More than twenty protestors entered the offices of Amey Plc in High Holborn on Friday in protest at the sacking of five Colombian cleaners and the rejection of their appeal. The protesters entered the office building to give a petition letter to an Amey representative but were blocked by security in the lobby and were told Amey did not want to see them. After the occupation Julio, one of the sacked cleaners, stayed behind to give the letter but Amey still refused to see him.
The action was held after Amey rejected the appeal of the five cleaners. This is the latest in a series of measures taken against the cleaners since Amey, which is owned by Spanish multinational Ferrovia, took over the cleaning contract in May 2007 and found itself faced with a largely Latin American migrant workforce that had recently unionised and was taking steps to gain recognition – something afforded to all other NPL staff. The first came last year, when the company invited workers to a ‘training session’, only to bolt the doors behind them and leave them in the care of the Home Office, which promptly deported three of them, one to Colombia and two to Brazil, for not having official documents.
Since then the number of cleaners has been reduced from thirty-six to fifteen as Amey looks to cut costs as much as possible. The dismissal of the five was a direct result of the remaining workers’ attempts to protest against this trend after they wrote a leaflet to tell other staff at the NPL what was going on in the cleaning department. They were quickly sacked for bringing the company into disrepute.
Amey, which posted a net annual profit of a tidy £75 million, is well versed in these tactics. It is a majority shareholder in Tubelines, which cleans parts of the Underground. Tube cleaners who went on strike for a living wage this summer were faced with a corporate response consisting of paper checks, immigration raids and deportations to Sierra Leone and the Congo.
The protest was called by the Latin American Workers Association, the Campaign Against Immigration Controls and the Schroeders Bank Cleaners, with activists from groups including the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Hands Off Venezuela, London Coalition Against Poverty, and the Solidarity Federation.
There are further actions in the next week including a protest at Amey’s national HQ in Oxford, at 11am on Monday December 8th. Details to follow. Transport from Bristol (e-mail: email@example.com) and possibly elsewhere.
Campaign Against Immigration Controls
– e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
– Homepage: http://www.caic.org.uk