I’d got a message from the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union that they were going to stage a protest in the city against an employer who they said has sacked two African workers because they were African, and was given a time and place where they were meeting.
They hadn’t advertised the protest in advance, hoping to keep it secret, and I knew that they hoped to be able to rush into the entrance hall of some offices and protest inside, leaving after a short time to continue the protest outside.
The group of around a dozen cleaners gathered close to an underground station and when everyone had arrived walked together, stopping just a few yards before the offices to get out posters and other materials for the protest. I still didn’t know exactly where the offices were we were headed to, and was slightly taken by suprise when some of them rushed down a few steps and into a door, but managed to take a picture before following them inside.
The sacked cleaners had cleaned offices for Capita, who had offices on one or two floors of the building, but were employed by the contractor Mitie; there were three African workers at the site and Mitie had sacked two of them, and reduced the hours of the third. They were among the group of workers in the CAIWU who had put in a demand to be paid the London Living Wage.
Some of the cleaners, including those who worked in the building, stayed to protest on the pavement outside, but the group who went inside protested noisily, while people who worked inside came in and out for lunch. Betwwen bouts of noise, union organiser Alberto used a microphone and a sound system in a trolley to explain the reason for the protest, demanding the re-instatement of the sacked workers and the London Living Wage.
Several security men approached him, and one made an attempt to snatch the microphone away, but he shrugges them off and continued to speak. Eventually after a few minutes of protest, two of them managed to push him out through the door and the other protesters followed.
At a later date one of the security men came and asked me not to publish his photograph, as he was worried about the safety of his family in another country, and I have pixelated his face in these images. It isn’t something I normally do, but there were special circumstances in his case.
The protesters then made their way around to the rear entrance to the block which was now being used by more of the workers to go to lunch and continued to protest noisily and hand out fliers explaining the protest. After a few minutes they were joined by a police officer, who talked briefly with them and then stayed to wtach and ensure the protesters kept on the pavement but did not block it.
The officer came in useful a few minutes later, by which time the protesters had moved back to the front of the building. A man in a suit walking by suddenly got angry and tried to grab Alberto’s microphone, told me I should not be taking pictures and then grabbed one of the protesters by the shoulder.
If there is one way to make sure I take your picture, it is to tell me I can’t when I know have a perfect right and an interest in doing so, and of course I took his picture, and the police officer came over, asked the protesters what had happened and then took the man to one side and told him to leave the area – and warned him about his actions.
At the end of the lunchhour the protesters packed up and I went home. More pictures at Cleaners protest at Capita.
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All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.