Response to open letter on insourcing at LSHTM

 

This is a response to the Open letter to London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicineposted on the BMJ Global Health Blog on 11 July 2022. 

 

We are surprised and disappointed that members of the LSHTM community have put their names to a publication without first checking the factual accuracy and validity of the content. The open letter contained a number of inaccuracies and misconceptions about the insourcing of cleaners, porter and security staff.  

 

Information regarding the insourcing of staff has already been published on the LSHTM website. 

 

We encourage anyone with questions, queries or concerns regarding the insourcing to write to execteam@lshtm.ac.uk 

 

Transfer process 

On 20 August 2021, LSHTM’s Executive Team publicly announced the decision to insource security, cleaning and porter staff working at LSHTM buildings. These staff are currently employed by Samsic UK and will move to LSHTM terms and conditions of employment as direct LSHTM employees. The transfer date is 1 August 2022.  

 

The staff transfer process is being managed under the ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)’ regulations known as TUPE. TUPE is a protected legal process in the UK. This ensures that workers’ existing employment terms and conditions are protected exactly as they are when they transfer from one employer (in this case, Samsic UK) to the other (LSHTM).  

As soon as these staff transfer to LSHTM, their terms and conditions will be enhanced so that they immediately benefit from the same annual leave, wellbeing days, carer’s leave, sick pay, other employment policies and benefits and access to pension schemes as all other LSHTM colleagues.  

LSHTM is investing over £400,000 per annum for these insourcing arrangements. Given our slim financial margins, this will reduce our ability to invest in other initiatives, but we believe it is the right action to take.  

Our decision was the result of feedback from the LSHTM community and following over six months of constructive discussions with LSHTM’s recognised trade unions – Unison, Unite and UCU. It is incorrect to claim that a campaign by any other trade union (launched 4 August 2021) had any impact on this decision.  

 

Pay for transferring staff 

The transferring staff are not currently on LSHTM salary scales, as they are paid according to the salary scales of their employer (Samsic UK).  

 

LSHTM management have already confirmed that the affected staff will move onto the LSHTM salary scales once the TUPE transfer is complete, with any changes to pay back-dated to the date of the transfer (1 August 2022).  

 

As with all professional services posts at LSHTM, the LSHTM salary grades of the transferred  

posts will be determined by evaluation of job descriptions using the Higher Education Role Analysis (HERA) system. HERA is the principal job evaluation framework specifically designed for the UK higher education sector, covering professional services, research and teaching roles. HERA-trained role analysts including LSHTM operational managers, trade unions and HR staff will carry out the job evaluation.  

 

Placing the transferring staff on a LSHTM salary grade that has not been validated by the HERA role evaluation process would not only be against LSHTM policy but it would also be an inequitable practice. HERA is in place to grade jobs fairly and to ensure equal pay for work of equal value. 

 

Demonstrations at LSHTM buildings on 21 April 2022 

On 21 April 2022, a small number of outsourced staff entered LSHTM’s Keppel Street building along with c.25 members of the public, resulting in a serious security breach. We support everyone’s right to peaceful protest and had advised the protesters that they were not permitted to enter the building. LSHTM is home to high-risk areas including secure research facilities and microbiological laboratories in which restricted pathogens and toxins are handled. We therefore have rigorous security restrictions for entering our buildings, in line with strict requirements from the UK Government and our health and safety obligations. We were particularly mindful that some outsourced staff have ‘access all areas’ passes and, given the level of agitation on display that evening, this presented a clear risk. This required the police to be called.   

 

The demonstration was not peaceful, in contrast to the assertion made in the open letter of 11 July 2022. There is CCTV footage of protesters barging past staff at the door, in addition to testimonies from security staff who reported feeling threatened and verbally abused by demonstrators on a number of occasions on 21 April. Several other LSHTM staff working at the Keppel Street building on the day of the demonstration reported feeling “unsafe” and “intimidated” by the demonstrators inside the Keppel Street building. Every member of the LSHTM community has the right to a safe and secure working environment. 

 

Suspension of Samsic UK staff  

Samsic UK’s decision to suspend a number of their employees following security breaches at LSHTM’s buildings was made independently of LSHTM management, as the affected staff are Samsic UK employees until 31 July 2022. We understand that the Samsic UK staff were not suspended due to their trade union activities, but rather because of issues regarding their conduct which breached Samsic UK policy. The suspended employees have since returned to work. LSHTM will not be revisiting the suspension decisions or any subsequent sanctions issued as these are decisions taken by Samsic UK concerning their employees.  

 

Next steps 

Our cleaning, porter and security colleagues have always been hugely important members of the LSHTM community, and this has been particularly evident over the past two years, during which these colleagues have played a crucial role in keeping our buildings open, enabling our research and operations to continue.  

We are committed to making LSHTM a great place to work and study for everyone and we continue to work collaboratively with our trade union colleagues in UNISON and Unite to complete the insourcing project. We look forward to our outsourced staff becoming in-house employees on 1 August 2022.   

 

Signed by Liam Smeeth, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, on behalf of the LSHTM Executive Team 

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