UoL Chancellor’s Hall occupied by IWGB supporters to escalate campaign for outsourced campus cleaners, security guards and receptionists

A group of students under the banner of University of London Justice for Workers (UoL J4W) have occupied the Chancellor’s Hall at University of London’s (UoL) Senate House overnight to pressure university management to end all outsourcing of campus workers.

In a statement the UoL J4W said they will remain barricaded in this prominent locatation until their eight demands have been met by management. Besides immediately bringing all workers in-house, the demands call for recognision of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in campus industrial relations and zero job losses and pay and conditions cuts following the end of outsourcing.

UoL J4W, who prefer to remain anonymous, told London Student the number of participants in the occupation is “comfortably in double digits” and from “various unis”. A picture posted on the group’s Twitter page shows twelve cheerful activists holding a banner in the Chancellor’s Hall.

The occupiers said they chose the location because of its significance and as UoL “have expensive events planned here on a regular basis.”

The action was taken as UoL J4W claim the university have “only brought around 10%” of outoutsourced workers in-house. They said “there is no guarantee” the remaining workers, who include cleaners, security guards and receptionists, will follow as UoL is due to put these contracts out for general tender.

They also said UoL have made “threats of diciplinary action” and “refuse to guarantee that security won’t use force” against them.

The students said they are acting “independently of the IWGB union but in full support of their aims.”

In their statement posted earlier on Twitter UoL W4W said that outsourced workers face: “a form of institutional racism in UoL” through a higher risk of “bullying and harassment” and a lack of sick pay, company pensions, overtime pay and paid parental leave.

A statement posted by students currently barricaded in Senate House.

In an update this morning the group, tweeted a photo from a window overlooking the western Senate House car park. They state they have stayed in the hall overnight but are “being denied toilet access” by university management. They also allege management are trying to “freeze us out” by turning on the airconditioning.

A tweet this morning from inside the shut-down room.

A UoL spokesperson said in a statement to London Student:

“The University management is aware of the student occupation of Senate House. The current priority is for the health and safety of the protestors and managing the situation.”

Staff at UoL not directly employed by the university include cleaners, security guards and halls receptionists. Conceding to the long-running campaign by IWGB-affiliated workers, UoL announced in May that post room workers, audio-visual staff and porters would become direct university employees.

This latest occupation follows years of actions to end outsourcing and win union recognition for IWGB members at UoL. Security guards have taken strike action in recent years. A high profile academic boycott, supported by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell, has convinced many seminars and events normally scheduled at Senate House to relocate.

Although IWGB represents a majority of outsourced unionised UoL workers, the management and outsourcing companies still choses to recognise only the Senate House Unison branch in formal negotiations. IWGB lost a High Court case seeking to force UoL into recognising the union in March.

In their statement, the UoL spokesperson also said:

“It is very regrettable that this incident has taken place when we have brought some staff in-house already and are making good progress according to our published timetable with consideration of the other contracts ongoing.”

The library at Senate House and other UoL-based departments and institutes appear to be open as usual.

Picture credit: UoL Justice for Workers.

For updates, follow @UOLJ4W and @LondonStudent on Twitter.

This article was updated at 13.02 on 14 June to include comments from UoL J4W.

Opinion Editor. Cambridge History PhD student.

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