BringThemIn: Insourcing at UCL
UNISON UCL branch is campaigning with outsourced workers to bring them back in house on the same terms and conditions as UCL staff. On the 17th December 2018, UNISON submitted a series of claims to UCL, Sodexo and Axis to bring outsourced workers at UCL back in house on the same terms as directly employed staff.
UCL is one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. They offer their staff decent terms and conditions like good pension, 27 days’ leave plus 6 paid days over Easter and Christmas period and 8 days bank holidays, occupational sick pay, enhanced pay for overtime, maternity and paternity pay.
All of these benefits are withheld from approximately 900 lowest paid workers who clean, feed and keep the university safe. Many cleaners start their shift at 4:30 and will already be at their second job by the time students and their UCL colleagues arrive. Many security officers will work 12 hour days, 6 days a week and at a flat rate of pay because they can’t afford to look after their families otherwise.
Why should they have to come into work with a bad flu or before they’ve recovered from operation or childbirth when directly employed staff are afforded the protection of a proper sick pay scheme?
Why should they have to use their meagre annual leave entitlement to cover the days when the university is closed, for which all of UCL staff are paid?
Sadly, the answer to these questions is that UCL has decided to prioritise an outsourcing agenda over the its duty of welfare, dignity, and respect to those colleagues who are essential in maintaining it as a community.
Hundreds of these workers are UNISON members and they have been reporting feeling like second class citizens – invisible, undermined, disrespected, overworked. We have been raising this with the private contractors and with UCL for years, however things are only getting worse.
In 2015 UCL received a Silver Athena SWAN award, a recognition for advancing equality in higher education institutions. In his letter of support for UCL’s Athena SWAN application, the Provost stated that, “My commitment to advancing equality is based on my belief that our culture, research and teaching will be significantly enhanced when the staff and student population, at all levels of seniority fully represents our society.”
And yet, there is no recognition of the stark inequality and injustice that is propagated by UCL’s outsourcing agenda – 900 of the most hard-working and the most vulnerable workers, without whom the university could not function, are not even considered worthy being part of UCL community.
UCL is one of the wealthiest universities in the UK – they reported an operating surplus of £85 million in November 2018, with a total surplus of £149 million. They can afford equality. It is their responsibility as an institution of education to send a clear message to their students, staff and stakeholders that equality truly matters, and that equality is not for sale.