Sodexo threatens sweeping redundancies at Birkbeck

Birkbeck UNISON is disappointed and angry to announce that, in the midst of a public health emergency and at the start of the largest economic crisis in a century, Sodexo has informed its catering staff at Birkbeck that it intends to make up to half of them redundant.

All but one of the 24 workers have been placed at risk of redundancy, with 11 roles anticipated to go and the remaining staff expected to apply for jobs within the reduced structure. UNISON’s position is that there must be no compulsory redundancies at this extremely precarious time. One affected member of staff said, ‘It’s the worst possible time for this to be happening.’

The workers concerned have only received a limited presentation with inadequate information about the proposed restructure, which raises the question whether this is a meaningful consultation process. It is certainly not acceptable in the context of the collective negotiation rights we expect at Birkbeck, and seems to be being rushed through to coincide with the end of the Government furlough scheme. Sodexo is one of the world’s largest multinational corporations and describes itself as a ‘global leader in services that improve Quality of Life’. It generated worldwide profit of €686 million in 2019; UNISON will strongly resist its callous attempt to put these workers out of a job.

Indeed, before the pandemic the workers had received assurances that they would be brought in-house at Birkbeck before the contract with Sodexo ends in 2022, as part of UNISON’s campaign to end outsourcing at the college. If this had taken place, they would not be exposed to the vagaries of a profit-hungry multinational corporation but would be firmly part of the Birkbeck community.

Given that Birkbeck is not planning permanent cuts to its catering arrangements, UNISON’s position is that the college should make use of the skills and experience of these staff in the intervening period until services return. Redundancy should not be the outcome, particularly now and for staff who have a great many years of service at the college between them.

More information to follow. Affected members of staff and supporters wishing to lend help can get in contact with the campaign here.

A cartoon of protesters against Sodexo redundancies

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