Sunday, 3 February 2008

Campaign against ‘Kleenex worker’ launched

“I’m an activist, so I don’t have a powerpoint but a banner”, Hagen Kopp started his presentation at yesterday’s Migrant Media Metropole meeting at de Balie. He was referring to a banner announcing a string of migration-related actions in European and African cities.
At the meeting in Amsterdam, the campaign was launched. Future events include an event in Bamako, where deported migrants have organised into the Association Malienne des Expulsés. Bamako is also significant, Kopp explained, because it is the site of a pilot EU job centre for a circular migration scheme, described by some as an experiment in using ‘Kleenex workers’, to be disposed after use.
The aim of the international campaign is to find out what is common in the experiences of migrants ranging from “temporary seasonal workers who are exploited in the fields of Andalusia in Spain; to ‘legal’ migrants who live and work every day in Eurospace; undocumented migrants working in irregular jobs in Italy or the UK, in factories or in the home, as many women do; ‘tolerated refugees’ living in an isolated ‘jungle camp’ in Northern Germany; migrants detained in a camp in Greece or Poland, or even in front of the externalised EU-borders in Morocco or Ukraine”.
A recurrent theme at yesterday’s meeting was the ambiguous treatment of immigrants, who are tolerated and used, but not given full rights as workers or citizens.
A film was shown documenting the exploitation of undocumented cleaners in the London Underground. They face the additional problem that the Underground has been turned into a ‘public-private partnership’ by New Labour. The service is run by an evasive web of contractors and subcontractors that is very difficult to hold responsible.
Another presentation dealt with ABVAKABO FNV’s efforts to organise domestic workers, many among them undocumented. Despite the obvious difficulty of organising these vulnerable and isolated workers, there are now about 100 members in Amsterdam, mainly thanks to the efforts of some 30 domestic workers who have become union volunteers. The union is organising language courses and providing training on labour rights and communication skills to reach out to other workers. Interestingly, many Dutch union activists are enthusiastic about the campaign and willing to help. “This is what I joined the union for”, they told organiser Katrien Depuydt.
Yesterday’s meeting was an initiative of organisations involved in the successful cleaners’ campaign ‘For a better future’. Photo: Association Malienne des Expulsés

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