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Security workers and cleaners in east London join UCL strike over pay and end 'zero hours' contracts

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 November 2019

Outsourced workers going on strike at UCL campuses on November 19. Picture: Pietro Sambuy

Outsourced workers going on strike at UCL campuses on November 19. Picture: Pietro Sambuy

Pietro Sambuy

Outside contract workers are to go on strike at the University College London's Olympic Park campus tomorrow when they join others in a mass demo calling for equal pay and conditions with university staff.

Members of Independent Workers trade union demanding equal employment rights with university's in-house staff. Picture: Pietro SambuyMembers of Independent Workers trade union demanding equal employment rights with university's in-house staff. Picture: Pietro Sambuy

Hundreds of other cleaners, porters and security officers employed as "outsourced" workers at UCL campuses across London are walking out.

The east London campus is one of 20 where members of the Independent Workers of Great Britain union voted 98 per cent for the November 19 action to end "zero hour" contracts and get equal rights with staff.

"We work all our lives and still retire in poverty," the union's branch chairwoman and former UCL cleaner Maritza Castillo Calle said.

"Outsourcing forces us to work while we're sick or injured. We want equality and justice and want it now."

The union balloted 300 workers last month who overwhelmingly voted for action in a bid to get the same rights as the university's in-house staff on pensions, holiday pay, parental leave and even sick pay.

It is calling for facilities management companies on security and cleaning contracts to give the workers the same terms and conditions as UCL's own staff employees who get up to 26 weeks sick pay. Outsourced workers get no sick pay for the first three days.

But UCL insists it is committed to the same pay and benefits for the outsourced workers as its own staff and has been in talks with the main Unison trade union.

A spokesman said: "We are acting to respond to their concerns. The security, cleaning and catering workers fulfil essential roles on which we all depend."

The university has suggested its staff work from home tomorrow to avoid disruption, while some events on campus including the Orwell Memorial Lecture have been cancelled or postponed.

But the IWGB union representing outsourced workers has called the university's assurances "vague statements" about improving terms and conditions without actually offering guarantees or a clear timeline.

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