Friday, September 21, 2012

Faraway Places, Familiar Story

A long way from Tottenham Court Road. Or is it?

"A million miles from the nine-to-five, nestled in an azure ocean, lies a secret... maybe nature's best kept secret. An island of tranquility and harmony, where mankind and Mother Nature entwine in an exceedingly passionate dance of color and life and where every visitor is as special and totally different because of the wondrous creatures that grace this paradise.

The only place on earth where there are thousand ways to try to do nothing, and each day may be a dream return true..."

That's the alluring blurb for Conrad Hilton's Rangali island resort in the Maldives, faraway in the Indian Ocean and clearly far away as life could be from the cares and bustle of London's Tottenham Court Road.

Or is it?

I've mentioned Tottenham Court Rd in London because this week trade unionists have been picketing there after earler going to Westbourne Park, in a dispute over what they say is victimisation of union members on the Crossrail project.

But before we come to that, let's hear from the International Union of Food and Catering Workers (IUF) about what's happening across the world in the Maldives:

Guests at the Hilton Conrad Rangali Islands Resort in Maldives pay 1,000 dollars a night to stay in luxury villas located on two private islands, where they can choose from "seven world class restaurants including the world's first all-glass undersea restaurant serving contemporary cuisine". "For the ultimate dining experience" guests can order a private beach dinner with their own chef and waiter. But conditions are less than luxurious for the workers who serve them.

 Last year, some 350 workers held a peaceful work stoppage to highlight their longstanding demand for a clear reckoning of the service charge which makes up a crucial l part of their pay. Since 2009, the IUF-affiliated Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, TEAM, had attempted unsuccessfully to raise the issue with management.
 When management gave assurances that they were prepared to discuss the issue, the workers returned to work. Twenty-nine workers were then terminated. Union supporters were at the top of the list, which included employees with 10 or more years of service. The ostensible reason for the dismissals was a projected slowdown in business in the second and third quarters of 2011. In fact, tourist arrivals into Maldives grew significantly in this period. The real motivation for the dismissals was to bust the union's activist base

Twenty-two workers challenged their dismissals at the Employment Tribunal. In February, the Tribunal ruled that the mass firings were unfair, and ordered management to reinstate the workers within 10 days with full back pay.

The workers are still waiting. Management refused to comply with the court decision, and then appealed it. In August, the IUF wrote Hilton Worldwide Resorts management, urging it to reinstate the 22 workers in compliance with the court order and to enter into negotiations with TEAM. Hilton has not responded. Workers face a long wait at the appeals process, which is only now getting underway.
The workers have been more than patient.
  Management responded by terminating union supporters - and refuses to comply with a court order ordering the resort to reinstate them. 

If you go to this IUF site there's a place where you can  click to send a message calling on Hilton management to reinstate these 22 workers who stood up for their rights and recognize their union! 

Incidentally, that bit about the company ignoring a court order to reinstate sacked workers will sound all too familiar to British trade unionists who have gone to arbitration or employment tribunals and won their case against victimisation only to find the employer simply ignores it.  

Anyway, here from the Blacklist Support Group on Facebook is the report of what's happening on Crossrail:


28 workers including a UNITE steward and safety rep have been dismissed from the Crossrail project because they are members of a trade union. The unionised workers employed by E.I.S. Electrical were searched and removed from site last Friday at the instruction of Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK), the consortium of contractors building Crossrail.

 Crossrail is going to be one of the largest infrastructure jobs in the whole of Western Europe – if it is unionised, the workforce will earn good wages and the job will be safe. This is a deliberate attempt by BFK to intimidate workers and keep the union off the project, so they can keep wages down and force through rushed production targets.
Whatever nonsense BFK come up with to justify the dismissals, everyone knows there are 3-4 years work left on the project for these sparks alone. But as soon as the union appeared on the job, the steward was banned from the tunnel and forced to sit in the site offices at Westbourne Park for weeks on end. The Safety Rep was suspended and left to sit at home for the past 13 weeks. Eventually BFK threw EIS off the job just to get rid of the union. The Managing Director of E.I.S. has given the union a witness statement and states that the only reason the workers and the reps have been removed from the job is because of the union presence.

This is a dispute about safety and money. Even the EIS electrical engineer was sacked after he took a photograph of unsafe high voltage electrical cables. BFK are making money by playing with our lives.

BFK want to save money on Crossrail We want to save lives on Crossrail

BAM and Kier (part of the BFK consortium) are proven blacklisters of trade union members. They were part of the Consulting Association blacklisting conspiracy exposed in 2009. There is documentary evidence that their senior managers and Directors have illegally victimised union members. We know exactly what they’ve been up to – We’re not going to stand for it on Crossrail. The sparks won their fight against BESNA pay cuts – The rank and file will win the fight for Crossrail. ·


Here's a video from the frontline: 

And an update posted by Dave Smiith, a well-known figure in the fight against the blacklist: 

Video of Day 3 Crossrail dispute - action spreads from Paddington to
Tottenham Court Road construction sites. Supermodels were delayed from
attending London Fashion Week catwalk shows


So even in the heart of London the class struggle interfaces with the glamour world! 

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