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03.03.2023 / News /

UVW holds largest-ever AGM to celebrate year of strikes

In a beautiful display of Britain’s working class, some 200 migrant, precarious, Black and brown members came together for the United Voices of the World (UVW) Annual General Meeting (AGM) last Saturday.

Since the previous AGM, held over Zoom amid the global pandemic in 2021, many hundred of UVW members have self-organised for decent pay and working conditions, the right to a voice at work and for equality with their directly employed colleagues. These groups of workers were represented at the AGM, which was attended by workers from various sectors and struggles.

Bella, UVW member and strike leader, said: “The Assembly was a space to meet our powerful people and to understand that in the midst of differences we can be united.”

Dozens of cleaners, security guards,  hospitality workers were joined by architects, paralegals and charity workers to share their struggle and hear a report on the union’s activities including key points from the membership stats and trends, campaigns, training and casework

Fatima, an outsourced cleaner at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who took her employer to a tribunal over pay discrimination, also said: “I loved it, the organisation, the food, the people we haven’t seen for a long time…  It was wonderful. We should repeat this every day!”      

Cleaners and UVW executive committee representative, Montse Yoza, told the AGM: “UVW’s work has remained true to its vision that low-paid, precarious and migrant workers in the UK have power at work, proper pay and conditions, and are treated with dignity, equality and respect. We have been true to our mission, building power and solidarity in workplaces and communities through collective, legal and direct action.”

A report on the union’s finances was introduced by the general secretary and supported by the union’s new Head of Finance who gave a presentation on the current state of the union’s accounts. Members had the opportunity to ask questions. 

The mass meeting heard a report about the UVW’s ongoing capacity audit, an assessment by staff and members that examines six interrelated areas of operational capacity; strategy, governance, membership services, finance and resource development. Members were invited to participate in the remaining sessions. 

A motion that called for the launch of recall elections for the union’s elected officials was discussed. After a passionate debate which heard contributions from across the union’s sectors, the motion was clearly voted down. Once the result of the vote was announced, time constraints ment remaining motion could not be discussed and events drew to a close.

Katie Nelson, an executive committee member for Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU), said: “Each AGM should be a learning opportunity for us as a union, we are clearly still learning and have a lot to reflect on how to ensure our democratic processes are improved in the future. I would encourage people who have feedback to contact their representatives on the executive committee and we can consider this when reflecting on improving the next AGM.”

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary: “Being the biggest in person meeting in UVW’s history is testament to the love and commitment we all have for our union and our community. We will now begin a process of collective reflection on the AGM to ensure our assemblies and processes are the best and most participatory they can be. 2023 will be a year marked by more workers’ assemblies, more membership support and more campaigns. Onwards an upwards!”

Tris, Jake and Lucy, three of the brave Saint James Tavern (SJT) hospitality strikers currently fighting trade union victimisation, came all the way from Brighton for their first ever AGM. “I found it so interesting! seeing a whole side of the union that I had never seen before, seeing people who I’d only ever spoken to over the internet in real life. I didn’t realise how much of a strong community there was around UVW, with members making food for everyone. That was amazing!”, Tris told us. “It was incredible to meet so many members of our fantastic union and to get a first hand look at how the union works from the inside,” Jake added. 

UVW would like to thank all the volunteers – members, friends and even relatives –  who interpreted, cooked, helped clear up, ran the creche and loaded equipment to get the event off the ground. Without them this wonderful gathering would not have happened.

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