Pictures copyright (C) 2010 Peter Marshall, all rights reserved
Emergency demo at UCL Fri 26th March
UBS Stop cutting cleners wages
Broadgate security ask protesters to move away
Entrance to UBS kept clear by police & security
The police and UBS had agreed that the protest could take place on the wide pavement owned by the bank rather than the narrow public footpath that had left pedestrians and protesters at hazard from public traffic.
Several speakers criticised the Unite union for its lack of support for the cleaners in their disputes, and there were allegations that they were far more concerned with maintaining good working relationships with the companies that were exploiting union members than with standing up for workers rights. Despite this, they called for those present to support the official Unite dispute with BA and to go to demonstrate at Heathrow. The RMT union, which represents cleaners on the Underground has been far more supportive than Unite, and one of its members spoke at the protest. Several Unite members who support their fellow union members in the cleaners protests claim to have been victimised by the union.
UBS is now making huge profits and aiding and advising others with large fortunes to make excessive profits too, but has contracted with Lancaster to cut the wages of its lowest paid workers, the office cleaners and to deny them their rights to organise in the workplace. During the protest a letter was taken into the UBS offices outlining the details of the case and calling for the re-instatement of Durango and proper working conditions for the cleaners at the company. The protesters then occupied the steps leading up to the offices and continued their protest there, ignoring requests by the UBS security that they leave. The protesters were not obstructing the entrance to the offices
As a speaker from 'Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (FRFI) pointed out, UBS is also involved with running schools - 'academies' that pride themselves on promoting diversity and fairness - aims which seem a complete CONTRADICTION to the way they are treating their lowest paid and most vulnerable staff who are indirectly employed through Lancaster.
The UBS cleaners are a part of a larger struggle to get a London living wage (LLW) for all workers in London - a fight that has had the support of successive London Mayors - Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. The LLW is a London-specific minimum wage, taking into account higher costs of living in the capital, and also includes minimum holiday and sick pay entitlement and the right to join and be represented by a trade union. The 2009 living wage determined by the Living Wage Unit of the Greater London Assembly was £7.60 per hour, £1.87 above the National Minimum Wage, and the 2010 figure will be higher.
Among those who spoke in support of Alberto Durango was Jerry Hicks, one of three candidates for the General Secretary of Unite in the forthcoming elections in September and October. Also speaking was Juan Carlos Piedra Benitez, another cleaner who has also been sacked for his union activities. A cleaner at University College London (UCL) he was sacked last September shortly after having been transferred there by the contractors Office & General.
Although several London universities have already become Living Wage Employers, others including UCL - along with rich bankers such as UBS - are resisting this, making use of companies such as Office & General who pay the national minimum wage. Cleaners get only this despite the very unsocial hours they are forced to work - often starting at 5.30am and also often suffer from poor working conditions with little concern for workers health and safety, and arbitrary management that fails to recognise basic human rights and dignity.
Demonstrations continue at UBS to call for the reinstatement of Juan Carlos, who has the support of both lecturers and students there. The next is on Friday 26 March at 1-2pm in UCL Main Quad.
More pictures on Demotix:
and in a few days on My London Diary:
Their signs read:
- For the rights of cleaners at UBS!
- Trade union rights for cleaners!
- For the re-instatement of Alberto Durango!
Then they presented the demands of the international day of action to a representative of the bank.
Alberto was fired by Lancaster for daring to organise cleaners and fight for better treatment for them. Lancaster are contracted by Swiss bank UBS for cleaning in London where these workers are facing attacks and intimidation from management.
The Edinburgh picket was part of a global day of action, with pickets in other major cities around the globe to show solidarity and to pressurise and embarrass UBS into ensuring the Lancaster workers are treated fairly.