Higher education: UNISON wins SOAS commitment to end outsourcing

Union’s campaign sees employer agree to bring all core support services back in house by September 2018

UNISON has won a major victory at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, with an agreement to end the outsourcing of core support services by September 2018 and bring more than 120 staff back in house.

The announcement by the university follows and expands on an agreement reached with UNISON last year after talks at Acas, where the employer had agreed to bring all cleaning services back in house by September 2019.

But more talks between the university and UNISON earlier this year have seen the employer widen the plan to include all core support services.

This covers staff employed in a range of roles, including cleaning, catering, conferences and events, security, the post room and the help desk and reception teams.

It is the latest in a long line of UNISON successes at SOAS over the course of an 11-year campaign.

Having already won the London living wage, cleaners and porters won parity of terms and conditions with directly employed staff in 2014. They were joined last year by security personnel and by catering staff on 1 August this year.

Earlier this year, the union won a significant victory by halting the outsourcing of catering services at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, together with a pledge to bring cleaning services back in house by 2018 at the London School of Economics.

“We welcome this exciting and historic decision,” regional organiser Jo Galloway commented after the latest victory.

“Despite increased outsourcing across the sector, SOAS is the third London university this year to recognise the cost benefits and improved delivery of in-house services through negotiations and discussions with UNISON.

“We will continue to encourage all universities to end outsourcing and we will work with SOAS to ensure that the process is fair, transparent and successful.”

Thanking the University and College Union, the SOAS student’s union and the SOAS community for their support, UNISON branch secretary Sandy Nicoll praised the “hard work and dedication of our catering, cleaning, portering and security stewards and members throughout the campaign.

“This is a victory for UNISON, which will hopefully have an impact across the sector.”