Migrant workers: Campaigning in the unions

Submitted by Anon on 12 September, 2008 - 10:50 Author: Robin Sivapalan

The second meeting of the “Checks and Raids” strategy group of the Campaign Against Immigration Controls was on Sunday 7 September. Activists, many new, discussed the situation facing migrant workers in London, with 150 workplace raids happening a week, where hundreds of workers are harassed by immigration officers and the police. Many have been detained and deported. Thousands more are now fearful of these raids.

This is the outcome of the introduction in February of employer fines of up to £10,000 for every “illegal worker”, and a concerted campaign by government and the media to scapegoat migrants for all social problems. Simultaneously they create conditions where tax money and national insurance contributions can be quietly pocketed by employers, migrants can be denied services, and be exploited without any acknowledged workers’ rights.

Landlords are being asked to conduct paper checks as well; migrants are being driven not only from work, but also from housing.

The meeting made arrangements to follow-up earlier solidarity with Latin American cleaners at the National Physical Laboratories, where immigration controls have not only been used to undermine workers organising, but also as a way of cutting the workforce by half! Actions will be planned with workers there to target the “Big Bang” celebrations.

This follows three actions over the summer initiated by CAIC and tube cleaner activists that have stormed the ISS and GBM cleaning company offices and have stopped the Bakerloo line, protesting that 100 cleaners were threatened over national insurance numbers, the collusion between GBM and immigration to deport three workers, and the sacking of the RMT rep at Stonebridge.

CAIC activists will be attending the TUC fringe to discuss migrant workers, and the Croydon Trades Council to meet with trade unionists from the Border Agency (including PCS members who work there). CAIC will do a workshop at the Convention of the Left.

We continue to plan actions with others around the London Underground cleaners’ dispute; we will be distributing information sheets around the whole tube network to make sure cleaners know about the checks and to make the case that it is better to stay and fight these conditions on the tube in the unions than in more isolated workplaces.

CAIC believes cleaners and their unions need to go on the offensive and launch a determined campaign for regularisation. We are critical of the RMT and Unite unions for not doing more to fight for victimised cleaners and for failing to fight the immigration laws. Cleaners are not second grade members and that the fight on the underground is of importance to all migrant workers and the whole labour movement.

We will be working with Trades Councils throughout London and renewing links with local communities to help them prepare for and resist these raids and to deal with the aftermath where we can’t prevent them. We are working on a political strategy in the unions and among communities to reverse these racist and persecutory policies once and for all.

To get involved, to donate to the campaign, or for more information e-mail mail.caic@gmail.com.

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