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Cleaners aim to disrupt classical music concert

Royal college ‘treats us like dirt’, say workers ahead of Bernard Haitink event

02 February, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Protesters outside the Royal College of Music on Thursday last week. Photos: Robbie Warin

NIGHT cleaners were preparing to stage a noisy protest this evening (Friday) outside a classical music concert conducted by a world-renowned maestro.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) union has called the demonstration the Royal College of Music against “unfair dismissals” and an “exploitative” outsourcing system.

The protesters’ chants will aim at disrupting the piano concertos of Mozart and An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss conducted by 88-year-old Bernard Haitink.

Cleaner Wilson Ayala Romero said: “It’s deeply unfair that after five years’ of loyal service, from one day to the next, they just take away my job. I clean their offices, I clean their classrooms, and I am as much an employee as anyone else who works here, so I should be treated with the same respect. Despite that, they keep on treating us cleaners as if we were second-class employees.”

The IWGB say there has been arbitrary and unfair changes imposed on night cleaners by the college’s new private contractor. The union, which represents migrant workers, has held several protests against the college over the last two years.

The majority of its members have rejected new contracts that they say would see some workers’ hours cut in half. Some cleaners have been issued with dismissal notices in a move the union said “disproportionately impact Latin American migrants”.

Cleaners have been on strike and a number of “surprise protests” have been held at the college, including one last Thursday when 60 supported stormed into the college building and made megaphone speeches before being taken out by police.

The IWGB’s general secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “RCM’s recent move is just one more example of the college treating its cleaners like the dirt they clean.

“If the college thinks it can just dismiss a group of Latin American cleaners to save a few quid on the cleaning bill with no consequences, they have another think coming.”

Neither the Royal College of Music nor Bernard Haitink’s representatives responded to the Extra’s request for a comment.

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