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27.02.2024 / News /

Community, advice on labour rights and local services, and fun at Voces Hispanas’ monthly meeting

“These sessions with fellow workers and union advisors are very important. I learned so much about so many issues – about working rights and general life in London – and I think I’ll know what to do if I ever have a problem at work or outside work. Don’t miss the next one on 23 March.”

Inés, UVW member and session attendee

Members of the Voces Hispanas sector, which brings together Latin American members of United Voices of the World (UVW), started the year with renewed strength at a meeting held on Saturday 24 February at Casa UVW. They shared their stories and experiences, discussed workers’ rights and how to defend them and asked questions about their problems at work and life in London. They also enjoyed a lovely meal together.

The meeting, which will now be repeated monthly at the union’s offices, includes a section on labour rights advice with Susana Benavides, Voces Unidas representative at the union’s Executive Committee, UVW caseworker and organiser, and another one on local services with Latin American independent Newham councillor Bélgica Guaña.

Bélgica answers members’ questions on issues that are the responsibility of local councils and affect us all, such as how to access council housing, how council tax works, how to register with a GP or how to become a school governor. The drop-in session is open, there is no need to register. English-speaking members can also drop in on the day as Belgica offers advice in both English and Spanish.

“These sessions with fellow workers and union advisors are very important, ” said UVW member Ines. “I learned so much about so many issues – about working rights and general life in London – and I think I’ll know what to do if I ever have a problem at work or outside work. Don’t miss the next one on 23 March. I recommend everyone to come, you won’t regret it.”

Yolanda, who led the strike at Streatham School in South London last summer, shared her experiences of the struggle to improve their working conditions and the lessons she learned, which she hoped would inspire other union members. Yolanda told how the school management wanted to impose changes to their working conditions without negotiation – something so common in the world of cleaners – but the school workers organised and voted to go on strike, which they carried out in coordination with other UVW workplaces last summer. Their determination and courage earned them sick pay and other improved conditions. Looking back on the action, Yolanda said she had felt the fear of going on strike and facing her bosses – which is totally normal – but that it became clear to her that direct action – going on strike and picketing at the school gates – worked. She encouraged others to follow her and her colleagues’ example if they find themselves in difficulties.

Susana answered questions from members about their problems at work and gave advice on common situations that workers can deal with on their own with a few guidelines. The first line of defence against abuse is to know your rights and how things work and to make bosses aware of it.  

“It was a great afternoon,” Susana told us, “sharing our stories with our colleagues and discussing the importance of asserting your rights and fighting for them. It is essential not to let fear stop us from acting but to fight it by uniting, seeking support in this community of action because together we can achieve great changes for all of us. We must not wait for concessions to be made because they may never come, but push from below, from the grassroots, to achieve substantial changes. If we don’t do it ourselves and we don’t do it now… then who will do it for us? And when? Improving our working conditions and our lives depends on our collective power”.

Don’t miss the next meeting on 23 March from 3pm to 5pm at UVW House, 144 Cambridge Heath Road London E1 5QJ. The nearest metro stations are Bethnal Green and Whitechapel. 

We look forward to seeing you!

Voces Hispanas members share a meal after their meeting.


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