Class and Race at the Bottom of the Labour Market: Organising Outsourced Migrant Workers in 21st Century London

Key information

3:15 PM to 5:00 PM
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)

About this event

Joe Trapido, SOAS, Dept. of Anthropology

Dr Joe Trapido, SOAS

Dr Joe Trapido Lecturer in Anthropology at SOAS, obtained a PhD at UCL. He has conducted fieldwork on patronage in Congolese music, on city politics in Kinshasa, and on the political economy of capital flight and underdevelopment in Kinshasa. His most recent works are “les Combattants: ideologies of exile return and nationalism in the DRC,” to be published in the Journal of Refugee Studies and “’Masterless Men': Riots, patronage and the politics of the surplus population in Kinshasa,” which will appear in Current Anthropology in 2020.

In the last 8 years he has also been a member, activist, and writer of grant applications for the IWGB trade union, a union which has organised the new working class in London - especially migrant outsourced and low paid self employed workers.

This paper is about a 2-year project organising outsourced cleaners and security guards in London by the IWGB, a new trade union founded in 2012. In the paper I look at one specific campaign involving cleaners working at Ernst and Young. The IWGB is unusual in that, in a general picture of trade union decline in the UK, the union has grown very fast, among precisely the kind of young, low paid, black and ethnic minority immigrant workforces that are often seen as being impossible to organise. The paper will touch briefly on some of the tactics used by the union, and what they tell us about class and race at the bottom of the labour market and about the current conjuncture in the UK.