Andrea Gilbert, IWW BAME officer
Migrant workers during the pandemic have had a lot of issues to deal with such as having to pay for health care, reduced wages and they’re more likely to be made redundant due to working in areas such as hospitality. The Government have made policies that undermine contributions made by migrants to the economy leaving some vulnerable to evictions or being underpaid in their place of work for example cleaners in Wandsworth are not being paid the living wage.
In August 2016 a member of the IWW started a campaign against Byron Burgers who had summoned their migrant staff members for training sessions across 15 Byron restaurants. The immigration police were there waiting and at least 35 workers were detained with 25 or more then deported. A further 150 were spared deportation and were believed to be in hiding. The member was interrogated by the police but no further action was taken and they were able to involve the IWW to take action on this.
The IWW responded by holding a protest on Friday 26th July 2016 at St Giles Byron. The local branch coordinated with 40 people attending in Manchester and across the country. The demands of the protest were
- No more threats to staff members using the UKBA.
- No discrimination against migrant staff members.
- No to exploitative pay and conditions.
As a result news media started beating a path to our door
The campaign was supported by other unions such as UNITE hotel workers branch who held an even bigger protest outside the Holborn branch. The IWW London branch co hosted this with other groups the United Voices of the World union, London Latinxs, Black Dissidents, Anti-Raids Network, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, South London Solfed, War On Want and Global Justice Now. This event got media attention and the restaurant was closed by the time the protest had started however it gave Byron bad publicity and hopefully deterred other employers from treating migrant workers in this disgraceful way. You can find out more about this campaign here: https://iww.org.uk/news/byrons-migrant-workers-sting/
The IWW continues to stand with migrant workers. If you want to find out more about how you can get involved, get help or join the discussion, contact Andrea, BAME officer, at bame [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk. You can also contact Andrea if you want to be added to the private BAME members discussion area.