Cleaners working on the London Overground have won concessions from the John Laing agency after protesting against ambush raids by immigration officials.
The protest took place on Wednesday morning last week, said Steve Hedley, London regional organiser for the RMT union.
John Laing has now agreed to recognise the union, write references to the Home Office for staff to prevent deportations, and to refrain from further surprise raids.
The cleaners were called in on the pretext of having to do overtime on 25 October. They were met by officials from the UK Border Agency.
“They scooped up around 30 people,” Steve told Socialist Worker. The cleaners’ RMT rep was rounded up the next day, he added, having been pointed out to immigration authorities as “the RMT rep” by management.
Around 20 of the workers are now back at work, says Steve, including the rep. But the remainder still face problems over alleged irregularities in their paperwork.
“This happens all the time,” Steve added. “These companies never question immigration status until the workers get organised in trade unions. Then all of a sudden it becomes an issue.”
But the recognition deal at John Laing shows that even low-paid and vulnerable workers can successfully fight against attempts to break union organisation.