strikeWhen we began this campaign, there were three areas (‘tres cosas’) where the disparity between University and contract workers is greatest – SICK PAY, HOLIDAYS and PENSIONS.

Following more than a year’s worth of strikes, demos, occupations and general pressure, all outsourced workers at the University of London now not only are paid at least the London Living Wage, but also receive 25 (increased from 20) days holiday and six months six pay (dependent on length of service).

Full reports of the campaign as it has played out can be found on our press page.

These are massive victories, but the struggle is still far from over. No serious improvement has been made to pension provision, and the University and the two contracting companies it uses, Cofely and Aramark, still refuse to recognise the IWGB, the union to which the majority of the outsourced workers belong.

The next stage in the campaign is to push for union recognition – to make sure that we can protect the gains we have won and to force the companies and the University to negotiate with us over pensions and the potential job losses which are threatened at the Garden Halls of Residence.

Thanks so much to you all for your support! La lucha continua!

See below for details of the situation for outsourced workers when the campaign began in late 2012


The 3 Cosas Campaign’s aims are simple – to ensure equality of terms and conditions between the University of London’s direct employees, and its outsourced workers.

There are three areas (‘tres cosas’) where the disparity between University and contract workers is greatest – SICK PAY, HOLIDAYS and PENSIONS.

The campaign aims to persuade the University to ensure that all workers have the same rights in these three areas. It is eminently affordable, and it is the only right thing to do.

Sick pay

For a number of reasons, many of the outsourced workers have different terms and conditions. However, the vast majority of the outsourced workers are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), as anyone who earns over £107 per week is entitled to this by law.  SSP entails that during the first three days of absence due to illness the worker receives nothing in compensation.  Starting on the fourth consecutive day of absence the worker is entitled to £86.70 per week (paid by the government). Given that most people do not know how long they will be sick for when they fall ill, and given that it is extremely difficult to survive on £86.70 per week in London, the reality is that many of the workers come in to work when sick or injured as they cannot afford not to.

For more information on SSP click here.

The lack of proper sick pay is especially reprehensible in that people who clean toilets and are exposed to strong chemicals, security guards who walk around in the cold for hours on end, and catering staff who clean dirty dishes, among others, are particularly exposed to illness.

What the 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for is the same sick pay policy for outsourced workers as that received by direct employees of the University of London’s central administration. The table below details the University of London occupational sick pay scheme and has been taken directly from the University of London’s website.  As one can see, the amount of sick pay entitlement increases in proportion to the employee’s length of service.

Length of Service

Level and Length

Level and Length

During the first 3
months’ service

2 weeks full pay

2 weeks half pay

Three months to one
year’s service

2 months full pay

2 months half pay

Second and third year of service

3 months full pay

3 months half

Fourth and fifth
year of service

5 months full pay

5 months half pay

After five years of

6 months full pay

6 months half pay

Holiday Entitlement

There is some variety in holiday entitlement among outsourced workers. For example, there are caterers at the University of London on zero hours contracts who receive no paid holidays, despite the fact that their contracts allow for this.

However, many of the outsourced workers are entitled to 28 paid holidays (as required by law) per year. Out of these 28, 8 are bank holidays. A significant number of the outsourced workers are then required to take the days that the University of London is closed (roughly 6 per year), out of their remaining 20 days. The workers can then (in theory) decide when to take the remaining days each year.

However, in reality, many of the workers are restricted on when they can take these days. For example, during the Olympics many of the intercollegiate halls of residence were rented out to commercial guests (rather than students) and the cleaners at these halls were not allowed to take any vacation days during the summer months. The lack of flexibility on holidays is particularly burdensome in that many of the outsourced workers, particularly cleaners, have to work 3-4 jobs per day to make ends meet. This means that if they want to go back to their countries on vacation that they have to coordinate their vacation days with 3-4 employers. The lack of a fair amount of total paid holidays per year is also especially burdensome in that most of the outsourced workers are immigrants, many of whom have a desire to return home to visit their friends and families. When one is earning £8.55 per hour, and a plane ticket to South America or Africa costs over a £1000, it is difficult to justify going for only two weeks.

University of London direct employees, on the other hand, are entitled to between 25 and 30 paid holidays, plus the 8 bank holidays, plus school closure days, totalling as many as 44 paid holidays per year. The 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for all outsourced workers to be entitled to 30 paid holidays, plus bank holidays, plus school closure days, and for more freedom on when these days are taken. For more information on University of London employee annual leave, please see the University of London’s website.


The outsourced workers are eligible for a BBW pension scheme but the terms are so unfavourable that the reality is that almost none of the outsourced workers have bought into the schemes on offer. The mandatory government scheme recently introduced is so small as to be almost negligible. The 3 Cosas Campaign is calling for the ability of all outsourced workers at the University of London to buy into a pension scheme as good as or better than SAUL. The benefits associated with this pension scheme (below) have been taken from the University of London website:

  • Cost to member is 6% of gross salary and 13% to employer;
  • A pension for life when you retire;
  • A tax-free lump sum;
  • A pension for your spouse when you die;
  • Allowances for your children when you die;
  • Full tax relief on all your contributions;
  • Your benefits protected and preserved should you change employer;
  • Increases made to your pension after you retire;
  • The opportunity to pay Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs) to improve your benefits.

For more information, please see the University of London’s website.


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