video of 5th march demo at UBS

The latest demo in solidarity with cleaners in the employ of Lancaster at Swiss bank UBS in the City of London took place on 5th March. The cleaners are facing cuts in working hours and shop steward Alberto Durango has been sacked, and the demo demanded the maintenance of existing conditions as well as Alberto’s reinstatement.

There will be an international day of action on Friday 19th with protests already planned in the USA, Sweden and Switzerland as well as around the UK. More details shortly – and come to the Cleaners’ Defence Committee organising meeting on the evening of Monday 15th to help the campaign (email for venue details). Continue reading “video of 5th march demo at UBS”

cleaners are not objects to be bought and sold!

Join the protest 12 noon, Weds 18 November, Templar House, 81-87 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NU

The cleaning contract on London Underground’s Bakerloo, Victoria and Central Lines is set to be renegotiated and a new company is expected to grab it. It is likely to demand new (and worse) conditions and will trawl again through workers’ immigration status.Cleaners, many of them migrant workers, are sick of being handed around from company to company, and continually facing poor pay and conditions. Their RMT union has called a protest in their support at the headquarters of Metronet—which is responsible for the contract. Continue reading “cleaners are not objects to be bought and sold!”

your cleaners are being swept out!

On Friday the 18th of September cleaners at all bus stations will lose their jobs because TFL put profit first leaving the stations and buses dirty, affecting the health and safety of the bus drivers and the public, leaving 18 cleaners their children and families without jobs to support them.

Is this what you want to see at your bus station?

This situation affects every bus user. We are appealing to all Londoners to support our campaign and not to let this injustice happen. Continue reading “your cleaners are being swept out!”

upcoming dates for activists

Friday 24th July, London: Willis picket

There will be the weekly picket at Willis tomorrow (Friday 24th) in support of the sacked cleaners and in protest at the immigration raid there last week. Meet 12.30 outside Liverpool Street station McDonalds or go straight there: 1pm, Willis Building, 51 Lime Street London EC3

Next week, Isle of Wight: Vestas occupation

Comrades are making regular visits to the occupied Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight. Some of us will be going down in the middle of next week: email if you’d be interested in joining us.

Tuesday 4th August, London: Solidarity with cleaners in struggle

Public meeting called by the LRC, 6:30pm, Tuesday 4th August, Somerstown Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, near London Euston, with speakers including RMT cleaner activist Clara Osagiede, victimised UNITE activist Alberto Durango, John McDonnell MP,  the NUJ’s Jeremy Dear, Gill George from the UNITE exec, and the SOAS Unison cleaners’ rep.

Saturday 8th August, London: The Commune’s aggregate meeting

National organising meeting to discuss our positions, activism, meetings and publications, open to members and supporters of our network.

We have an open culture and we would encourage people interested in The Commune to attend, since we want as much feedback as possible from our activities and for people to feel a sense of ‘ownership’ over our network. 12-4pm: email to register your interest and find out the venue.

solidarity with cleaners in struggle: public meeting – 4th august

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.

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.

Spanish translation follows.

Continue reading “solidarity with cleaners in struggle: public meeting – 4th august”

soas occupation challenges immigration raid with mixed results

An article by activists involved in the recent SOAS occupation covering the story of the dispute and the lessons learnt from its results

Even for those well used to the low standards and dirty tricks of private contractor ISS and the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the brutal immigration raid on cleaners at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London last month came as a shock. It sparked a protest movement and occupation which – for 48 hours at least – constituted a significant show of strength against the university management and promised to win real concessions from those directly involved in the shameful intimidation of workers who – the timing was not coincidental – had only recently won union recognition and the London living wage.

That SOAS Director Paul Webley eventually managed to get his office, the Directorate and two conference rooms back without having made any real concessions proved a disappointment for many involved in the action. As activists continue to assess ‘what went wrong’, and rue an opportunity missed, it remains to be seen whether future gains made by the ongoing campaign will vindicate the strategy of those who wanted to end the occupation early. Continue reading “soas occupation challenges immigration raid with mixed results”

SOAS occupation ends with mixed results

by Taimour Lay

The occupation at SOAS ended disappointingly on Wednesday with a victory rally but few real gains. A statement released in the afternoon admitted that the ‘concessions’ made by Director Paul Webley and the senior management were ultimately more ‘symbolic’ than real. For many of those involved throughout what was often an inspiring protest against last Friday’s despicable immigration raid – an attack which SOAS facilitated and still refuses to apologise for – the question remains: Why did the occupiers walk out when still in a position of strength?

Some members of the occupation were shocked to read the ‘victory post’ that went up on the FreeSOAScleaners blog on Wednesday afternoon, and have collectively released a counter-statement today (posted on Indymedia) to temper the triumphalism. It calls not only for the continuation and renewal of the campaign against ISS, union-busting and collaboration with the Border police, but stresses that lessons must be learned from the occupation after so much promise and negotiating strength on Monday evening was allowed to dissipate in the rush for a deal. Continue reading “SOAS occupation ends with mixed results”

soas occupied! free the cleaners!

SOAS (a college of the University of London) has been occupied by student and supporters over the immigration raid which we reported recently.  SOAS management appear to have been involved in the raid, but in any case it is clear that it represents an attack on workers as a response to their decision to organise for a living wage.  The ‘two tier workforce’ is not a necesary fact, it is created and enforced through state violence.

