Despite their small numbers, the Mitie cleaners are punching
well above their weight. Every Friday at 1pm they gather in front of the
offices of Willis insurance brokers in the heart of London’s business district,
and with the help of a megaphone kindly donated by the Clerkenwell and St
Pancras branch of Unite, they begin their protest. The cleaners and their
supporters don flourescent vests, blow whistles and shout slogans demanding the
reinstatement of the unfairly sacked cleaners.
After a shout at Willis, they head to HBOS just up the road.
Clients like Willis and HBOS use subcontractor Mitie for
building services like cleaning and security. In 2007, a group of cleaners all
members of Unite, got organised and fought for a pay rise through the campaign
Justice for Cleaners. They eventually won and their wages were increased from
£5.75 to £7.45. Then, in what the cleaners see as a bid to punish and separate
the activists, including shop steward Edwin Pazmino, the company moved them
from day-shifts to night-shifts (from 7-11pm to 10pm-6am), which was almost
imposible for those with children. About 17 workers refused to work the new
hours. Despite Mitie being one of the largest service provider companies with a
myriad of clients, workers and sites, it couldn’t seem to accomodate the
remaining handfull of workers who wouldn’t accept the changes in their terms
and conditions, so they got the sack.
The cleaners are dedicated to winning their struggle. They
have been demonstrating for 9 weeks in a row and have been spreading the word
at union branches and public meetings.
Spreading the word
On Sat, April 19 Edwin spoke to a meeting of the Coordinator
Latin America, an organisation supported by many Latin American solidarity
campaigns such as Hands Off Venezuela. The Mitie workers are linking up with
the larger Latin American community on the issue of the exploitation of
The point was made that despite the fact that this group of
British workers are often skilled and highly educated, they end up in low pay
jobs like cleaning. They work long hours in order to support their families,
and to send money back to relatives in their home countries so many don’t have
the time or the resources to learn english as well as they might like. This
means they are more exposed to exploitation and criminalization, especially if
they don’t have their papers in order in an immigration system laden with
bureaucracy, that changes the rules of the game almost every month.
In fact, the number of Mitie cleaners able to continue the
fight has been reduced because they have had to find work in order to support
their families so don’t have the time to come to meetings and protests.
It was also said at the meeting that immigrants are not here
on holiday. They are not here for a free ride. They are here to work because a
long history of colonial exploitation by imperialist countries like Britain,
have left their home countries ravaged by poverty and unemployment and very
little economic opportunity.
A very clear message was imparted during the meeting: that
Mitie and other Latin American workers must link with British and other
The meeting pledged their support for the Mitie cleaners and
£46 was raised for their cause.
In an act of solidarity, the Mitie workers have visited the
picket line at the formerly occupied Visteon car parts factory in Enfield,
North London. They plan to go back.
DEMONSTRATION: COME SUPPORT
THE MITIE WORKERS
Friday at 13.00 hours, the cleaners demonstrate in front of the Willis Building,
51 Lime Street EC3 7DQ (tube: Liverpool
Street or Bank).
Please come and support, and bring anything visible (banners etc) and anything
Info: Edwin 07931 464 890 or Alberto 07803 634 319 or
Messages of support welcome.
See Mitie Demo video: http://www.socialist.net/cleaners-for-justice.htm
The demonstrations are supported also by Latin American Workers Association,
Schroders bank cleaners, London Coalition Against Poverty, Ecuadorian
Movement in the UK (MERU), Colombia
and Bolivia Solidarity Campaigns, Hands Off Venezuela and more.
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