Following an occupation of the directorate offices at SOAS, supporters of staff who have been threatened with the sack as the university closes down its Refectory community space are targeting management where it hurts — their open day.
Under the banner Troll SOAS, the SOAS Justice For Workers group is planning to tell students visiting today all about the last few years of conflicts with university management over mistreatment of its workers, from outsourcing to the disgraceful deportations of 2009.
Their shameful list will include a full rundown of the latest debacle, which saw some staff at the food hall called in on Monday 12th and given their marching orders, with only a cursory offer of one-to-one consultations and the vague prospect of some people being moved from stable jobs to risky hospitality roles. Critics have attacked the university for hiding behind Elior, a company they handed the Refectory to as part of an outsourcing deal that makes the catering staff easier to dismiss.
The redundancy notices sparked a furious reaction from staff and students, some of whom rallied and occupied the directorate on Monday afternoon. Management quickly reacted with an aggressive letter issued yesterday stating that “This occupation is now unlawful and any licence you had to enter the premises is hereby revoked.” Guards were also posted by the entrances to make sure no-one else can enter or leave. Food parcels are currently being delivered by supporters via rope through the windows.
Yesterday afternoon more students rallied at the steps up to the building, and eventually made their way inside, leading to a 30-minute standoff with the security guards.
SOAS Management is only paying attention to our demands now that we are sitting at their desks, after months of requesting meetings with them.
We are asking that SOAS commits to not closing the refectory in the immediate future, and await a statement from SOAS Management to that effect. Claiming you have not decided to close the refectory is not the same as saying you will not close the refectory. Catering staff have been informed that the refectory will close, and that redundancies will be necessary. Further, they were told that this decision was pushed by SOAS, rather than Elior.
The occupation demands
- No cuts, no closures, no redundancies. We demand that SOAS keeps the Main Building Refectory open and commits to no redundancies for either full time staff or those on zero hours contracts in the refectory and catering/hospitality services.
- All workers must have fair contracts, including:
- Equal sick pay, holiday pay, pensions with in-house staff;
- End zero-hour contracts, with a fair and just alternative;
- End outsourcing by bringing all current staff in-house now.
- The future of the refectory and catering services must be decided with the full participation of staff and students. We demand that SOAS commit to a fully participatory consultation with the SOAS community to improve the catering services and refectory, and deliver a service that reflects the needs and ethos of the catering staff and the wider SOAS community.
- All workers must be remunerated in full, at the London Living Wage or above. As SOAS Management is contractually obliged to, and has previously agreed to with UNISON: the catering staff currently owed up to £4,000 each in unpaid wages must be paid in full with no adverse impact on their current wages.
- Valerie Amos must issue a public apology on behalf of Senior Management for the atrocious treatment of workers in this ordeal.
SOAS has said that catering services will continue until 2018, but “have decided to make a number of changes to the current catering offer.”
Second video courtesy of Tehmoor Khalid.