University of London faces boycott over treatment of staff
The University and College Union (UCU) congress has voted to boycott Senate House, the administrative centre of the University of London (UoL), because of its treatment of cleaning, catering and security staff and others not directly employed.
It is hoped the move will pressure the university into bringing the predominantly BAME and female staff in-house into direct employment, strengthening their workplace rights and providing the benefits enjoyed by other employees at the institution, such as equal terms on sick pay.
There have been 17 days of strike action since September 2017, when UoL cleaners and security began a campaign to end outsourcing, with calls for a boycott of Senate House beginning in December 2018.
The university authorities spent more than £400,000 on additional security over two months last year to police the industrial action and student protests that took place in solidarity with them. Strikers and protesters were filmed being subjected to violence and intimidation.
More than 180 Senate House events and 35 seminars were relocated, and more than 400 academics and 23 UCU branches have expressed support for the workers.
“It is our belief that victory here at the epicentre of London’s academic hub will not only sound the death knell for outsourcing in the sector, but it will also massively strengthen the position of precarious UCU members denied pensions and other rights,” said Jordi López, a UoL organiser and caseworker.
Christina Paine, who moved the amendment and presented it to the floor, said: “I believe that inequality is legitimised by precarious work … Universities should aspire [to be] institutions where every worker has the same terms and conditions.”
The resolution read: “Congress believes the fight for casualised staff in higher education is directly connected to – and empowered by – the struggle of female outsourced workers for equality and justice at our universities.
“Congress resolves to call a boycott of events at the University of London’s central administration until workers are brought in-house.”
The strikes have been part of a campaign coordinated by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has called on the university to end outsourcing, abolish zero-hours contracts and implement pay rises.
UoL has been contacted for comment.
By Mattha Busby