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UCL cleaners and academics to picket together in first ever joint strike

by IWGB Staff
03 December 2019 09:43
  • Cleaners, porters and security officers are demanding an end to outsourcing, while academics and support staff are striking over pensions and conditions.
  • This is the first time outsourced workers strike alongside directly employed staff in any UK university.
  • Since the IWGB launched its campaign in October, UCL has committed to improving some conditions, but has fallen short from promising to end outsourcing.

3 December: Hundreds of cleaners, security officers and porters will go on strike on 4 December alongside UCL academics and support staff, in the first ever joint-strike of direct employees and outsourced workers.

The action follows the largest ever strike of outsourced workers in UK higher education history organised by the IWGB at UCL on 19 November, and over a week of industrial action by directly employed staff organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU).

While the strikes by the two groups of workers focus on different specific demands, they are both a reaction to declining terms and conditions faced by university staff.

The outsourced cleaners, porters and security, currently employed by Sodexo and Axis, are striking as part of their campaign to end outsourcing at the UCL. Outsourced workers receive worse terms and conditions than their in-house colleagues. They are also more likely to suffer from bullying and discrimination than directly employed workers.

Meanwhile, UCL's direct employees are striking over changes to the USS pension scheme and on universities' failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

Following the launch of the IWGB's campaign in October and a successful strike of over 300 workers, UCL has announced it will increase the holiday provision for outsourced workers, and committed to increase the pay scales and sickness provision for outsourced staff in 2020.

However, it did not give any concrete details on either commitment, nor on other demands by the workers including pensions and paternal leave.

The university has also so far refused to commit to ending outsourcing.

IWGB University of London branch chair Maritza Castillo Calle said:

"There is a near consensus at UCL that outsourcing has to end and that all workers should be put on equal terms and conditions, but management continues to drag its feet. These joint strikes will send a clear message of unity, with all those that keep the university running on the same side of the picket line, while Provost Michael Arthur will be on the opposite side. It’s not too late for management to get on the right side of history and agree to our demands and those of the directly employed staff."

UCL UCU branch vice president Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia said:

"Our action represents a wholesale resistance to the turning of universities into businesses and commercial concerns, rather than communities of learning and scholarship. Our Vice Chancellors are more interested in building new buildings and campuses into which to pack students so as to benefit from their fees. We see the struggle of IWGB outsourced workers as continuous with this resistance and that is why we are proud to be on strike with them on 4 December. All out!"

After the launch of the strike ballot by the IWGB, a campaign of intimidation was carried out by UCL's contractors, who warned workers who spoke to the press and threatened the union with legal action over the strike. Despite these threats, the union went through with 19 November strike action and faced no retaliation.

The IWGB has launched an appeal to raise money for the strike fund, which can be found here.


For more information:

Emiliano Mellino

[email protected]

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