Security guards at the central University of London site in Bloomsbury took a third day of strike action against the university and contractor Cordant on 16 May, following two last month. They want an end to disguised use of zero-hours contracts, itemised pay slips and a pay rise they were promised six years ago when UoL’s outsourced workers first won the Living Wage.
In part the dispute represents the impact of earlier struggles by their union, the Independent Workers of Great Britain, working through. The guards were supposed to get a 25pc pay increase to maintain their previous differential but it was never delivered. Some of them worked during strikes by other IWGB members in 2012-13. Because the union has vigorously pursued demands for various groups of workers, rather than seeing some as inherently hostile, the result has been security staff becoming more organised.
The university and Cordant have indicated some concessions on the other two demands but not yet on pay. They are using untrained replacement workers on zero-hours contracts and the minimum wage during this strike! The IWGB is working to expose this and get a relationship with those workers too.
As usual with the IWGB, the 16 May picket line was well-attended, lively, extremely noisy – and actually a picket line. The crowd was right in front of the entrance and activists spoke to delivery drivers and so on and tried to persude them not to go in. Contrast the attempt by some unions, for instance BECTU in the Picturehouse strike, to prevent effective pickets from taking place.
Helping relatively precarious, low-paid workers, many of whom are migrants, organise and mobilise to win their demands despite the difficult environment, the IWGB is once again putting the bureaucracies of the bigger unions to shame.
The workers are holding a demonstration at a UoL poetry event on the evening of 16 May and a march with LSE cleaners’ union United Voices of the World, also on strike, on 17 May.
Let’s mobilise widespread solidarity. Go to their events, pass a motion at your branch or Labour Party or student union, donate money, invite a speaker.