Brunel University/OCS cleaners' struggle - A victory!

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Nov 28 2011 23:29
Brunel University/OCS cleaners' struggle - A victory!

UPDATE: 28/11/11

The cleaners have won their contracts! A full update can be found in this post below.

The original callout:

Hey everyone,

The following is a call for solidarity and support for the contract cleaning Staff at Brunel University who are currently engaged in a dispute with their employers. Both Brunel IWW and Thames Valley SolFed have been involved to date, but we are now asking for wider support in the form of phone calls/emails in support of the cleaners from as many people as possible. Please take some time to read the following and give whatever support you can:

A dispute has started between cleaners at Brunel University and OCS International - the outsource company that employs them. The dispute involves several issues:

  • Absence of a written contract
  • A work environment that does not comply with health and safety rules
  • Allegations of bullying and racism
  • Pay that is not at the proper rate (night work), and more.

In terms of the union background, a large number of cleaners recently joined the Brunel IWW workplace branch that was founded earlier on this year.

To be brief, some of the cleaners took action yesterday morning by telling the manager at the beginning of their shift that they wouldn’t work before they were issued their written contract. The manager promised, on film made by a group of students, that she would give it to them at the end of the shift. They then received a document that they took for a contract, but it is as yet not clear if it is a real, legal contract. That evening, at least two members of the Brunel IWW (one cleaner and one who isn’t) were intimidated by the OCS manager and a security staff. Pressure has also been put on the another union member.

TVSF is now helping to organise a phone/email campaign, following from the success with the Office Angels (and now the Hartley Pub campaign). At the moment the focus is only on:

(1) Full written contract for all cleaners
(2) No victimisation of any workers

We want to phone/email OCS HR department as well as Brunel’s - given that this is the contracting institution. The contact details are:

Phone numbers removed due to the campaign's victory.

Please give whatever time you have to phone/email and show solidarity and support for the Brunel Cleaners. These workers have very precarious positions and have shown great courage in standing up to their employers and managers. Let's help to bring them a victory!

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Nov 23 2011 23:42

Will get on the case with this in the morning, and Brighton SF are sending an email tonight I think.

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Nov 24 2011 00:08

Is it possible to give any details about the victimisation? It's a bit vague. I understand it might not be possible, of course, but it might help in wording an email or whatever.

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Nov 24 2011 00:21

Not much that can be posted without potentially opening up the cleaners to more bullshit, but as already mentioned there has been some attempts at intimidation from their management clearly aimed at those who are organising. I guess a 'neutral' or 'safer' way to put it would be 'against the victimisation of workers and attempts to disrupt their efforts to organise themselves/make demands of their employers'.

I personally reckon that's a better tack to take with the Uni HR rather than the OCS. I think that it's important to put some pressure on Brunel Uni - as said, they are the contract provider to OCS so hopefully there's some mileage there.

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Nov 24 2011 00:53

[ignore]OK. I'm wondering how a typical phone call to Brunel might go. I'm guessing volume (number of calls, not shouting!), speaking to the right person and making sure they know why you're calling are probably the most important things. Jamming their switchboard is probably effective itself.

How would I present myself? As a friend of one of the workers, as a friend of a friend, just as a person who heard/read about it and was disgusted and wanted to make sure that Brunel was aware of the situation?

Not after a script, as it's surely better that calls are "personalised", just some ideas of what people have found a good approach.[/ignore]

Fuck it I'm not that stupid I can work it out.

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Nov 24 2011 02:39

I'm guessing some of you know the law around this but if not: an employer is legally obliged to provide a written contract of employment within eight weeks of a person starting their job. This contract must include details of hours, pay and holidays. I'm guessing OCS International are in breach of this obligation. Could some one confirm? If so it might help if people sending emails and phoning add this, since managers are often scared of the law, though they equally often don't know it.

Additionally, victimisation of personnel for trade union activity is illegal (in this case the IWW cleaner), and people can add this too to up the fear factor.

Auto: Do you have the resources to work out if the contract is legal? If not I can get onto an IWW member I know who can give experienced advice.

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Nov 24 2011 09:38

@Pikel, I assume any of those would work. As you say just showing volume of support is the most important thing. smile

@RedEd, I think the legality of it is being looked into by some people there, but I'll ask if any help is needed. Cheers for the offer.

The general feeling at Brunel is that today is going to be a big day - so please keep up the pressure!

In Solidarity,
Auto

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Nov 24 2011 10:03
RedEd wrote:
I'm guessing some of you know the law around this but if not: an employer is legally obliged to provide a written contract of employment within eight weeks of a person starting their job.

Not true, I'm afraid. The obligation is provide a written statement of employment particulars: -

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/EmploymentContractsAndConditions/DG_175704

Everyone is entitled to a contract, but this need not be in writing (implied terms & all that.

Quote:
Your employment contract doesn’t have to be in writing. However, you are entitled to a written statement of your main employment terms within two months of starting work.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/EmploymentContractsAndConditions/DG_10027905

I'm not going to into the differences between a written statement of employment particulars and a contract, but I do think it's important to be accurate when adopting a "You're breaking the law" approach.

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Nov 24 2011 13:42

Email sent, will send more later and tomorrow..

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Nov 24 2011 14:11

We've had word that suggests the emails/phonecalls are definitely having an effect! I've asked for an update from the people on the ground and so hopefully we'll know what the state of play is.

Thanks for all the support everyone. smile

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Nov 24 2011 15:32
the button wrote:
RedEd wrote:
I'm guessing some of you know the law around this but if not: an employer is legally obliged to provide a written contract of employment within eight weeks of a person starting their job.

