Security workers and receptionists at the University of London (UoL) will strike on 25 January over broken pay rise promises, with a protest in the evening in support of outsourced worker demands to be brought in house.
IWGB union organiser and press officer Emiliano Mellino spoke to Solidarity.
The campaign is going well. On every single protest we have there are more people — both workers and supporters.
The Foundation Day protest on 21 November had easily 500 people, probably the biggest protest we′ve done at Senate House.
We are still waiting for a response from UoL management. They are still refusing to negotiate. But we know this is affecting them. We know that management talks about the strikes. We think it is a matter of time before they negotiate.
Just before Christmas we did a Christmas card writing session, sending cards to the VC with the workers′ Christmas wishes. The campaign has also had the support of John McDonnell, who did a video address to the University calling on them to bring the workers back in house.
The next strike is security and receptionists. We have to renew the ballot for postroom workers and porters, and we have no doubt we will win that ballot. We are talking to cleaners about joining the action now. About 40 cleaners joined the last protest and we expect more to come on 25 January.
The university is sensitive about their image, so we are organising strikes and protests for when there are big events going on. We chose 25 January because there is the biggest postgraduate fair happening at Senate House, when the UoL expects about 1000 people to be attending, with 90 universities holding stalls. It affects the UoL’s image, but the university also makes a large amount of money from these sorts of events. For future strikes we will be looking at targeting other such events, open days, graduations, big public events.
In-house workers at the university were incredibly supportive from the start. Many of them are IWGB members as well. Over 500 signed a petition supporting the outsourced workers′ demands. We′ve had letters of support from a variety of university UCU, Unison and Student Union branches, and many of them come to our strikes and protests with banners.
The number of UoL management earning over £100,000 has gone from seven in 2012-13, to 21 from in 2015-16. The 2016-17 accounts are not out yet but we have no doubt it will have gone up again. At the same time the VC has had an inflation busting pay rise, not to mention his expenses! The money to pay workers, and to bring the contract in house, is there.
The issues of precarity and casualisation at universities are becoming increasingly known. It is not just an issue for outsourced workers. It is happening to other university workers as well.
It has become clear, particularly with the news of Carillion, what the reality of outsourcing is. Workers lose. The government or institution loses. The only winners are the outsourcing company bosses.