BAME and migrant workers to argue in court that lower pay for outsourced staff is ‘institutional racism’

BAME and migrant security guards working at St George's University of London will argue their case in court

St George's University

BAME and migrant security guards working at St George’s University of London medical school are to argue in court that outsourcing them on worse pay than university-employed staff is race discrimmination breaching the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty.

The claim is being brought by the trade union United Voices of the World (UVW) which is also bringing the same legal challenge against the Ministry of Justice, the Royal Parks and Ark Globe Academy, part of the multi-academy trust Ark.

The outcome could see billions of pounds redistributed to the UK’s 3.3 million outsourced workers including cleaners and security guards.

Security guards at St George’s University of London medical school have submitted a claim in the employment tribunal arguing that outsourcing them on inferior pay rates and terms and conditions than staff employed directly by the university breaches their rights under the Equality Act not to be discriminated against on grounds of their race. 

The security guards union, UVW,, which is bringing the claim, will also argue that  the terms on which the university outsources their security guards to the contractor Bidvest Noonan is in breach of their public sector equality duty which requires public authorities to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and to advance equality of opportunity. 

This legal challenge is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the security guards and St George’s university which has seen the university hit by a wave of strike action and protests which led to the unlawful arrest of a barrister. 

A common argument for public authorities to defend outsourcing is that it’s cheaper and more efficient.

However, UVW has seen an internal report from St George’s university which shows that in-housing all outsourced staff would actually save the university money because they would not have to pay the 20% VAT rate on the outsourcing contract.

Petros Elia, UVW organiser, said: “There’s no question that outsourcing BAME and migrant workers on worse pay and T&Cs then they would otherwise get if they weren’t outsourced discriminates against them on grounds of their race. It’s institutional racism and economic apartheid.

“And St George’s University is therefore in breach of the Equality Act and their public sector equality duty, and we intend to prove that in court. We‘ve beaten outsourcing through strike action at places like the London School of Economics and Imperial NHS Trust, now it’s time to beat it with legal action.”

Kazi Mohammad Oli Ullahwe, one of the security guards at St George’s, who is from Bangladesh, said: “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.”

Lucy Skoulding is a freelance reporter at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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