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”

two ‘stars’ of british nationalism

by David Broder

“British workers target Gordon Brown”, screamed the Daily Star on January 19th. One year after Unite leader Derek Simpson posed with two Daily Star ‘glamour models’ holding ‘British jobs for British workers’ placards, the rag promised that thousands of angry construction workers would today “march on London claiming Gordon Brown has failed to honour his “British jobs for British workers” pledge”.

Meanwhile over at the Morning Star, the comrades were fuelling the flames of ‘working-class nationalism’ with a piece on yesterday’s demo over the Kraft-Cadbury deal. In true Communist Party of Britain tradition they almost seemed more concerned about standing up for the “historic British chocolate manufacturer” and “the national interest” than how to effectively resist redundancies.

However, at the construction workers’ demo today, all was not quite as we might have been led to believe… Continue reading “two ‘stars’ of british nationalism”

british airways injunction flies in the face of democracy

by Gregor Gall
professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire

The High Court decision to grant British Airways an injunction against Unite’s 12-day strike, was as Unite said, “a disgraceful day for democracy”. The will of 92.5% on an 80% turnout of 12,000 workers was struck down in a single moment by a solitary judge.

mass meeting of BA staff: their collective decision was trampled on by the courts

Although employer applications for injunctions are well down on the mid- to late 1980s, in 2009, there were 10 other injunctions applied for by employers, with another 14 in the previous three years to this. Continue reading “british airways injunction flies in the face of democracy”

british airways strike: a million christmases ruined?

by David Broder

Don’t ruin a million Christmases: BA chief’s appeal as he goes to court to halt strike (Daily Mail, 16th December)

Cartoon in today's Times

The proposed British Airways strike has brought down an avalanche of media attacks on the airline’s employees and the Unite union. Much as propaganda about “old ladies not receiving their Christmas cards” blighted the Royal Mail dispute last month, again the corporate press and the BBC are blaming Scrooge-ish “union barons” for their lack of festive cheer. But does the wintry weather really excuse a two year pay freeze, cuts in crew numbers and 4,900 redundancies? Not so, said a thumping 92% majority of BA workers on an 80% turnout, a ballot result showing both the level of anger and the desire to fight on to a victorious conclusion, given that the action will go on for a whole 12 days beginning on December 22nd. Continue reading “british airways strike: a million christmases ruined?”

strike solid at hackney community transport

by Joe Thorne

More than 40 pickets were stood at the gates of the Hackney Community Transport (HCT) bus depot this morning.  Playing football, waving flags and milling about on Ash Grove, off Mare St, the strikers are amongst the worst treated workers on London buses.

Union members try to persuade a fellow worker not to scab

Contrary to what some may assume, not all London bus drivers are on the same terms and conditions.  HCT drivers are on £11.52 an hour, lower than most bus drivers.  And they get no extra pay for overtime or unsociable hours.  The company is offering a derisory 2.25%, while union members want to see wages and conditions brought more into line with those of other bus drivers in the capital.

Continue reading “strike solid at hackney community transport”

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”

tribute to ernesto leal… and more attacks on latino workers by unite bureaucrats

collaboratively produced by members of the Latin American Workers’ Association (leerlo en castellano)

October was a sad month for Latin American workers residing in London, for two reasons. First came the death of Ernesto Leal, a Chilean committed to the cause of migrant workers, who was a founding member of the Latin American Workers’ Association. The other reason – shamefully coinciding with this loss – was the decision of the Unite union to kick out that same organisation our comrade Ernesto Leal helped found.


Given his dedication and his experiences it is worth revisiting a little of the history of this class fighter. He was born in far-off Chile in the late 1930s, son to a family devoted to the militant social struggles of the Chilean Communist Party. This political commitment on his parents’ part brought on their heads merciless political persecution, forcing them to live clandestinely and constantly change address. Continue reading “tribute to ernesto leal… and more attacks on latino workers by unite bureaucrats”

what is the union bureaucracy?

by Alberto Durango, a Colombian cleaner activist whose involvement in militant organising initiatives has earned him the wrath of sub-contractor cleaning companies and the Unite union bureaucracy alike. Leerlo en castellano.


There are very few means by which the working class can arm itself with a political tool which educates the class and helps it fight the crooks who, disguised as its defenders, betray it, sell it out and make deals over its interests with the bosses. With this tribune I want to contribute something, so that those workers who come across this information might use it as a starting point for directing a discussion about the trade union bureaucracy, this great enemy of the working class, so that they can organise to combat it. First of all therefore we have to understand what characterises the trade union bureaucracy. Continue reading “what is the union bureaucracy?”

fragile livelihoods at cowley mini factory

Earlier this year BMW laid off 850 agency workers at their Oxford Cowley factory. There was widespread TV coverage of a video of workers angrily rebuking and pelting the Unite union official who had kept his members in the dark—but a planned mass picket of the factory the following week flopped. Here we report on the situation seven months later.


by Brian Rylance

The Commune’s 23rd February report on the BMW Cowley plant lay-offs has taken a new and unusual twist with the announcement that Mini production is to be increased, ‘safeguarding’ present employment and hinting at new jobs. This news has been greeted with considerable joy by the Oxford Mail. Yet the fact is that the jobs were cut in an unthinking response to the wider economic downturn, and as was reported by The Commune at the time, this was despite the fact that Mini sales were “not falling.” Continue reading “fragile livelihoods at cowley mini factory”

the amey case: burn your bridges, save your dignity

by Mónica del Pilar Uribe Marin

Two of the workers sacked by Amey in September 2008, who had fought for reinstatement and compensation, recently lost their legal battle, which had lasted almost a year. A judge made clear on August 10th that the verdict was final and cannot be appealed: the plaintiffs had defamed the company by handing out leaflets where the names of Amey and its manager Laura Jordan were in bold capital letters, something deemed aggressive and ‘inexcusable’ in the English language.

Julio Mayor and Pedro Rengifo thus lost the case, their jobs and the money they had been offered (an attempt to buy their silence: they refused with – and for the sake of – their dignity). Continue reading “the amey case: burn your bridges, save your dignity”

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”

anti-deportations demo highlights repression of migrant worker organising

Today around forty people demonstrated outside the Willis Group building at Lime Street in the City of London in an emergency demo called to demand justice for Mitie cleaners snatched by immigration police in a raid on July 14th (the underhand nature of the vile operation is detailed here). As well as shouting slogans against border controls in English and Spanish, protesters demanded the payment of wages and the granting of holidays to the detained workers.


An advertisement for the protest explained “Cleaners’ campaign successes are being clawed back in a series of attacks on those who have fought for improved wages and conditions. The latest victims are a group of cleaners who work for the services company Mitie. They were asked to come to the site of Willis Insurance brokers for a chemicals training course but instead were met by immigration officers. Nine cleaners: Alejandro, Hermes Ayala, José Sorriso, Karina Cruz, Cintia, Sonia and  Sebastián Desolsa and two others were detained. This action is in the wake of months of weekly protests organised by a group of former Mitie cleaners and their supporters including shop steward Edwin Pazmino, who were sacked for refusing to work a longer night shift. Continue reading “anti-deportations demo highlights repression of migrant worker organising”

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”

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”