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University of Cambridge in outsourcing row

Cambridge university maintenance staff being lined up for ‘misguided’ outsourcing deal, warns Unite
UniteLive, Wednesday, November 10th, 2021


The University of Cambridge, one of the wealthiest and most illustrious institutions in the country, has been accused of ‘salami slicing’ over its plans to outsource up to 50 maintenance and estates’ workers to private companies.

Unite the union said that if the proposal was completed by April 1 next year it would be a serious attack on its members’ pensions, HR standards and their status as university employees. It is understood that the first small group to be outsourced will be the lift maintenance team, which could be by the end of this year.

The union called on the university’s top bureaucrat vice chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope to step in and stop these plans.

To reinforce the campaign, Unite members will be staging a demonstration by admin, estates’, helpdesk and stores’ employees outside the Senate House in Cambridge’s King’s Parade at 12pm on Friday (November 12) – and the university’s students were urged to attend to show solidarity.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The message from Unite is clear; however, powerful and rich an organisation is, we won’t stand idly by and watch our members have their pay, employment terms and pensions salami sliced in an entirely misguided outsourcing deal.

“It is unacceptable that university bosses have been systematically under-investing in estates and maintenance for a number of years and then decide outsourcing is the answer to current issues. It won’t be.”  

Unite regional coordinating officer Ian Maidlow added, “Our members in estates and maintenance have worked tirelessly and uncomplainingly throughout the pandemic to ensure buildings were maintained to a reasonable and safe standard. Their reward is to be told they are no longer wanted – no wonder, they feel betrayed.

“The University of Cambridge is a very wealthy institution,” he continued. “In the year to July 2019, the income was over £2 billion. Of course, there have been major challenges since then, but you don’t meet them by casting aside a loyal and long-serving workforce.

“We call on the university led by the vice chancellor Professor Toope to reverse its decision and negotiate a proper plan in the New Year to invest in this very important area.”

As yet, the name of the outsourced company being primed to take-over has not officially been unveiled.

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.

By Shaun Noble

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