Archive for caic

Amey Workers: A Legal Defeat, A Moral Victory

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on Friday, 28 August, 2009 by bristolnoborders

amey-0022You may remember the demos we held in Bristol and Oxford last year. Well, perhaps inevitably, they lost there legal battle, but as the article below says, having rejected the easy way out and a pay off of £3000 the workers remain defiant in the face of defeat. The Julio and Pedro are an inspiration, against a background of Trade Unionist defeatism and timidity.

The Amey case: Burn your bridges, save your dignity

Two of the workers sacked by Amey in September 2008, who had fought for reinstatement and compensation, recently lost their legal battle, which had lasted almost a year.

A judge made clear on August 10th that the verdict was final and cannot be appealed: the plaintiffs had defamed the company by handing out leaflets where the names of Amey and its manager Laura Jordan were in bold capital letters, something deemed aggressive and ‘inexcusable’ in the English language.

Julio Mayor and Pedro Rengifo thus lost the case, their jobs and the money they had been offered (an attempt to buy their silence: they refused with – and for the sake of – their dignity).

However, they did not feel defeated… Failures can involve conquest too. It starkly displayed the persecution of immigrants organising for their rights and showed that solidarity exists. They learned from it, and kept fighting by themselves. They conquered fear and busted myths.

Julio Mayor explains this well, “During negotiations we did what we felt necessary: setting a precedent against the bosses’ abuses. We were facing Amey, a multinational, but their arguments were very weak. We were very keen to show that the manager and Amey had broken the law. We feel satisfied by what we did.”

THE FIGHT

It was an exhausting, instructive, long, drawn-out fight with hills and bends. “The Amey case” highlighted a common but deliberately ignored situation: the exploitation of “illegal” immigrants and persecution of those who organise (in unions or otherwise) against it; but above all, the undeniable alliance between employers, immigration police and state bodies to enforce immigration policy. Moreover, it means exploitative companies need not answer for their staff, exploiting them before casting them aside when they become an irritant. To avoid paying wages and improving work conditions, with the words “no papers”, they can have workers locked up. The result: thousands of immigrants mercilessly exploited, arrested then deported in a process denying them no rights and ignoring their protests. Hundreds of companies act with impunity, complicit in the employment of “illegals”: employing them in full awareness of their status, or even giving them the means and information to work… “legally”… An unfair “justice” where foreigners always lose.

There have been other cases like Amey – before, then and since. Bosses hire immigrants, knowing them to be illegal; exploit them; the immigrants protest; Immigration “appear”; wages go unpaid; deportations keep stacking up; the exploiters do it all over again and nothing is done about it… They are not condemned, not penalized.

That is perhaps why some people, determined to stop this cycle, immediately rallied round Julio and his sacked colleagues. CAIC (Campaign Against Immigration Controls) heard of the case and supported it with numerous demonstrations around England, which were also backed by No Borders, the Latin American Workers Association, universities, media, human rights organisations, groups and individuals across the country.

Time was not on the five cleaners’ side, so they had strategy meetings mainly in working hours and Julio and his colleagues worked nights, Monday to Friday.

THE OBSTACLES

Moreover, after ACAS called for conciliation, they refused Amey’s offer of £3000 each. Then, Julio recalls “the Prospect union, clearly supporting Amey, argued that the company had spent a lot of money on the disciplinary proceedings and investigations, so we should be more reasonable. But we told them that the fault lay with Amey, not us. Given our stance, Prospect decided to withdraw their legal support.”

For their part, Unite [which had also supported them] began to cave after the Employment Tribunal talks. “At that time three of us were Unite members. The lawyers they assigned to us said that we had no chance of success, we had slandered the company and so were rightly sacked.”

In the course of the dispute many organisations expressed their interest in helping out when the unions would not represent them. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Julio’s perception was that “no-one was interested in our case any longer, since there were only two of us left, not five like there were to begin with.”

