Unions take note…this is how you take action!

The previous post on here was about the struggle of two striking cleaners, Angelica and Fredy, at the HR Owen luxury motor dealership in South Kensington: Please show some solidarity…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/please-show-some-solidarity/ They weren’t directly employed by HR Owen – their roles were outsourced to Templewood. Like many outsourced cleaners, they’ve had to endure crap pay and working conditions. Well, they’ve had enough and with the support of the United Voices of the World (UVW) union, they’re taking action… Please consider making a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

The first public manifestation of that action came with a protest in South Kensington yesterday (Saturday 30.9). Around sixty people assembled outside the tube station and then started marching, first to the offices of HR Owen just round the corner and then down the Old Brompton Road to their swanky showroom.

It was a lively, noisy and feisty crowd of UVW supporters, other cleaners showing solidarity and Class War amongst others. Not a single Trot paper seller in sight poncing off someone else’s struggle…just people committed to winning not just this fight but to improving working conditions for thousands upon thousands of low paid, exploited workers. It was militant…the showroom was shut down for the afternoon and the road was blocked for two hours.

While militant, it was also disciplined. The (possibly just above) minimum wage security guards lined up outside the showroom weren’t abused or threatened in any way shape or form. In fact, many of us felt sorry for them being put in the position they were in…looking at the facial expressions and body language, their hearts were definitely not in the task at hand and we suspect that most of them sympathised with the cause of the cleaners.

Actions like this aren’t sticking to the mainstream union rulebook but sticking to the rulebook doesn’t get results. The tactics of outsider unions such as the UVW, IWGB and others get results because they get in people’s faces and don’t back off. The action outside the HR Owen showroom was noisy, disruptive and got a lot of attention. FFS, it even got covered by the Mail of all publications! Mop-wielding protesters attack luxury car showroom after it ‘suspended husband-and-wife cleaners who went on strike in bid to win a £2.25 pay rise’http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4937128/Mop-wielding-protesters-attack-luxury-car-showroom.html We wouldn’t normally link to this rag but it shows that the tactics used get people’s attention and get the issue onto the agenda…

Some people out here along the estuary may well be asking why we had a presence at a protest in London in support of striking migrant workers. It’s called solidarity… Angelica and Fredy aren’t just striking for themselves or indeed other migrant workers…they’re striking for all workers enduring low pay and abusive, insecure working conditions. That’s why we offered our support to them because an injury to one worker is an injury to all of us and we will not let the divide and rule merchants get away with their attempts to split us along lines of nationality…

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Please show some solidarity…

From the United Voices Of The World Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/events/295822924157524/

The cleaners at HR Owen’s Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in South Kensingon have just voted 100% in favour of strike action.

Join this protest in solidarity with them in the build up to the start of their strike.

For the last 5 years the cleaners – originally from Ecuador – have been cleaning and polishing the Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in South Kensington run by H.R. Owen – Britain’s leading luxury motor dealer, and the world’s largest retailer in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Despite a turnover of around £400 million HR Owen chooses to outsource the cleaners to a company called Templewood where they are condemned, like millions of other workers, to the indignity and impoverishment of the minimum wage.

Furthermore, they have been for years systematically underpaid even the miserable wages they were owed which has led to legal proceedings being instigated against Templewood and HR Owen for unlawful deductions from wages and breach of minimum wage legislation.

Having finally decided enough was enough the cleaners joined UVW and asked for a wage increase from £7.50 per hour to the London Living Wage of £9.75 per hour. However, both Templewood and HR Owen have denied responsibility for setting the cleaners’ rate of pay. This is a common occurrence in the world of outsourcing where the Bermuda-like-triangle between the worker the client and the contractor swallows both employer’s responsibilities and workers’ rights.

Unwilling to entertain Templewood and HR Owen’s excuses or endure the indignity of the minimum wage for any longer the cleaners asked UVW to ballot them for strike action.

Following a 100% Yes vote a strike will commence in October.

