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20.02.2020 / News / Press releases /

Landmark legal challenge to outsourcing to benefit 3.3 million workers

  • St. George’s University of London (SGUL) is to be the subject of a landmark legal challenge to outsourcing whose outcome could benefit the country’s 3.3 million outsourced workers. 

  • Security guards working at St George’s – all of whom are migrant and black or from an ethnic minority – will argue the decision to outsource them amounts to unlawful indirect race discrimination in breach of the Equality Act 2010. 

  • This challenge is being brought forward by their trade union United Voices of the World (UVW)

Outsourced security guards working at the St. George’s University today announced their intention to mount a legal challenge against the institution on the grounds of indirect race discrimination in breach of the Equality Act 2010. The workers currently receive the statutory minimum terms and conditions with respect to sick pay, annual leave allowance and employer pension contributions compared to generous university entitlements. They argue that the decision to outsource them to a private contractor on inferior pay and terms and conditions of employment than university employees amounts to indirect race discrimination.

This legal challenge is the latest development in an ongoing month-long dispute between the UVW and St George’s university which has seen the security guards take strike action over the university’s refusal to hire them directly. If the challenge is successful it could lead to a pay rise for around 3.3 million of the country’s outsourced workers such as cleaners, porters and security guards who work in the public and private sector.

Cetin, one of the security guards on strike and a Turkish immigrant confirmed, “We don’t receive sick pay, we don’t even earn the same amount as the lowest paid St. George’s worker, and when we’ve gone on strike, we’ve been threatened each and every time with arrest. They wouldn’t call the police on the academic staff, it’s so obvious we’re being racially discriminated against. This lawsuit will hopefully end discrimination in the workplace for millions of workers.”

Petros Elia, Organiser at UVW said the following: “An internal report from the university found that in-housing them would not only provide a better service but would also lead to cost savings. The decision of public institutions such as St George’s to outsource workers who are migrant and BAME is done for the sole purpose of slashing their pay and terms and conditions. This practice is not only morally reprehensible but, we hope to show in court, is also unlawful and that keeping them outsourced serves to make them second class workers. We believe that St George’s discriminates against its cleaners and security guards on the grounds of their race and nationality and this case will aim to prove that in law. Winning this case will be a victory for the brave St Georges security guards, but for all the 3.3 million outsourced workers up and down the country”. 

Kazi Mohammad Oli Ullahwe, a migrant from Bangladesh also on strike at the university says: “We’ve asked for equality and they’ve refused to negotiate. They say it’s not viable to make us university employees, but they have not explained why. They don’t treat us as equals. They treat us as second-class workers. All of us are ethnic minorities and we all feel discriminated against and harassed. Between our strike and this lawsuit, we will win justice and equality”

-Ends-

Notes to editors 

For more information and quotes contact

Petros Elia, Organiser and Rep, 07884 553443, petros@uvwunion.org.uk,

Kane Shaw, Editorial Lead – Campaign Communications, 07950 927798, kane@uvwunion.org.uk

Gabrielle Jeliazkov, Editorial Lead – Campaign Communications, 07761 542653, gabrielle@uvwunion.org.uk

About the dispute:

The security guards at St George’s University hospital are currently employed by multinational Bidvest Noonan.

They have undertaken 9 days of strike action on 13, 14, 27, 28, 29 January and 10, 11, 12, 13 February to call for their direct employment.

Franck Magennis Head of Legal at UVW was unlawfully arrested by the Metropolitan Police as a result of St. George’s management calling the police on workers on the 13th of January 2020. See here for previous coverage: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/15/lawyer-to-sue-met-police-over-false-imprisonment-at-picket

The Trades Union Congress calculates there to be 3.3 million outsourced workers in the UK – see https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-calls-employers-be-made-liable-abuses-uk-supply-chains

The internal report authored by St. George’s showing that it has the capacity to in-house the workers, and that doing so would in fact allow it to save £200k per annum can be found and downloaded here: https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/downloads

About the United Voices of the World (UVW)

The UVW is a London-based trade union with 3000 members with approximately 200 joining every month. The majority of its members work in low-paid jobs and are migrants predominantly from Latin America and the Caribbean — with a growing number from Asia and Africa. In 2016, the union organised the largest cleaners strike in UK history and became the first trade union to force a UK university (the LSE) to bring the entirety of its outsourced cleaners in-house and in 2020 became the first trade union to force an English NHS Trust to in-house all 1000 of its outsourced cleaners, caterers and porters.

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