University workers in central London have called the “first ever combined strike of directly employed and outsourced workers in the history of higher education” on Wednesday.
Around 300 cleaners, porters, security guards and other support staff, who are outsourced to Axis and Sodexo, are demanding that University College London (UCL) takes them back in house.
The IWGB union members will be joined by UCU union members who are holding the last day of a round of eight days of strikes.
Maritza Castillo Calle, IWGB University of London branch chair, said, “Outsourcing forces us to work sick and injured, to work all our lives and still retire in poverty.
“For decades UCL has treated its majority migrant and BAME outsourced workers like second class citizens, condemning them to a system of bullying and discrimination.
“By voting overwhelmingly in favour of strikes, UCL’s outsourced workers have sent the university a clear message. They will no longer stand for half measures and endless delays, they want equality and justice and they want it now.”
A statement from the IWGB said, “At UCL we will be making history by combining the struggles of workers across the workforce.
“It is one of the richest universities in the world, yet for years they have exploited both their directly employed and outsourced workers.
“We are one university and one workforce and we demand justice.”
Unison union members at the University of Birmingham have voted to accept an improved pay offer and end a dispute that has seen six days of strikes.
The offer equates to a 4.85 percent increase for those on the lowest pay such as cleaners and caterers.
They will now be paid a minimum of £9.44 an hour.
Workers on higher bands, including security guards, administrators, supervisors and library assistants, will receive a rise of between 3 percent and 4.73 percent.
Mike Moore, the Unison union branch secretary, said, “We were tired of seeing our members’ pay cut in real terms with an employer that makes multimillion pound surpluses.
“The determination and persistence of our members brought the university back to the negotiating table.”
The union branch admits that “the vote to end the dispute was difficult for many members, who highlighted the lower percentage rise for higher bands and the lack of a firm commitment to living wage accreditation”.
Ioana Cerasella Chis, the Unison branch membership officer, said, “While this dispute has ended, this is only the beginning of our assiduous campaigning for equality, better pay, improved working conditions, and the end of outsourcing on our campus.”
“The enormous effort put into this campaign has massively increased the strength of the branch.
UCU union members at Coventry university began a two-day strike on Tuesday.
The walkout follows three days of strikes in November in a row over a new appraisal process.
Workers say the process makes it harder for them to get pay rises that staff at other institutions receive. Instead of adopting a national system for pay rises that the majority of universities use, Coventry university has imposed its own.
The union says this makes workers “jump through unnecessary hoops” to get annual incremental pay awards.
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