By Arooj Sultan, BA Economics & Politics
After a hard-fought campaign taking place over a period of 11 years, in August 2017 SOAS management announced that it meet the demands of the Justice for Workers (J4W) campaign and bring all outsourced staff in-house by September 2018.
Following this historic announcement, workers were promised that all current staff would directly be employed by the university, putting them on equal footing with existing SOAS employees in terms of pay, benefits and working conditions.
In the first meeting called to discuss the in-house process, on the 26th of January 2018, the primary agenda of the working groups designed to assist in the process was that of examining operational details such as uniforms, as opposed to more salient issues like how to achieve contractual parity.
When asked about future terms and working conditions by the worker’s representatives present there, the response from management was that contractual matters would be discussed in a separate working group.
However, at that time, it was found that particular working group was not to contain any workers or union representatives. In response, the workers resolved not to participate in any of the aforementioned working groups until their concerns were addressed more fully and transparently. The workers demanded a cohesive timeline for the process, and reiterated their demand for guarantees that they will be brought into SOAS under the same conditions as existing staff.
J4W has put forward a list of demands that they want SOAS management to satisfy. Different categories of outsourced workers, such as security and cleaning, have each produced their specific concerns which have been incorporated into the larger list. The demands range from allocating overtime hours into permanent contracts, to targeted training for handling harassment and IT issues. A list of key demands can be found in the first issue of the SOAS Workers Bulletin.