grade 1, still the lowest in the University. This follows a campaign in August last year when outsourced workers won in-housing by August 2022.

Following a peaceful protest on 21 April, four migrant cleaners were suspended from LSHTM. Three of these cleaners have now been reinstated with warnings, but the IWGB has initiated the process of a blacklisting claim against LSHTM, mere months after a report revealed ingrained structural racism at the prestigious university. Cleaners and security staff are demanding grade 3 pay (starting at £14.38/hr), equivalent to many maintenance staff.

At Thursday’s protest, over 100 workers and supporters will demonstrate at Malet Place at 5PM before marching to LSHTM. The IWGB has a strong record of ending outsourcing, having won an end to outsourcing at Senate House, LSHTM, and Goldsmiths.

Farhana Uddin, UCL Security Officer, says: “I have worked at UCL for 6 years in this job and over the years, I’ve seen subcontractor after subcontractor trying to cut hours and cut corners wherever they can. I had to get two payday loans just to support my family after the most recent subcontractor failed month after month to pay me my legal entitlement on time. We deserve better than this. We deserve to be treated like the vital workforce that we are.”

Narcisa, LSHTM Cleaner says: "The cost of living is rising every month, but my work has been undervalued for years. I gave everything I could through the pandemic, only to be paid below anybody else in the University. And after we came together to peacefully stand up for our rights and ask that management listen to our concerns, they responded by suspending me and my colleagues. We deserve equality and dignified pay for the important work we do, not victimisation.”

Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary (IWGB) says: “Amidst the cost of living crisis, we are seeing hundreds of outsourced workers across the University of London standing up for their rights, demanding equality and dignified pay. This majority-migrant and BAME workforce worked tirelessly through the pandemic, but many still face precarious work and poverty pay from incompetent subcontractors. When workers come together, we can put a stop to this exploitative business model for good, and the IWGB has a record of doing exactly this, ending outsourcing across London universities.”

Interviews with workers are available upon request.

For more information, please contact:
James Vail, Head of Communications

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