Posts Tagged ‘BEIS’

XR Rebellion – Day 3

Friday, October 9th, 2020

On 9th October 2019 I was with Extinction Rebellion outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Perhaps not surprisingly, this protest organised by Lawyers for XR had a rather different feel to most other XR events. The ‘All Rise for Climate Justice’ event stressed the need for a law against ecocide to protect the planet.

Rather a lot of people, many of them lawyers and including some distinguished name, were crammed into the relatively small area of pavement in front of the courts. This made it a difficult event to cover as it was hard to move around much without being obtrusive.

The event launched the ‘Lawyers Declaration of Rebellion’ and copies of it were handed out rolled up an tied with pink ribbon in the traditional manner used for the bundles of papers taken into court by defence barristers. Pink ribbons are now used to distinguish briefs from private citizens from those from the Crown which are tied with white ribbon.

As the event at the Royal Courts of Justice ended I left quickly and rushed down to Victoria St where Axe Drax were protesting outside the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) calling for an end to the subsidies given to fossil fuels and biomass which produce climate destroying carbon dioxide. They called for the closure of Drax power station which burns wood pellets and coal, pointing out the absurdity of paying them £2 million a day in ‘renewable’ subsidies taken from our electricity bills as thepower station is the greatest single producer of carbon dioxide in the UK.

Usually I would have taken a bus for the journey, but the centre of London was still blocked to traffic and I had to walk – with a little running now and then – covering the mile and a half in 15 minutes. Even so I arrived halfway through the protest, but was pleased to be in time to hear Mayer Hillman, 88 year old Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute and a leading Green campaigner for many years speaking.

After that protest ended I walked around the other sites still occupied by XR. Although police were continuing to force them off some locations, trashing some tents and making more arrests, there was still no traffic in key locations and workshops and other events continued, with protesters still in fine spirits and something of a festival atmosphere. It isn’t every day that you get your beard pulled (gently) by a giant wallaby.

XR were not the only protesters in Trafalgar Square, and I was also able to cover a protest by Bangladeshi students demanding an end to violence on campus in Bangladesh universities after the beating to death of student Abrar Fahad by leaders of the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League, at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology on 7 Oct 2019.

It was another long day for me as I then went on to meet friends at the launch of Paul Trevor’s book Once Upon a Time in Brick Lane‘, before wandering down Brick Lane and taking a few photographs on my way to the tube. It was around 2am before I finished processing and filing my pictures for the day, and I needed to take the next day off to have a rest.

Many more pictures on My London Diary:

Brick Lane Night
Bangladeshi students protest campus violence
Extinction Rebellion Day 3
Biofuel Watch – Axe Drax at BEIS
All Rise For Climate Justice


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

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.


3 Years of BEIS poverty pay

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

The PCS has many low-paid members working in government departments, including the BEIS, or to give it the full and perhaps deliberately unwieldy name, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It was created by Theresa May on 14 July 2016 when she amalgamated the  Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) probably in part as a way of downplaying the government response to climate change. It appears to have become something of a parking place for some of the least able of our politicians, and at the time of its third birthday the minister in charge was Greg Clark, then Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells, since replaced by Andrea Leadsom.

Clark’s picture appears on some of the placards and on the birthday cake which had rather more then 3 candles on it as the picture at the top of the page shows and which many of us present had a piece at the end of the protest.

This was the start of the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry, with cleaners and catering workers coming out on strike to demand the London Living Wage and to be directly employed by the BEIS rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark.

Given this it was perhaps hardly surprising that there were an unusual number of Labour party and trade union speakers at the event, with the PCS president, general secretary and national vice-president joined by the general secretaries of two other unions, a Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as well as several other leading trade unionists, all of whom appear in my pictures on My London Diary.

But the stars of the show were the workers. I was standing in the right place to capture the picture with all the candles on the cake lit, but most of the press photographers were to one side, and some of them decided to get the workers to turn around towards them. Unfortunately while they moved, the wind blew out all the candles before they could be blown out. So the image apparently showing the candles being blown out is a little piece of fake news staged for the press – as my caption for it made clear, as does the absence of any smoke from the candles that had been extinguished some seconds earlier, allowing it to clear.

