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Report Important wins for activists seeking to end outsourcing

JOE HAYNS reports on the IWGB battle to bring services at London colleges in-house

“They don’t know we’re coming, so not much security — don’t put this on social media.

“We’re going to the Royal College of Music, where cleaners are being sacked if they don’t accept half hours. They’ve supported us.”

This was said to a coach leaving the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) University of London (UoL) branch’s Senate House picket on Thursday night.

UoL workers have been campaigning for all staff to be brought in-house since September. Security officers and receptionists struck on Thursday, with UoL cleaners joining the 6pm rally.

Unison’s Soas and Birkbeck branches, the National Shop Stewards Network, UVW and Lesbians and Gays support the Migrants were at the rally.

“Outsourced workers at UoL are ‘overwhelmingly’ migrants,” says an IWGB officer.

IWGB general secretary Jason Moyers-Lee says management are “on the edge of cliff. A couple more actions will push them over a precipice.

“They’ve started to ‘review’ outsourcing, there is a huge paper trail to show it’s nothing to do with us.

“The only reason they’re doing this is because they know we’ll keep going until all workers there are brought in-house.”

Security officers, members of IWGB, struck first over pay last March. Then, UVW cleaners won improved terms and conditions and were brought in-house at LSE last June. Two months later, Soas Justice for Workers won its four-year-long demand for direct employment.

IWGB security officers co-ordinated strikes with UVW cleaners in May. The joint demonstration of marching between pickets through central London, stopped traffic.

It had the effect of LSE then Soas staff being brought in-house — IWGB saw the chance to end subcontracting at the University of London.

Moyers-Lee says he is “extremely confident” of a win at UoL, as IWGB organised busing of pickets across west London in support of the Royal College of Music (RCM)  cleaners’ campaign.

The pickets went unopposed past the two people guarding the RCM doors — the grand building directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall — and a coachload of supporters filled the college’s entrance hall.

“I’ve been cleaning here for six years,” IWGB member Cristobal Barzallo told me.

“Every time a new outsourcing comes in, it gets worse” as “every time [they] try to push wages down or cut hours down. 

“I’ve been with four different companies,” he said.

RCM management “wants to save a few quid on the cleaning bill, so they had a new contractor, Tenon FM, reduce the cleaners’ hours,” Moyers-Lee said.

Tenon FM have told cleaners they can either accept new contracts, with hours reduced by 50 per cent, or be dismissed.

“The contractor has told us that this comes from the college,” Moyers-Lee added.

Barzallo says that trade unionists are being victimised, saying: “They pretend to see problems in our cleaning.”

And changed hours “mean I can’t work my other job.”

He added: “They can come and say: ‘That’s not clean’ and can fire you in an hour.”

Barzallo says both tactics suppress trade union activity, but “Trade union, that’s the only way we can get respects and human dignity.”

With all of us potentially trespassing on RCM property, the police arrived and cleared the room.

IWGB has all but chalked up at UoL, but what’s next at the RCM?

“We’ve got the February 1 protest outside RCM at 6.30 pm,” says Moyers-Lee.

“But management needs to be on watch all the time so long as they’re screwing with our members,” he warned.


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