The Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union, or CAIWU, is an independent trade union whose members are predominantly low-paid migrant workers in London. CAIWU has its origins in the largest organisations of the UK trade union movement. CAIWU’s founders were involved with the T&G and then UNITE’s Justice for Cleaners Campaigns. As a result of a lack of democracy, they left UNITE to join the “Cleaners’ Branch” of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or the “Wobblies” as they are popularly known. However, as a result of political differences as well as a lack of control over their own resources, the organisers left to found the IWGB in August of 2012. These workers formed the Cleaners and Facilities branch of the IWGB.

Parallel to the developments described above, a group of mainly outsourced workers were organizing and campaigning at the University of London through the Senate House Branch of the public sector union UNISON. They won the London Living Wage in UNISON and initiated the “3 Cosas Campaign”. However the UNISON branch and London Region actively attempted to undermine the campaign and exclude the outsourced workers and campaigners from meaningful participation in the union. This tendency culminated in the nullification of branch elections in the spring of 2013, after which these workers broke away to found the University of London branch of the IWGB.

Following further internal differences over direction and strategy, members of the Cleaners & Facilities branch of the IWGB left to set up a new union known as the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union.

CAIWU is a campaigning union, which has waged a number of high profile campaigns such as for the London Living Wage at the Royal Opera House and at John Lewis, and the 3 Cosas Campaign (sick pay, holidays, and pensions) at the University of London. Other campaigns have been waged over bullying and harassment as well as improved pay for university employees.

In addition to its campaigns, CAIWU provides employment representation for its members. This representation is mainly in workplace meetings such as grievances and disciplinary hearings. However, CAIWU also arranges representation in the courts and at tribunals, such as for unfair dismissal, discrimination, and personal injury claims. Other activities include English classes and an English-Spanish language exchange.