The successes of the Unite campaign ‘Justice
for Cleaners’ are being clawed back in a series of attacks on cleaners who have
fought for improved wages and conditions.
The latest victims are a group of cleaners
who work for the services company Mitie. They were asked to come to the site of
Willis Insurance brokers for a chemicals training course but instead were met by
immigration officers. Three cleaners, one Ecuadorian named Ricardo Benites and
two Bolivians were detained.
This action is in the wake of months of
weekly protests organised by a group of former Mitie cleaners and their
supporters including shop steward Edwin Pazmino, who were sacked for refusing
to work a longer night shift.
Lancaster, another cleaning company has
also seen fit to try to rid its ranks of trade union activists. On May 7 2009
Alberto Durango, a Justice for Cleaners activist was invited to the company
under false pretences and arrested by police and immigration officers. After
handcuffing him, searching his home and confiscating political material, his
papers were found to be in order and he was eventually released with a warning.
Then later that same month the cleaning
company Office and General sent out a letter informing the cleaners at the
University College London site that if they didn’t come in with their documents
ready to show immigration officers they would be subject to dismissal or worse.
Needless to say, some of the more vulnerable workers didn’t come in and lost their
Next it was the early morning SOAS raid,
the timing of which coincided with the fierce struggle of José Stalin Bermúdez,
a UNISON branch chair and former cleaner at SOAS who was sacked again under false
pretences by the company ISS after he helped cleaners fight against poverty pay.
These are but a few examples of a
stepped-up campaign by companies to get rid of fighting workers – by any means
Commenting on the struggle of immigrant
workers, Andy Higgenbottom from the Colombia Solidarity said it is important to
understand why immigrant workers come to Britain in the first place. The reason being “the destructive
exploitation of the poor countries by the rich, extraction of wealth by
multinationals and impoverishment of vast majority by centuries of colonialism
and imperialism that is going on again today in countries like Peru.” He asks, “Who
are the real criminals?”
Yes, the cleaners are from different sites,
the unions involved may vary, but the issue remains the same. Cleaners who
fight to improve their conditions – eventually come under attack.
The cleaners invite everybody to give their
full support for the next demonstration of Mitie cleaners in front of the
Willis building to demand the reinstatement of the 4 cleaners and against all
Friday 17 July 1 p.m. in front of Willis Building,
51 Lime Street
or at 12:30 pm outside Liverpool Street Station in front of McDonalds.
No-one is illegal, papers for all!
Venceremos! We will win!
Together we are stronger!