Posts Tagged ‘BECTU’

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – 2017

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – Thursday 14th December 2017 was six months on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and as on every 14th of the month since there was a silent walk to remember the victims and call for justice. But earlier in the evening I photographed two groups of workers striking for a living wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse – Hackney

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

On the day that the ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Last of the Jedi’ opened at Picturehouse Hackney, workers at the chain held a strike calling for them to be paid the London Living Wage. Workers and supporters demonstrated in solidarity on the pavement outside the cinema as it opened.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Picturehouse is a part of the multinational company Cineworld and has refused to recognise the trade union which the workers belong to, BECTU, instead claiming they are represented by a company run staff forum. As well as a fight for pay this is also for union recognition.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Members voted to dissolve the staff forum in 2019 and is no longer a recognised trade union. Although there have been some pay increases some workers around the start of this year were still only paid £9.80 an hour, over £2 short of the London Living Wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage – Gracechurch St, City

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

United Voices of the World union and supporters protested noisily outside the offices of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a large company in the heart of London’s financial district with a £2 million profit and a 32% increase in revenue this year.

The cleaners of their offices are not employed by LHH and the cleaning was outsourced to City Central Cleaning & Support Services Limited who had rejected their demand for a living wage and unlawfully threatened them with dismissal if they strike.

The cleaners were being paid the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, far less than the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour independently assessed as the minimum needed to live on in London.

After an hour of noisy protest by supporters outside the offices the cleaners were cheered as they went in to start their cleaning shift.

Following this protest, in late January 2018 LHH announced they would be re-tendering their cleaning contract to guarantee that within the month the cleaning staff are paid the London Living Wage of £10.20 per hour. It was the first victory of the year for the UVW.

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage

Grenfell Silent Walk – North Kensington

I was late arriving at Notting Hill Methodist and the silent march was starting early, with people already in line behind the banner on the road at the side of the church. It marked 6 months since the terrible fire, and six months in which nothing had been done to prosecute those who were clearly responsible for the conditions that led to the 72 deaths. Six years on nothing has changed.

At the front were grieving relatives, some who had escaped from the flames and local clergy, and police and march stewards were ensuring that photographers and others kept a respectful distance.

When the march moved off it was led by a line of stewards. Many of the relatives held white roses and photographs of some of those who died and behind them were others carrying large green heart-shapes for Grenfell with single word messages such as ‘JUST US’ , ‘GRENFELL’ and ‘JUSTICE’.

Many taking part walked with green battery-powered candles and further back in the march there were many placards demanding the truth about Grenfell. One banner read ‘Fight For Justice’ and the community will not get it unless they keep on fighting. They have kept on fighting, but it seems less and less likely that the long-running inquiry will deliver any real justice.

Further back on the march were some more angry posters, including one which read ‘You can run BUT you can’t hide – Kensington & Chelsea Council ARE COMPLICIT IN MURDER’.

By Ladbroke Grove station firefighters were lined up as a guard of honour for the marchers, many of whom stopped to thank them for their bravery and persistence which saved many lives, some embracing them. I stayed on Ladbroke Grove to photograph as the rest of the march went past.

The march seemed much more moving than the service I’d watched on livestream earlier in the day. I was actually here with the several thousand on the march, and close to where the totally avoidable tragedy took place. There are many more pictures from the march on My London Diary at Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

Saturday, February 25th, 2023

Saturday 25th February saw me travelling around London to photograph unrelated protests in Dalston, Leicester Square, Brixton and Westminster.

Shut race-hate LD50 gallery – Dalston

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

People protested outside the small LD50 gallery in Dalston just off the Kingsland Road which they say has promoted fascists, neo-Nazis, misogynists, racists and Islamophobes in one of London’s more diverse areas.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The gallery gets its name from the does of any substance which kills 50% of those taking it, and the protesters said it “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade.”

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

One man, “dc miller“, came to argue that it was a matter of free speech and the right to freely discuss ideas, even repulsive ones, should be defended. He got considerable verbal abuse from the protesters and eventually police came and advised him firmly to leave, and later wrote a number of articles about the gallery and the protest.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The protest didn’t immediately close down LD50 despite the claims of the protesters and a couple of months later it put on a show of defiance called ‘Corporeality’, though it is now permanently closed.

Perhaps an article in the Baffler by Megan Nolan, Useful Idiots of the Art World best expresses the position in this quote:

LD50 is a real place, in a real neighborhood, filled with people who are directly threatened by the vile speech of the very real racists who were invited into it. Repeatedly, the defense mounted by the gallery has been that it was attempting to have an open discussion about reactionary ideologies. The implication is that LD50 were engaging in some sort of completely neutral anthropological consideration of current events, rather than extending a fawning welcome to alt-right lynchpins.

More pictures at Shut race-hate LD50 gallery

Picturehouse recognition & living wage – Leicester Square

I rushed down to Leicester Square where workers from four Picturehouse cinemas at Brixton, Hackney, Wood Green and Picturehouse Central were holding a rally outside the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square to campaign for recognition of their union BECTU and to be paid the London Living Wage.

The Empire was recenetly acquired by Cineworld the owners of Picturehouse who have refused to recognise trade unions, but instead set up a company run staff forum.

They are not paying staff in London a living wage and offer poor conditions of service despite making large profits from cinema-goers paying £13 or more to see a film in central London. I’d arrived late and had to leave before the speeches to get the tube to Brixton.