More at BEIS workers begin indefinite strike.


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

Youth Strike for Climate

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Youth Strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s protests, has injected a remarkable energy into the campaigning against what seems the inevitable climate disaster we are heading towards.

Most of those taking part in the protests on Fridays in London are taking time off from school to do so, sometimes with approval and even encouragement from teachers, but often despite threats and sanctions. Along with them are some students from FE and HE, but it does seem to be school students who are leading these protests.

And while schools may not approve, I think that many of the posters and placards show that the campaign is stimulating a great deal of activity in art departments across the area.

Of course as they say, it is their future which is at stake, their future lives that are at risk, while most politicians and those in charge of financial institutions and businesses in the rich world are likely to die before the worst effects of climate change begin to bite. Schoolkids don’t have a vote and feel that those who do are not thinking about the future of the young, and generally I think they are right.

Of course we are a part of the rich on this planet (despite homelessness and the other avoidable aspects of our increasing inequality); people in parts of the majority world are already in some places dying because of the effects of global heating, while here in the richer countries we are still ruled by smug wealth keeping getting richer with business as usual, and climate deniers who reject the science.

Theirs is a generation already feeling cheated by Brexit (whether we get either the current bad deal or a no deal) and by government cuts and longer term policies that have removed funding from education.

Protests like this one, and those by Extinction Rebellion, do have some effect in raising awareness and combating the lies still too frequent in the media. More people are beginning to think about how their own personal choices – over food, holiday travel and more – effect the environment but there still needs to be far more, not just at the personal level but also a giant cultural shift as well as political actions both here and across the world. We need as some of the posters and placards state, ‘System Change not Climate Change.’

More about the actual protest at Youth Strike for Climate.


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


End rewarding Drax for pollution

Friday, August 9th, 2019

I’ve never felt bad about having a bonfire in the garden. We generate a lot of small branches from various shrubs and trees that have to be regularly cut back, and it’s material that mostly won’t compost. And although we have several large compost bins, we’ve found from experience that they don’t get hot enough to destroy a few really tough and troublesome weeds, So these often get put on the bonfire too, though we could pay for the council to collect them as garden waste.

All this carbon release is of short-term carbon, mostly this year’s carbon, and there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by our gardening.

And of course the bonfire produces carbon dioxide, but firstly it is only a fraction of the carbon dioxide which has been turned into wood and leaf in our garden, with the rest remaining locked in as our bushes and trees grow bushier and taller, or being eaten (and thus released) as fruit and vegetables. More too gets back in to the atmosphere from the green waste that does go into our compost bins.

Of course there are other pollutants from our very occasional garden bonfires, including particulates and doubtless toxic chemicals. But I am fairly sure that the amounts of these are relatively small and will add little to those already in our air here from the nearby roads, motorways and Heathrow.

But burning wood to produce electricity at Drax is a quite different matter. One obvious difference is that of scale: Last year Drax burnt 7.2 million tonnes of wood pellets, equivalent to at least twice that amount of green wood, and more than the UK’s total annual wood production, and released 13.02 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (in addition to another  4.36 million tonnes from coal and other fossil fuels.)

The wood burnt at Drax is ‘old’, having grown over many years, and even with the most sustainable forest planting to replace it will take more than 50 years. The majority of it comes as pellets from the USA, mostly produced from hardwood from the clear-cutting of biodiverse forest ecosystems, and the major producer, Enviva has been subject to heavy criticism both for its destruction of these swamp and wetland forests, and for locating its highly polluting pellet plants in areas of social deprivation already exposed to high levels of industrial pollution.

Drax’s carbon-producing wood burning is only financially viable because it gets huge subsidies. In 2018 these amounted to £789.2 million, This money comes from our energy bills which carry a surcharge, intended for promoting renewable electricity. It should not be used to promote highly polluting and essentially non-renewable wood burning. The subsidies are greater than the company’s annual profits and without them wood-burning would not be viable.

Drax also gets subsidies from the government for burning coal, though on a rather smaller scale, but also impossible to justify. For 2019/20 this is  £22 million, and similar subsidies are expected until 2025. It is also expected to be subsidised for burning gas, and wants to greatly expand its generation from gas.

