Posts Tagged ‘University of London’

IWGB welcomes new Vice Chancellor

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Although Universities like to present themselves as centres of enlightenment, when it comes to their relationship with workers who provide vital services to them, things are rather different. Unions including the IWGB have a long record of fighting and eventually winning battles against intransigent university managements for the London Living Wage and for better terms and conditions of service.

The IWGB, supported by other unions, after a series of protests and strikes in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign won improved sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced workers at the University of London (Central Administration). But outsourced workers employed by contracting companies to work for the university are still under far worse conditions than those directly employed by the university, and often subject to poor and bullying managers, and a new campaign began in 2017 to bring them into direct employment.

Actions by IWGB members and its supporters – including many university students and staff – forced to the University to make a committment to bring the workers in-house, but a year later this promise was still to be kept, with only 12 receptionists having been brought back to direct employment

This action followed a failure of the newly appointed University Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson to reply to the IWGB’s request for a meeting to discuss the issue. Instead of talking with the IWGB union about their demand for all the workers to be taken into direct employment without delay the University has been spending large amounts on buying in extra security staff.

Although the great majority of the staff involved are now IWGB members, the University continues to take advantage of our immoral trade union laws which enable them to ignore the union and instead only officially talk and negotiate with a union which has no or very few members among the workers involved.

To their great shame our larger established trade unions collude with this practice – and even often claim the credit for concessions which have only been won because of the work of the IWGB and other grass roots unions who similarly remain unrecognised by the employers. Workers have a right to choose who should recognise them, and this is something that the unions once fought for but now too often refuse to support.

The 12 receptionists were given new contracts in May 2019, but these were negotiated with another union “behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB“, and 7 of the 12 have brought grievances against the university, some of which involve a breach of transfer of employment (TUPE) regulations.

Since this protest, the University have also set a timetable to bring the  security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020, but have refused to bring the gardeners also involved back in house.

The IWGB are continuing to demand that the gardeners are also brought back in house and that any new contracts should be made in consultation with the union to which the workers belong and be approved by them.

More about the protest and more pictures at  IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Goldsmiths Occupation

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Goldsmiths, University of London was once a small college in New Cross, establishe in 1891 by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths as Goldsmiths’ Technical and Recreative Institute in a building built in 1844 for the Royal Naval School who had outgrown the site. It became a college of the University of London in 1904 as as Goldsmiths’ College, losing the apostrophe in 1933.

Goldsmiths College is still its official name, but it no longer uses the ‘College’, perhaps too much of a reminder of its past role largely in training teachers, although also offering other courses. Many well-known British artists studied there, perhaps benefitting greatly from a thriving south London art scene in the 1970s in Bermondsey and other areas of nearby Southwark.

Goldsmiths too has outgrown its old building, although it is still its main building, but has spread its campus across a much larger area, with both new buildings and incorporating older ones, the most prestigious and ornate of which is the former Deptford Town Hall on the New Cross Road.

Over half the students at Goldsmiths are mature students, and around a fifth are overseas students as well as many BAME students from this country. That mix was evident when I visited Deptford Town Hall where students were preparing for a party to celebrate 50 days of occupation in the building – as it has also been on other visits to the campus. It feels more like a London university than most.

The Goldsmiths occupation was prompted after a candidate standing in student elections was racially abused and the university authorities failed to take action, but has longer and deeper causes. Students claim that the university fails to treat its BAME students and workers fairly, with higher dropout rates for them as well as lower academic results. I’d been at Goldsmiths a couple of months earlier, on St Valentines Day for a protest to launch the campaign by the IWGB union and students to directly employ its security officers and give them decent pay and conditions.

I was signed into the building by a student and given a conducted tour of the occupied areas, then watched and photographed the occupying students preparing for their party – and wished I could stay as the food looked delicious.

The students had a long list of demands, including that Goldsmiths develop a strategic plan to tackle the institutional racism – and bring workers on the campus into direct employment, several versions of which were written up in the occupation and on-line.

They also demand that Deptford Town Hall be made more available to the local community, as they say Goldsmiths have failed to live up to the promises they made about this. It really is a splendid building, and the interior even more so than the impressive facade, and it would be good to see it become a community asset rather than solely used for university purposes. It was after all built for the people, doubtless with money from taxpayers as well as from our exploitation of the Empire.

