Support SOAS occupation for cleaners at risk of deportation! Russell Square, London - 4.30pm, 15 June - OCCUPATION ONGOING!

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posi
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Jun 15 2009 11:35
Support SOAS occupation for cleaners at risk of deportation! Russell Square, London - 4.30pm, 15 June - OCCUPATION ONGOING!

SOAS has been occupied by students and supporters in protest at the university's sickening involvement in an immigration raid in which several cleaners organising for their rights have already been deported, and others are under threat of deportation. More info below. Occupiers are asking for:

1. Support at a rally at 4.30pm today on SOAS steps (off Russell Square).

2. Messages of support to freesoascleaners@gmail.com, messages of protest to Paul Webley, SOAS Principal at pw2@soas.ac.uk - particularly appreciated from trade unionists.

updates here: http://freesoascleaners.blogspot.com/

Quote:
PRESS RELEASE: SOAS directorate block occupied over brutal deportation of SOAS cleaners University cleaners who won living wage detained after dawn raid

Students and allies at the University of London’s School of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have occupied the university today to protest against managers’ attacks on migrant workers.

Nine cleaners from the university were taken into detention after a dawn raid by immigration police on Friday.

Five have already been deported, and the others could face deportation within days. One has had a suspected heart attack and was denied access to medical assistance and even water. One was over 6 months pregnant. Many have families who have no idea of their whereabouts.

The cleaners won the London Living Wage and trade union representation after a successful “Justice for Cleaners” campaign that united workers of all backgrounds and student activists.
Activists believe the raid is managers’ “revenge” for the campaign.

Immigration officers were called in by cleaning contractor ISS, even though it has employed many of the cleaners for years. Cleaning staff were told to attend an ‘emergency staff meeting’ at 6.30am on Friday (June 12).

This was used as a false pretext to lure the cleaners into a closed space from which the immigration officers were hiding to arrest them.

More than 40 officers were dressed in full riot gear and aggressively undertook interrogations and then escorted them to the detention centre. Neither legal representation nor union support were present due to the secrecy surrounding the action. Many were unable to communicate let alone fully understand what was taking place due to the denial of interpreters.

SOAS management were complicit in the immigration raid by enabling the officers to hide in the meeting room beforehand and giving no warning to them.

The cleaners were interviewed one by one. They were allowed no legal or trade union representation, or even a translator (many are native Spanish speakers).

The cleaners are members of the Unison union at SOAS. They recently went out on strike (Thursday 28 May) to protest the sacking of cleaner and union activist Jose Stalin Bermudez.

The occupation has issued a list of demands to SOAS management:

1. We call on the directorate to request the secretary of state to immediately release the detainees and to prevent the deportation of the three cleaners who are still in detention in the UK.
2. For the directorate to release a public statement condemning what has happened to the SOAS cleaners and calling for their immediate release and return.
3. To campaign for the return of the cleaners who have already been deported.
4. To bring all contract staff in house. SOAS should not use contractors, ISS or others.
5. To keep immigration officers from entering campus under ANY circumstances or other forms of collaboration with immigration or police. Universities are for education not for state violence and oppression.
6. A year's wage as reparations for all detained and deported staff.
7. To hold accountable SOAS managers who were complicit in facilitating the raid and detention of the cleaners, refusing to aid a sick worker and a pregnant woman.
8. To reinstate Jose Stalin Bermudez, the SOAS UNISON branch chair.
9. To respect the right to organise in Trade Unions unimpeded.
10. To provide space and resources for a public meeting to build support for the SOAS 9 and other migrants, in education and beyond, affected by immigration control and racism.
11. Amnesty for all those involved.

One of the detained cleaners today stated, “We’re honest people not animals. We are just here to earn an honest living for our families. SOAS management are being unfair.”

Joanne, one of the occupying students said,
“Universities should be sanctuaries: places free of violence and aggression. SOAS’s reputation as a university has been tainted today due to the complicity of state brutality in the arrest of the cleaners.”

