Members of North London SF demonstrated alongside other militants outside the head offices of London & Regional Properties, owners of Berns Salonger, a company that treats the cleaners it employs with intolerable conditions.
On June 12th, cleaners working for ISS at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) in London were called to a meeting by management. The cleaners were “processed” by immigration officials who detained nine of them as “illegal immigrants”. It was perhaps no coincidence that a picket of SOAS’ governing body demanding the reinstatement of victimised SOAS UNISON Branch Chair José Stalin Bermudez, who had been prominent in organising cleaners, had been called for that morning.
Those detained were denied union representation, but a campaign was quickly organised by SOAS campus unions and students, migrant worker activists and anti-deportation campaigners. SOAS management was held responsible for ISS “ambushing” their cleaners as punishment for winning union recognition and the London Living Wage.
While the recent media spin is suggesting that we’re ‘on our way out of recession’, the reality on the ground is that workers are still facing attacks across sectors in the forms of job cuts and community provisions. Education has been one of the sectors worst hit in this period, with £65m slashed from higher-education (HE) budgets, schools closing left, right and centre, and jobs to go at approximately 100 of the 150 HE institutions in the UK . The situation is as bleak as ever.
Workers in contract cleaning face low wages, a lack of basic employment rights, bullying management and victimisation for union activities. However, especially among Latin Americans, self-organisation has sustained struggles against their unscrupulous multi-national employers, and the fight against the immigration controls which are used to sack unwanted workers and victimise union activists.