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HUNDREDS of protesters descended on the University of London today to show solidarity with the biggest strike of outsourced British workers in higher education.
Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, MPs, trade unionists, student unions and activist groups spoke at the event in support of the strikers outside the Senate House campus.
The demonstration saw music from Mr Bragg, a marching band and the unmistakable sound of vuvuzelas.
Protesters arrived at a picket line at 6am to meet cleaners and other staff working early shifts, where they remained for the day, gaining in numbers.
— IWGB (@IWGBunion) April 25, 2018
The striking workers are demanding to be made direct employees of the university, and for equal terms and conditions with those who are directly employed.
They include outsourced cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post room workers and audiovisual workers and were organised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
Outsourced workers receive worse pension, holiday pay, sick pay and maternity and paternity pay entitlements than their in-house colleagues.
They are also generally more likely to suffer from bullying, discrimination and illegal deduction of wages.
The strikes are part of the IWGB’s Back In-House campaign, which is calling on the university to end outsourcing, to abolish zero-hours contracts and to implement pay rises it promised six years ago.
IWGB launched the campaign last September and has received the support of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and various trade union and student union branches.
Through protests and strikes, the IWGB has succeeded in putting pressure on the university to initiate a review into its contracts.
The union says it has been left with no option but to escalate its campaign as the university has consistently denied the outsourced workers and IWGB a voice in this process.
IWGB President Henry Chango-Lopez said: “The university has repeatedly refused all attempts by the outsourced workers and their union to engage in a constructive discussion over outsourcing.
“This intransigence has led to increasing anger among the workers, which is demonstrated by the growing number of workers that are choosing to take industrial action.
“The university would be well advised to heed the demands of the workers and make them direct employees.”
A university spokesperson said: “A review of the university’s contracted facilities management services is at an advanced stage and the matter will be considered by the board of trustees meeting next month.”
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