As the recognised Trade Unions representing all staff at the University of London, both UNISON and UCU branch committees have consistently argued that the University should end outsourcing and bring all outsourced workers back in-house. Our members in both the outsourced companies and the University strongly support our position. We assert that the outsourced workforce would benefit significantly through direct employment by the University, through greater stability and job security, career development and progression, better terms and conditions and workforce policies as well as fairer working practises.
UNISON and UCU pressed the University on the 21st June 2017 to reconsider and reassess all outsourced contracts and welcomed the FM Services review. UNISON’s successful campaigns and decisions made at SOAS and LSE to bring services In-House demonstrate that the tide is turning across the Higher Education sector and that the University of London is in a unique position to lead the way. The recent collapse of Carrillion raises serious questions regarding the risks of awarding of contracts to private companies and potential consequences of doing so.
UNISON and UCU urge the Board of Trustees to take steps to bring all outsourced workers back in house in a timely manner, whilst also acknowledging that some limited specialist services may remain outsourced and are willing to work with the University to determine the scope of this.
In addition to our assertions that the outsourced workforce would benefit greatly from being directly employed by the University, we ask the Board of Trustees to take into account the following when considering the recommendations of the steering group:
- An In-House provision offers greater flexibility and an ability to adapt to new circumstances without major cost revisions. The University would be able to respond to changing needs, priorities, emergencies and opportunities without lengthy delays or having to pay a premium.
- Through an in-house provision, the University will have greater control over the quality and efficiency of services delivered. It would also ensure greater co-ordination and integration with other departments within the University, such as the Halls of Residences, Marketing, Conference and Events Teams as well as Student Central. This would allow for greater innovation and potentially a more lucrative commercial offering.
- Delivering services in-house will ensure fair work practices, oversight of the implementation of Living Wage payment for the lowest paid staff and fair pay awards and grading, as well as secure forms of employment.
- The review has uncovered key issues regarding monitoring of contracts, service delivery and KPIs and a lack of governance structure within the University. In order to rectify this, the University will need to invest additional resource. However, even with additional inspection, monitoring and use of contractual procedures, this is no substitute for having direct control over quality and delivery.
- An assessment of risks and costs should include a consideration of the cost of contractor failure (as demonstrated by the recent Carillion insolvency) as well as the costs of procurement, for example legal fees, consultant’s fees, staff time spent on negotiation and mobilisation that would be avoided through an in-house solution.
- Changing contractor every three to five years is therefore costly as well as disruptive both to the outsourced workers and the University.
UNISON and UCU continue to engage in the FM Review Steering Group in good faith, and will continue to be involved in discussions and negotiations so long as an In-House service remains on the table in order to ensure a fair, consistent and detailed analysis is undertaken before any decision is made.
Franco Henwood, UNISON Chair
Tim Hall, UCU Chair
UNISON and UCU Senate House Branches, 29 Jan 2018