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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Battle of the Thames

by New Worker correspondent

ANOTHER ongoing battle is being fought by IWGB at the University of Greenwich, on behalf of outsourced security officers employed by French management services company Sodexo. They are demanding hazard pay, which has already been granted to White British porters, but the majority-Black security officers have been denied it.

Pointing out that the Thames-side university boasts of having an inclusive reputation, the IWGB complain that security officers, mostly BAME, have taken on additional responsibilities during the pandemic but have not received any hazard pay or bonus. At the same time porters, also employed by Sodexo and mostly White British, have received a £300 per month bonus for working during the pandemic.

Sodexo is taking disciplinary action against a security officer, Kingsley Osadolor, after a student complained about him being prevented from entering a university building without a mask. The officer argues he was following the procedures that were set out unclearly to him in an extremely difficult environment, but he is now facing the threat of dismissal and made to bear the blame for unclear procedures handed down by Sodexo and University management.

After security officers spoke out on social media about the disciplinary action against Kingsley, Sodexo insisted all security officers sign a conduct and social media policy that includes restrictions on their abilities to speak publicly about issues at work, in direct contravention of their statutory rights.

The new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich said in June: “We have a duty to do better. Equality, diversity and inclusion are founding principles of our institution and core beliefs of our students and staff.” The university has also launched a campaign on campus describing outsourced staff as “our heroes” in thanks for their work during the pandemic.But actions speak louder than words – the University has so far declined to intervene.

Maritza Castillo-Calle, who chairs the IWGB University of London branch, said: “The University of Greenwich has failed to put adequate health and safety policies in place and has relied on outsourced staff to pick up the slack during the pandemic. To refuse to give majority Black security officers bonuses for this extra work in line with those paid out to other White British staff is pure discrimination.”

Umar Monday Usifoh, a security officer at University of Greenwich, said: “We have happily taken on extra work for the University of Greenwich during the pandemic because we know we play a vital role in keeping the university safe and secure. However, the threatened action against Kingsley has made all of us feel intimidated and less able to do our jobs. We are all Kingsley.”