Organising Outsourced Workers

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2017 Higher Education Service Group Conference
9 November 2016

Conference believes that keeping existing services in-house should be the default position for higher education employers on the grounds that in-house services offer better quality, accountability, efficiency and social value to universities, workers and students. Conference also believes that workers employed by contractors should benefit from union recognition and collective bargaining to defend and improve jobs, pay and terms and conditions of employment.

Conference notes that UNISON’s most recent Freedom of Information request asked whether universities contracted out any catering, cleaning or security services and whether a minimum pay level was stipulated in the contract. 140 universities provided information on all three services:-

a)36 universities (26%) did not contract out any services.

b)81 universities (57%) contracted out cleaning to some extent. 40 of these universities said that they stipulated a minimum pay level in the contract.

c)63 universities (44%) contracted out catering to some extent. 36 of these universities said that they stipulated a minimum pay level in the contract.

d)78 universities (55%) contracted out security to some extent. 42 of these universities said that they stipulated a minimum pay level in the contract.

Conference, therefore, calls on the HESGE to:

i)Continue to campaign for existing services to remain in-house as a default position for all university services;

ii)Continue to work with universities to move outsourcing and privatisation contracts away from the ‘price or cost only’ award criteria, which has fuelled the race to the bottom on workforce pay and conditions;

iii)Seek ways to develop and implement learning agreements to support training needs.

iv)Develop a national Higher Education strategy to develop recruitment and organising plans in private companies in the sector;

v)Continue to promote the UNISON branch Guidance “Privatisation and Shared Services in Higher Education – a UNISON Organising Guide”;

vi)Endeavour that where there are outsourced workers in HE that there is union recognition, collective bargaining and that the Living Wage Foundation rate is applied;

vii)Advise and support branches on negotiating and organising campaigns. Ensure that any contracts include a commitment to pay the Foundation Living Wage, ban the use of zero hours contracts and protect terms and conditions for members and provide organising and recruitment opportunities;

viii)Continue to work with both the private sector and not for profit sector to promote socially responsible procurement, the accredited Living Wage and trade union recognition;

ix)Explore the possibilities of organising a series of webinars for branches, activists, organisers on recruiting and organising in outsourced services and on negotiating and pay in outsourced services;

x)Explore organising seminars for outsourced workers in HE;

xi)Promote equalities and training and development for workers in outsourced services;

xii)Work with employers to provide basic skills training and English language courses.