The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has today (7 August 2018) announced that it will face government lawyers in a landmark case regarding the rights of outsourced workers.
The case, which asked that the University of London be required to recognise the union for the purposes of collective bargaining on behalf of outsourced workers, was initially brought to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) in November 2017. IWGB claimed that denying this right to collective bargaining was a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The law is currently interpreted as only allowing workers to collectively bargain with their direct employer, here being Cordant Security. This case aims to broaden the trade union rights of outsourced workers, allowing them to collectively bargain with their de-facto employer, in this case University of London. This will introduce the concept of a joint employer to the UK legal system.
The CAC made the decision not to hear the application for trade union recognition with the University of London. However, the High Court has now granted the IWGB permission to judicially review this decision. 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, in addition to the CAC. The union will face legal arguments and lawyers from all four bodies.
Henry Chango Lopez, IWGB president, 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.”
The High Court has denied the union cost protection in this case. Therefore, in the event of a loss, it can be held liable for the legal costs of the four bodies it is facing. IWGB has launched a crowdfunding campaign today (7 August 2018) to attempt to cover these potential costs. This campaign is currently backed by non-profit organisation The Good Law Project, which has pledged an initial £5,000.
Jolyon Maugham QC, founder of The Good Law Project, 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 University of London was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.