Dozens of University College London security guards on three-day strike

Strikes are planned between November 14 - 16 (IWGB Universities of London / @IWGBUoL)
Strikes are planned between November 14 - 16 (IWGB Universities of London / @IWGBUoL)

Dozens of security guards that work at University College London (UCL) are striking for three days, demanding better pay and an end to outsourcing at the university.

Picket lines of workers, employed by Bidvest Noonan, formed at the entrance to UCL on Malet Place on Monday morning, and further strikes are planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) members are calling for a base pay rate of £15 an hour for all outsourced workers at the university.

The current pay rate of £13 or 14 an hour was secured following strike action in 2019.

Outsourced security guards earn almost half of what directly employed security guards were paid 22 years ago prior to outsourcing, the union claimed.

It said Bidvest Noonan has been responsible for “repeated payroll errors and incorrect pension contributions, with some workers owed hundreds of pounds”.

Farhana Uddin, a security guard at UCL says: “I’ve been a security guard for six years and have always been treated like a second class citizen by our subcontractors. All of us pull our weight, taking on more responsibilities than we should do, yet mismanagement and neglect from Bidvest Noonan is leaving me struggling to support my family at home and my sick mother in Bangladesh.”

IWGB general secretary Henry Chango-Lopez warned the strikes are a “preview” of what workers nationwide can expect “if we don’t come together behind our most precarious workers on the frontlines against exploitation”.

“That makes this a dispute of profound importance not just to the lowest paid workers in society who face it today, but the millions of workers who may face it tomorrow.”

The strike is part of an ongoing campaign by mostly Black and minority workers to bring an end to outsourcing, the union said.

It creates “a lower tier of second-class workers who are denied the same basic pay and worker rights as directly employed staff”, IWGB said.

Members have campaigned against outsourcing in public institutions across London which led to the elimination of the practice at the University of London, in 2020.

Bidvest Noonan has been approached for comment.

A UCL spokesperson said: “Our colleagues in security do vital jobs for UCL and we are committed to ensuring that our outsourced colleagues are rewarded fairly in line with our staff.

“Following positive and productive negotiations with our recognised trade union, Unison, we recently invested over £10 million per year to harmonise pay and benefits for our outsourced colleagues and we now pay some of the best rates for these roles in the sector. These staff are employed under the same terms and key conditions as in-house staff and UCL contributes the same percentage to their pensions.

“UCL’s pay is determined through national pay negotiations and pay awards are given at the same rate to our outsourced workers. We recently rolled out an uplift to the London Allowance for all our staff and outsourced workers, to £4,000 from £3,461 in 2021.

“Our contracted staffing provider recently deployed some additional sub-contracted staff, as a short-term measure to ensure continuity of operations and safety on campus during the period of industrial action.”