Last November, UCL switched security contractors from CIS to Axis. The roster of security officers at UCL has changed little, but the messy transition has caused them huge problems.
Holiday records were lost during the handover, impacting officers’ pay. Many have been consistently underpaid since November and some have lost out on huge sums. One officer received only £20 for a whole month’s work. The irregular pay has forced some onto an emergency tax code, resulting in potential long term loss of income.
CIS allowed workers to accrue holiday if they worked overtime, while Axis does not, meaning officers will be losing out on holiday, even when the pay problems are resolved.
Axis blames CIS for failing to supply holiday entitlement data, despite it being a legal requirement that the departing contractor supplies this information to the incoming contractor. However, Axis failed to follow their obligation to obtain the required data from CIS, or insist UCL push for it, making it unclear which company is responsible for the pay issues.
Axis appears to be getting the blame from the guards, with the Christmas party being cancelled last year due to low morale. However, Derek Richardson, a security officer and IWGB representative speculated that ‘ill feeling towards the university will get worse,’ if the pay problems are not soon resolved.
At January’s Union General Meeting, Provost Michael Arthur described the ongoing problems with pay as ‘unacceptable,’ but placed the full blame on Axis, suggesting that UCL was not responsible for the issues caused by their contractor.
According to Richardson, many officers wish to be brought in house as ‘it would be a massive improvement in our pay,’ He suggests that UCL could pay security officers better without incurring extra costs if they contracted staff directly, although the Provost has said that insourcing all UCL workers would cost around £3 million.
Danny Millum, Secretary of the University of London branch of IWGB told CG that for outsourced staff, ‘the managers and structures in which you work are much harsher than you would get if you were a university employee.’ A large proportion of these workers are migrants or BME, demonstrating the discriminatory nature of outsourcing, subjecting already disadvantaged groups to worse treatment.
UCL, as well as being the last London University to introduce a living wage, is also resistant to insourcing, which has become a trend across other institutions. Goldsmiths has already brought all staff in house, and LSE and King’s appear to be following suit. Despite its wealth, UCL has proven once again to be behind in protecting its lowest paid workers.
This article appeared in CG 65.