University lecturers join low-pay cleaners and porters in double strike at UCL and Queen Mary’s

Picket at University College London headquarters when cleaning, catering and security workers walked

Picket at University College London headquarters when cleaning, catering and security workers walked out on November 19. Picture: Pietro Sambuy - Credit: Pietro Sambuy

Academics are joining hundreds of low-pay workers employed by outside contractors going on strike tomorrow (December 4) at University College London.

Banging the drum for low-pay contract workers to get the same as UCL staff. Picture: Pietro Sambuy

Banging the drum for low-pay contract workers to get the same as UCL staff. Picture: Pietro Sambuy - Credit: Pietro Sambuy

The first ever joint-action involving staff and outsourced workers follows the large walk-out by 300 cleaners, porters, caterers and security workers on November 19 employed by companies operating on campuses across London including Olympic Park.

The low-pay outsourced workers who belong to the Independent Workers of Great Britain union are being joined by lecturers at both UCL and Queen Mary's in Mile End and Whitechapel in a separate dispute involving the University College Union.

The two unions focus on different demands, but both reacting to what they believe is worsening employment conditions with universities becoming "commercial concerns" rather than communities of learning and scholarship.

"Outsourcing contracts has to end," the independent workers' branch chair Maritza Castillo Calle insists. "All workers should be put on equal terms and conditions."

Rally by short-contract workers belonging to IWGB union calling for equal pay and conditions with un

Rally by short-contract workers belonging to IWGB union calling for equal pay and conditions with university staff. Picture: Pietro Sambuy - Credit: Pietro Sambuy


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They are campaigning for an end to outside contracts for cleaning, catering and security which pay lower hourly rates, give less holiday entitlement and almost no sick pay compared to university staff.

UCL's Olympic Park campus is one of 20 where outsource workers voted 98pc for industrial action to end "zero hour".

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In-house staff at both UCU and Queen Mary's, meanwhile, are taking separate action over pay, increased workloads and changes to their national pension scheme. It follows their one-day strike on November 27.

UCU's branch vice president Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia said: "Our action is resistance to turning universities into businesses and commercial concerns, rather than running communities of learning and scholarship."

Their latest stoppage is timed to coincide with tomorrow's porters and cleaners' strike by the IWGB union.

But there was a glimmer of hope for low-pay workers who are being offered equivalent holiday pay "as a first step" from this week. They would get equivalent wages and benefits in the New Year, after negotiations with the main Unison union for 800 employees working for Sodexo or Axis contractors. There would also be overtime and sick pay by August 2021, as well as pension arrangements later.

But the Unison deal hasn't included the smaller IWGB union which represents the 300 workers who balloted to strike.

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