Posts Tagged ‘University of London’

3 Cosas – 28 Jan 2014

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

It was the second day of the 3 day strike by the IWGB for union recognition and better conditions for outsourced workers at the University of London, and the union had hired an open-top bus to take their campaigners around London to protest.

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign was calling for Sick Pay, Holdidays and Pensions for the workers, who were only getting the minimal statutory provisions from the cost-cutting contracting companies who employed them. They worked alongside people who were employed directly by the University who enjoyed considerably better conditions of service.

Although the majority of the workers were members of the IWGB, the University and the contractors refuse to talk with this union. The University management instead recognises a union that has few if any members, using this as an excuse not to recognise the union the workers belong to.

After a lengthy tour of London, stopping at some of the workplaces and elsewhere for speeches from the top of the bus, we came to Parliament Square, where there was a short rally and MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham came to show their support.

I’ve written about the day at some length on My London Diary so I won’t go into much detail and repeat myself here. There are of course many more pictures, rather too many, as I got a little carried away and there was so much to photograph.

While the idea through the morning had been to draw as much attention to the strike and protest noisily, the next event was a suprise protest at another location where the IWGB were campaigning for union recognition and a living wage, the Royal Opera House. The bus stopped a short distance away and then members rushed into the foyer to hold a noisy protest there.

We then left and went for a final protest outside the offices of the contractor who employ many of the workers at the University, Cofely GDF-Suez. There the gates were locked and the protest took place on the street outside.

More pictures and text from the day:
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus
IWGB at Parliament
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez


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.


Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

One of the reasons why the UK has suffered so badly from the corona virus has been outsourcing. Not of course the major reason, which has been government incompetence and failure to take effective action, always a case of too little too late. A year after the outbreak began it is only now considering the kind of travel restrictions that would have saved many thousands of lives (and which even one government minister has said she was arguing in favour of at the start.) Three weeks before we had the first lock-down I was getting urgent messages from relatives who were in touch with the medical advice that was going to the government that, because of my age and diabetes, I should isolate myself.

And of course there has been the failure to work properly with existing public bodies, instead preferring to give huge payments to cronies to set up an ineffectual systems for testing and tracing, to source inadequate PPE and take large consultancy fees to no particular purpose, wasting billions.

Government has deliberately promoted policies which have increased the spreading of the virus, failing to stop much unnecessary work or ensure that proper protective measures are enforced and giving offers to people to go out for meals largely in indoor settings where the spread of infection was almost inevitable. Although they now deny it, their polices were based on ideas of herd immunity, where infection gives a large proportion of the population some immunity and stops the virus spreading; for this to work, perhaps 80% of us would need to have had it, and a quick back of envelope calculation showed that would mean perhaps 400,000 deaths – and I would have been rather too likely to be one of them. It’s a figure we may still reach, though 200,000 seems more likely now – and we are over half way there.

A couple of days ago on the Today programme on Radio 4 I heard Maria, a cleaner from the IWGB being interviewed. She contracted the virus, probably while travelling to work on crowded public transport, and tested positive. Before the test she had been ill at work and had asked her employer if she could go home, but had been told she had to stay. After the positive result, she had to continue to go to work, as the sick pay she would have received was simply not enough to live on.

Maria is probably one of those IWGB members in the pictures I took on 25 Jan 2018, and the other pictures I’ve taken at IWGB protests against outsourcing. Outsourced workers are employed not by the company at their work place – on this occasion the University of London – but by a company that is given a contract for the services they provide. Contracts are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and outsourcing companies cut their costs by paying low wages, giving only the statutory minimum in conditions – including sick pay, holidays, pensions etc – and often bullying the workers, demanding impossible workloads and failing to provide proper safety equipment – so that they can gain contracts and also make a profit for the company owners.

Usually too both the contractors and the workplace management refuse (often illegally) to recognise the trade unions to which the outsourced workers belong – such as the IWGB, and refuse to discuss any of the workplace issues with them. Often union members are disciplined and sacked for their union activities.

Had Maria been one of the cleaners at the various places where the IWGB have been able by organising protests like this and forcing the management to talk with them and to get the workers directly employed she would have got the kind of conditions that other workers at these places take for granted. She would have been able to call in to work when she knew she was ill and have time off, and would have been able to self-isolate after her positive corona test, as she would have been able to rely on proper sick pay.

Outsourcing and other poisonous working arrangements, particularly zero hours contracts, have been a major factor in directly spreading the infection, and are a part of the reason for its increased prevalence among our black and ethnic minority communities. Low pay too has an indirect effect, leading to more crowded housing conditions. Many low paid jobs too are ones that involve considerable contact with others, and often involve travel in crowded public transport to workplaces.

The first protest on that Thursday evening in January was calling for the University of London to directly employ the cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff that work in the premises that are part of the central administration, including offices and halls of residence, and took place outside the University’s Senate House. Earlier protests have persuaded the University to consider direct employment for some of these workers, but the IWGB call for all of them to be brought in-house as soon as possible. Students and some teaching staff from various colleges came to support the protest.

At the end of this protest a double-decker bus hired by the union arrived to take those present to a ‘secret location’ for a further protest and I was invited to go with them. It dropped us off around the corner from the Royal College of Music, and the protesters ran into the building. A new contractor had taken over the RCM cleaning contract and decided to halve the hours worked by cleaners and change shift times. Most of the cleaners have to work on several jobs like this to make ends meet and so were unable to change to the new hours and had been threatened with dismissal. The RCM and the contractor had refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who had launched a collective grievance; the cleaners have balloted for strike action and the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

It was a short and very noisy protest inside the foyer, and the protesters who had been very careful to avoid any damage left when the police arrived after 12 minutes and continued their protest outside.

More at:
Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London


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.


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


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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – 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.


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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – 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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And small donations via Paypal – 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.

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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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – 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.

To order prints or reproduce images