A response to our message (bringing outsourced workers back in-house)

Dear Members,

Please see the following message received from Chris Cobb as a response to our message on the 3rd of July regarding the Facilities Management Review.

Dear UNISON and UCU Senate House branches,

I would first like to acknowledge both your disappointment regarding the University’s 29th June 2018 FM review update, and the reaffirmation of your belief that all who call the University of London their regular place of work, should be directly employed.

I have provided a response to your specific requests below.  I do hope that you will acknowledge that these were addressed, orally, in the specially convened FM review update meeting which took place on 10th July 2018, and were discussed in further detail at the meeting of the University’s Joint Negotiation and Consultation Committee on 12th July 2018.

From my side, I acknowledge that the University has yet to provide you with the degree of specificity you seek particularly regarding our intentions in relation to your participation moving forward. 

Turning to your specific requests and retaining your numbering for ease of reference.

  1. Use of language
    We note that the statement issued did not include one instance of words or terms such as ‘worker’, ‘people’, ‘in-house’ or ‘bringing people in house’. This is unsettling given that some of these terms have been used within the previous communication and given that this issue is primarily about how people are employed. When communicating regarding this issue, these phrases should be used to avoid confusion and to provide clarity over who and what is being discussed.

The statement issued on 29th June 2018 was intended to provide an update on the activity that was being undertaken to take forward the recommendation of the FM Steering Group.  The primary focus of the statement therefore was to highlight the significant planning that was underway in the 3 areas mentioned in that statement (Customer Service Model, Student Residential Life Programme and Security Review); planning that will ultimately underpin the basis on which we will move forward.

We accept however that the statement would have benefited from retaining the same or similar references to ‘worker’, ’people’, in-house’ as used in previous communications.  We will therefore be very mindful of this when preparing future updates.

  1. Timetable
    We also note that we have yet to receive a timetable of who will be brought in house and when. The only recent reference made to a timeframe related to a possible customer service model and student residential life programme being presented to the Board of Trustees in the autumn. We request that a more detailed timetable be provided, to demonstrate the current stage of planning. Whilst we appreciate that such plans may be in a draft form, it is important that colleagues have sight of provisional plans as these also provide reassurance that the University remains committed to this issue. This should include reference to our cleaning colleagues as they were not directly addressed within the most recent statement.

I trust you will accept that we are endeavouring to balance the desire to provide certainty at the earliest opportunity with the wish to avoid establishing a set of timelines that may prove challenging to meet for a variety of reasons; not all of which can be anticipated, or under our control.

I trust you will also accept that we need to mindful of our contractual obligations to our contracted out suppliers and their staff when setting out a programme of work that will have a material impact on their future relationship with the University.

I can assure you however that we remain wholly committed to this issue and are in ongoing dialogue with our contracted out suppliers.

The current planning is focused on the following services: security, reception, switchboard, porters, post room, AV and cleaning. 

If our current planning progresses as anticipated and our plans are subsequently accepted by the Board of Trustees in the autumn, our aim would be to put in a place an in-house service provision for reception, porters, post room and AV during the second and third (calendar) quarters of 2019.

You will understand that we are not able to be absolute in our timings and the above provisional timings will be subject to discussion with our suppliers and further informed by our, and our suppliers, statutory obligations in respect of the people they (our suppliers) employ to work at the University.

The security and cleaning services are quite complex in that they involve more work streams than the other services and rely on specialist contractors to an extent that the other services do not.  The planning in relation to these services will inevitably therefore take longer.  Our aim however is to be in a position to outline a provisional timeline in relation to cleaning services by the end of October 2018 and in relation to security by December 2018.

We are not yet in a position to add anything by way of further update in relation to our hard FM, catering and grounds services for the reasons set out in the statement of 29th June 2018.  Please be assured however that we remain in active discussion with the current service providers.

  1. Implementation group
    It has been suggested by senior management that an ‘in-housing implementation group’ is established. We request that the unions have full consultation on the Terms of Reference for and membership of this group.
  2. Security review
    That the unions also have full consultation on the upcoming security review including agreeing the Terms of Reference, which security and technology experts are selected, and input into the methodology used for the review. Union involvement in this process is paramount, particularly now it has been communicated to staff. This is a health and safety issue and there will be many questions. Additionally, particularly in light of recent media coverage, reference should be made to the recent expenditure of University funds on enhanced security and what this has achieved over the last few weeks.

Insofar as your 3rd and 4th requests relate largely to your participation moving forward, I have addressed them together.

The University welcomed and valued the contributions made by both UCU and UNISON to the FM Steering Group and remains committed to your ongoing engagement in all aspects of the activities arising from its work.

To this end, we propose forming a sub-group of the Joint Negotiating and Consultation Committee, specifically for this purpose.  You will shortly receive a request to each nominate a sub-group representative and there is an open invitation for your respective regional representatives to attend any meeting of the sub-group. 

We will aim to hold the first meeting of the sub-group on early-mid September 2018.

  1. Zero hours contracts
    Clarification over which service providers are currently reviewing their zero hours contracts. We are aware Aramark are reviewing their zero-hours contracts but the statement suggests that all contracted out service providers are doing this and perhaps the University itself ‘across our estate’.

I can confirm that Aramark are the only supplier who currently engage individuals on zero hours contracts.  The University does not engage anyone on this form of contract.  Aramark have informed us that their aim is to offer new (alternative) contracts in the new academic year.

  1. Residential Student Life programme
    The link between the Residential Student Life programme and the FM review is unclear. This needs to be unpacked and explained. If the University remains committed to seeking outcomes that are mutually agreeable to employer and employees, then clear, transparent and suitably detailed information must be offered as a key part in achieving this.

The Residential Student Life programme is primarily concerned with the student experiencein our Halls of Residence.  Many of the services to students in halls are provided by the people working for our contracted out suppliers, these include, security, reception, cleaning and portering. With this being the case, we will be considering the best model for the delivery of these services moving forward, in keeping with the aim of introducing an in-house service provision supported by specialist contracts.

As you will expect, the work outlined above will remain a priority for me and senior colleagues over the coming months and we welcome your ongoing engagement as the work progresses.

Best wishes


Whilst this does shed some more light on the matter I’m sure that you’ll have questions (feel free to email us). Committee will be meeting shortly to discuss this further at which point we’ll provide another update.

UCU Senate House Branch Committee

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