Students at the University of London today carried out a high-visibility publicity stunt at the heart of the University to highlight the lack of holiday pay for its outsourced workers.
In a stunt focusing on the issue of holiday pay, the students marched into Senate House, the administrative centre of the University of London, adorned with beach towels, snorkels, and panama hats, blasting Calypso music through the corridors of the institution.
The ‘holiday-camp’ stunt was part of the ‘Summer of Action’ called by the University of London Union (ULU), the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), and the 3 Cosas Campaign for sickpay, holidays and pensions for all outsourced staff at the University.
One student taking part in the action said: “With a personal salary in the hundreds of thousands the Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Adrian Smith can afford very nice holidays. The same can’t be said for many of his employees, a lot of whom work several jobs and have little flexibility on holidays.”
ULU Vice President Daniel Lemberger Cooper added: “Today’s action was planned by students in solidarity with the campaign by the outsourced workers for sickpay, holidays and pensions. This stunt focused on holiday pay but is part of a wider ‘Summer of Action’ to highlight the University’s continuing refusal to grant humane working conditions to its outsourced staff. This is just the beginning of a summer of disruption for university management.”
There is variety amongst the outsourced staff in terms of their holiday entitlements. For example, many of the caterers are on zero-hour contracts with severely restricted holiday rights. Many of the outsourced workers are entitled to 28 paid holidays (as required by law) per year. Out of these 28, 8 are bank holidays and a significant number of the outsourced workers are then required to take the days that the University of London is closed (roughly 6 per year), out of their remaining 20 days.
The workers can then (in theory) decide when to take the remaining days each year but there are often restrictions. The cleaners are restricted in terms of when they can take their holidays, for example during last summer’s Olympics, steady commercial bookings prevented many of them taking holidays during the summer period.
There is a lack of flexibility on holidays. For those that have 3-4 jobs (a high proporition of the outsourced staff), it is extremely difficult to coordinate among several employers, and coordinating time off itself is barely possible.
On the other hand, directly employed UoL staff enjoy 25-30 days basic holiday entitlement as well as bank holidays (8 days) and Uni closure days – which makes up to 44 days per year.
The campaign is calling for the workers to have 30 paid holidays plus the bank holidays and school closure days – the same as directly employed staff. We are calling for equality across the workplace.
For more on the Summer of Action see: http://www.ulu.co.uk/news/index.php?page=article&news_id=372423
Further information on the 3 Cosas campaign, including its demands on the University can be found on its website : https://sites.google.com/site/3cosascampaign/que-queremos