UNISON held a noisy and good-humoured protest at University College London (UCL) today, as the first part of a campaign to persuade the university to bring outsourced staff back in house.
Shouts of “End outsourcing – in house now!” and “UCL – bring them in!” rang around the courtyard, as members, reps and organisers gathered in front of the university’s art gallery, bringing a burst of purple to the grey day.
Organiser Madeleine Taylor explained that the university “currently outsources its cleaning and catering and security services.” The cleaning and catering staff are employed by Sodexo and the security staff by Axis.
“They have really bad terms and conditions,” she continued, including far less leave than other university staff and no sick leave beyond the statutory minimum.
UNISON has enjoyed success at other universities in London, including the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Goldsmiths and King’s College, where services have already been or are in the process of being brought back in house.
A central element of these campaigns was the percentage of affected workers who were woman and/or Black.
The institutions themselves make statements about “how they believe in equality”, but for their outsourced workers, they are not delivering.
And this is the case at UCL too.
The resolve was clear from those gathered. They are no longer prepared to be treated as a second-class workforce – and UNISON is ready to back them all the way.
The union’s head of higher education, Ruth Levin, said: “UNISON believes that everyone working in higher education, whatever their role, should be employed directly by the university.
“Our members in outsourced services carry out vital services, yet they have worse pensions, minimal annual leave and sick pay for the hard work that they do.
“UNISON will campaign with our members to return catering, cleaning and security services to university employment.”