Outcome of 4 July branch meeting: Senate House boycott

In this post, we summarise motions that were debated and passed at a branch meeting on 4 July 2019. These motions (full text at the end of the post) mostly relate to the Senate House Boycott (motions 2, 3, 4).

Motion 1 relates to a victory for UCU Senate House. We called on the University to consider introducing a standardised package of post-contract support for research-active staff reaching the end of their contracts. This new policy will be implemented soon. At the meeting, we reported to members that an earlier motion on this subject went to UCU Congress 2019 and was passed unanimously. We are not claiming that this is the answer to casualization, but we would encourage UCU branches around the country to negotiate for similar policies.

Motions 2, 3 and 4 call on all parties to find the common ground needed to bring the Senate House Boycott to an end.

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Removal of students from Senate House following recent occupation

UCU & UNISON

The Senate House branch committees of UNISON and UCU recognise that whilst there are strong feelings around the current action and situation at Senate House, the University of London has a long and proud history of associations with activists and protests. The unions state again that they remain strongly in-favour of bringing outsourced workers in-house and continue to negotiate to this end.

The unions do not seek to pass comment regarding the action currently being taken regarding the in-housing of workers at the University of London but again impress upon management to uphold their duties of care to all who work at and visit Senate House.

While the unions note the internal statement provided by the University of London staff regarding the removal of occupants over the weekend, the unions remain concerned over the manner in which this happened.

The unions have repeatedly asked management to provide:

  • Guidance to staff involved in security regarding safe and proportional measures to occupation,
  • Guidance to all staff regarding health and safety/protocol during occupation,
  • Clear instructions to students and visitors regarding expected conduct at Senate House.

The Unions are not aware that any of the above has been provided. We therefore now ask publicly for these to be provided, to keep all who work at and visit Senate House informed and safe.

The Unions again state that we are opposed to violent and threatening conduct from any group or individual(s) towards those working at or visiting Senate House and would like to understand what management did to both protect the health and safety of staff and occupants, and de-escalate the recent student occupations and protest.

Open letter to UoL: Front of house roles advertised via Co-Sector recruitment

UCU & UNISON

UNISON and UCU write to you as the recognised trade unions of the University of London to express our confusion regarding some recent developments regarding the in-housing process.

We seek your explanation and input regarding the below issue.

As recently as the middle of last week UNISON and UCU were informed of yet further Cordant employees who, having initially been told they would be TUPE-ed over to the University of London with the in-housing of front of house services, would now not be as they were not in the TUPE scope.

UNISON and UCU raised the case of the affected workers, requested that the University of London reconsider their decision/challenge Cordant and, where possible, make exceptions. The unions were told repeatedly that this would not be possible.

The recognised unions were then extremely surprised on 16 May 2019 to see 6 jobs, for roles considered within the scope of TUPE, being advertised via the University of London’s Co-Sector recruitment pages for temporary positions. Links to the roles are provided below.

Receptionist x1 – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6978

Receptionist x 2 – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6983

Porter – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6980

Post Room Operative – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6981

Audio Visual Technologist – https://recruit.thecareersgroup.co.uk/UOL/Vacancies/VacancyDetails.asp?VacancyID=6979

At no point had the unions been told that any staff shortfall would be addressed via temporary positions advertised through Co-Sector’s recruitment agency, which exists to generate revenue for the University of London. Advertising roles in this manner, and not directly through the University of London, would seem to be a conflict of interests and, could be viewed as a way of keeping workers in these roles from receiving the full benefits of being directly employed by the University of London. The rates of pay for 4 roles highlighted below are also noted to be below the London Living Wage. The unions take particular exception to this.

The unions are particularly astonished to see that 4 roles, those of Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative seem to be offered without any guarantee of the provision of an agreed number of working hours. This would appear to conform to the definition of a zero hours contracts, despite repeated assurances from the University of London to both the Sub-JNC, the ICE forum and at all staff forums, that no new zero hours contracts would be issued by the University of London.

We therefore request the following clarifications:

  1. Why this situation (the advertising of the above roles) has arisen, given the University of London agreed to the methodology used for determining those in scope?
  2. If during the conducting of the review and scoping exercise it became apparent that this would give an inadequate number of staff to cover all shifts, why the University then did not challenge Cordant on the methodology?
  3. Whether the 4 roles noted above (Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative) are being offered on zero hours contracts?
  4. Why the rates of pay advertised for Receptionist x2, Porter and Post Room Operative are below the London Living Wage? Why is the rate of pay for Receptionist x2 different to that of Receptionist by £1.93 per hour?
  5. What problem  the University of London is attempting to solve by offering these roles on a temporary basis only? How long does the University anticipate that this temporary solution is likely to be required for?
  6. If the need for these roles becomes permanent, will those who occupy the temporary posts be automatically transferred over to full-time, open ended contracts, directly with the University of London?
  7. What is the rationale for advertising these roles through Co-Sector?
  8. Whether, as these roles are being advertised through the Co-Sector recruitment agency, the University of London now stands to benefit financially from not having to directly employ these staff (either through benefits to Co-Sector from appearing to have recruited workers through the Co-Sector agency or through lower costs/overheads and the temporary nature of the roles)?

