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SECURITY guards at St George’s medical school in London are striking today for the first time, demanding an end to “second-class” contracts with outsourcing giant Noonan.
The 25 guards, who are largely black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), are demanding to be employed directly by St George’s, University of London, in Tooting, south London.
Under their contract with Noonan, the workers are paid less than the lowest-paid in-house staff and only receive the statutory minimum in sick pay and other conditions.
While they receive just £18 per day in sick pay and nothing for the first four days, staff employed by the university receive six months’ full pay followed by six months’ half pay while sick, according to the strikers’ union United Voices of the World (UVW).
The security team says this discrepancy between them and their colleagues makes them feel like they are “being treated as second-class.”
“[St George’s] say they treat us well, but we are overworked and have to come into work when we’re sick,” one of the workers said. “The university couldn’t work without us, so why don’t they employ us?”
An internally commissioned report by St George’s, seen by the Morning Star, estimated that bringing all outsourced services in-house would save the university £200,000 a year.
UVW representative Petros Elia branded the continuation of outsourcing “indefensible” and said it “can only be because they do not consider them worthy of being university employees.”
St George’s claims its internal report found that it “did not have the capacity and capability to bring its security provision in-house” and says that this position has remained unchanged.
The 48-hour walkout is part of a wider campaign by UVW members in disputes against “the discriminatory regime of outsourcing.”
Union spokesman Kane Shaw told the Star that in all of these disputes, most of the workers are either BAME or migrants.
“Outsourcing amounts to indirect discrimination … Employers are not explicitly saying: ‘I wish to pay ethnic minorities less money than their white/British counterparts’ but that is essentially the way in which outsourcing a lot of these services functions and a lot of our members are very conscious of that,” he said.
In the case of St George’s, Mr Shaw said: “You have white academic staff and you’ve got a wholly BAME or migrant workforce.”
A university spokesperson said that the dispute was between security staff and Noonan.
“St George’s values the work of all its contractors and staff and is fully committed to providing the best possible working environment for all,” they said.
The outsourced staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of 15 days of strike action, with more walkouts planned in the coming weeks.
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