What makes our members special is not only their determination to take on the biggest employers and to bravely demand the respect, equality and dignity that is so often denied to low-paid, precarious and migrant workers, but also the solidarity they show to one another.
UVW is a community, and as a community our members support each other, even if they work in different workplaces and sectors. And this solidarity was on show last week when Bile Ahouzan, a Senior Health Assistant and strike leader at Sage Nursing Home, offered his solidarity to the cleaners of La Retraite Roman Catholic School for Girls’.
The struggles of the two groups of workers tells a familiar story. The cleaners at La Retraite are fighting back against a discriminatory two tier outsourcing system that sees them paid poverty wages and employed on worse T&Cs than in-house staff. The care workers at Sage are fighting back against a broken and privatised social care system in which they are undervalued and underpaid. But in both cases these are groups of low-paid migrant key workers fighting for what they should not have to; respect, equality and dignity.
The cleaners at La Retraite, an entirely Latin American workforce, have been outsourced to a vindictive contractor, Ecocleen and on the 16th of March they will go on the longest school cleaners strike in UK history, striking for 40 days and nights to win full pay sick pay, the same T&Cs as in-house staff, the London Living Wage, and to have their original contractual hours reinstated and a month’s worth of unlawfully deducted wages returned.
Offering his solidarity to the La Retraite workers, Bile said, “I am a Senior Health Assistant at Sage Nursing Home and a proud member of the UVW. For the past 7 months this union has supported us, it has educated us on our rights, and given us a voice at work, it has shown us our worth!
We are called key workers, and before and through the pandemic we worked, we were on the frontline, why? Because in the line of duty, when we were needed, we were there providing a service to society, and now, we demand a living wage, a better working environment and better working conditions.
It is time for respect, dignity and equality. At times it feels like an impossible goal, until it’s done, and I believe that you, the cleaners at La Retraite, will win it! We are winners! One family and one love, God bless you all”.
But not stopping there, Bile went on to give an impassioned speech at the 2021 Stand Up To Racism conference where he highlighted the struggle of his follow union members, saying,
“These people, I don’t know them, but I feel like I know them, because we are all related by the same cause, fighting for a better living, fighting for respect, dignity and equality, better wages, better working conditions, and better health and safety at work…I believe that there is a start and an end, and I would finish by saying that it is almost always impossible, until it is done”.
So if like Bile you believe that the La Retraite workers deserve respect, equality and dignity, make sure you donate to their strike fund today.
You can also support the Sage workers by donating to their strike fund here.