Jorge Loaiza and Rubén Jiménez had abandoned the struggle because they had no time for meetings and tribunals. But Rengifo and Julio decided that they would keep going. Their memories stopped them from taking a backwards step, no matter whether they were with or without the unions, with others or alone. They remembered the events of May 2007 when three cleaners were deported and another four sacked.

THE BACKGROUND

Days beforehand, the 36 Latin Americans employed by Amey to clean the National Physical Laboratories had determined their fate. Tired of accepting Amey’s abuses – and because they were organised – they began to protest when, without reason, the company decided to cut wages and staff numbers; doubled the workload; permanently re-assigned them, unjustifiably; and disregarded health and safety standards.

At first they believed Amey would re-consider its behaviour, only to be betrayed: Amey called them to a meeting… at which more than 60 immigration police arrived. A raid, in which several were jailed.

Those who survived this ambush re-doubled their protests, verbally and in writing, as individuals and publicly. This time they protested the injustices of working for Amey, and indeed because their workload was doubled when no-one replaced the deported workers. But they also protested the way in which Amey silenced their colleagues. They gave out leaflets explaining the situation, and shouted people’s names and their crimes.

The consequences of their tenacity and courage were however unfavourable and gave little room for hope: they were sacked, because, in the employers’ eyes, “their actions damaged the company’s image”.

Refusing to be intimidated, they demanded Amey appear before an Employment Tribunal, on grounds of unfair dismissal, racial discrimination and shortcomings in health and safety.

They sought reinstatement in their posts and financial compensation for the hardship endured when they were forced to go without any wages.

Then, on 10th February 2009, Amey met with them and their Unite and Prospect representatives. ACAS were also present. Amey wanted to make a deal and offered a third of the pay-off demanded, but no reinstatement. They told them that they needed an answer by the 17th: this was a “no”. The offer was “inappropriate and unfair, given the losses and hardship caused”.

Prospect had advised them to accept Amey’s offer and withdraw the Tribunal case. They warned that if they did not, the “union would withdraw its legal backing”.

And so it was. The Unite withdrew its support, as Julio Mayor explained, “It is a policy of the unions that when one takes away its support, the others do the same out of ‘solidarity’. This makes no sense: when workers join a union, it is because they expect 100% of the benefits of being in the union. Membership also allows you to get backing from certain organisations and campaigns not dependent on the unions, and this helps significantly in developing a higher level of struggle.”

The cutting-loose did not surprise them. Even at that time, in declarations to the press, Julio showed that their withdrawal of support did not seem strange to him: “In the past I have seen the same attitude from unions: to represent or give legal support to a worker before a Tribunal, they must have more than a 60% hope of success. If that is not the case, they will not fight, since the unions will lose face and it will cost them a lot. The unions in this country will only give something up in order to gain something.”

Julio and his comrades knew they had to keep going by themselves, seeking representation independent of the unions, warning: “With them or without them we will continue onwards. We will continue fighting, whatever happens, even if we forfeit Amey’s offer”.

“What other option do we have if they will not meet our request for help? The only options we were left with were to withdraw the Tribunal case or represent ourselves. We chose the latter.”

Yes, they lost, but the experience was positive in teaching them that workers can appear before a Tribunal “without begging for unions’ representation. The unions acted as if they were offering a service to the workers, as if they were doing us a favour, rather than a service which we had previously paid for”.

For this reason, there was success amid the defeat, because although they know that larger numbers have greater chance of victory, now they are not afraid to fight any battle – with support or not – and are determined “to continue helping workers win their rights” and offer their solidarity whenever it may be necessary.

Mónica del Pilar Uribe Marin is an international freelance journalist specialising in Human Rights, Politics and Environment: uribemonic@hotmail.com

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Details of mitie-immigration raid

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on Wednesday, 29 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

“When she arrived in this room, the manager Donna Sidley and another woman called Ivon were laughing their heads off.”

