The demonstration kicked off at around 1.30pm outside the Royal College of Music on the 10th July 2015, with Alberto Durango, General Secretary of the IWGB, and Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, President of the union, kicking things off to a raucous start. The protest was held on the college’s graduation day, and shouts of ‘sick pay, holiday, pensions now!’ echoed over the front steps as the soon-to-be graduates arrived.
The demonstration lasted for approximately an hour, with attendees including workers and other union activists. The protestors were situated directly outside the college, just as the undergraduates, and their families, began to arrive. While the disruption caused was tolerated by most of those who attended the ceremony, the event did attract the attention of one Marcus McDonald, the Director of Finance at the college, who attempted to negotiate the location of the protest with the union-while insisting the college would not negotiate on terms and conditions.
The event occurred after the Royal College of Music continued to refuse talks with IWGB. Despite multiple attempts by the union to sit down with college representatives to discuss their demands, the IWGB were continuously met with silence or outright rejection. The Royal College of Music 3 Cosas campaign was launched following the union’s success in gaining the cleaners the London Living Wage and a similar successful campaign at the University of London.
Wilson Ayala Romero, a cleaner for the Royal College of Music and the Campaigns Officer for the University of London branch of the IWGB, explained the importance of achieving the 3 cosas, sufficient sick pay, holiday and pensions: “[it is about a] better quality of life. If there is an accident or illness we will get paid [if we win]…Right now we only get the minimum, and far less rights”. Indeed, like many of his colleagues at the Royal College of Music, Wilson has been forced to work whilst seriously ill, due to inadequate sick pay. Should the IWGB win this campaign, these workers will be granted adequate employment terms and conditions, yet for Romero, like many others, it is about far more than that: “This union is about like [our] voice…we are here…[and through this campaign] we hope to get our dignity”.
The demonstration culminated with chants of ‘we’ll be back and that’s a fact’, and given the IWGB’s prolific track record, such a promise should not be taken lightly. Whether the RCM will respond soon, it’s hard to say, but it is rapidly becoming clear that continued silence is not an option.