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To: Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science

Protecting outsourced workers in Scottish Higher Education

Protecting outsourced workers in Scottish Higher Education

We ask the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science to act to ensure that the government’s stated expectations on Fair Work are realised, and to demand universities ensure that companies providing outsourced services:

1. Pay all staff employed with contracts regardless of whether they are working, off sick, self-isolating or just unable to work because the workplace is shut.
2. Pay staff who have been working for companies providing outsourced services their normal pay throughout this pandemic regardless of what contract they are on.
3. Ensure that their furloughed staff enjoy parity of treatment with staff employed directly by the university.
4. In the event of any company a university outsources work to not agreeing to the above, then the university should bring the work and current staff in house.
5. If the outsourced companies cease trading, the current staff are brought in house.

Why is this important?

After years of outsourcing services and privatisation, our universities have been left ill prepared for crises such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Many universities contract private companies to carry out tasks including catering work, cleaning, security, IT, janitorial and other work essential to the running of our education system. Some universities also effectively outsource teaching functions through partnerships with training providers. Staff employed by these companies are at substantially greater risk in the current pandemic, both financially and health-wise. Union reps from UCU and UNISON have spoken to staff employed by private companies delivering outsourced services who reported the common use of zero-hours contracts, with many reporting having no contract and many without sick pay. While many directly employed university staff are being furloughed with full pay, there is no guarantee that this is the case for outsourced staff.

This situation also presents a health and safety issue for the sector. Staff employed on unstable contracts and with limited or no sick pay are more likely to come in if they are ill because they simply cannot afford not to. Many of these companies do not recognise trade unions and the lack of union involvement makes the provision of adequate safety equipment and social distancing measures less likely for these workers.

The recent STUC and Scottish Government joint statement states that employers should treat contracted workers and fixed term staff the same as core staff.

While universities are autonomous bodies, the current crisis and the increased powers the Scottish Government have been given over higher education make these measures possible, necessary and proportionate.

Scotland, UK

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL

Reasons for signing

  • UK academia in a fragile state even before COVID 19. We need a complete change in employment approach, and a drastic reduction of managerialism which is crippling the sector.


2020-05-18 11:32:35 +0100

100 signatures reached

2020-05-01 10:39:13 +0100

50 signatures reached

2020-04-30 16:22:00 +0100

25 signatures reached

2020-04-30 10:16:37 +0100

10 signatures reached