More pictures Picturehouse recognition & living wage

Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness – Brixton

The Guinness Trust was set up in 1890 by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, then head of the family brewing business, to provide better housing for working class Londoners. One of the estates they built was the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton.

Betiel Mahari had lived on that estate and moved into a new Guinness Trust flat, but the rent on this was more than doubled, increasing from £109 to £256 a week, although some of her neighbours are paying around a weekly rent of £100 less.

Beti has problems paying the new rent and because she works on a zero hours contract here housing benefit claim is constantly being reassessed leading to delays and errors in payment, leaving her in arrears. Guinness are not taking her to court to evict her and her two young sons. Supporters of the ‘Save Beti Campaign’ including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Architects for Social Housing were campaigning outside Brixton Station collecting signatures for a petition to oppose the eviction of Beti and other tenants threatened by estate demolition.

I had time in Brixton to take a little walk around, particularly going to look at the railway arches where many long-standing local businesses are being evicted, though some are still trading.

More at Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness.

25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre – Westminster,

Back in Westminster the Justice for Khojaly Campaign were marching, calling for justice 25 years after the Khojaly Massacre in Azerbaijan where on the night of 25-26 February 1992, Armenian forces brutally killed 613 civilians, including 106 women and 83 children.

The call for an official apology from the Armenian govenment with full reparations and those responsible for this war crime to be brought to justice. The massacre was the larges in the war that folloed the secession of the majority Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region to form the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which ended in 1994 with an uneasy truce.

More at 25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre.

Dubs Now – let the children in – Downing St

My final event of the day was at Downing Street, where Help4Refugee Children was calling on the Government to honour its promise to let unaccompanied Syrian children into the UK after it reneged on its pledge earlier this month.

Theresa May’s high heels tread on a child

When Parliament had passed the Dubs amendment it had been very clear that this should happen and the government’s shameful and heartless decision overturned this, leaving many vulnerable young children forced to continue living in intolerable conditions. Many local councils say that they had made offers to take the children but these have been ignored by government.

Dubs Now – let the children in.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Five years ago on Saturday 23rd September 2017 I photographed a lively march in North London against council plans for a huge giveaway of council housing to developers before rushing down to Brixton in South London where low paid workers at the Ritzy cinema had been on strike for a year.

Haringey against council housing sell-off

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

When Labour came to power in 1997, Tony Blair made his first speech as prime minister in the centre of London’s Aylesbury Estate, declaring that “the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government” and promising that housing would be at the centre of his government’s programme.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

But their policy of estate regeneration has proved a disaster, leading to the demolition of social housing and its replacement by housing for the rich and overseas investors, along with small amounts of highly unaffordable ‘affordable housing’ and a largely token amount of homes at social rents.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

As an article in the Financial Times by Anna Minton in January 2022 pointed out, Labour’s continuing support for Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ and for ‘buy-to-let mortgages’ together with the pegging of housing benefit to market levels encouraged an enormous growth of buy to let properties from previously council flats and houses. In 2019 a Greater London Authority report found that 42 per cent of homes sold under Right to Buy were now privately let, with average rents in London of £1752 in the private sector compared to social rents of £421 a month.

As Minton also points out, under New Labour there were only 7,870 new council homes built during their 13 years in office, a miniscule number compared to Thatcher’s period as Conservative prime ministers when the lowest annual number was 17,710 homes.

Under New Labour the average was 562 per year compared to 41,343 under Thatcher – though numbers dropped steeply during her tenure. Housing Associations have provided some social housing, but have become increasingly more commercial in their operations.

Labour’s housing policies were disastrous and largely continue, with Labour councils in London continuing to collude with developers to demolish council-owned homes. A prime example of this was the proposed ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’, HDV, under which Haringey Council was making a huge transfer of council housing to Australian multinational Lendlease.

The protest in Haringey was a lively one involving many local residents as well as other housing activists from across London. The council’s deal would have led to the destruction of many of the council’s estates over a 15 year period, and led to a revolt at local elections which replaced many of those backing the scheme by more left-wing Labour members supported by Momentum.

Under new management, the council has produced an updated version of its redevelopment plans, although some activists see these as still representing a give-away to developers. But there does seem a greater emphasis on collaboration with the local community over redevelopment schemes and on providing a greater element of social housing.

Local government is still subject to restrictions imposed by national policies, and in particular policies that encourage rising house prices, rents and subsidise private landlords, while still making it hard for councils to build new council properties.

I left the march close to its end at Finsbury Park to catch the tube down to Brixton.

Haringey against council housing sell-off

One year of Ritzy strike – Brixton

Strikers at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton were celebrating a year of strike action with a rally supported by other trade unionists, including the United Voices of the World and the IWGB and other union branches.

The BECTU strikers were demanding the London Living Wage, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay and for managers, supervisors, chefs and technical staff to be properly valued for their work. The also demand that four sacked union reps are reinstated.

BECTU had been in dispute with the Ritzy since 2014, and had called for a boycott of the cinema, which was only finally called off in 2019. The Ritzy is one of a network of cinemas operated by Picturehouse Cinemas Ltd and owned by Cineworld, the world’s second largest cinema chain, based in London and operating in 10 countries including the USA.

The Ritzy was closed for the rally, After a number of speeches there was a surprise with the arrival to cheers of a newly acquired ‘Precarious Workers Mobile’ bright yellow Reliant Robin, equipped with a powerful amplifier and loudspeaker. After more speeches this led the protesters in a slow march around central Brixton.

One year of Ritzy strike