This saturday my friend Valery (together with Eric & Merijn) are hosting a mini conference called ‘Migrant Media Metropole – New labour struggles in the global city‘ at the Balie in Amsterdam.
Migration and media-activists gather with theorists and labour organizers to discuss and share best practices in the fight against precarity and insecure labour conditions. Sharing inspiring examples of social justice unionism and creative campaigning like “Justice for Janitors” in the U.S. and “Cleaners For a Better Future” in the Netherlands. The aim is to challenge traditional labour practices, syndicate and inspire a sharper network of social activists, academics, media makers and artists to join contemporary urban labour struggles and confederate into a globalization from below.
This mini conference, which brings together lots of people i have been working with over the past few years, should be extremely interesting for anyone being even remotely interested in issues of migration and labour. Originally it was planned as part of the escalation strategy of the Cleaners For a Better Future campaign here in the Netherlands.
As part of this campaign cleaners, organized by the FNV trade union, in collaboration with activists from social movements in the Netherlands fought for a minimum hourly wage of €10 and a number of other social befits. The campaign made heavy use of direct actions (which is relatively new and uncommon for unions in the Netherlands) and ultimately succeeded in realizing all the demands of the cleaners:
We won 10 euros an hour for everyone starting on January 1st 2009. Workers above 8 years seniority will get the 10 euros in April of this year while everyone else will go from $8.50 to $9.70 an hour in April as well. We got an extra paid holiday, additional travel pay increase, Dutch and vocational training on company time for every worker, initial language to protect staffing levels upon contract change and full access. The contract will cost employers and clients 135 million euros. This is a national agreement covering 150,000 cleaners.
As far as i can tell this is mighty impressive (although V. who expected this struggle to go on for much longer describes this sudden victory as a ‘premature ejaculation’). It seems as if there are very few places in the world with a minimum hourly salary of 10 euros for cleaners (ironically one of them seems to be the kingdom of Belgium, where the minimum hourly salary for cleaners is €10.73 – but then cleaners are called ‘surface technicans‘ in Belgium).