Mitie Cleaners Fight on at Insurance Giant Willis

Tagged as: workers_struggles
Neighbourhoods: city_of_london

DEFIANT City cleaners stepped up their protest against victimisation yesterday with another noisy demonstration outside the plush offices of a multi-national insurance firm. The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations against the treatment by the cleaning contractor and was joined by workers who clean other financial towers in the Square Mile.

The four union activists were recently sacked from their jobs by cleaning privateer Mitie after organising a union and winning the London Living Wage at the Willis building in the heart of London's financial district as part of Unite the union's Justice for Cleaners campaign.

Picket outside Willis Group in the City

The migrant workers have received the strong support of London's Latin American community organisations and the Colombian and Bolivian solidarity campaigns.
The Willis Group has told its staff by email that the dispute has nothing to do with them. But campaigners dispute this, claiming that Willis has the power to persuade the cleaning contractor to resolve the cleaners' situation.
Sacked shop steward Edwin Pazmino revealed that the cleaning company's lawyers had sent letters to each of the workers, accusing them of "libelling" bosses by insisting that they had been unfairly sacked and demanding that they "stop involvement in further protests." But Mr Pazmino defiantly declared that "this attempt at intimidation will not stop us. "I believe our sackings were retaliation for our campaign to win fair pay," he insisted.

"We are determined to fight the company to the end and we will continue to demonstrate to pressure Willis to persuade their cleaning contractor to find a solution," vowed Mr Pazmino.

Another sacked Mitie cleaner, explained that she believed the privateer had deliberately tried to force the workers to work night shifts, knowing that their refusal to make such a dramatic change to their working lives could be used to fire them.

"I have four children in school. How can I be expected to suddenly start working all night and not be there for my children in the morning?" she asked.

"Mitie did this because we won our campaign to raise our pay to £7.20 an hour from the minimum wage of just £5.73," Domingas added.

The workers and supporters brought a splash of colour to the grey City, filling the narrow streets between imposing corporate buildings with banners demanding "Justice" and calling on Mitie to "Clean Up Your Act."

1. In April 2008 Mitie evening cleaners at the Willis building won the London Living Wage after months of union pressure. However they insisted on putting the cleaners onto full-time night shifts.
1. On 11 December 2008 the four cleaners in question were made redundant.
2. Their appeal against dismissal was rejected on February 10 with the claim that no suitable vacancies were available. Five demonstrations have been held since then.
3. On 29 February Mitie Cleaning and Support Services tricked workers representatives into going to their offices to hear a 'proposal', only to be handed a letter from Mitie lawyers stating that the protests had to stop or legal action would be taken - a threat to freedom of expression. The protests have continued.


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