THE University of London Students Union has slammed a letter sent to them by the University management which threatens to prosecute anyone who demonstrates outside Senate House as an ‘outrageous and draconian response’.
In the letter sent to the students union last week, the university management stated that they were ‘no longer willing to tolerate demonstrations’ in Senate House and will ‘take all the necessary legal measures’ to prosecute any demonstrators ‘with trespass’.
The university management is reacting to an ongoing campaign by students for the 3 Cosas Campaign – for equal sick pay, holidays and pensions for outsourced workers at the University of London.
The elected officers of the University of London Union (ULU) responded to the letter: ‘The letter threatens supporters of the 3 Cosas Campaign for equal sick pay, holidays and pensions for outsourced workers at the University of London, saying that “the University’s management is no longer willing to tolerate demonstrations in Senate House” and will “take all the necessary legal measures” to prevent them.
‘This is an outrageous and draconian response from University management, and it comes after the violent arrest of a campaign supporter on campus on 16th July.
‘Clearly the University is rattled by the campaign, which has highlighted the stark inequalities at the heart of the institution in the national press and beyond.
‘Rather than engaging with the campaign properly, and answering its case in the spirit of critical thinking befitting an institution of learning, the University is relying on legal threats and the force of the state.
‘This is further evidence, were it needed, that there is no argument against equal sick pay, holiday pay and pensions for all staff.’
Cobb speaks of the university community with reference to the alleged disruption of Senate House library. Does he not consider the cleaners, who clean that building, and go without adequate sick pay, part of our academic community?
‘Or the caterers who provide the food and refreshments at academic conferences, despite the lack of holiday rights?
‘Does he not consider the security guards and porters important enough to be counted?
‘Will the institution really sink so low as to seek the prosecution of any more members of the University community? If it does, it will be to its eternal disgrace.
‘The letter addresses the ULU President, Michael Chessum, as a “representative” of the 3 Cosas Campaign and IWGB – he is neither.
‘If the University would like to meet with representatives of the 3 Cosas campaign, staff would be pleased to do this, and have made it clear recently.
‘We would encourage the University to open dialogue on working conditions with staff.
Michael Chessum, ULU President
Daniel Cooper, ULU Vice President
Susuana Antubam, ULU Women’s Officer’
The violent arrest that the University of London Union refers to, was in response to someone drawing a slogan in chalk on the pavement.
The police then invaded the ULU building and attacked the 3 Cosas Campaign.
ULU said about the incident: ‘Police invaded the University of London Union building on Malet Street, assaulted a number of student activists, and arrested someone – all on the orders of the University of London.
‘University staff asked police to intervene after they allegedly saw someone chalking on University property.
‘Campaigners were protesting to highlight the fact that the University of London does not pay its outsourced staff holiday pay, sick pay or pensions.
‘If there are “crimes” on campus, it is the fact that many of the people who clean our buildings and cater our events cannot properly take days off when they get sick, have inadequate time to visit their relatives, and work significant periods of their lives with no prospect of a decent pension.
‘Chalk can be washed off – that is the whole point of chalk.
‘Universities are supposed to be academic communities.
‘They are supposed to be places in which the freedom to dissent is enshrined, and in which the community can collectively and critically exist.
‘In this case, University managers and the police worked together to attack this.
‘If calling the police is an attempt to intimidate the 3 Cosas Campaign, it will not work.
‘The actions of both the police and the University today were a disgrace. The University must issue an apology, and intervene with the authorities to prevent charges being brought.’
Daniel Cooper, ULU Acting President, sent a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of University of London, Adrian Smith regarding the campaign for equal sick pay, holidays and pensions for outsourced workers.
He said: ‘I am writing to you in my capacity as ULU Vice-President and ULU Acting President to express my concern over the treatment of the outsourced workers at the University of London.
‘As you are well aware, the University of London’s central administration (Senate House and main academic buildings as well as the eight intercollegiate halls of residence) currently sub-contracts with Aramark and Balfour Beatty Workplace.
‘As you also may know, these workers only recently started receiving the London Living Wage.
‘It is commendable that the University of London has agreed to ensure that all workers at the University earn at least a London Living Wage. This policy also enjoys broad support among the student body.
‘However, the vast majority of the outsourced workers still do not have humane working conditions and benefits.
‘Most of them do not receive sick pay, have a pension policy, and receive 20 instead of 25 or 30 days paid holidays.
‘In addition to making life very difficult for these workers, this situation is also not suitable to an institution like ours. Workers having to work while sick or injured, being denied the right to return home to visit family, and having to retire in poverty are situations one would associate more with the 1800s or overseas factories, than with the University of London.
‘This is why students and workers have united in support of the 3 Cosas Campaign, which is calling for the same sick pay, holidays, and pensions policies for all workers at the University of London, whether direct employees or outsourced workers.
‘At the last ULU Senate meeting, all of the constituent students’ unions of the University of London voted to support this campaign and mandated me to write you on behalf of the entire University of London student body, to insist on immediate implementation of University of London employee benefits for all outsourced workers.
‘Students support equal treatment of all workers in their university and I will be supporting the 3 Cosas Campaign in the coming weeks and months in garnering this student support among the 19 constituent colleges.
‘On behalf of the student body of the University of London, I would like to thank you for your attention to this issue and do hope that you will take immediate steps to redress the injustices currently taking place at our university.
‘Daniel Lemberger Cooper’