University College London security guards protest against ‘fire and rehire’ at university open day

UCL Security guards solidarity demo
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UCL security staff held protests over University College London’s (UCL) plans to fire and rehire staff at the university’s open days on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July.

What’s more, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has said that the plans are “racist”, as:

the majority BAME outsourced workers are denied the same rights, pay and working conditions as directly employed staff.

The union is aiming to highlight the university’s unfair and racist employment practices to prospective students. UCL Unison also supported the protests.

The IWGB Universities of London branch tweeted:

The IWGB stated that the security guards are the only group of UCL staff that the univerity is targeting for fire and rehire. The security workforce is made up 99% Black and Brown people.

Massive pay cut

40 staff members could lose their jobs. Those who reapply for positions face reduced hours and a pay cut of up to ÂŁ13,500.

The security staff have been campaigning against pay and conditions at UCL since 2019. The workers say that the fire and rehire plans would create a two-tier system at the university. In this system, the majority-Black and Brown security workforce would be paid less.

UCL outsources its security workforce to private contractor Bidvest Noonan. Last month, security staff lobbied parliament over the controversial fire and rehire policies. Since then, Ian Mearns MP has criticised Bidvest Noonan in the house of commons.

Reneging on their commitment

Back in 2019, UCL made a commitment to ensure parity between outsourced and in-house staff. However, the IWGB said that UCL’s failure to intervene in Bidvest Noonan’s plans shows that they have gone back on their promise.

IWGB pointed out that the redundancy package that Bidvest Noonan is offering is still based on a two-tier system. What the company is offering to outsourced security staff isn’t in line with what in-house staff would get. The IWGB wrote:

The procedure being followed for the redundancies does not match UCL’s own redundancy procedures. UCL’s redundancy procedures require a minimum 3 month collective consultation period, whereas Bidvest Noonan has only given just over 1 month, and Bidvest Noonan is offering significantly lower voluntary redundancy payments than mandated by UCL’s policy.

‘I can barely support my family’

One of the security guards, Jolly Seaka, explained how UCL had gone back on its word:

Four years ago UCL promised us they would treat us with the same fairness and dignity as their in-house staff.

I took them at their word, and am now paying the price. UCL has gone back on their commitment and, in the middle of a cost of living crisis, are allowing our livelihoods to be cut away from under our feet.

Seaka concluded by saying:

I can barely support my family as it is – it doesn’t bear thinking about what could happen if these plans go ahead

‘Disdain for working-class communities’

Aisha Yusuf of Black Lives Matter commented on the university’s plans. She said:

This reveals a level of disdain towards the working-class communities already grappling with the cost of living crisis.

Yusuf pointed out that the provost of UCL is getting paid a salary of more than ÂŁ250,000 a year, while UCL’s outsourced workforce is paid poverty wages. She said university policies were not in line with its professed principles of anti-racism. According to Yusuf:

This willingness to discard racialised key workers is another reminder of the ways that UCL repeatedly betrays its professed principles of anti-racism and equality.

IWGB’s Universities of London branch is collecting money to support the security workers’ struggle. You can donate to its strike fund here.

Featured image via IWGB Union

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