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‘Underpaid and mistreated’ outsourced workers at London uni ballot for strike action

“OVERWORKED, underpaid and mistreated” outsourced workers at a London university are being balloted for strike action to demand the same pay and conditions as in-house staff.

Security officers, porters and cleaners at the University of Greenwich claim that they are on “far worse” conditions than in-house staff, who enjoy better pay, pensions and parental leave. 

The workers, employed by firm Sodexo, argue that the practice of outsourcing also “encourages discrimination, victimisation and racism.”

It comes after the majority-BAME security officers team claimed they had been racially discriminated against by their employer after they were denied hazard pay for working through the pandemic, despite white porters allegedly receiving a £300 bonus. 

Security officer Abiodun Wilhelm, who has been working at the university for 14 years, said: “I have put my life on the line, despite my health conditions, to keep students and staff safe. 

“Now we ask to be brought in-house. Outsourcing encourages discrimination, victimisation and racism. We deserve to be treated with equality, dignity and respect — just as direct employees of the university are.”

Staff directly employed by the university on an equivalent pay band to outsourced workers earn £14 an hour, more than £3 more than security guards, cleaners and porters, who are on £10.75 per hour.  

The union today balloted 30 outsourced staff members for strike action. 

IWGB University of London branch chair and formerly outsourced cleaner Maritza Castillo Calle said that the workers had been hailed as heroes for working through the pandemic, but that the university and its contractors had been “happy” to treat staff as “second-class workers.”

“They are overworked, underpaid and mistreated,” she continued. 

“We gave Greenwich a clear deadline by which to present a plan to end outsourcing, which it failed to abide by. Now we are left with no option but to strike.”

The University of Greenwich is the latest institution to face strikes over the outsourcing of workers. It comes after IWGB won a 10-year battle for outsourced cleaners to be recognised as staff at the University of London in November.  

A University of Greenwich spokesperson said that the contract under Sodexo provided enhanced terms and conditions, including the London Living Wage, than those arranged previously.

“The opportunity to realise these improvements was central to our decision to work with Sodexo,” they said. “We strongly refute any allegations of discrimination — as a university we are committed to challenging racism and discrimination wherever it occurs.”

A Sodexo spokesperson said: “The claims made by the IWGB are not true. We do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

“Employees who continued to work their full hours during the national lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic have been rewarded with a one-off bonus as a part of a company-wide recognition scheme.”

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