Landmark case could extend rights of outsourced workers

By agency reporter
August 13, 2018

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will be facing government lawyers in a landmark case before the High Court that could broaden the rights of outsourced workers.

The High Court has granted the IWGB permission to judicially review a decision by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to not hear an application for trade union recognition with the University of London. While the judicial review is against two CAC decisions, the High Court is also allowing the University of London, Cordant Security and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to intervene as interested parties.

This means the union will be facing legal arguments and lawyers from four different bodies.

The IWGB initially brought the landmark case to the CAC to require the University of London to recognise the union for the purposes of collective bargaining on behalf of some of its outsourced workers in November.

The law to date has been interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer, in this case facilities management company Cordant Security. But, if successful, the test case would open the door for 3.3 million workers throughout the UK to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer as well as their direct employer, introducing the concept of a joint-employer to UK law.

The IWGB is arguing that denying the outsourced workers the right to collectively bargain with the university, which is their de-facto employer, is a breach of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The proposed collective bargaining unit would include security officers, porters and post room workers.

The IWGB has also been granted permission to judicially review a CAC decision to not hear an application for trade union recognition with contract company Cordant Security.

The High Court has denied the union cost protection, which means that if it loses it could be held liable for the legal costs of the CAC, Cordant Security, the university and the government. The final sum could be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, so the union has launched a crowdfunding campaign.

The Good Law Project is backing the crowdfunding campaign and has pledged an initial £5,000.

IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez said: “The fact that vast swathes of the establishment, including the government, are joining forces to try and defeat our challenge is further proof of its importance. As a former University of London outsourced worker, I am keenly aware of the truth behind the fiction of outsourcing. It is no more and no less than a way to deny workers their rights, and it is about time we cleaned it up.”

Good Law Project founder Jolyon Maugham QC said: “There are many ways bad employers dodge the cost of workers’ rights and outsourcing can be one of them. The treatment of workers with modest bargaining power and little influence can be hidden from view, but it shouldn’t be hidden from the law through the use of faceless outsourcing companies. I’m proud to be supporting this case that will ensure that domestic law protects the human rights of some of the most vulnerable workers in the UK.”

The IWGB is being represented by solicitors from Harrison Grant, and renowned barristers John Hendy QC and Sarah Fraser Butlin.

The IWGB has been campaigning to end outsourcing at the University of London since September 2017, leading the biggest outsourced workers strike in higher education in April 2018.

* Independent Workers Union of Great Britain https://iwgb.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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