Wednesday 11 November 2020 - The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has served notice of dispute on Sodexo on behalf of security officers working for the contractor at the University of Greenwich demanding an end to racial discrimination.
Security officers, the vast majority of whom are BAME, have been required to take on additional responsibilities during the pandemic, but have not received hazard pay or a bonus. Meanwhile porters, also subcontracted to Sodexo and a majority of whom are White British, have received a £300.00 per month bonus for working during the pandemic.
Security officers have also raised concerns about intimidation and victimisation, following disciplinary action against one security officer and an attempted clamp down on security officers speaking out publicly about issues they are facing.
Sodexo is currently taking disciplinary action against a security officer, Kingsley Osadolor, after a student complained about him physically preventing them from entering a university building without a mask. Kingsley states that he believes he was following the procedures that were set out to him in an extremely difficult environment, but he is now facing the threat of dismissal and made to bear the blame for unclear procedures handed down by Sodexo and University management. As a result of this disciplinary action, security officers say they feel intimidated and less able to do their jobs.
After many security officers spoke out on social media about the disciplinary action against Kingsley using the hashtag #WeAreAllKingsley, Sodexo insisted all security officers sign a conduct and social media policy, which includes restrictions on their abilities to speak publicly about issues at work, in direct contravention of their statutory rights.
The Security Officers have four demands in their dispute:
In a statement on 9 June 2020 regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Jane Harrington, stated: “We have a duty to do better. Equality, diversity and inclusion are founding principles of our institution and core beliefs of our students and staff”. The University has also recently launched a campaign on campus describing outsourced staff as “our heroes” in thanks for their work during the pandemic.
However, when the IWGB union wrote to Jane Harrington, Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, on Monday 19 October to raise the issue of health and safety, Tuesday 10 November to raise concern about the treatment of Kingsley, and on Thursday 29 October 2020 to raise the issue of intimidation, and to request the university intervene to end discriminatory practices by its subcontractor Sodexo, the University of Greenwich declined to take any action.
Sodexo has also declined to take any action in response to a number of emails and the demands set out in the recent notice of dispute.
Maritza Castillo-Calle, Chair of the IWGB University of London branch, said: “The University of Greenwich has failed to put adequate health and safety policies in place and has relied on outsourced staff to pick up the slack during the pandemic. To refuse to give majority Black security officers bonuses for this extra work in line with those paid out to other White British staff is pure discrimination. And to make one security officer Kingsley carry the can for the university’s policy failures and threaten him with dismissal shows the discriminatory and racist nature of outsourcing. It’s time for the university to live up to its public statements against racism and put those values into practice.”
Abiodun Wilhelm, a security officer at University of Greenwich said: "I have worked at University of Greenwich for 14 years and during the pandemic I have put my life on the line, despite my health conditions, to keep students and staff safe. However, the university has refused our requests to give us majority-BAME security staff hazard pay for taking on extra work and facing these extra risks. Meanwhile, other staff who are predominately white British have been given bonuses for working during the pandemic. The University must end this discrimination and treat us fairly."
Umar Monday Usifoh, a security officer at University of Greenwich said: "We have happily taken on extra work for the University of Greenwich during the pandemic because we know we play a vital role in keeping the university safe and secure. However, the threatened action against Kingsley has made all of us feel intimidated and less able to do our jobs. We are all Kingsley. Retaining Kingsley is retaining every employee who works very hard for the development of the University of Greenwich Community."
Interviews with Abiodun, Umar and other security officers are available on request
For more information:
[email protected] / 07534 037 460
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