Seven cleaners were detained after a raid by immigration police on 14th July, which took place with the complicity of Mitie and Willis. Among our detained sisters and brothers are Alejandro, Hermes Ayala, José Sorriso, Karina Cruz, Cintia, Sonia and Sebastián Desolsa. We are demanding that their salaries are paid and that they win 20 days holiday.

Her name is Lidia, and she said that at 4am there was going to be a meeting about chemicals in the Willis building, and that at 5 in the morning in the basement they would be given times for day-time and early morning shifts. She says that she had a bad feeling about the times of this meeting. When she arrived in this room, the manager Donna Sidley and another woman called Ivon were laughing their heads off. Everyone started coming in, with the illegal workers on one side and the legal immigrants on the other – the undocumented workers already separated out – and Donna took a chemical bottle and said for what purpose this or that bottle served.

Everyone was looking around at each other, some asking each other what was happening and why she was asking all this, and the legal workers on the other side of the room were only looking amongst themselves, knowing that immigration were coming to seize their own workmates, and said nothing. But they did tell the undocumented workers that there was a table full of drinks, things to eat and coffee, and they thought it was for them.

Not even 15 minutes had passed when police started to enter from doors on either side of the room, saying from immigration. No-one moved. One of the police had a file, which only had the names of the illegal workers and photocopies of their documents, but not the names of the legal workers. They called the workers’ names one by one and interrogated them, saying where they had got the documents and where they lived. Many people were crying as they were told off and insulted, and all the while Donna was smiling and jokily making comments to the other police, who smiled too. They insulted the workers and wouldn’t let them leave their seats, and they threatened those who were crying. They then forced them to sign papers which they had not even read: many did not want to, but they insulted them and frightened them, making them scared. They did not know what they were signing. The legal workers were allowed to leave but the others were left behind without being allowed to go to the toilet. Lidia was crying and said that she felt that a policeman was shouting at her aggressively, telling her to shut up. Then the police went over to eat and have the coffee and other drinks, making comments and laughing enthusiastically, making fun of the workers, and Donna and the other woman were also making fun of them, and all the time smiling. The workers watched them, eating and enjoying making fun of them, and they would not let them talk, only to stay silent. No-one gave them even a glass of water even though it was almost 11am by now: the police were enjoying themselves with the manager and gave the workers nothing to eat. Then they were taken away and put in two vans. The black workers were separated from them and the others do not know what happened to them next. They were taken to London Bridge, and then Lidia travelled throughout the whole day, to Liverpool. There, at 2am, they took her to the detention centre. She knew two women there. One woman was released because her husband had papers; the other was deported.

 A public meeting has been called by the Labour Representation Commitee on Tuesday 4th August to discuss solidarity with cleaners in struggle. This once agan raises the question of why senior figures in the Unite United Left have not so far been prepared to offer their solidarity to union members in struggle.

Download pdf leaflet here: http://thecommune.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/lrc-cleaners-forum-leaflet.pdf Tuesday 4th August, 6:30pm Somerstown Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, London, NW1 1EE, (5 minutes from Euston Station) In recent years brave union organising efforts have been mounted by migrant workers to demand basic rights and a living wage. A number of cleaning companies have responded by sacking union members and activists; they have colluded with the Border Agency in immigration raids to break organised workers. This is an urgent issue for the whole labour movement – come and discuss what should be done. MR Homepage: http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/testimony-of-a-mitie-worker-in-an-immigration-detention-centre/#more-3133

Demo Report and more details of immigration raid

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on Monday, 20 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

New Image

Over 70 people demonstrated outside the Willis Building in support of the detained Mitie Cleaners  – and the continued persecution of organised migrant labour.

More details on raid:

7 Cleaners get detain in an immigration raid with the complicity of MITIE and WILLIS.

Is very similar to what happened at SOAS University on the 12th of June where 40 immigration officers detain 9 cleaners after a suppose meeting organized by SOAS management and ISS cleaning company.

