THE MODERN DAY SLAVE DRIVERS - Cleaning companies' dirty tactics exposed

The callous sacking of Mary Boakye by ISS is yet another stark example of the brutal methods being deployed by dodgy cleaning companies to silence RMT activists. Her cruel dismissal bears chilling resemblance to other cleaning grade representatives who refused to be muted and have lost their jobs as a result. Cleaning companies are, without doubt, very exploitative, but that ISS in particular is just too brutal in dealing with cleaners is well-documented. With such an unenviable reputation, l was just gob-smacked when Pat O’Brien brought to our attention that ISS was given an international award as the most streamlined and efficient company.

Mary’s case clearly depicts cleaning companies as constantly and ominously breathing down the necks of activists (witch hunters, if you like), just to find faults with them. And once an aunt of mistakes is detected, because we’re humans and thus fallible - it’s swiftly and mischievously made to look like an elephant so as to warrant a maximum punishment.

I have said on numerous occasions, and it bears reiterating, that the disproportionate use of agency staff is serving the selfish and outrageous financial interests of cleaning companies. Agency staff, indubitably the most vulnerable employees on this earth are, first and foremost, employed with an unwritten law that they must never join RMT. They are routinely abused, bullied, intimidated, threatened and forced to do more than one person’s job. If any reason is required regarding why cleaning companies have recently taken to the use of agency staff and, as a result, pursued an actively hostile agenda to get rid of full-time staff, then one need not look further for explanation.

The late Bob Marley sufficiently captured this notion in the saying that “Babylon system is a vampire, sucking the blood of the sufferers”.

Perhaps the most effective weapon being used to curb the activities of RMT members is the declaration of eligibility to work. Now it has become common at places of work for management to ask for one’s documents as soon as one breathes protest against any decision. Government’s directive on the immigration check at work states categorically that all employees should be asked to provide evidence of their legal entitlement to work and thus avoid unlawful discrimination. But the fact that only a few unfortunate people are targeted to undergo this obnoxious compliance check spells out how this exercise is being used by the unscrupulous managers to realise their selfish interests.

This “paper, please” is doubtless the most effective check on the fight against the endemic abuses being perpetrated by these incorrigibly corrupted managers.

The saying goes that “greedy folks have long arms”, a reference to the ability of the greedy to obtain what they desire, by fair means or foul.

On the face of it, it appears embarking on a campaign for amnesty is the surest route to cripple these inherently anti-union managers and put cleaners out of this seemingly unceasing misery.

It’s a tough fight but a good one and thus needs to be fought with all our might. I have an unshakeable faith in RMT’s unrivalled ability to succeed in uncharted waters.

Their ability to marshal hitherto disorganised cleaners to stand up to their bosses, culminating in last year’s historic strike speaks volumes of RMT officials’ unwavering commitment to the cause of cleaners. “It takes tremendous courage, but we have the moral authority”, as rightly observed by the new and energetic Regional Organiser, Steve Hedley. The good always overcomes the evil, so with determination, persistence and good strategy the battle will be won. The boundaries of hope and possibility are being pushed now. Obama’s overwhelming landmark victory should serve as a morale booster to the underdogs and underprivileged class. YES WE CAN. Mary Boakye’s case is monstrously cruel, but as sure as day follows night, she’s not going to be the last activist to be victimised.

Report by Fred Dapaah

Editor’s note: Since writing this article for Finsbury Park's Monthly News, Fred has been ruthlessly sacked by his employer, the cleaning company, ICS. Fred now joins a growing but distinguished list of cleaner grade RMT activists who have suffered the loss of their jobs as a result of their principled trade unionism and efforts to get decent pay and conditions for cleaners working in the rail industry. Fred has written to Monthly News about his sacking and his letter is reproduced below.

Dear Editor,

The writing has been on the wall for a while now. So, I believe you won't be completely taken aback to learn that l was callously sacked by my manager yesterday [25th February]. There wasn't much fanfare about it. I was called to the office around midday to be told to leave the site immediately because my documentation to work has been found to be dodgy. RMT officials have been made aware.

After being in a stable job for 5 years, the unenviable and onerous task of looking for a new job has begun in earnest. When l would be successful is uncertain. Meanwhile, I’ve got to keep a family floating til something crops up. As a comrade, I know you can't help but spare a moment of thought for me.

Encouragingly, I’m not unduly perturbed. I've indomitable character and a great strength of mind, which belie my diminutive figure. Armed with these weapons, it's highly unlikely that this current storm won't be weathered. I am surely taking it in my stride and will cope comfortably with it.

Now that I’m at home all day, my second wife – computer - isn't given a breathing space, so I will not hesitate when the need arises.

Thanks Fred