UCL’s outsourced security guards disrupted the university’s Open Day on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July, resisting plans to make 40 staff members redundant and drastically reduce the contractual hours for many of the remaining workers. Jolly Seaka, a security guard at UCL says:
“Four years ago UCL promised us they would treat us with the same fairness and dignity as their in-house staff.
I took them at their word, and am now paying the price. UCL has gone back on their commitment and, in the middle of a cost of living crisis, are allowing our livelihoods to be cut away from under our feet.
I can barely support my family as it is – it doesn’t bear thinking about what could happen if these plans go ahead.”
The demonstration, organised by members of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), highlighted UCL’s broken commitment of parity between in-housed and outsourced staff made in 2019 and drew attention to the many staff being forced into poverty because of these reneged on promises.
On the 28th June, IWGB members and supporters at UCL had confronted UCL Provost Michael Spence at his event, titled “How to Disagree Well”:
Yesterday, IWGB members and supporters at UCL confronted UCL Provost Michael Spence at his event, titled “How to Disagree Well”, highlighting the silencing of security guards over proposed fire-and-rehire redundancies.
Security guards, outsourced to subcontractor Bidvest Noonan, have been campaigning since 2019 against “structurally racist” outsourcing practices at UCL, which they say create a two-tier workforce where the majority BAME outsourced workers are denied the same rights, pay and working conditions as directly employed staff.
The 99% black and brown security workforce are the only ones in the university being targeted with the fire-and-rehire scheme which will see 40 staff members lose their jobs in the middle of a cost of living crisis, and force the remainder to reapply for their jobs, which for many will be on reduced hours contracts which will cut up to £13,500 a year from their salaries.
The failure of UCL to intervene in the redundancies contradicts the commitment the university made in 2019 to ensure parity between in-house employees and outsourced staff. The procedure being followed for the redundancies does not match UCL’s own redundancy procedures. UCL’s redundancy procedures require a minimum 3 month collective consultation period, whereas Bidvest Noonan has only given just over 1 month, and Bidvest Noonan is offering significantly lower voluntary redundancy payments than mandated by UCL’s policy.
Earlier this month security guards met with MPs to explain the operation underway at UCL. Subsequently several MPs, including Ian Mearns MP, strongly criticised the fire-and-rehire practices on display at the university. Aisha Yusuf, BLM spokesperson says:
“This reveals a level of disdain towards the working-class communities already grappling with the cost of living crisis.
In the face of food insecurity affecting 1 in 5 ethnic households, it is repulsive to witness the Provost of UCL receiving a salary exceeding a quarter of a million per year.
This willingness to discard racialised key workers is another reminder of the ways that UCL repeatedly betrays its professed principles of anti-racism and equality.”