Outsourced workers at the University of London’s central administration, employed by Cofely GDF-Suez (until recent by Balfour Beatty), will be striking from 27-29 January.
Terms and conditions for Cofely GDF-Suez workers, specifically sick pay, holidays, and pensions, are much improved after a previous strike, but still inferior to those terms and conditions of direct employees of the University of London. The demand for parity forms the basis of the “3 Cosas” (“3 Things”) campaign, which has seen workers mobilise against university management for over a year.
The first and third days of the strike will see workers mount mass pickets at Senate House, University of London, from 6am until 1pm. On the second strike day, the entire picket line will board an open-top bus for a whistle-stop tour of high-profile sites throughout London, including national media outlets and places of particular interest to the University of London and Cofely.
The strike is called by the University of London branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and is over union recognition, terms and conditions, and job losses.
Sonia Chura, Vice-Chair of the University of London Branch of the IWGB, said: “We’ve made great progress thus far, but our fight will continue until we win all our demands.”
The strike follows a partially successful two day strike in November, 2013, which won major concession on sick pay and holidays. IWGB is also demanding a formal recognition agreement in order to set up proper negotiating infrastructure. Many workplace issues that later turn in to formal grievances or industrial disputes could potentially be avoided if there was more dialogue between the company and the union.
The final demand is around job losses. The University of London is planning on shutting down the Garden Halls, where many union members are employed as cleaners, next summer. The IWGB wants the company to re-allocate these workers within the company as vacancies arise in order to prevent job losses.
The campaign is run by outsourced workers and has gained massive traction due to its innovative use of social media and the internet (Facebook, Twitter, and an electronic campaign through LabourStart which saw over 1,400 emails sent to the Vice Chancellor). It has also benefited immensely from student support.
But fundamentally, the campaign has been successful because it has rediscovered the best traditions of democratic, rank-and-file-led, militant industrial unionism.
The 3 Cosas campaign is a model of what workers can achieve when they organise and fight. It is an example for the entire labour movement.
• Donate to the IWGB University of London branch’s strike fund