Graham Dyer, lecturer in Economics of Developing Countries and SOAS branch chair of lecturers’ union UCU, said:
“Our fight has united lecturers, staff and students and has rocked SOAS management. Those managers are now lashing out.

“It is a disgrace that SOAS management saw fit to use a seat of learning to intimidate migrant workers. This is their underhand revenge and we will do all we can to stop migrant workers paying the price.”

The campaign to stop the deportation is supported by Tony Benn, MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, film director Ken Loach, and many trade unionists and student activists.

John McDonnell MP said:
“As living wage campaigns are building in strength, we are increasingly seeing the use of immigration statuses to attack workers fighting against poverty wages and break trade union organising.

“The message is that they are happy to employ migrant labour on poverty wages, but if you complain they will send you back home. It is absolutely shameful.”

Ken Loach said:

“This raid is the action of a bully. Migrant workers are amongst the most vulnerable – poorly paid and far from home.

“Recent action by Unison to secure better wages and conditions at SOAS was good news. Now we wonder if the SOAS cleaners are being targeted because they dared to organise as trade unionists.”

The current occupation is a reflection of broad outrage against these actions by all sectors of society. This raid is widely seen as a continuation of current trends to remove immigrant labour and to maintain impossibly low wages.

Cleaning contractor ISS used the same tactics against tube cleaners that went on strike with the result that key activists were deported. The use of immigration law is bering used for union busting.
contact: Clare Solomon on 07958 034 181
Email: freesoascleaners@googlemail.com
Blog: freesoascleaners.blogspot.com

posi
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Joined: 24-09-05
Jun 15 2009 11:36

y'know, and get down and join the occupation and that.

spitzenprodukte's picture
spitzenprodukte
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Jun 15 2009 14:03

Fantastic news on the occupation. All power to them.
I received an e-mail today from an active SOAS student (and talented musician)

Quote:
> Dear All,
>
> On Friday morning at 7.00pm immigration police raided the SOAS building, with the full collaboration of SOAS management, and arrested 9 of our cleaners, 5 of whom are Union members.
>
> Access to lawyers and Union representatives was denied.
>
> It appears that those people are scheduled for deportation, possibly even today.
>
> This morning the offices of the director of SOAS, Paul Webley, were occupied. There are currently about 40 people in occupation.
>
> At SOAS tonight there will be an event, called by the Occupation committee, called MUSICS OF RESISTANCE. This will take place on the grass outside SOAS. The event starts at 8.00pm. All are welcome to attend.
>
> Please come if you are able, and bring your friends.
>
> Bring an instrument. Bring a song. Maybe even bring a sleeping bag...
>

Also footage of the occupation can be seen here-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9WoqaqLXuk

Farce's picture
Farce
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Joined: 21-04-09
Jun 15 2009 14:23

This does seem like a really positive development. Student activists in actually being useful shocker! tongue

spitzenprodukte's picture
spitzenprodukte
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Jun 15 2009 14:28

Although the video is kind of ridiculous.

posi
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Joined: 24-09-05
Jun 16 2009 09:14

There's another rally at 4.30 today.

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flaneur
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Jun 16 2009 10:03

Gotta laugh, don't ya? Just saw that Jeremy Corbyn is speaking; did he forget what party he belongs to, and which one is in government responsible for the deportations in the first place?

posi
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Jun 16 2009 11:33

URGENT

An injunction has been served on the occupation; it is now under threat of eviction! Please get down there as soon as you can, if you can!

posi
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Joined: 24-09-05
Jun 16 2009 22:17

Update...

so, the occupiers are still there. Demo at noon tomorrow (Wed), support appreciated for those who can make it...

Yorkie Bar
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Jun 17 2009 13:03
automated reply wrote:
...we are inundated with emails and requests and are finding it hard to cope with all of them. The management have turned off the electriccity so we have no computers except a laptop.

please join the googlegroup at freesoascleaners.blogspot.com

and please leave msgs of support on the blog as a comment.