The occupation finally came to a successful end in July after 137 days when the Black, Minority Ethnic, Muslim, LGBTQ and disabled student-led occupation by Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action obtained a legally binding dcument signed by the Senior Management Team to their demands including that they would not pursue further legal action against those who had carried out the occupation.

More pictures from my brief visit: 50 days anti-racist occupation at Goldsmiths.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Outsourcing Unfair

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Outsourcing – putting parts of an organisation’s business out to tender to be carried out by other companies is an unfair employment practice, though unfortunately legal in the UK.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

Almost always outsourcing leads to lower standards of service, the job in various ways not being done as well, cutting corners in various ways to cut the costs. It may not even actually reduce the costs of the organisation, but enables them to avoid the legal responsibilities of being an employer, while still having effective control over the hours, pay and conditions of workers.

Cutting costs means paying the workers less and working them harder, cutting conditions of service to the bone, employing extra managers to bully them into doing jobs faster. Often too, cutting safety standards, and failing to provide proper equipment to keep them safe at work.

Chris Williamson MP

Many of the workers who suffer the worst of this are migrant workers, sometimes with a poor knowledge of English and not aware of their rights under our labour laws, and companies employing them have often taken advantage of this. Changes in employment law brought in under the Tories since 2010 have made it more difficult and expensive to take employers to tribunals, and few of the older unions have taken on the task of recruiting and representing low paid workers on any major scale.

Over the past ten years or so, new grass roots worker-led unions have taken up the challenge of representing low-paid workers – many of whom are outsourced – along with a few branches of the major unions, and a few campaigning unions such as the Baker’s union. They have called for all workers to be paid a true living wage – in London the London Living Wage – and for conditions of service – sick pay, holiday pay pensions etc – on a similar basis to those enjoyed by higher paid workers.

Petros and Claudia from United Voices of the World

On Feb 26, coordinated strike action was being taken by outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London, organised together by the two grass roots unions, the United Voices of the World (UVW) and the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) and by the PCS branch from the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It was also the day of a High Court challenge by the IWGB to extend the legal rights of 3.3 million outsourced workers by bringing the concept of ‘joint-employer’ status, long accepted in the US, to English law. Unfortunately the court, in a decision announced later, rejected the union’s case, though the fight continues, and the Labour Party have promised to put an end to the unfair employment practice of outsourcing when in government.

The day had started early for the protesters, with a picket at the University of London and a protest outside the court. I met with them after they had marched on to Parliament Square and then continued to protests at BEIS and the Ministry of Justice.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing
Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS
Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Goldsmith’s Security

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Goldsmith’s University is a part of the University of London located in New Cross in south-east London. Like many other organisations it has outsourced many of the service jobs on campus, paying private companies to provide the vital services that keep the university running.

Outsourcing contracts are generally awarded to companies who put in the lowest tender, and they do this largely by cutting corners at the expense of their employees, who are on poor wages, with lousy conditions of service and often greatly overworked by bullying managers. At Goldsmith’s the security guards employed by CIS Security report not getting their statutory sick pay, grievance pay, maternity/paternity pay and public bank holidays off, and feel they are treated as second-class citizens, not allowed to make use of the car park, canteens that other staff can use.

Their campaign to be brought in-house – employed directly by the university – has been supported by the Student Assembly which passed a motion of support for the security guards and the campaign by their trade union, the IWGB, and asking for Goldsmith’s management to recognise the IWGB to which the majority of them belong.

The protest, called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) Security Guards and Receptionists branch and supported by the Goldsmiths Students union and the Goldsmiths branch of university teachers union UCU, took place on St Valentine’s Day, and placards, posters and balloons reflected this, calling for the university to ‘show some love’ for the people who work there.

It was quite an eventful protest, and after a brief rally in front of the main building, the campaigners went inside and spoke to people eating in two canteen areas before walking through the buildings to emerge on the busy main New Cross Road, where they stopped traffic for some minutes by sitting on the road in front of Deptford Town Hall which now houses some of the university management. They returned onto campus and occupied the foyer of another building for a short rally before walking back to where they had started the protest for a final short rally.

More at Bring Goldsmith’s Security In-House.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

To order prints or reproduce images