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MORE than 100 academics, politicians and trade unionists backed a boycott of the University of London (UoL) today over its continued use of outsourced workers.
Supporters including Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell and the National Union of Students are demanding that the university directly employ the workers who provide services such as cleaning, catering and security.
These workers, who are worse off in terms of sickness, holiday, maternity pay and pension contributions, have been campaigning to be made direct employees on equal terms to other staff for over a year and have taken 15 days of strike action.
UoL has faced criticism for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds ramping up security to stave off industrial action and protests rather than agreeing to negotiate with the mostly migrant or black and ethnic-minority workers.
Cleaner Margarita Cunalata said: “For over a year we have been asking the university to respect us as equal members of staff, yet it has made clear that it sees us as less than human.” She said her colleagues were “tremendously grateful” for academics joining their fight.
UoL stated it would bring services in-house in May but has gone back on its commitment by only guaranteeing that a small portion of the workforce will be made direct employees.
The majority will remain outsourced until their contracts are up for tender. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) says this will mean that these workers will continue to suffer under “a regime of bullying and discrimination” in the meantime.
London School of Economics anthropology professor David Graeber said it was “completely reprehensible” that the workers continued to be treated as second class by the university and that academics have a “moral duty” to stand in solidarity with them.
Kings College London lecturer Nick Srnicek said it was outrageous that the workers continue to face “a situation of hyper-exploitation and abuse” while vice-chancellors’ pay surges across the country.
Boycott organisers are asking supporters not to attend or organise events at the UoL central administration, including the senate house.
UoL made £43 million from residences, catering and conferences in the last academic year, the latest financial report found.
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