People who support migrant cleaners’ struggles in London may well know of Juan Carlos Piedra, an Ecuadorian worker victimised at University College London because of his trade union activism. He has also been active in the solidarity efforts behind UBS bank cleaners in the City of London.
Juan Carlos has been called to an interim hearing for his Employment Tribunal with LCC Services on Tuesday 25th May from 10 am. It is to be held in East London Tribunal Service, 2nd Floor Anchorage House, 2 Clove Crescent, East India Dock, London, E14 2BE. Nearest station is East India Quay DLR. He is asking as many people as can come to be there from 9.30 in a show of support and solidarity. A strong presence can help sway the decision made.
Juan Carlos’s story of victimisation begins several years back. After a history of campaigning for the living wage and against deportation raids with the “Justice for Cleaners” campaign within Unite, he was eventually moved to UCL in August because managers at Office & General, the original employer, feared the success Juan Carlos was having in organising cleaners.
After being exiled from those he knew within O&G, he was told at UCL that there was to be no work for him, on grounds of being an active trade unionist. Eventually O&G agreed to reinstate him on fewer hours at a site in Tower Exchange in September.
O&G transferred Juan Carlos knowing full well they were about to lose the contract – so that he could be transferred to LCC, thus washing their hands of the problem. Managers in LCC expected the transferred cleaners to take on extra duties and tasks, despite not being reflected in contracts.
When Juan Carlos refused, rightly, to perform these extra tasks, he began to suffer harassment from LCC managers. He began to be referred to in registers as “Mr Union Man” rather than by his full name; other clearly intentional difficulties arose, such as being refused a security card, and being refused access to cleaning equipment necessary to do his job. The managers were aggressive to him.
Juan Carlos raised a grievance with LCC for this bullying in November. Shortly thereafter he was suspended for, among other things, “making complaints he is being bullied.” In other words, for taking issue with the harassment and ultimately for being a trade unionist.
LCC offered Juan Carlos redeployment on unsuitable hours and at sites they knew fully well were too far for Juan Carlos to travel to. They claimed the client asked for his removal, but could never supply evidence of this. He was dismissed in January.