A win would set a powerful precedent.
A legal challenge could set a precedent which would allow many of the UK’s 3.3 million outsourced workers to be brought in-house, the union bringing the case has claimed.
The United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union are using the 2010 Equality Act to argue that the outsourcing of security guards at a South London medical school is unlawful.
The union argues that outsourcing the security guards, who are all migrants and from an ethnic minority, is indirect race discrmination.
The security guards are currently employed by outsourcing company Bidvest Noonan and get only the legal minimum of sick pay, annual leave allowance and employer pension contributions.
On the other hand, staff employed directly by St George’s University enjoy “generous university entitlements”, according to the UVW.
In their campaign to be brought in-house, the security guards have taken nine days of strike action since January.
Cetin, one of the guards on strike, said: “We don’t receive sick pay, we don’t even earn the same amount as the lowest paid St. George’s worker, and when we’ve gone on strike, we’ve been threatened each and every time with arrest.”
“They wouldn’t call the police on the academic staff, it’s so obvious we’re being racially discriminated against. This lawsuit will hopefully end discrimination in the workplace for millions of workers.”
Cetin’s colleague Kazi Mohammad Oli Ullahwe added: “We’ve asked for equality and they’ve refused to negotiate. They say it’s not viable to make us university employees, but they have not explained why.”
“They don’t treat us as equals. They treat us as second-class workers. All of us are ethnic minorities and we all feel discriminated against and harassed. Between our strike and this lawsuit, we will win justice and equality.”
A spokesperson for the UVW told Left Foot Forward that, if the security guards win, they will set a precedent which would allow others in the same situation to push to be brought in house.
The precedent would only apply if the outsourced workers were mostly black and minority ethic but, the spokesperson said, most outsourced workers are.
One example is the situation of the cleaners at the Royal Parks – Hyde Park, Regents Park and St James Park – in London.
They are mostly Ghanaian and Nigerian and are outsourced to a French outsourcing company called Vinci on worse terms than other Royal Parks staff.
Another case could be the cafeteria workers at the University of Greenwich who are also outsourced on worse terms than direcly-employed staff.