Defend José Stalin Bermúdez!
His offence? Helping cleaners fight poverty pay
SOAS Unison branch chair José Stalin Bermúdez has been suspended from his post and is awaiting a hearing that could see him sacked from his employment with the college.
Stalin’s colleagues and other campaigners believe the move follows his role in leading a successful campaign at the University against poverty pay among cleaning staff.
Stalin, an Ecuadorian immigrant and himself a former cleaner, helped launch a campaign for the London Living Wage after Latin American SOAS cleaners approached him for support, as some of them had not been paid for 3 months by SOAS’ cleaning contractor. Stalin, along with other staff and students, organised a series of protests which would see cleaners raise their wages from £5.52 to £7.45 per hour and gain trade-union recognition! This important victory has encouraged similar campaigns to be set up in other London colleges.
We believe that his suspension is groundless.
Over a year ago, a complaint against Stalin by a colleague was rejected after an investigation by the College. However no attempt was made to either reconcile the two employees or separate them in their duties (despite requests to do this by SOAS union representatives). This was particularly serious as both work in a very small workspace. The atmosphere was so bad that a third member of staff became ill. Still no action was taken. When Stalin did question behaviour on the part of his colleague, he received a further complaint. College management appear to have accepted his version of events over Stalin’s.
A cleaner who witnessed events was then examined by college management. There are serious questions about the way this was handled. Firstly, a meeting was held in the presence of his cleaning firm’s supervisor. Secondly, instead of being asked for an account of what he had heard, he was read a long quote that Stalin had supposedly made and asked to agree to it. Despite the fact that the cleaner did not speak perfect English, he was not shown the quote, which contained colloquial English expressions that the cleaner, who came to Britain not many years before, was unlikely to understand (and Stalin, who has English as his second language, was very unlikely to use). Under these conditions, the cleaner accepted the version of events presented. However, when he finally read the words, after the meeting, he withdrew his comments. Another member of staff has presented a statement also questioning the alleged version of events.
The procedure adopted to examine the complaint suggests that SOAS management have not been interested in giving Stalin fair treatment. Despite having no serious evidence of wrongdoing, SOAS management, nonetheless, are pressing ahead with a disciplinary hearing.
Stalin’s treatment has been unanimously denounced by SOAS Unison and SOAS UCU branch passed a motion to support his campaign.He has already received messages of support from several other union branches and student groups.
Stalin has been working at SOAS for most of the ten years he has lived in Britain since emigrating. He has often showed his solidarity with people fighting for their rights, within SOAS, at neighbouring colleges such as Birkbeck, and elsewhere in London.
For committing these ‘crimes’ now he and his family of four are facing the prospect of unemployment in the midst of recession.
We need more people like Stalin that stand up against injustice. And we need you to support his campaign.
A solidarity protest for Stalin has been called to coincide with his hearing on the 24th February at 9.30 am at SOAS (main building entrance, Thornhaugh Street, near Russell Square). Please come and support him and ask union branches and campaign groups to do the same.
No to victimisation of union activists!
Join the solidarity protest on the 24th February!