Please also consider making a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

Fighting back

This is for the attention of those people under the illusion that migrant workers will happily undercut the wages of British workers – we’ve news for you, they won’t. In fact, they’re increasingly putting themselves on the front line in the fight for decent pay and conditions – something that will benefit all of us, regardless of where we’re from…

From the United Voices of the World Union – https://www.facebook.com/uvwunion/

CLEANERS TO START INDEFINITE STRIKE FOR A LIVING WAGE AT FERRARI & MASERATI CAR DEALERHIPS IN SOUTH KENSINGTON

Say hello to Freddy and Angelica, the inspiring husband and wife duo from Ecuador who, for the last 5 years, have been cleaning and polishing the Ferrari and Maserati dealerships in South Kensington run by H.R. Owen – Britain’s leading luxury motor dealer, and the world’s largest retailer in Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

Despite a turnover of around £400 million HR Owen chooses to outsource the cleaners to a company call Templewood where they are condemned, like millions of other workers, to the indignity and impoverishment of the minimum wage.

Furthermore, the cleaners have for years been systematically underpaid even the miserable wages they were owed which has led to legal proceedings being instigated against Templewood and HR Owen for unlawful deductions from wages and breach of minimum wage legislation.

Having finally decided enough was enough the cleaners joined UVW and asked for a wage increase from £7.50 per hour to the London Living Wage of £9.75 per hour. However, both Templewood and HR Owen have denied responsibility for setting the cleaners’ rate of pay. This is a common occurrence in the world of outsourcing where the Bermuda-like-triangle between the worker the client and the contractor swallows both employer’s responsibilities and workers’ rights.

Unwilling to entertain Templewood and HR Owen’s excuses or endure the indignity of the minimum wage for any longer, Freddy and Angelica asked UVW to ballot them for strike action.

Following a Yes vote an indefinite strike is expected to commence on 9th October.

Unlike at the LSE University where UVW recently organised over 70 cleaners to walk out on strike, making it then the largest cleaners’ strike in UK history, Freddy and Angelica work alone at HR Owen’s Ferrari and Maserati dealerships.

There being only two of them would lead many people to argue that there was nothing they could do about their situation, that the company will never listen or concede to them, especially as they are non-English speaking migrant cleaners.

Well, at UVW we don’t care if you have one colleague or a 100 colleagues. If you’re on the minimum wage or suffer from any other form of injustice and are fed up and up for a fight we’ll ballot and back you all the way.

Furthermore, when Freddy and Angelica win they will lift hundreds of other outsourced workers at HR Owen off the minimum wage and out of in-work poverty.

To support Freddy and Angelica please make a donation to their strike fund if you can – https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/hr-owen/

Cleaning up the Pattocks

Pattocks is a sheltered housing complex run by Basildon Council. By definition it houses elderly, vulnerable, people many with mobility problems. One would have thought that anyone with a responsibility for the pathways would prioritise maintaining those around sheltered housing. The paths around Pattocks are broken, cracked, and overgrown, with weeds coming up in abundance. There is also rubbish dumped around the site and broken walls. The paths are not fit for purpose – they are clearly a health hazard.

Thumbs up to the estate manager who was not content to keep reporting broken paths and dumped rubbish around a sheltered housing complex with no result. She got in touch with the local councillor and a clear up was organised. Basildon & Southend Housing Action were there to lend a hand and share experiences of how to get things done. A few local people came out, either from the complex who expressed their gratitude or who came along to help. The “Pride Team” from Basildon Council were there to do the heavy stuff and take away the rubbish that had been collected. The result was a great improvement but needs to be kept up. There was cake and tea as a reward!

