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Victory for workers on May Day as security officers win battle against outsourcing

SECURITY officers at the University of London (UoL) secured a massive victory on International Workers’ Day as they were brought back on in-house contracts today. 

The workers, organised with the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), have been campaigning since 2013 to end the outsourcing of UoL contracts to private companies.

Their victory means that the security officers will now have enhanced annual leave, pay rises and dignified pensions. 

IWGB tweeted that the workers would “finally no longer be discriminated [against] and treated like second-class workers.”

Union branch chair Maritza Castillo Calle called the news “extraordinary.”

She told the Star: "It has been a long struggle that has involved protests, strikes, public campaigns and a national boycott. 

“This victory has demanded huge efforts and immense sacrifices from all of our members and branch officials. 

“Despite the UoL systematically ignoring them and repressing them during protests, the power of these workers forced them to reverse the trend of outsourcing for the first time in 20 years.”

Ms Catillo Calle said security guards will “finally have the equality they deserve” and will “no longer suffer the exploitation and discrimination of outsourced companies.”

“We must continue fighting until we end all outsourcing, including cleaners and catering staff who continue to be part of a two-tier system," she said.

Boycott Senate House (BSH), a campaign to boycott the university until all outsourced workers are brought in-house, praised the workers’ struggle.

The group said on Twitter that the win “brings back an equality that has been long denied to outsourced workers.”

“In challenging times for precarious workers, we hope that this victory will bring hope and shows other outsourced workers the path to follow: a path of determination, boldness, unity and solidarity,” BSH wrote.

However, BSH also warned that “the job is not done”, as cleaners, maintenance staff and catering workers  remained outsourced.

The group wrote: “In the meantime, they remain employed by ruthless subcontractors who during the current crisis are withholding wages from dozens of them.”

The May Day announcement was celebrated online amid the coronavirus crisis, as many virtual events and messages were shared. 

Labour MPs Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Nadia Whittome Tweeted solidarity messages to keyworkers.

Ms Ribeiro-Addy wrote: “It’s the cleaners and the carers — not the CEOs — who are digging us out of the current crisis. 

“Coronavirus has made it clearer than ever we need a new deal for workers around the world. On MayDay we celebrate and commit to building a better future for the many.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner used the #ThankAWorker hashtag to acknowledge keyworkers. 

Ms Rayner said: “This Mayday I’d like to thank Darryl, my local postie, for all the work he does for our local community. 

“Let’s celebrate all workers who are risking their lives to get us through this crisis.”

Welsh trade-union speakers brought Cardiff’s traditional May Day rally online.

Cardiff Trades Council President Katrine Williams said this year’s rally was dedicated to the “thousands and millions of key workers across Britain who are putting their lives in danger.”

NUJ national executive member David Nicholson called on trade unionists and all workers to build a better and fairer future after the Covid-19 crisis. 

Mr Nicholson reminded the rally of the trade-union movement's internationalism and called for a campaign to end the debt owed by the developing world.

“We can’t be safe and go back to normal if other parts of the world continue to struggle to control the pandemic,” he said.

“We cannot eradicate Covid-19 in Britain alone.”

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