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University security workers and cleaners to strike at UCL in bid to end 'zero hours' contracts

PUBLISHED: 10:50 06 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:16 06 November 2019

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

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

Pietro Sambuy

Outside contract workers are to go on strike at the University College London's Olympic Park campus to get the same pay and conditions as the university's own staff.

Outsourced workers plan mass walk-out at all UCL campuses on November 19. Picture: Pietro SambuyOutsourced workers plan mass walk-out at all UCL campuses on November 19. Picture: Pietro Sambuy

Cleaners, porters and security officers employed as "outsourced" workers are joining hundreds of others at UCL campuses across London in a mass walk-out on November 19.

The east London campus is one of 20 where members of the Independent Workers of Great Britain union voted 98 per cent for industrial action to end outsourcing and "zero hour" contracts.

Their employment rights are currently worse than those of staff employed directly by the university, the union stresses, such as no pay for the first three days if they are off sick.

"Outsourcing forces us to work while we're sick or injured," the union's branch chair and former UCL cleaner Maritza Castillo Calle said. "We work all our lives and still retire in poverty.

"UCL has treated outsourced workers like second class citizens. So we have sent a clear message that we want equality and justice and want it now."

The union balloted 300 workers who overwhelmingly voted to walk out.

They claim they're being discriminated against because they don't have the same rights as the university's in-house staff on pensions, holiday pay and parental leave as well as sick pay.

The ballot demands facilities management companies using security and cleaning contracts to give the workers the same terms and conditions as UCL's direct staff who receive up to 26 weeks sick pay. Outsourced workers get no pay for the first three days' sick leave, which forces many to work while they are ill or injured rather than risk losing income.

But UCL claims it is committed to outsourced security, cleaning and catering workers getting the same pay and benefits as its own staff and has been in talks with the main Unison trade union.

A UCL spokesman said: "We have listened and are acting to respond to concerns they've raised. The security, cleaning and catering workers fulfil essential roles on which we all depend."

But the IWGB union representing outsourced workers accused the university of making "vague statements" about improving terms and conditions without actually offering guarantees or a clear timeline. So they balloted to strike on November 19.

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