25 April, 2013- London– Latin American cleaners, NGO workers, students, trade unionists, and political activists will be demonstrating together at 12h30 on Wednesday 1 May at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). The Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (CLAUK), which represents nine Latin American organisations, in conjunction with the UK Ecuadorian Movement (MERU) and local cleaners’ campaigns and trade union branches, will be marching from 13h00 on a tour of the Bloomsbury area where various of the University of London’s prestigious colleges employ Latin American workers on low wages and paltry benefits. “Latin Americans employed in the cleaning sector are facing exploitative conditions and discrimination, which translates into many problems such as living in overcrowded conditions and lacking access to healthcare,” said Lucila Granada, CLAUK’s Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator. “This first of May we march together with the cleaners’ campaigns to support their demands for dignity and respect.”
CLAUK’s member organisations serve the Latin American community in a multitude of ways, ranging from an emergency hotline en español to support for refugees, and through CLAUK attempt to provide a collective voice for issues facing the Latin American community in the UK. More specifically, the coalition is focussing on gaining recognition of Latin American as an ethnic group as well as improving access to labour rights and healthcare for the community. Given that most of the cleaners in the Bloomsbury area have no pension plan and are constrained to work sick as they lack occupational sick pay, one can understand how this large group of organisations, union branches, and campaigns have joined forces with the slogan Marchemos junt@s por nuestros derechos (let’s march together for our rights).
Although the cleaners at the different colleges work for different employers and have slightly different objectives, the one demand they have in common is to receive sick pay, holidays, and pensions on par with direct employees of the University of London. “These are rights that any worker, anywhere in the world, deserves,” emphasized Sonia Chura, a Bolivian cleaner and one of the 3 Cosas Campaign leaders. On May first, a community too-often known for its invisibility will be spicing up International Workers’ Day in true Latino fashion with colourful flags, samba drums, chants, and a call, in one voice, for dignidad and respeto.