Security staff at the University of Greenwich, represented by the IWGB union, are in a dispute with ruthless outsourcing employers Sodexo. Workers and students should support their fight against outsourcing, threats, and victimisation.

Security staff at the University of Greenwich, represented by the IWGB union, are in a dispute with ruthless outsourcing employers Sodexo. Workers and students should support their fight against outsourcing, threats, and victimisation.

Since the start of the pandemic, outsourced security staff at Greenwich University campus have been hailed as ‘heroes’ for their work in ensuring that the university is safe. They have taken on extra tasks without training, such as enforcing the wearing of masks and making sure there is enough ventilation throughout all the buildings.

The multinational company Sodexo employs these security guards. This is a multi-billion pound corporation, which is currently slashing jobs around the globe in these times of unprecedented crisis.

Sodexo have a colourful history – from union busting workers in the USA, to being accused of ‘torture’ and ‘repeated attacks on prisoners’ human rights’ while managing HMP Bronzefield and HMP Peterbrough in Britain, to serving ‘beef’ containing traces of horse meat at over 2,300 institutions.

Draconian

One of the Greenwich security guards, Kingsley, recently received a draconian punishment due to a complaint from a student. Kingsley tried to physically prevent the unmasked student from entering the library, where it is a mandatory requirement to wear a face covering, as set out by the university.

Kingsley’s record is clean, and he is a dedicated member of the University of Greenwich (UoG) staff. He has offered his apologies to the student, whom he had no intention of harming or upsetting. Rather, he was merely carrying out instructions from management.

It is the university management and Sodexo bosses who are to blame, for failing to provide clear instructions and adequate training. Threats of dismissal from Sodexo are therefore completely out of proportion.

Victimisation

This is not the first time that Sodexo has threatened and dismissed its employees, and attempted to disrupt their fight for better working conditions.

The harsh treatment experienced by Kingsley is being used as an example to undermine the collective organising that these outsourced workers are undertaking. It comes in the context of several other incidents of victimisation against active trade union members amongst the security staff on campus.

Furthermore, after fellow security guards spoke out in solidarity on social media – using the slogan #WeAreAllKingsley – Sodexo insisted that all security staff sign a code of conduct. This social media policy inhibits their right to speak out against their working conditions.

End outsourcing

Through their campaigning, the IWGB have recently helped Kingsley to win his job back. This is an excellent victory, showing what can be achieved by having fighting unions.

The IWGB University of London branch that represents Kingsley has now offered the University of Greenwich a choice: end the outsourcing trap that led to him being victimised in the first place; or face the prospect of security staff walking out on strike.

This is exactly the right step to take. In recent years, other groups of precarious workers have managed to get themselves brought in-house through such militant tactics. If the union shows that it is both willing to fight and has the muscle to do so, it can win at the University of Greenwich too.

Socialist Appeal supporters stand with the security staff, Kingsley, and the IWGB in calling for their jobs to be brought in house; for an end to racial discrimination of all kinds in the workplace; and for an end to the union victimisation and attacks on workers being carried out by the parasitic, profiteering Sodexo bosses.

Socialism will end this outsourcing racket for good. And the battle for socialism starts on the picket lines.

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