Chronology of the events of the 14th of July in the Willis Building

1. Days before, Ivon one of MITIE managers in Willis send a letter of invitation to the 2 shifts of workers for a chemical training course, some had to go at 5 am and others at 8:30 am

2. On the 14 of July the workers from the night shift (10 pm to 6 am) were receiving the training when immigration officers raid the room and detain the undocumented workers. After at 8:30 detain others cleaners at their arrival to the building.

3. As a result of the raid: 1 Ecuadorian detain, Ricardo Benites, 5 Bolivians, Hermes Ayala, Jose Sorriso, Karina Cruz, Cintia, Sonia and 1 Brazilian, Sebastian desolsa.
4. On the 15 of July some detains where taking to a detention centre in Dover. Until today we don’t know if they will be deported.

Picket Report – Alberto Durango

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on Saturday, 4 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

Alberto is a cleaners branch activist in Unite sacked from Schroders Bank by Lancaster cleaning company after a successful campaign against redundancies and for the living wage. He was entrapped by the company and UK Borders Agency – an increasingly common tactic against migrant worker trade unionists. He is also the union rep for the sacked Mitie workers.

I went up yesterday to offer Albert Durango Bristol No Borders’ solidarity and support. I almost missed meeting people outside Canary Wharf  Tube as there seemed to be a bomb scare/fire practice which has all the staff from all the surrounding office building also assembiling outside the tube station. Lehman Bros, Schroders they were all there – we could have done a multiple office occupation – if we had a thousand people for the picket, rather than 30.

previous demo

previous demo

The picket was very noisy, and of course the chants were in both Spainish and English.  I found myself holding a UNITE banner(!) which seemed strange, but it seems UNITE had made it an official picket. Without going into all the detail UNITE’s support of many of the militant cleaners campaigns has been at best ambiguous See Alberto’s article for more details on this – link below).  It’s not clear when he will here the result of his tribunal – the company  now have to launch an “investigation” into his sacking – like they don’t know! Alberto was very bullish –  both about his chances of reinstatement – and building a strong, grassroots union movement. He’s quite an inspiring figure.

There were cleaners at the pickets from many of the city institutions, as well as people from CAIC, Latin American Workers Association and UNISON, Workers Climate Action and Bristol No Borders (me).

Alberto’s article:

Support Alberto – Victimised for being Foreign and Unionised

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on Thursday, 2 July, 2009 by bristolnoborders

SOLIDARITY PROTEST AT ALBERTO DURANGO’S APPEAL AGAINST DISMISSAL

Mr Durango, who is a prominent campaigner for migrant workers’ union rights, was hauled away by police and immigration agents after he turned up for a meeting with his bosses at the London offices of the Lancaster Cleaning Company.

The Unite union member, who helped organise other cleaners on Lancaster’s contract at Schroder’s Bank in the City earlier this year, was arrested on suspicion of using false documents – despite having worked for the company for more than 10 years.

Immigration officials and police then raided his home, confiscating union leaflets and newspapers, before releasing Mr Durango with a caution.

Mr Durango insisted that the company had called in the police “in a clear case of victimisation.

“I had first come to Britain in 1995 and have worked for Lancaster as a cleaner almost since then,” he related.

Mr Durango alleged: “The company had no problems with this for many years, but as I became more involved in the union and helped to organise the cleaners at Schroder’s Bank – where we even won a pay rise – Lancaster tried to move me to other contracts.”

After helping to organise demonstrations of migrant workers sacked by another cleaning privateer, Mitie, Mr Durango said that he was suspended under a clause in his employment contract called “third-party pressure.”

He claimed that “this allows management to stop you working for any reason and they don’t even have to give you a reason.”

Lancaster, which was taken over by the huge multinational services privateer Rentokil Initial in 2007, has many cleaning contracts at prestigious buildings in London, including the landmark Tower 42 and Swiss Re buildings.

A spokesman for Rentokil Initial said last night that the company was looking into what had happened, but Mr Durango insisted that the police officers who arrested him had already told him that he wouldn’t have a job to go back to.

“I was told by the police that I’ve lost my job, but I’ve heard nothing from the company,” he said.

