As a trade unionist, activist, and organiser, I would like to express my extreme concern at claims that Danny Millum, Secretary of University of London IWGB, has faced intimidation from senior management for his work as a trade unionist. As part of the ongoing boycott of the University of London central administration, he met recently with seminar conveners from the Institute of Historical Research to discuss the boycott campaign. The campaign is important and calls for all outsourced workers to be brought in house. It relies upon all of us taking part in the boycott, and bringing pressure to bear on the University of London to negotiate with staff to end a two tier form of employment.

In response to the meeting, Danny Millum was reprimanded for discussing the campaign with the seminar conveners on the grounds that it had happened during working hours. The letter he received threatened disciplinary action were this to happen again. A number of things are concerning here. Not only is this a clear attempt to disrupt the boycott, it is an effort to do so by intimidation of trade unionists by using accusations of diminished job performance as a disciplinary mechanisms.

However, there is no evidence that Danny’s workload was neglected by this 30-minute meeting, indeed he worked more than his contracted 35 hours that week. Moreover, the letter came from the Dean of the School of Advanced Studies, not Danny’s line manager who is the person best placed to comment on employees’ performance. Such an intervention by the Dean is unusual and should be concerning for all trade unionists as it suggests management are using their authority to interfere in the day-to-day activities of staff and trade union organisers to undermine attempts to support the most vulnerable and precarious of staff. We cannot tolerate intimidation of union representatives in workplaces, and we cannot tolerate them being prevented from organising and campaigning. To do so makes us all weaker and our efforts to improve conditions for all of us, including the most precarious, weaker.

The boycott has only arisen because of the continual failure of the University of London to address the concerns of outsourced workers, who have been campaigning since September 2017 for equal treatment with directly employed staff and to be brought in-house.

For university management to ignore all requests for negotiation from these predominantly BAME workerswho endure worse pension, sick pay and holiday conditions than their in-house colleaguesis already of grave concern. For managers to also attempt to intimidate one of their elected officers is scandalous.

I send solidarity to Danny, and hope that the University of London revoke the letter sent to him, and choose to negotiate over the University of London boycott, as opposed to seeking to discipline trade union members who are organising to support outsourced workers.

Dr Jo Grady
University of Sheffield UCU and UCU General Secretary Candidate 2019