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Row breaks out between historian Richard Evans and IWGB over University of London boycott

A ROW has broken out between a non-TUC union mounting a boycott of the University of London over unequal treatment of outsourced workers and a Cambridge academic who lectured at the institution.

Academics, including Cambridge professor Richard Evans, have been accused of undermining the initiative by the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) in order to give a talk about historian and former Communist Party member Eric Hobsbawm at the university.

Mr Evans, who was interviewed on the rise of anti-semitism by the Morning Star last weekend, discussed his new book on Hobsbawm on Thursday evening despite having been informed about an active boycott which has been backed by more than 300 fellow academics and figures including Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell and director Ken Loach. The initiative advocates for outsourced staff to get  the same employment terms as those who are employed directly by the university.

After the event Mr Evans tweeted: “Hobsbawm would not have approved of the protest, which was mounted by a small sectarian group unaffiliated with the TUC. It was not a picket line mounted by workers.”

He had previously said he supported the cause and would “bring it to the attention of the meeting.”

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has been fighting to have workers at UoL taken in-house since September 2017 and is leading the boycott over the university’s continued use of outsourced workers since December.

IWGB UoL branch chairwoman Maritza Castillo Calle said it was disappointing that the academics chose to ignore the boycott in order to talk about a Marxist historian that “we are sure would be on our side in this struggle.”

She said: “However, we are encouraged by the hundreds that have decided to stand by our side and move their events to other locations, in what is an almost unprecedented act of solidarity.

“The boycott was a last resort following countless strikes and after the university ignored all our calls for dialogue. We hope the stand taken by our supporters will make university management finally see sense.”

Cleaners have reported unmanageable workloads, unfair contracts and harassment and discrimination based on gender, disability and race by managers in a letter thanking academics supporting the boycott this week.

“Outsourcing engenders economic and social exclusion, in which we, migrant workers, are exploited in ways that would never be possible with the mostly white academics and managers that are directly employed by the university,” they wrote.

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