Yet again, it’s down to volunteers to undertake basic cleaning and maintenance on an estate in Basildon. If volunteers from the community are having to put in more of their time and effort to bring their estates up to an acceptable level, it has to be said that it’s not an unreasonable demand for those at the grassroots to have a real, meaningful say in how their neighbourhoods are run…

Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)

A short while back, we posted up this piece on the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange, which is on the southern fringes of Basildon: The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/ As well as hassling ward councillors, council officers, county council officers and various housing associations, as you can see from the above image, part of that fightback is residents getting out and cleaning up the estate themselves. The above was done by the Vange Hill Community Group and was facilitated by help from our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action.

It’s only a small section of the estate but…it sets an example to residents in other areas that a little bit of unilateral people power action will get a result when it comes to cleaning the place up. In the absence of any signs of Basildon Council / Essex County Council getting off of their arses to pay the ¾ estate a visit and do the job they’re paid to do in maintaining it, the only way things are going to get done is by the residents getting out and doing it for themselves. Hopefully, these kind of actions are the first steps towards residents taking control of their estates and bringing power right down to the grassroots…

Marching from tower to tower

Photo by Peter Marshall

On Saturday 12th August, as part of our ongoing strategy of linking up with grassroots housing activists, I attended the March of the towers: Resistance in the East End! protest organised by Focus E15https://www.facebook.com/focuse15/ – and supported by a healthy range of groups and individuals. The march started at Ferrier Point in Canning Town, went on from there to Tanner Point in Plaistow and finished up at the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Both Ferrier Point and Tanner Point have cladding similar to that used at Grenfell Tower – understandably, residents of both blocks are fearful about what could happen and frustrated at being messed around by Newham Council. The Carpenters Estate is being depopulated by the same council in a cynical bid to offload it and trouser a huge wedge from a developer.

It wasn’t the biggest march (in terms of numbers) I’ve been on this year but certainly the most passionate and for it’s size, pretty damn loud as well. It was visually impressive with the banners and the smoke flares, particularly as we were coming into Stratford. Loads of flyers were handed out to the people we passed by to let them know what was going on and why we were marching. This should be standard practice on marches but sadly it ain’t – credit to Focus E15 for doing this and spreading the message.

It was great to be not marching alongside the usual suspects but with feisty working class people for a change. It was also good to see Movement For Justice – https://www.facebook.com/movementforjustice/ – and East End Sisters Uncut – https://www.facebook.com/eastendsistersuncut/ – amongst others coming along to support the march. This shows that a diverse range of groups can effectively work together as and when the need arises. This fits in with our support for making alliances as and when the need arises without getting hung up about ideological purity.

Also, there were no cops intervening at any point…brilliant! ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ actually had some serious meaning yesterday…

All in all, it was a good day where alliances were formed and strengthened and morale raised. We’re more than happy to continue to continue to offer our solidarity to Focus E15 and the other groups who stand alongside them…

Dave (the editor)

Advance notice – March of the towers!

We’ll be going along to this to show our solidarity with housing struggles in East London: March of the towers! https://www.facebook.com/events/1951128301839783/

Date: Saturday August 12th

Join us for a march and speak out to demand safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

The flats of Ferrier Point and Tanner Point are both tower blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. Carpenters Estate in Stratford is marked for demolition by Newham Labour council.

Let us meet to raise the issues of secure housing in our local community and demand that the council provides suitable housing for residents.

Meet 12 midday: Ferrier Point, Forty Acre Lane, Canning Town E16 and/or 1pm: Tanner Point, Pelly Road, Plaistow E13.

From there we will be marching to the Carpenters Estate, Stratford E15.

And from 2.30pm we will be having a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event and speak out with residents to organise resistance to decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

Take action to defend people’s right to homes and safety.

Join us at Midday, bring your banners and your voices and your hearts!

As we’ve written and said more times than we care to remember, what happens in London with social cleansing as a consequence of ‘regeneration’ in the service of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich and their money has a direct impact on us out here along the estuary. This is why we show solidarity with housing activists in London fighting this tide of social cleansing from the capital – as far as we’re concerned, the housing struggle, regardless of where it takes place, is one struggle.