migrant cleaners and organising solidarity

by David Broder

The recession has seen increasing anti-immigration sentiment in British society, but also many in the labour movement advocating ‘keeping our heads down’ until the economy picks up – these two factors, combined with the inefficacy of Justice for Cleaners and the concomitant attacks on migrant cleaners’ conditions, sharply pose the need for better organisation.

After the partial success of the dispute at Swiss bank UBS in the City of London, it is worth considering the way ahead for the migrant cleaners’ campaign, which in its various forms has challenged border controls, casualisation as well as the established unions. For more background see this article on Latin American cleaners in the UNITE union and this report on the UBS campaign. Continue reading “migrant cleaners and organising solidarity”

urgent appeal for solidarity – defend alberto durango

by Chris Ford, UNITE Clerkenwell & St. Pancras 0694M branch organiser

In an act of vindictive union busting Alberto Durango, a leading activist in the campaign to achieve justice for cleaners in London, is facing the sack. Alberto, a leader of the Latin American Workers Association and member of UNITE, has been in the forefront of a series of campaigns to organise mainly migrant workers to challenge the exploitation and dire working conditions amongst cleaners. Continue reading “urgent appeal for solidarity – defend alberto durango”

latin american workers in unite: from heroes to pariahs

In September 2009 Unite the union ordered the Latin American Workers Association (LAWAS) without notice to vacate the office which it had provided the Association with in its southeast region HQ in Manor House, thus ending a five year partnership. This followed an organised campaign by officials againt LAWAS, because of the latter´s support for an unofficial dispute and support for undocumented workers. But what was the background to this breakdown in the relationship, and the closure of this well known point of contact between latino workers and the trade union movement, and what is the future for LAWAS?

Firstly , some history. LAWAS was reformed in 2003 by Ernesto Leal, Julio Mayor and other Latin American workers in London, many of them political exiles and trade unionists in their own countries. It was in fact the second incarnation of the Association as the first version existed in the 1980s, which is a story for another day. The aim was to address directly the exploitation and abuses faced by Latin American workers in London, and to link these workers to the broader working class movement. Continue reading “latin american workers in unite: from heroes to pariahs”

exposed: soas unison, rmt and unite cleaner activists in the pay of the bosses

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. Continue reading “exposed: soas unison, rmt and unite cleaner activists in the pay of the bosses”

update on cleaner activism in london

Alberto Durango’s appeal: A very lively demonstration of trade unionists joined victimised rep Alberto Durango at his appeal with Lancaster Cleaning Company on Friday 3rd July. The demonstration was endorsed by John McDonnell MP and numerous other figures from the labour movement.

The employer was presented with a powerful case for Alberto’s reinstatement and responded saying they are re-investigating as a result of new evidence. In fact the evidence in question was predominantly Lancaster’s own company records, an indictment of their decision to sack Alberto in the first place.

LRC Supports Willis cleaners and Alberto: The National Committee of the Labour Representation Committee has added its voice in support of the Willis cleaners and Alberto. Continue reading “update on cleaner activism in london”

mitie cleaners petition unite to support their struggle

Update on the Mitie cleaners’ fight (next demo: 1pm, Friday 12th, HBOS, 33 Old Broad Street, London EC3)

Four cleaners sacked by cleaning contractor Mitie at City insurance giant The Willis Group handed in a cross-union and community petition to the Unite union last Friday lunchtime, asking deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey to give full support to their four month old campaign for reinstatement.

The petition has attracted the support of Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, who met with shop steward Edwin Pazmino earlier in the week. Union notables such as Jane Loftus (CWU vice-president) and Jerry Hicks (recent Left challenger to Unite co-president Derek Simpson) also featured, along with Unite’s London construction branch and Ford Visteon Enfield workers. Meanwhile the involvement of Latin American workers has attracted the support of a host of Latin American community organisations. Continue reading “mitie cleaners petition unite to support their struggle”

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 uncaptiveminds@gmail.com 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”

demo for mitie cleaners, friday 3rd april

The next demo in support of the sacked Mitie cleaners will take place in the City of London on the afternoon of Friday 3rd April. It is the latest in a series of actions organised by the migrant workers, who have been kicked out of their jobs working as Mitie cleaners for the Willis insurance group after protesting at being forced to work at night-time rather than during the day.


The struggle is an excelent example of self-organisation, coming up against the resistance of the Unite union bureaucracy and their “Justice for Cleaners” campaign, which seems more a means of recruiting members and taking dues for the union coffers than it does a way of organising successful struggles. As Alberto Einstein Durango – a cleaner activist working at Schroders bank who has been central to the Mitie/Willis campaign – explained at The Commune’s forum on Monday night, the workers will fight based on their own strength and own collective-decision making, with or without the Unite “organisers”.

The demo starts at 1pm outside the Willis building at 51 Lime Street, London EC3M (Bank/Liverpool Street). For more info on the dispute and reports on recent actions, see the page here.

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”