Founders Day

Workers protesting outside the University of London’s Senate House where Founders Day is being celebrated has become something of a tradition, and the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) were there again this November.

Banners and placards make the workers’ demands clear. They work for the university, keeping it running, and demand to be employed by the university, and not, as at present, by contracting companies that offer rock-bottom conditions of service and wages. They work in the university under conditions so poor that the university itself would not dream of being seen to impose – but is happy to turn its back when soemone else does it on the university’s behalf. ThereĀ is no moral justification for London University’s position.

This is a dispute that has been going on for some years, both in various constituents of London University and in the central university administration, based on the Senate House, which is responsible for the Senate House, Halls of Residence and other aspects of the university. Among the workers who work for them but are employed by other are cleaners, catering staff, porters, receptionists and security staff.

It took over ten years of campaigning by SOAS Unison, along with staff at all levels and students, under the banner ‘One Workplace, One workforce’ to get the cleaners at SOAS University, next to the Senate House to be brought back in house. The campaign at the LSE, led there by the United Voices of the World was much shorter, and more recently, staff and Kings College (also in Unison) have also gained victory and are being brought in-house.

Even the University of London sees that it current position is untenable, but “continues to drag its feet over bringing workers into direct employment. They have announced that although recommending that workers be brought in-house this will be subject to “in-house comparator bids” and that it will not happen until 2020 or 2021. As the IWGB point out this is in great contrast to the response of Kings College and the LSE who have agreed to take their workers back in house.”

The IWGB brought with them a very long red banner – just a roll of red cloth – which they stretched out in front of the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate House. Police ensured it was possible for guests to walk around behind it to enter, but some iinsisted on a more direct route. There was a little pushing and shoving by security and police, with a little resistance by the protesters, but generally the atmosphere remained fairly calm.

But it was extremely noisy, with a sound system, and rather variable amounts of light, but always fairly low. After a handful of exposures at ISO3200, I change both Nikons to work at ISO 6400. Though this was reasonably satisfactory, with both lenses at full aperture and shutter speeds from 1/20s to 1/80s and mainly around 1/30th, quite a few images were blurred by subject movement even though most of the protest was fairly static. I made sure I took enough to get a reasonable number sharp. But I had to switched to flash when people began to try and get past the red banner and things became a little more active. I kept the camera at ISO6400, working with the camera set at 1/60s and still at full aperture to get a reasonable exposure of the background where the flash didn’t reach.

More at IWGB at London University Founders Day.


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.