This communication has been sent as an open letter to encourage transparency on this issue.

We look forward to your swift response.

UNISON and UCU Committees (Senate House Branch)

Welcome, Bienvenidos, Witamy to our new colleagues!

UCU & UNISON

Since June 2017 both UCU and UNISON have been arguing the case for outsourced workers to be returned to direct employment by the University of London.

We are pleased to confirm that the first tranche of Cordant employees who work in Front of House Services, the Post Room, AV, Switchboard and Porters will become direct employees of the University of London Senate House on the 20 May 2019. We have been working hard to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for those in-scope. That said, we share the understandable disappointment and frustration of those who appear to fall outside the scope of this first tranche of in-housing.

UNISON and UCU believe that every individual who works at Senate House should be a direct employee of the University of London and therefore we will continue to press the UoL to, as the bare minimum, adhere to the timetable that was shared at the most recent all staff meeting with regard to bringing staff in-house.

In-housing programme and Senate House boycott: timetable, support for staff, impact on jobs

UCU & UNISON

Since June 2017, UCU and UNISON have been arguing the case for outsourced workers to be returned to direct employment by the University of London. We are pleased that the University of London has acknowledged that in-housing, in principle, is the right thing to do and has started to implement a programme to end outsourcing arrangements for these colleagues.

UCU and UNISON made strong representations at formal meetings with the University on 4 April and 9 April expressing the tremendous pressure everyone involved is currently under. This pressure stems from uncertainties about the precise timetable for in-housing, the mechanisms for reviewing contracts, and the very serious consequences of the current Senate House boycott on the work of some of our members.

As a result of this, at an all-staff meeting on 11 April, University leadership expressed a willingness to explore ways of accelerating the in-housing of both the cleaners and grounds maintenance staff. We welcome that further detail about the process has now been published on the internal staff intranet and that the Vice Chancellor has acknowledged the need for the University to offer support to staff members who are adversely affected by current events.

However, members are anxious about the risk of cuts to research funding and possible job losses should the Senate House boycott continue for much longer. We are therefore lodging the following further requests:

  1. A clear written statement explaining the University’s financial situation, including estimated costs of the first phase of in-housing (whereby a group of workers will be UoL employees by 20 May 2019) and projected costs for the remaining phases.
  2. Monthly written updates for internal and external audiences about the progress of the in-housing programme. These communications should be written in straightforward terms and make reference to any action taken to accelerate the process.
  3. Pastoral support for any member of staff impacted by the Senate House boycott. Support should not discriminate against staff based on their position on this topic or, in the case of colleagues in the School of Advanced Study (SAS), the choices they have made relating to managing events.
  4. Clear guidance for staff in relation to the Senate House boycott outlining:
    • How the University expects staff to handle events potentially affected.
    • What the University will do to support workloads and activities that are affected.
  5. Given that it is the primary focus of the boycott, can the University of London explain what it is doing to ensure the continued success of the School of Advanced Study?

If you have any questions about this statement, you are welcome to contact UCU Senate House and UNISON Senate House branches.

April 2019 statement on in-housing programme at Senate House, University of London

UCU Senate House branch supports the return of outsourced workers, including cleaning staff, to direct employment by the University of London. In recent months, we have worked closely with UNISON and University management on implementing the first phase of this process and we are pleased that a first group of staff will become UoL employees from 20 May 2019.

The current boycott of Senate House is having an adverse impact on UCU members at this branch. We call on University management to release a clear timetable for the in-housing of remaining outsourced staff, including the cleaners.

We are using the platforms we have available to us, including the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting on 4 April and a sub-JNC meeting on 9 April, to emphasise the importance of urgently addressing this matter.

Intimidation of union reps at UCU Senate House and an update on the in-housing programme

UCU Senate House is aware of allegations concerning the treatment of the IWGB branch secretary and we have now raised our concerns directly with University of London management.

Singling out officers or representatives of trade unions is wrong in any institution let alone in a university setting. It’s also potentially unlawful. We will stand in solidarity with any colleague who is subject to this treatment.

With regards to the University in-housing programme, we are of course pleased that a group of staff will be University of London employees from late spring 2019. The mandate we have from UCU members at Senate House is to hold the University to the promises it has made, and the most explicit of these relates to the first stage of in-housing. This stage is going well.

The next stages of the in-housing programme are a key challenge. As always, we welcome feedback from UCU members at Senate House about moving forward with this.