On Friday 26th March campus staff, students and activists demonstrated at University College London in solidarity with the cleaners there. The protest demanded a living wage (£7.60 an hour) for the cleaners, and the reinstatement of Juan Carlos Piedra, sacked by cowboy contractor Office and General on account of his trade union organising.
In a lively demonstration, after leafleting in the UCL Quad we made repeated – and ultimately successful – efforts to enter the building in spite of the security guards. We then chanted at delegates at an international academic conference on migration, demanding that the university support migrant workers’ rights rather than just pontificate about migration.
The UCL Living Wage Campaign has a Facebook group where you can keep up to date with its frequent activities, whereas there is also a petition demanding Juan Carlos Piedra’s reinstatement. This petition also gives more information on the dispute:
“As things stand, a significant number of contract staff at University College London receive the national minimum wage, £5.80 per hour, which is simply not enough to survive in London. Other University of London colleges such as SOAS, LSE, Birkbeck and Queen Mary’s have already adopted the London Living Wage (LLW), while UCL lags behind.
“Former UCL cleaner Juan Carlos Piedra Benitez was dismissed from his job at UCL by contracted cleaning company Office & General. Recordings exist between Mr Piedra and O&G managers which prove that Mr Piedra’s trade union activity, especially in campaigning for the LLW, played an active role in his dismissal. This is not only unfair, but illegal.
“Mr Piedra’s case attests quite clearly to the part that the out-sourcing of jobs plays in ensuring staff receive no better than poverty wages. Further, recent events at SOAS have proven contracting companies’ willingness to collude with UK Borders Agency to set up aggressive immigration raids and deportation programmes against cleaners.”