Immigration raids create stress for all staff: Hands Off My Workmate

The campaign says the employers need not facilitate such raids

30 October 2009: The Hands Off My Workmate campaigners have asserted immigration raids at the workplace create stress for all staff; and the employers need not facilitate such raids.

The assertion follows “The Hands Off My Workmate conference” organised following a high profile raid at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in June 2009. Nine cleaners were detained by immigration officers in full riot gear after being called to an early morning meeting with the cleaning contractor ISS.
Many of those detained have since been forcibly removed from the UK. As a result of the raid, over 50 students occupied the SOAS director’s office for three days.

The campaign believes the introduction of immigration checks and immigration raids in the workplace is divisive and damaging to union organisation and is designed to create pressure on migrant workers not to organise or to take part in action.

Companies which operate outsourced services, such as cleaning, wish to operate in a non union, low wage environment and are using immigration checks as a weapon to drive down pay and conditions. If they succeed in lowering conditions for one part of the workforce-then all are damaged.

An injury to one is an injury to all. Workers of all countries of origin require unity to fight for secure jobs, decent wages and safe working conditions and immigration checks at work simply divide and weaken unions.

Groups like the BNP have grown on the back of a climate of fear about migration generated by politicians seeking to lay the blame for economic crisis at the door of working people from other countries.

The campaign also believes students and staff of SOAS who launched immediate protests, including a student occupation, to win protection for their migrant workmates/students are to be congratulated for forcing their management to request the immediate issue of papers to the cleaners held in detention, the return of those detained and to acknowledge the lecturers’ UCU policy of non co-operation with immigration controls as well as agreeing to reconsider the outsourcing of cleaning contracts.

Immigration raids in the workplace risk the health and safety of union members by bringing the potential for violence into the workplace through the entry of riot-style squads hunting down workers and also create stress for all staff who witness such raids or who have colleagues and friends detained in them. Employers do not need to, and should not, facilitate such raids.

The Hands Off My Workmate plans to initially provide briefings and legal materials for campaigners and migrant workers and support for immediate protests following immigration raids. Campaigners and trades unionists can download a model motion in support of the campaign. The Hands Off My Workmate campaign can be contacted by emailing: [email protected] or by logging on to the Hands Off My Workmate website.

The next organising meeting for the Hands Off My Workmate campaign is scheduled to take place on 10 November 2009 at SOAS, at 6pm.

A release said “The Hands Off My Workmate campaign” is organising for the rights of migrant workers who ‘are an integral part of society; often essential in elderly care, in cleaning of offices, public transport, schools and hospitals and food production,’ people who ‘are coming under attack from the media and politicians’.

It is calling for the ‘broadest possible unity in opposing immigration raids in workplaces and in fighting for the right of all living here to work and to have the necessary documentation to live without fear.’ This broad based coalition is supported by members from unions, including UCW, UCU, RMT, SOAS UNISON, SOAS UCU and SOAS SU, as well as MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, Camden Trades Council and the Bloomsbury Living Wage Campaign.

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