Thanks. Please call on 07958 034 181 if you need to talk to us

Caiman del Barrio
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Joined: 28-09-04
Jun 17 2009 18:05
huw wrote:
Also footage of the occupation can be seen here-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9WoqaqLXuk

Au contraire, that's some of the best shit I've ever seen. Look at that snivelly fuck squirming in his chair. Looking round though, I recognise a shitload of leftist political activist quasi-bureaucrats, which means there maybe weren't that many SOAS students/employees. I guess you'd expect that at a Trothole like SOAS.

That said, NOTE TO GOLDSMITHS ON HOW AND WHY TO OCCUPY. Jesus.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jun 17 2009 18:12
Quote:
1.SOAS management to write to the Home Secretary requesting exceptional leave to remain for the cleaner who is still being detained and for those who have been forced into hiding, and immediate return of those who have been deported.

2.Open discussions with ISS, UCU, UNISON and the Students' Union to review in detail the events of last Friday.

3.Issue of outsourced cleaning services to be revisited at the next Governing Body.

4.Meet with above unions to discuss health & Safety issues relating to immigration raids.

5.Amnesty for all those involved.

I don't understand #1 (why would SOAS or even ISS be able to influence the Home Sec? Surely that would be against their prerogative, seeing as how it would imply a 'political' deportation?), #3 is a whitewash and #2 and #4 roughly depend on the anger of union rank and file.

davidbroder
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Joined: 30-08-08
Jun 18 2009 16:35

IMHO, the occupation (which I was at the first couple of days) folded too quickly and the statement initially put up on the blog trumpeting its "victory" was much too self-congratulatory.

The police pressure to get us out was hardly that great (after all, we knew by late Tuesday night that the hearing for the injunction wasn't til next Monday) and yet there were constant moves by some to fudge a deal with the director. The student union boy we had to have as an intermediary seemed overly concerned with getting back to the director in a timely fashion, as if politeness mattered when we were occupying his office, and the discussions on demands were not always had out in full.

When we chopped down the demands, we still included a demand that the management would warn unions in advance of any future raids. That should have been an absolute bottom line without which we refused to leave - all the stuff about consultation on 'health and safety' concerns is bullshit. In the end we gave up our position of strength (the occupation) a bit easily.

A few thoughts on the outcome from another comrade here - http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/soas-occupied-free-the-cleaners/#comment-2830

spitzenprodukte's picture
spitzenprodukte
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Joined: 6-06-07
Jun 19 2009 13:27
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
huw wrote:
Also footage of the occupation can be seen here-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9WoqaqLXuk

Au contraire, that's some of the best shit I've ever seen. Look at that snivelly fuck squirming in his chair. Looking round though, I recognise a shitload of leftist political activist quasi-bureaucrats, which means there maybe weren't that many SOAS students/employees. I guess you'd expect that at a Trothole like SOAS.

That said, NOTE TO GOLDSMITHS ON HOW AND WHY TO OCCUPY. Jesus.

One of their demands is that he prevents the deportations. That's self-defeating because you don't look a) serious or b)intelligent.

davidbroder
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Joined: 30-08-08
Jun 19 2009 15:48

Winning the demand that he inform unions in advance of future raids was both something possible and something well worth winning.

A shame we caved too early.

http://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/06/19/soas-occupation-ends-with-mixed-results/

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Steven.
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Jul 14 2009 20:34

This update about another group of cleaners from Facebook:
dear all
workers in the UNITE union at Mitie (Willis)--who also organised around the living wage and who have been fighting off attacks on union organisation for some time, were today conned into a fake meeting on health and safety issues by their managers and raided. a number have been picked up and detained. protests will follow.. with one on friday at 12:30.. watch this space for more detials..
other news: the RMT union have agreed to work with the SOAS unions to develop a "hands off my workmate" campaign and the teach in we plan

Mark.
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Joined: 11-02-07
Nov 18 2015 17:01

Trailer for a film about the cleaners

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Upb3OK-jclM