UoL outsourced workers challenge bargaining conditions in landmark case

A union of outsourced staff including receptionists, security officers and porters have launched a legal fight to allow them to bargain directly with University of London (UoL).

In their case, filed Tuesday November 21, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) hope to broaden the trade union rights of the outsourced workers by asserting their right to collectively bargain over pay and conditions directly with the university.

The staff have reported abuse and discrimination at work but under current law can only agree their pay and conditions with their direct employer, facilities management company Cordant Security.

The IWGB argues that the denial of the workers’ right to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer breaches article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If successful, the union argues, the “test case” filed before the Central Arbitration Committee by barristers John Hendy QC and Sarah Fraser-Butlin would rewrite the social contract between workers and their employers. It would permit outsourced workers throughout the UK the right to collectively bargain with their de-facto employers.

We have therefore not agreed to the IWGB’s request for recognition

Announcing the case, Henry Chango Lopez, President of the IWGB and a porter at the University of London, said that “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.”

“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,” said IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee.

Adrian Smith, the university’s vice-chancellor, has seen his salary rise to £173,000

A spokesperson for University of London told London Student:

“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 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.”

The outsourced workers ‘Back in House’ campaign, launched in September, demands an end to outsourcing and zero hour contracts in addition to pay rises that were assured by the University of London six years ago but were not delivered.

In the same period, the number of staff at the university earning over £100,000 has tripled. Adrian Smith, the university’s vice-chancellor, has seen his salary rise to £173,000.

Kyle Hoekstra studies MA Creative Writing at Royal Holloway's Bedford Square campus and is London Student's Exhibitions editor. Contact:

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