Not true, I'm afraid. The obligation is provide a written statement of employment particulars: -

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/EmploymentContractsAndConditions/DG_175704

Everyone is entitled to a contract, but this need not be in writing (implied terms & all that.

Quote:
Your employment contract doesn’t have to be in writing. However, you are entitled to a written statement of your main employment terms within two months of starting work.

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/EmploymentContractsAndConditions/DG_10027905

I'm not going to into the differences between a written statement of employment particulars and a contract, but I do think it's important to be accurate when adopting a "You're breaking the law" approach.

I was trying to use non-jargony language, but you're absolutely right that a written statement of particulars is not the same as a contract of employment, though it will form a part of the contract which can also have other written, non-written and implied parts. It's not quite right to say an employee is entitled to a contract: it's more that contracts of employment are deemed to exist between employers and employees, that's kind of what being an employee means. If there was no contract its not that the employer was negligent, it's that they weren't an employer at all. Employees are entitled to a written document after eight weeks (usually coloquially refered to as a contract) of their particulars of employment, though it would usually also have other stuff. But this is all quite technical, and not much use to people who just want to point out that the company are not meeting their obligations under law but not get into the metaphysical niceties of the meaning of a contract in British law.

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Nov 24 2011 15:53

Just called both, Brunel HR was busy so I left a message. OCS HR guy simply said he'd make a note.

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Nov 24 2011 15:54

Sent an email as well. Good luck.

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Nov 24 2011 16:00
RedEd wrote:
But this is all quite technical, and not much use to people who just want to point out that the company are not meeting their obligations under law but not get into the metaphysical niceties of the meaning of a contract in British law.

It's *kind* of useful for people who are being asked to phone an HR person, but I take your point.

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Nov 24 2011 16:06
the button wrote:
RedEd wrote:
But this is all quite technical, and not much use to people who just want to point out that the company are not meeting their obligations under law but not get into the metaphysical niceties of the meaning of a contract in British law.

It's *kind* of useful for people who are being asked to phone an HR person, but I take your point.

Yes, and for this reason I've chosen to email and not phone, because I won't know what to say when the HR person says "but there is no legal entitlement to a written contract".

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Nov 24 2011 23:03

As a quick update on the situation: this evening the Brunel Student Union passed a motion with overwhelming support calling on the sabbaticals to push the uni and OCS to give the cleaners their contracts, with no victimisation of any workers involved. This has also now been taken up by the President of the Goldsmiths SU who will apparently be trying to pass a motion there in support of the Brunel cleaners. All of this will hopefully help ratchet up the pressure on OCS/Brunel... but giving as much practical support as we can is still hugely important.

Word on the cleaners themselves is that,they are solid and buoyant. In the words of one supporter: 'they've fought the law and so far they ain't lost!'

It seems like the pressure is definitely building. Any time you could give to phone or send emails in support of the cleaners would be greatly appreciated.

In Solidarity,
Auto

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Nov 24 2011 23:25

Well of course the motions themselves don't necessarily mean much by themselves, but it at least draws the issue out.

In terms of practical support, the flow of phone/email messages from supporters seems to be having an effect, so more of those would be very helpful. Any other ideas for ways to provide more pressure on OCS and Brunel would be great.

If after all this the cleaners' don't get their written contracts, then the campaign will have to be expanded. Of note is the fact that OCS UK is a national branch of OCS International. They employ people in countries all over the world... including a number of countries where the IWA has sections. So there is scope to potentially turn this into an international campaign.

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Nov 28 2011 23:28

UPDATE:

Just an update to let you all know that the cleaners have won their contracts! They now have the legal written statements they were demanding. A huge thank you to everyone who supported with phone calls and emails, it seems it really put the management of both Brunel and OCS under a lot of pressure and helped the cleaners in their cause. As the cleaners have won their demands we are winding up the supporting phone/email campaign for the time being.

There'll clearly be a long road ahead for the cleaners - we all know that a contract alone is no guarantee of fair treatment, but for now it seems like another victory for direct action!

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Nov 28 2011 23:29

cool as fuck.

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Nov 28 2011 23:37

Great stuff! Get it written up for the SF site/libcom! Claim victories innit, they're few and far between (though two in a week ain't bad).

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Nov 28 2011 23:49

Great news!

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Nov 29 2011 19:46

Absolutely belting! Well done all! cool

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Nov 29 2011 19:55

Yeah!

staffman
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Nov 30 2011 15:57

just to get your facts right the cleaners got there contracts on the 22nd

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Nov 30 2011 18:26

I don't think that's true. At all.

staffman
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Dec 1 2011 17:04

they got there contracts on the tuesday the day they refused to start work which was the 22nd fact

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Dec 1 2011 18:17

No, they got some half-arsed documents in lieu of papers on the 22nd. It was only after a campaign of student pressure, phone calls, outside solidarity, and bad publicity that OCS caved and gave them their proper contracts.

Who's payroll you on, btw?

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Dec 1 2011 18:22

Thanks, staffman, for signing up to give us your corporate misinformation. If you're telling the truth do you have some evidence you can provide or are you just going to keep saying it repeatedly with "fact" on the end?

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Dec 1 2011 18:30

Staffman is a bell end. Fact.

Name gives it a way really tho, doesn't it?

staffman
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Dec 2 2011 15:38

My wife is a cleaner

staffman
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Dec 2 2011 15:39

so you have to resort to name calling well done