UVW members working as security guards at St. George’s University — a medical school in Tooting, South London and constituent college of the University of London — have voted in an indicative ballot to strike until St. George’s terminates its contract with contractor Noonan and brings them in-house. UVW will now move to ballot them.
Bringing them in-house would end the two-tier workforce the security have been subjected to for years, which has seen them severely overworked, disrespected and under-recognised. In addition, their terms and conditions remain on the pernicious statutory minimums, whilst university staff enjoy generous holiday allowances, pensions and sick pay schemes.
In-housing the security would also allow for St. George’s to live up to its public commitment to “inclusion” which is “not an optional extra,” as the Principal at St George’s, professor Jenny Higham, has said:
“The university benefits hugely from the range of perspectives that come from the different backgrounds, opinions and beliefs of our staff and students and, in recognising that, we want to put our approach to diversity and inclusion firmly at our core. It is not an optional extra.”
With a £3.1 million increase in St. George’s annual income last year, and a surplus increase to £3.5 million, any costs involved with in-housing their security guards can be easily absorbed.
In fact, following a previous in-house bid made by UVW at St. George’s, a report was produced by former directors of facilities at St George’s which concluded that in-housing all currently outsourced soft services would actually result in a net cost saving:
“It is anticipated that, following one-off capital costs for equipment and uniform, the University will be able to reduce the costs of its Soft FM services by approximately £200k per annum from November 2016 … The department is confident that following the development of this business case there is sufficient knowledge and expertise within the current team to mobilise an in-house service.”
The two-tier workforces created by outsourcing have been successfully challenged, beginning with UVW’s historic victory at the London School of Economics in 2017 which saw the termination of a £5 million a year contract with Noonan, bringing some 250 cleaners in-house after the then-largest cleaners’ strike in British history. Since then, SOAS, King’s, Birkbeck and Goldsmith’s (except the security) have all followed suit, with Senate House and UCL expected to follow next.