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10 December 2018- University of London statement on boycott of Senate House

The University is dismayed by the inaccurate and misleading claims that have been made in support of a boycott of Senate House and other University premises.   This document provides some accurate and factual information on the allegations circulated.

A Good Employer: The University is not involved in the contractual arrangements between its contracted out suppliers and their staff.  It does however require all of its contractors to pay, as a minimum, the London Living Wage (LLW) and all of the University’s contractors have confirmed that they have applied the most recent LLW uplift.  The University has also requested that zero hours contracts not be used by our suppliers at the University and all have confirmed that existing staff on such contracts have been offered new contracts and that new staff will not be offered such contracts. 

The University is aware that individuals working within its larger service contractors presently benefit from flexible working hours, which it understands for many, if not all, provides welcome flexibility, including opportunities for work with other employers. This level of flexibility would be difficult to replicate for directly employed staff.  Moreover, it is the University’s understanding that the contribution to their pensions that staff working within our contracted out services are required to make is modest compared to the contributions which would be required by the University’s schemes, and this is, importantly for them, reflected in their take home pay.

 

A Conscientious Employer: The University takes its Public Sector Equality Duty very seriously and is committed to providing a working environment that is free of all forms of bullying, harassment or discrimination, for all who work in our buildings.

The University has followed up with the relevant contractor on allegations of bullying and harassment that were brought to its attention in 2017/18 and was provided with assurances on each occasion that the matters had been thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.  The University is aware that in one case a member of staff working within our contracted out services was removed by the contractor.  The University is also aware that one of its main contractors repeated key training for all of its supervisors in this area earlier in the year.

The University was further informed that a thorough investigation had found no evidence to support the allegations against the second individual.  The University understands however that the individual has been removed from the University’s contract due to concerns for their welfare arising largely from their having been named publicly by certain members of the IWGB prior to any investigation.

It is important to note that while the University works hard to ensure that our contractors work to high levels of industry practice, this does not extend to inserting itself into their employment processes and procedures.

 

A Fair Employer: It would not be appropriate for the University to sit down and negotiate with those individuals working within its contracted out services as it is not their employer. That said, the University works hard to ensure that the individuals working for our contractors are kept fully informed of its plans as they progress.

The University also meets regularly with its recognised Trade Unions – UCU and Unison – and has established a formal sub-group of its Joint Negotiating Committee to discuss the programme of work being undertaken in relation to the University’s facilities management services.  This programme of work is also discussed appropriately with staff representatives (some of whom are officers of the IWGB) at its Information & Consultation of Employees (ICE) Forum.

 

A Responsive Employer: The University’s Board of Trustees accepted a recommendation at its meeting in May 2018 to bring services in house where there was a fit with the University’s strategic priorities. 

The Board expressed concerns at the time that the additional costs that were likely to be incurred by bringing services in house could impact on the delivery of the University’s academic mission and therefore invited the University’s management to come forward with detailed plans that would mitigate any such impact.

The timeline set out by the University to deliver those plans, which has been shared with all staff, is intended to both address the Board’s concerns and to ensure that the University establishes a sustainable workforce for the future.

The University has embarked on this process in a responsible manner and timelines have been communicated clearly and adhered to.  The timing is designed to minimise negative impacts on the core business of the University.

 

A Sensible Employer: It is entirely regrettable that during demonstrations/protests, organised by, or claimed as being in support of, the IWGB and their campaign to bring outsourced workers in house, the University has experienced attempted and actual occupations aimed at disrupting the business of the University.  These have included, disruptive behaviour (e.g., the use of rape alarms and sirens, the setting off of smoke flares) and actions that have placed those participating in demonstrations/protests at personal risk (e.g., individuals jumping into the deep light wells of Senate House in efforts to occupy the building).

 

It is principally for these reasons that the University has, during announced protests/demonstrations, introduced tighter access and security control measures, recognising that we have a duty of care to all involved.  Within this, the University does think there is an important distinction to be made between demonstrations/protests of the type it has experienced during the campaign and industrial action in the form of striking workers on a picket line.