UAL: Outsourcing Must Go!

University of Arts London (UAL) was recently rated the second best university in the world for Art and Design. It is a prestigious place to study in one of the world’s most dynamic metropoles. Cleaners at UAL, who do fundamental work to keep the university running, are outsourced to the multinational company Bouygues. This letter-writing campaign targets the university’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Nigel Carrington and members of Executive Board, the most powerful people within UAL. It asks them to address the injustices of outsourcing happening everyday at UAL.

At UAL, cleaners and other facilities staff work for Bouygues under sub-standard terms and conditions compared to those directly employed by UAL. Not only are they subjected to inferior holiday leave, parental leave, sick pay and pension schemes, but they also have to work within a toxic environment, where bullying and harassment at the hands of their employers has been normalised. UAL has been made aware of this numerous times.

We have recently learned with great disappointment that UAL have decided to extend their contract with Bouygues and that the cleaners will remain outsourced for at least another year. In the past, UAL’s leadership have repeatedly ignored UAL: End Outsourcing’s demands for justice. We believe the time is up for their delay and denial at the injustices which they continue to oversee.

UAL recently expressed its commitment to anti-racism in the wake of the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement and announced a 10-point plan to tackle racism. This has been, at least in part, a response to the student-led #UALStillSoWhite petition to “end racism at UAL”, which has garnered over 10,000 signatures. However, silence remains regarding #Point14 of the petition’s demands: to bring cleaners in-house. The silence is deafening and we must act now to change this.

The cleaners at UAL are predominantly from black and ethnic minority and migrant backgrounds. The racism inherent in the system of outsourcing is undeniable. Added to this, is the recognition that these communities have been much harder hit than the rest of the UK population by Coronavirus; Black people are up to four times more likely to die from Covid-19. We believe that UAL’s continued outsourcing of cleaners and other facilities staff – particularly during a time of heightened anxiety because of the pandemic – renders their anti-racist statements hollow. In-housing of all workers at UAL is the next urgent step in ensuring justice, safety and equality for all.

UAL must carry out its anti-racist work in practice, not just on paper. By in-housing its cleaners, UAL should follow in the footsteps of many other London universities who have put an end to this immoral practice in recent years such as: Queen Mary, LSE, SOAS, KCL and Goldsmiths. This letter-writing campaign demands the immediate end of the university’s exploitative outsourcing of its lowest paid staff across all of its colleges.

About us:

We are concerned students and researchers at the University of the Arts London, expressing solidarity as part of UAL: End Outsourcing – a campaign run jointly between GMB and Unison.

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London, United Kingdom