Support migrant workers

By now the cleaning companies that service London’s banks, offices, universities and transport systems should have realised that their low-paid migrant workforce is not as much of a pushover as they might have hoped! Despite repeated at­tacks on working conditions, the imposition of anti-social shift patterns, refusal to pay the London Living Wage and the use of immigration snatch-squads to terrify the workers into submission, London’s migrant workers continue to organise in defence of their rights. Lead­ing the struggles are comrades such as Alberto Durango and Juan Carlos Piedra Benitez, both members of the Latin American Workers Association (LAWA).

Alberto is currently contesting his sacking (for the second time) on 4 February by cleaning company Lan­caster, which took over the cleaning contract at Swiss bank UBS from another notorious firm, Mitie. There has been a series of militant demonstrations outside UBS’s London office and 19 March saw international support with actions in London, Man­chester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Zurich, Kiev and New York.

Juan Carlos was employed by Office and General, the outsourced cleaning contractor at University College London (UCL), for 11 months until September 2009, having been transferred there from the School of Oriental Studies (SOAS) after being called into a disciplinary meeting where he was warned about his trade union activities, including campaigning for the London Living Wage. Two days after being transferred to UCL he was told that he had been seen at SOAS protesting against an immigration raid on the cleaning staff there, and he was sacked. As with Alberto’s case, LAWA and others have been staging regular demonstrations in support of Juan Carlos, in his case within the university grounds.

UBS is the world’s second largest manager of private wealth assets; UCL is the fourth ranked university in the Times Higher Education rankings. LAWA is not afraid to take on these massive, rich and powerful institutions and deserves the support of all socialists and progressive people in its struggle in defence of low-paid migrant workers.

Nicki Jameson

FRFI 214 April / May 2010

 

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