Grassroots, independent, bilingual and defending the rights of workers in precarious employment, especially migrants and those suffering from racist outsourcing, the trade union UVW celebrates its 10th anniversary on the 27th of this month and all its members have been invited.
Its beginnings were in 2004 when a handful of Latino cleaners met in London coffee shops and talked about the problems they faced in their jobs and the need to unite. Years passed and today in 2014, United Voices of the World (UVW) has more than 10,000 workers of over 100 nationalities. All its members know that, as they say, “our power lies in our collective strength”.
And it is through unity in action, as a UVW spokesperson points out, that its members have won improved working conditions in workplaces all over the UK, built and participated in over 53 campaigns to win equality, dignity and respect at work, and they are now the first union in the UK to end outsourcing in higher education and the NHS.
They have had several achievements, and one of them was the first ever strike at the London School of Economics. It happened in 2016 and was organised to end outsourcing in higher education.
It was the biggest cleaners’ strike in history at the time. Famous globally as the LSE it was dubbed the London School of Exploitation during the strike.
Years later, in 2019, at the Imperial Trust (St Mary’s), they staged the first strike to end outsourcing in the NHS and the first hospital occupation in the course of a strike. As at the LSE the strike ended with workers being made direct employees.
The same year saw the start of a long battle against Royal Parks. Another highly prestigious institution was contracting a French company which paid only the minimum wage. Strikes led to workers being paid the London Living Wage – a 31% increase. Following this the UVW won the first legal claim ever arguing that outsourcing is unlawful indirect race discrimination, since the in-house workers were almost all white and paid at higher rates (due to be heard in Court of Appeal on 20th February).
Another success was at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the second dispute to end outsourcing in the NHS took place. In 2023, after a second battle, they won full parity with NHS staff.
They also co-ordinated 8 strikes simultaneously in 2023, the largest number of coordinated strikes for UVW. Last year brought home the importance of unity – not just within one institution, but among workers in exploitative situations across different employers.
With that history and with those and other achievements throughout its years of existence, the UVW party, as they say, “will mark the launch of a series of 10-year anniversary activities to commemorate and learn from our past experiences and look forward so we can continue to build workers’ power”.
For more information, click on United Voices of the World (UVW) website.