45-50 Immigration police entered through the fire doors and the main entrance to the room and surrounded the cleaning staff; the police officers were in riot gear. They cleaners were locked in the room and then led one by one into another room, where their immigration status was checked during which they had no representation or even a translator (many staff are native Spanish speakers). A lot of the cleaners were in emotional distress. A trade union representative was refused access to the staff.  The raid was instigated by the cleaning contractor ISS who requested the police action. Two members of SOAS Management were present during the raid liasing with the police, suggesting that they had prior knowledge of the raid.9 Cleaners, five of whom are UNISON members were taken into detention. One detained cleaner was six months pregnant, she is thought to have collapsed during the events.

We cannot let this stand.

A press release from the occupation follows.  Occupiers are asking for solidarity:

1. Support at a rally at 4.30pm today on SOAS steps (off Russell Square).  Join and strengthen the occupation.

2. Messages of support to, messages of protest to Paul Webley, SOAS Principal at – particularly appreciated from trade unionists.

3.  Occupiers blog here.  Facebook group here. Continue reading “soas occupied! free the cleaners!”

immigration raid used to attack cleaners organising at SOAS

Without any advance warning from their ISS bosses nor the university management,  cleaning staff at SOAS were confronted by a hefty team of immigration officers at 6.30am this morning (Friday 12 June). Fearful cleaners were detained on SOAS premises as the officers demanded to see their papers. Some were taken into rooms of the university to be interviewed. A shocked witness said that someone had to intervene when a heavily-pregnant cleaner was being manhandled by immigration officers. Nine cleaners were taken away by Immigration Officers. Continue reading “immigration raid used to attack cleaners organising at SOAS”

willis cleaners lobby transport house – friday 29th

The next action by the cleaners working at Willis Group in the City who were unfairly dismissed by cleaning contractor Mitie will take place from 1pm on Friday 29th May at the Unite union’s London HQ. The Transport House building is located on Theobalds Road near Holborn station.

During the lobby the Mitie workers handing in a petition to Unite/T&G number two Jack Dromey, demanding that the as yet unsupportive union throws its weight behind their struggle. The Mitie cleaners have been fighting for more than three months after they were sacked for protesting a move by management to force them to work full-time night shifts – yet Unite and its “Justice for Cleaners” campaign have not lifted a finger to help them. Continue reading “willis cleaners lobby transport house – friday 29th”

victimisation of alberto einstein durango

Many readers of The Commune will know Alberto Einstein Durango, a Colombian activist who worked as a cleaner at Schroders in the City of London, has recently been involved in the Mitie/Willis dispute and also spoke at a recent public meeting of ours.

Yesterday morning after attending a construction workers’ demo at the Olympic stadium site he was called to a meeting at his employer, the cleaning contractor Lancaster, at 9.15am, under the pretense that he was due to be offered new work. Upon arrival he was met by four policemen, and arrested on suspicion of working under a false name (i.e. without appropriate papers).

The police took Alberto in handcuffs to his house, questioning him on why he had socialist papers in his bags (he had picked up several at the demo…). He also had a DVD concerning the Tamil struggle about his person (having been given a free copy at a meeting) and the police remarked upon his possession of “terrorist” propaganda. All these materials were confiscated and his house searched before he was taken to Peckham police station. Continue reading “victimisation of alberto einstein durango”

mitie cleaners take on city of london bosses

Today was the latest in a series of demos organised by Mitie cleaners working at Willis Group in the City of London, unfairly dismissed after standing up to management attacks. Such protests take place at the Willis building on Bank’s Lime Street every Friday at 1pm (email for info). Jake Lagnado wrote this piece for The Commune about the importance of this fight.


The story

In mid-2007 around 25 cleaners at multinational insurance brokers the Willis Group based in the City of London began to organise under the umbrella of Unite’s Justice for Cleaners campaign, for the campaign’s main demands of the ‘living wage’ rather than the minimum wage. Continue reading “mitie cleaners take on city of london bosses”

report of demo for mitie/willis cleaners in city of london

Defiant City cleaners stepped up their protest against victimisation yesterday with another noisy demonstration outside the plush offices of a multi-national insurance firm.


The four union activists were recently sacked from their jobs by cleaning privateer Mitie after organising a union and winning the London Living Wage at the Willis building in the heart of London’s financial district as part of Unite union’s Justice for Cleaners campaign.

The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations against the treatment by the cleaning contractor and was joined by workers who clean other financial towers in the Square Mile. Continue reading “report of demo for mitie/willis cleaners in city of london”

mitie cleaners’ demo in city of london, friday 20th march

This Friday 20th March at 13.00 hours, Latino and African cleaners employed by Mitie at global insurance brokers the Willis Group will be demonstrating outside the Willis Building, 51 Lime Street EC3 (tube: Liverpool Street or Bank).

They were made redundant because they could not change their hours as the company had demanded. Their colleagues were forced to switch from a part-time evening to full-time nocturnal shift, or resigned. Cleaning companies have been trying to enforce this change in a number of key locations in London. Typically it seems to happen just as they win the Living Wage, and key activists seem to suffer.

In this case it is the shop steward Edwin Pazmiro and three colleagues. The company’s latest tactic was a legal scare letter demanding they stop the protests. It hasn’t worked. Please bring anything visible (banners etc) and anything noisy! Continue reading “mitie cleaners’ demo in city of london, friday 20th march”