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
Following a campaign at Schroeders bank the company Lancaster (part of Rentokil Initial) singled out Alberto for victimisation. He worked for Lancaster for over a decade: only when he became a union activist did they target him. A series of allegations were thrown at Alberto, they orchestrated his arrest by the Home Office based on misleading and false claims. He was released without charge. Having failed in their efforts Lancaster sacked Alberto regardless claiming he never worked for them under his true identity. After his dismissal the company then admitted following a union appeal that he had in fact worked for them in his true identity after all.
Alberto found new employment with the company MITIE at the Swiss bank UBS, he helped organise these workplaces and he is the elected shop-steward. However the contract has been transferred to Lancaster (Rentokil). Immediately on taking over the contract Lancaster have ignored the protections afforded by TUPE and set out to attack the terms and conditions of the workforce. They have suspended the UNITE rep Alberto and are intent on sacking him. Despite an ongoing Tribunal they have based this suspension on the reasons given when Alberto previously worked for this company. This is blatant persecution of a union activist. Just as in the building industry we are seeing these employers are operating a blacklist against trade unionists.
The City banks and the cleaning companies they hire to service their buildings’ are out to create a climate of fear that will deter workers from becoming reps and organising into unions. This is not an issue only for the migrant workers it is an attack on every member of the labour movement, it is the cutting edge of the agenda for cuts in pay and jobs. The workers at UBS deserve our solidarity – we must not let then succeed in victimising Alberto. It is time to stop these companies from engaging in discrimination, bullying and victimisation
No Victimisation of Alberto – Hands Off Our Union
Friday 12 February 1:00 PM, Outside UBS 21 Lombard Street, London EC3 9AH
Initial sponsors include
Latin American Workers Association; The Commune; La Comuna; Colombia Solidarity Campaign; Permanent Revolution; National Shop Stewards’ Network
John McDonnell MP; Steve Hedley RMT (LUL) Regional Organiser; Professor Gregor Gall, Research Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Hertfordshire; Pete Firmin, Labour Representation Committee co-National Secretary; George Binette, Camden UNISON Branch Secretary (pc).
Please add your name and organisation to the sponsors