Back at the LSE

I seem to have spent a great deal of time at the LSE recently, with two separate groups of protesters both supporting the campaign by the cleaners for parity of terms and conditions with staff employed by the LSE. It is time to end the practice of outsourcing key services like cleaning as a way to get the work done using employment practices that the University itself would never allow.

The cleaners belong to the United Voices of the World, a registered trade union which follows normal trade union practices – if a little more boisterously than most, picketing the workplace and also taking part in peaceful though noisy protests, together with sympathisers and students. ‘Life Not Money at the LSE’ is a direct action group allied to Rising Up, which calls ‘for a fundamental change of the political and economic system to one which maximises well being and minimises harm’ and believes that a more confrontational approach is necessary.

Life Not Money came to the LSE on May 3rd and tried to protest at the entrance to the library but were moved by security onto the road outside where they handed out fliers and displayed banners, posters and flowers. But the main point of their protest that day was to force the LSE to get someone arrested, with one of them attempting to write the slogan ‘END INEQUALITY AT THE LSE’ in spray chalk next to one of the doorways.

Unfortunately his timing wasn’t too great and he only got as far as EN and halfway through the D when he was tackled by a security guard, who held him until two police officers arrived to make an arrest. Life Not Money feel it will shame the LSE into action if a number of people get arrested for ‘criminal damage’ in this way, particularly as the chalk used wipes off cleanly with no damage and should any case get to court there is a good chance of it being dismissed as a petty waste of the court’s time.

Eight days later there was a further protest at the LSE when the UVW cleaners were holding a one-day strike and a lunchtime rally in the street outside the LSE Library. They came with vuvzelas and megaphones as well as banners and leaflets and made a great deal of noise. Although there was plenty of support from many who walked past, one or two staff stopped to argue with the protesters and tried to make them stop, but police supported their right to protest. But police also harassed some of the supporters, including Sid Skill from Class War, and it seemed likely they might arrest him. He left, followed by two officers, but managed to jump on a bus just as the doors were closing and left them behind.

As the UVW rally was coming to an end, after a march around other sites on the campus we were listening to performances by several of Poets on the Picket Line in the area outside the student’s union when we heard a disturbance a short distance away and rushed to find three protesters from Life Not Money blocking Portugal St and the entrance to the LSE’s extensive building works.

This time they had chalked on the road and not on the walls, and their message read ‘Next Director on £500,000 But No Pensions for the Cleaners! London School of Exploitation – L$E‘ and they were sitting patiently on the road in colourful red and shiny gold costumes waiting to be arrested. But on this occasion there were no arrests.

LSE Equality Life Not Money protest

LSE Cleaners strike

Since the successful end to the LSE campaign some of the same activists and others have been involved in another Rising Up campaign ‘Stop Killing Londoners‘ against the almost 10,000 premature deaths a year in London caused by excessive pollution levels. Four were arrested on November 6th 2017 and held in custody on remand until their trial on November 14th, with some going on hunger strike. They had been under bail conditions not to return to City Hall after having been arrested there for chalking slogans the previous day, but had returned and chalked ‘Cut Air Pollution – Air Pollution Kills’ in large letters and waited to be arrested. At their trial they were found guilty and fined £385 each but no conditions were imposed. There is an appeal for donations to cover their legal costs.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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