“When she arrived in this room, the manager Donna Sidley and another woman called Ivon were laughing their heads off.”
Seven cleaners were detained after a raid by immigration police on 14th July, which took place with the complicity of Mitie and Willis. Among our detained sisters and brothers are Alejandro, Hermes Ayala, José Sorriso, Karina Cruz, Cintia, Sonia and Sebastián Desolsa. We are demanding that their salaries are paid and that they win 20 days holiday.
Her name is Lidia, and she said that at 4am there was going to be a meeting about chemicals in the Willis building, and that at 5 in the morning in the basement they would be given times for day-time and early morning shifts. She says that she had a bad feeling about the times of this meeting. When she arrived in this room, the manager Donna Sidley and another woman called Ivon were laughing their heads off. Everyone started coming in, with the illegal workers on one side and the legal immigrants on the other – the undocumented workers already separated out – and Donna took a chemical bottle and said for what purpose this or that bottle served.
Everyone was looking around at each other, some asking each other what was happening and why she was asking all this, and the legal workers on the other side of the room were only looking amongst themselves, knowing that immigration were coming to seize their own workmates, and said nothing. But they did tell the undocumented workers that there was a table full of drinks, things to eat and coffee, and they thought it was for them.
Not even 15 minutes had passed when police started to enter from doors on either side of the room, saying from immigration. No-one moved. One of the police had a file, which only had the names of the illegal workers and photocopies of their documents, but not the names of the legal workers. They called the workers’ names one by one and interrogated them, saying where they had got the documents and where they lived. Many people were crying as they were told off and insulted, and all the while Donna was smiling and jokily making comments to the other police, who smiled too. They insulted the workers and wouldn’t let them leave their seats, and they threatened those who were crying. They then forced them to sign papers which they had not even read: many did not want to, but they insulted them and frightened them, making them scared. They did not know what they were signing. The legal workers were allowed to leave but the others were left behind without being allowed to go to the toilet. Lidia was crying and said that she felt that a policeman was shouting at her aggressively, telling her to shut up. Then the police went over to eat and have the coffee and other drinks, making comments and laughing enthusiastically, making fun of the workers, and Donna and the other woman were also making fun of them, and all the time smiling. The workers watched them, eating and enjoying making fun of them, and they would not let them talk, only to stay silent. No-one gave them even a glass of water even though it was almost 11am by now: the police were enjoying themselves with the manager and gave the workers nothing to eat. Then they were taken away and put in two vans. The black workers were separated from them and the others do not know what happened to them next. They were taken to London Bridge, and then Lidia travelled throughout the whole day, to Liverpool. There, at 2am, they took her to the detention centre. She knew two women there. One woman was released because her husband had papers; the other was deported.
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: http://thecommune.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/lrc-cleaners-forum-leaflet.pdf 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. MR Homepage: http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/testimony-of-a-mitie-worker-in-an-immigration-detention-centre/#more-3133