Receptionists, security officers and porters are taking legal action against the University of London, in a ‘landmark test case’.
The case – the outcome of which could affect 3.3m outsourced workers – is being filed by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and supported by The Good Law Project.
As outsourced workers, the group of workers is technically employed by a facilities company and then supplied to the University of London by a facilities company. This means they do not receive the same benefits as those employed directly by the university.
“Despite working for the university just like any other employee, even to the point of being given orders by the institution’s managers, I am denied basic rights,” says IWGB President and University of London porter Henry Chango Lopez. “All outsourced workers know that ultimately they are working for the University of London, now it is time for the law to acknowledge that.”
IWGB is arguing that outsourced workers at the University of London have the right to collectively bargain over pay and conditions with the institution. It says that denying these rights is a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The IWGB says that the law to date has been interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer. But, if successful, the test case would open the doors for workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer as well as their direct employer.
“When it comes to the most important elements of pay, and terms and conditions for the outsourced workers, it is the University of London which calls the shots,” says IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer Lee. “For these workers’ collective bargaining and human rights to mean anything, we need to be able to negotiate directly with the university, not the glorified middle man.”
The IWGB will be represented by trade union barrister John Hendy QC and employment law barrister Sarah Fraser-Butlin. Outsourced workers are striking today at the University of London.