These huge subsidies to Drax for its contribution to global warming come at at time when our government has slashed subsidies for truly renewable energy production from onshore wind and solar power as well as those for energy efficiency and conservation.

More about the protest outside Drax’s AGM in the City of London, and later outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution in two posts on My London Diary:
Drax wood burning must end
Drax Protest at BEIS


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

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


BEIS outsourcing protest

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

One of many promises made by leading members of the Labour Party is that when they come to power they will put an end to the scandal of out-sourcing, which enables employers to retain the veneer of respectability while having workers engaged on key roles in their workplaces employed on wages and conditions that amount to exploitation.

Probably even Greg Clark MP, the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, would not stoop to employing staff on the wages and minimal conditions of service that catering and other workers at BEIS receive, and with the kind of management practices that outsourcing companies use to make a cut-price bids for contracts.

The workers at BEIS are fortunate to be supported by the PCS BEIS London and South branch; too often the major unions have failed to show much concern for the lowest paid workers, other than over them paying their union fees. Too often they have shown themselves more concerned about pay differentials and prepared to reach agreements with managements that fail to protect the interests of workers on low pay, a situation that has led to the growth of a number of small active grass-roots unions, often attacked by the traditional unions for ‘poaching’ their members as well as for their militancy.

Of course there are a number of branches of major unions who have fought for low paid workers, both their members and also others in their workplaces. At BEIS the PCS have shown how unions should behave to support low paid workers, and have also worked together with grass-roots trade unions at other government workplaces to coordinate actions.

The dispute at BEIS (and another at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) are continuing, and it seems to be one the government are fighting more as a matter of supporting the principle of being free to exploit your workers than a matter of economics. It seems to be also one where ministers are happy to break the law, in May and June agency workers were brought in to cover the work of strikers in contravention of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations of 2003.

The workers have had enough. Tomorrow lunchtime, Monday 15th July catering workers and cleaners “will walkout in the first EVER indefinite strike action in Whitehall. They down tools and say “we’re not coming back til you pay up!”.

More at Living wage at Dept of Business.


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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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


Outsourcing Unfair

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Outsourcing – putting parts of an organisation’s business out to tender to be carried out by other companies is an unfair employment practice, though unfortunately legal in the UK.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

Almost always outsourcing leads to lower standards of service, the job in various ways not being done as well, cutting corners in various ways to cut the costs. It may not even actually reduce the costs of the organisation, but enables them to avoid the legal responsibilities of being an employer, while still having effective control over the hours, pay and conditions of workers.

Cutting costs means paying the workers less and working them harder, cutting conditions of service to the bone, employing extra managers to bully them into doing jobs faster. Often too, cutting safety standards, and failing to provide proper equipment to keep them safe at work.

Chris Williamson MP

Many of the workers who suffer the worst of this are migrant workers, sometimes with a poor knowledge of English and not aware of their rights under our labour laws, and companies employing them have often taken advantage of this. Changes in employment law brought in under the Tories since 2010 have made it more difficult and expensive to take employers to tribunals, and few of the older unions have taken on the task of recruiting and representing low paid workers on any major scale.

Over the past ten years or so, new grass roots worker-led unions have taken up the challenge of representing low-paid workers – many of whom are outsourced – along with a few branches of the major unions, and a few campaigning unions such as the Baker’s union. They have called for all workers to be paid a true living wage – in London the London Living Wage – and for conditions of service – sick pay, holiday pay pensions etc – on a similar basis to those enjoyed by higher paid workers.

Petros and Claudia from United Voices of the World

On Feb 26, coordinated strike action was being taken by outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London, organised together by the two grass roots unions, the United Voices of the World (UVW) and the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) and by the PCS branch from the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

It was also the day of a High Court challenge by the IWGB to extend the legal rights of 3.3 million outsourced workers by bringing the concept of ‘joint-employer’ status, long accepted in the US, to English law. Unfortunately the court, in a decision announced later, rejected the union’s case, though the fight continues, and the Labour Party have promised to put an end to the unfair employment practice of outsourcing when in government.

The day had started early for the protesters, with a picket at the University of London and a protest outside the court. I met with them after they had marched on to Parliament Square and then continued to protests at BEIS and the Ministry of Justice.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing
Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS
Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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

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