The other side of the Olympics

Submitted by Matthew on 1 August, 2012 - 1:50

On 15 July, the Daily Mail reported on the slum accommodation that has been provided for Olympic cleaners.

A portable-cabin village, which has been likened to a prison or a slum by residents, has been erected away from public view near the Olympic Park in Newham. Cleaners are sleeping 10 to a room, there is one toilet between 25, and one shower between 75.

Workers were promised employment immediately but were horrified to learn when they arrived that they would have to wait two weeks to start. Meanwhile, they still have to pay £18 a day (£550 a month) for the “accommodation”, many units of which are leaking due to the heavy rain that has flooded the site.

The workers have been forced to agree not to discuss their conditions with the press, and families and friends have been barred from visiting them, officially “for security reasons”.

It is good (and also surprising) that the Daily Mail has uncovered and reported on this. However, the paper is also arguing that the jobs should have gone to locals rather than migrants. The same is true of an on-line petition against the slum conditions, which has already gained 7,015 signatures.

While all eyes were fixed on last Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony, the Metropolitan Police used CS gas and kettling to break up the weekly Critical Mass bicycle ride, arresting 182 cyclists, including a 13 year-old boy.

After what is thought to be the largest mass detention in the UK since the 2011 riots, many of those arrested alleged that they were held overnight in windowless cells.

Some were held for several hours on buses waiting to be processed, while others were locked in what the Met described as a “former transport garage” converted for use as a police custody suite.

One of those arrested told Solidarity: “The police were clearly aware that that entire operation was politically motivated. Those around me spent the entire night moaning about the waste of time and resources.

“We’ve been charged with being a nuisance to the people of Newham — but it’s entirely clear that all the disruption and nuisance has been caused by the thousands of militarised police, not a couple of hundred cyclists.”

The last thing we need at this time of European-wide crisis is for the ugly spectre of “British jobs for British workers” to raise its head again. Instead we argue that — British born or migrant — we organise together as the working class.

Organisers are taking advantage of the unemployed and of migrants. We should be calling for decent pay and conditions for all Olympic workers and exposing the super-exploitation that inevitably follows the use of private companies and agencies.

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