Friday 3 July
Meet 10.30am outside Canary Wharf tube exit for picket at 11am at 31 Beaufort Court, Admirals Way, London E14 9XL.

Supported by: Latin American Workers Association, Coordinadora Latinoamericana, National Shop Stewards Network, Clerkenwell & St Pancras Unite branch, John McDonnell MP and more

Note: the weekly Willis/Mitie cleaners picket has been suspended in order to support Alberto.

Amey Demo Reports 8th Dec

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on Tuesday, 9 December, 2008 by bristolnoborders

amey demo(s) reports

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oxford and newcastle

In September 2008 five Colombian cleaners working for Amey Plc at the
National Physical Laboratory were suspended for daring to criticise Amey
for putting an excessive workload onto ever fewer staff, for
unilaterally changing terms and conditions and for disrespecting
grievance procedures. The five have since been sacked.

The two demos today make it 4 in 10 days. This follows two in bristol in october and november.

Oxford:

About 20 people from oxford, bristol and south wales no borders made a horrible noise with drums, olive oil tins, a symbol and two megaphones. the megaphones were particularly effective – especially the siren function, and we got some proper nasty feedback when we placed one next to the other.

Dialogue was not forthcoming from within the glass and steel building , but we did hear from one of the sacked workers first hand: he thanked us for supporting him and his fellow workers, but it was there fighting spirit which inspired us all to be there

Newcastle:

demo in support of sacked AMEY workers in newcastle

08.12.2008 21:57
Activists from no borders north east did a demo in solidarity with the sacked AMEY workers outside the AMEY offices in newcastle. Over 100 leaflets were given out to passers by and staff entering the building for work.

no borders north east
home Homepage: http://nobordersnortheast.wordpress.com

Amey offices entered as campaign for sacked colombian cleaners grows

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on Monday, 1 December, 2008 by bristolnoborders

More than twenty protestors entered the offices of Amey Plc in High Holborn on Friday in protest at the sacking of five Colombian cleaners and the rejection of their appeal. The protesters entered the office building to give a petition letter to an Amey representative but were blocked by security in the lobby and were told Amey did not want to see them. After the occupation Julio, one of the sacked cleaners, stayed behind to give the letter but Amey still refused to see him.

The action was held after Amey rejected the appeal of the five cleaners. This is the latest in a series of measures taken against the cleaners since Amey, which is owned by Spanish multinational Ferrovia, took over the cleaning contract in May 2007 and found itself faced with a largely Latin American migrant workforce that had recently unionised and was taking steps to gain recognition – something afforded to all other NPL staff. The first came last year, when the company invited workers to a ‘training session’, only to bolt the doors behind them and leave them in the care of the Home Office, which promptly deported three of them, one to Colombia and two to Brazil, for not having official documents.

Since then the number of cleaners has been reduced from thirty-six to fifteen as Amey looks to cut costs as much as possible. The dismissal of the five was a direct result of the remaining workers’ attempts to protest against this trend after they wrote a leaflet to tell other staff at the NPL what was going on in the cleaning department. They were quickly sacked for bringing the company into disrepute.

Amey, which posted a net annual profit of a tidy £75 million, is well versed in these tactics. It is a majority shareholder in Tubelines, which cleans parts of the Underground. Tube cleaners who went on strike for a living wage this summer were faced with a corporate response consisting of paper checks, immigration raids and deportations to Sierra Leone and the Congo.

The protest was called by the Latin American Workers Association, the Campaign Against Immigration Controls and the Schroeders Bank Cleaners, with activists from groups including the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Hands Off Venezuela, London Coalition Against Poverty, and the Solidarity Federation.

There are further actions in the next week including a protest at Amey’s national HQ in Oxford, at 11am on Monday December 8th. Details to follow. Transport from Bristol (e-mail: bristolnoborders@riseup.net) and possibly elsewhere.

Campaign Against Immigration Controls
– e-mail: contact@caic.org
– Homepage: http://www.caic.org.uk