protest at UBS: defending the right to organise

by David Broder

On Friday 12th February over seventy people braved the cold to join a protest outside Swiss bank UBS’s City of London headquarters in solidarity with cleaner activist Alberto Durango, victimised by contractor Lancaster for his organising work (see here for his article on the situation).

Chants of “the workers united will never be defeated” and “Lancaster, shame on you” rang out through the cloisters of that cathedral of capital 100 Liverpool Street, despite the City police’s best efforts to keep us off the privatised pavement. Speeches from Alberto Durango, Chris Ford, UNITE general secretary candidate Jerry Hicks and representatives of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Bloomsbury Living Wage Campaign and Campaign Against Immigration Controls complemented a lively protest.

Alberto is feared by cleaning contractors like Lancaster because of his previous involvement in struggles for a ‘living wage’ rather than accepting the minimum wage: the placard on the left hints at his involvement in the successful Schroders struggle. It is imperative that these workers are in control of their struggle, particularly given that the UNITE union leadership hopes to try and silence them.

The UK Borders Agency and border controls more broadly have repeatedly been used to intimidate or even expel migrant workers prepared to stand up for their rights. With the current crisis leading to increasing scapegoating of foreigners, migrants’ struggles must be at the heart of resistance to the recession.

Guardians of capital: the police sent a detachment to keep us away from the UBS building. What better sign could there be of whose interests they serve, than their lining up to ‘protect’ a bank HQ from a peaceful protest in defence of one of its office cleaners’ jobs?

“We’ll be back and that’s a fact”. Much as the police don’t like it, the struggle to reinstate Alberto continues, indeed as part of a broader fightback against the current offensive against the working class and migrant workers in particular. An organising meeting is to be held on Monday evening: email for details.

5 thoughts on “protest at UBS: defending the right to organise

  1. Do support Jerry Hicks in his battle to be Unite General Secretary, one of the few people going for a top union post committed to the struggle of the Latin American workers, a good friend and ecosocialist comrade too.


  2. Strange! Derek what other people who are going for a top union post are not committed to the struggle of latin american workers. Can you name them?


  3. North West London Organising Meeting
    Support Jerry Hicks for Unite General Secretary
    Thursday 18th March, 7pm
    Trades and Labour Hall (Apollo Club)
    375 Willesden High Street NW10 2JR
    (Near Willesden Bus Garage)

    The issues are clear-cut. This is a rank-and-file candidate who is entirely outside the bureaucracy, both the actual bureaucrats’ machine and their United Left front organisation. If he is to win he must pitch his campaign at the ranks, both the 40,000 odd voters he won against Simpson and the 86% of members who did not vote the last time. It needs a real appeal to those members’ interests and to their real problems. Already the London Campaign, launched on Friday 26th February, has begun to make plans to target individual workplaces and industries with specific leaflets designed to appeal to those workers more immediately that a general leaflet can.
    Because he is unemployed and has never been part of the bureaucracy his hands are freed from bureaucratic constraints to mobilise the ranks of the union against the bureaucracy and initiate a real movement. His record of industrial militancy in Rolls Royce, Bristol, where he was victimised and sacked, is exemplary.
    We need to build a powerful movement now if we are to get him elected. Such a movement could only be sustained after the election if it resulted in a series of nationally co-ordinated, industry-based rank-and-file bodies that adopted the traditional anti-corruption, anti-bureaucratic rules that have traditionally evolved in the labour movement for such bodies. Contest all electable positions on a pledge to accept no more than the average wage, election of all union officials, no votes for union employees or full time officials, etc. Hicks has indicated that these are his pledges, these should be the pledges of the movement his campaign ignites. These are clear class struggle objectives, a clear case of the traditional communist united front in action, uniting against the common enemy with no hiding of political difference – “march together, strike separately” is the necessary tactic for revolutionists to engage in this type of action.
    Surly every serious leftist must grasp this opportunity. Whilst supporting Paul Holmes is obligatory in the Unison election this is a chance of far greater significance given the circumstances and the way the issues have become posed. Surely all left groups would all recruit massively from the movement that their intervention would help to generate and this could begin to alter the relationship of class forces in a significant way
    When Jerry stood for General Secretary of the Amicus section of Unite his opponents coined the slogan “vote Hicks, get Coyne” (the right-winger). This time we might put forward the slogan, Vote McCluskey, get Woodley/Simpson/Status Quo (not the rockers, unfortunately).
    This was the result a year ago: Derek Simpson 60048, 37.7%, Jerry Hicks 39307 24.7%, Kevin Coyne 30603 19.2%, Paul Reuter 28283, 17.8%, [spoilt votes] 1031 0.6%.
    And to remember what is was like when Jerry Hicks stood against Simpson just one year ago:
    “Jerry is a grassroots activists who would work as General Secretary on a workers wage not the approximately £100,000 plus perks enjoyed by Simpson. He is gaining support pretty rapidly, the Socialist Party have thrown their weight behind him, along with the SWP, Socialist Appeal, Workers Liberty and Green Party Trade Union activist and Unite member Matt Sellwood.” – Jerry is a grassroots activists who would work as General Secretary on a workers wage” – Derek Wall, Another Green World blog.
    Where have all the flowers gone?


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