by Chris Kane
According to shocking information obtained by The Commune, union activists, with cleaning companies organised with UNISON (SOAS), RMT (LUL) and UNITE (Mitie and Lancaster) – are in the pay of the bosses!
This is of course a pack of lies, nevertheless it is a disgusting lie being officially circulated, in writing by a senior full-time official of UNITE, Jose Vallejo Villa un-elected organiser responsible for cleaners.
At the Migrant Workers Branch Committee/Justice for Cleaners, on 3rd July attendees were informed that:
“ we all know our campaign to be successful and as a result other unions are copying from us. The difference is that those unions are operating wrongly. Their biggest mistake is approaching and dealing with the companies before organising their members. The so called Cleaners for Justice called the members to disobey and as a consequence some were arrested facing deportation. We should ten [sic] have every reason to believe that the organisers of this campaign, Cleaners for Justice are paid by the Cleaning Bosses to attack the cleaners.
Upon the arrest of the SOAS cleaners the organisers of the Cleaners for Justice Campaign celebrated after meeting the director of the University to which he Jose V. Villa was invited but with the support of his bosses refused to attend. These organisers never thought of it that the meeting of the University’s director was of no value as the director has no power against deportation.”
This is a direct reproduction of the official minutes which have been circulated by UNITE.
Cleaners for Justice does not exist: it is an idea which originated with sacked UNITE members at Mitie (Willis) and Lancasters, who have called for a campaign that encompasses all cleaners from UNISON, RMT and UNITE. The UNITE fulltime-official also uses the term generically for his slanderous attack on trade unionists. Such is the scale of lies being propagated that it is almost beyond belief!
It is completely untrue that other unions have copied the TGWU/UNITE model of organising cleaners. The RMT organised cleaners democratically with a Branch with the full support of the union structures. RMT cleaners elected their own reps and were self-organised in their own cleaners’ grade committees. In contrast for most of its life TGWU-Justice for Cleaners was a top down campaign run by un-elected full-time officials/organisers.
According to Jose the biggest mistake of other those unions is approaching and dealing with the companies before organising their members. This is a lie: the RMT and UNISON did organise their members – they organised them on the basis of fighting to improve their terms and conditions. The RMT campaign on London Underground and UNISON campaign at SOAS for the living wage were campaigns of organised cleaners.
Following these campaigns the cleaning companies have responded with vicious attacks on the workforce to break union organisation. They have colluded with the UK Borders Agency using immigration raids, to sack, arrest and intimidate workers. But according to the UNITE full-time official history is re-written: perversely it is the fault of trade unionists for encouraging members to disobey their bosses “and as a consequence some were arrested facing deportation.” Thus UNITE activists at Mitie/Lancaster, UNISON at SOAS and RMT on LUL are entirely to blame for what has happened to the mainly migrant workers during the bosses’ backlash against union organising!
But the unelected Jose goes further: he concludes that “the organisers of this campaign, Cleaners for Justice are paid by the cleaning bosses to attack the cleaners.” So union activists who have themselves been arrested, sacked and deported, are in the pay of the bosses… Even by the low moral standards of the UNITE bureaucracy – this is beneath contempt!
In coming to terms with the counter-attack of the cleaning companies some unions have been disorientated, this is especially the case with UNITE. Others such as the RMT have attempted to re-organise, whilst suffering mass sackings they have successfully defended some key activists and began campaigning again. Another case is UNISON at SOAS: it has mounted industrial action, and a campaign of solidarity including students and UCU members. UNITE however has been impotent in the face of attacks. Where the lack of direction by their own union has been questioned, such as at Mitie (Willis) and over the victimisation of Alberto Durango by Lancastee, the UNITE bureaucracy has responded with fierce hostility. UNITE members and activists are being seen as the problem, not the employers!
The resources of a powerful union like UNITE have not been deployed to defend the members sacked, not a finger has been lifted to assist or protest the deportations of cleaners such as at Willis. Instead the whole machinery of full-time officials, supported by parrots of the bureaucracy in the united-left, has been deployed against courageous migrant workers trying to fight the bosses and the UK Border Agency.
As such the disgusting statements of Jose V. Villa are not the ravings of a rogue individual, he has the full support of the UNITE bureaucrats. Jack Dromey, Deputy General Secretary, told Mitie cleaners that “the Union generally and through its Officers, Paul and Jose in particular, has moved mountains in your support. That is precisely the kind of Union that we are, one which always fights for its members even if, sadly, we do not on all occasions succeed.” The statements by Jose above reveal a very different attitude towards these sacked workers and their Shop-Steward! A lie campaign has been underway against the ongoing campaign at Mitie and recent deportations. Steve Hart, London Regional Secretary for UNITE has issued a briefing laced with untruths about what is happening with these migrant workers:
Hart claims that they:
“……are stepping up the battle to organise more and better across the City. So it is desperately disappointing that this union is under attack from tiny groups seeking to undermine our united campaign. People need to decide whose side they are on. The side of the mass of cleaners led by their branch and the union which is seeking to win for the members, and transform the pay and conditions of tens of thousands of cleaners. Or against the union, and in reality allied with the employers who would dearly love to see our campaign disintegrate into warring factions, and defeats following impossible demands.”
The tiny groups are UNITE members, some of whom are activists who Hart has abandoned to their fate despite an outstanding record. Denying basic representation and assistance due any member facing the sack! Hart claims that at Mitie the “union after a long and sustained campaign had secured alternative job opportunities for the membership – a level of job security not achieved prior to the union.” A mythological campaign which has not included defence of the sacked UNITE shop-steward and other members: or opposing the detention and deportations of migrant worker?
At the UNITE Branch Committee meeting when the Willis Cleaners/Durango Victimisation/SOAS Occupation was discussed the only action decided upon was to discipline Alberto Durango. Why? Because it was discovered he had worn a Justice for Cleaners t shirt at the SOAS occupation and it was reported that “Durango and his group” were seen with union banners demonstrating in Canary Wharf and “something has to be done about it.” The protest in question was on the occasion of sacked activist Alberto’s appeal hearing. Instead of solidarity the Branch Secretary, Kwasi Agyemang-Prempeh informed him after this meeting he was under “investigation” and banned from UNITE training courses.
Despite all the efforts of the UNITE bureaucracy, the Latin American workers have continued their resistance. They have gained widespread solidarity in the labour movement, including of the Labour Representation Committee. Whereas the UNITE officialdom ordered their members on the London Underground to cross RMT cleaners picket lines, the “group” now under attack are working for greater unity of cleaners no matter what union they are members of. The UNITE bureaucrats are now trying undermine these efforts, meeting the Morning Star to attempt to stop publicity appearing in that paper. We must ensure they do not succeed in wrecking the emerging unity of cleaners struggles.
Steve Hart in his briefing on Mitie stated: “We have kept quiet up until now, because we did not want to bring into the public domain such matters; but if others don’t stop telling lies about us, then we have to tell the truth about them.” The truth is Jose Vallejo Villa and Steve Hart are serving the interests of the bosses. They are a parcel of rogues reduced to slanderous lies to cover their own abandonment of migrant workers.
If what is written in The Commune is untrue – sue us!