Posts Tagged ‘cleaners’

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention – 2015

Saturday, June 15th, 2024

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention: 15th June is Magna Carta day and Monday 15th June 2015 marked 800 years since King John was forced by the barons to sign the great charter at Runnymede. Most years the date is mainly marked by a local fair on the closest Saturday in Egham High Street the nearest town to Runnymede, but in 2015 there were various more national celebrations.

Unless you were a king, archhishop or baron in 1215, Magna Carta was of little relevance to you. Contrary to popular opinion it gave no rights or protection to the common people and, as Wikipedia tells us had little immediate effect in any case, as “Neither side stood by their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons’ War.”

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention

Back in June 2012 I had sat around in a circle with the Diggers, then camped at Runnymede, on the grass next to the US Bar Association’s Magna Carta Memorial, where we had listened to a history lecturer from nearby Royal Holloway University about the charter and the lesser-known but more relevant to the common man ‘Charter of the Forest’ which came shortly after. It was at this meeting that plans were made to celebrate the event in 2015 with a people’s free festival in the woods on the hillside above Runnymede.

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention

Unfortunately the establishment thought otherwise and in a clear case of ignoring the rights supposedly granted to us in Magna Carta, police swooped on the eco-village where the festival was being prepared three days before, suppressing the event in an unfair, arbitrary and almost certainly illegal manner.

So while I might otherwise have been enjoying myself at the free festival, instead I travelled up to London to photograph several events there mainly connected with Magna Carta Day.

Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention

I began outside the Royal Courts of Justice where the Campaign for Truth & Justice was accusing the judiciary of unlawful convictions, false imprisonment, denial of access to court & perverting the course of justice over child abuse, forced adoption and paedophilia.

Magna Carta, Cleaners & Detention

Above their heads was a banner with its message superimposed on a St George’s flag citing Magna Carta. Some of those taking part had been victims of child abuse, while others claimed to have been treated badly in the family courts where gagging orders had been used to prevent them from talking about their cases or seeking any redress. And we have certainly seen many cases of miscarriages of justice – including the convictions of the Guildford Four (1974), The Birmingham Six (1975), The Maguire Seven (1976) and Judith Ward (1974) as well as many others which have received less publicity.

But as the trial and conviction of Carl Beech for perverting the course of justice and fraud in 2019 made clear, many of the allegations over paedophilia against public figures have been unfounded.

Voice for Justice UK Magna Carta Protest

From there I went to Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament, where the right-wing Christians For Justice UK were holding a Magna Carta Day rally against the increasing human rights legislation which right-wing Christians feel maginalises and prevent them expressing their faith.

I reported that I listened to “ two speeches which appalled me, and appeared to have no connection with my idea of freedom, reminding of various short-lived ultra-right political groups such as the Freedom Party, formed in 2000 by ex-BNP members” and concluded “that this was a rally that was protesting the freedom to be a bigot rather than any real idea of religious or other freedom.”

Cleaners International Justice Day

But the day was not simply about Magna Carta. The protest by the PSC trade union outside HM Revenue and Customs in Whitehall was one of protests in over 50 countries on the 25th International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards.

This remembers the day in 1990 when Los Angeles janitors were brutally beaten up by the police during a peaceful demonstration against their contractor trying to get union recognition and better rights. Since 1990 this day has become international, spreading to over 50 countries and with protests -some very small like this – now taking place in over 70 cities around the world.

Close Yarls Wood, End Detention!

This was also the International week against detention centres, calling for the closure of all immigration detention centres with protests taking place in eleven cities in the UK, USA, Belgium, Greece and Spain.

The London protest was led by the All African Women’s Group who held a rally in Parliament Square before marching to Downing Street with a report on rape and sexual abuse in Yarl’s Wood.

Among the speakers was whistleblower Noel Finn, a former mental health nurse at Yarl’s Wood who revealed publicly details of the abuse of women there after his complaints through the proper channels at the detention prison were not acted on. A number of members of the All African Women’s Group spoke about their own experiences when held in the detention prison. Others who came to speak in support included MPs Dianne Abbott, Kate Osamor, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell as well as Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice, Peter Tatchell and Selma James.

The protest demonstrated in several respects the increasing limitations on our freedom to protest. Protests are now prohibited on the main grass area of the square and they had to hold the rally on the narrow pavement area, inevitably spilling over onto the roadway because of the large number of people present.

After the rally had been taking place for around 20 minutes a police officer came to try and stop them using a public address system, now illegal in the square without authorisation from the Greater London Authority or Westminster Council. They argued and refused to stop, and with several MPs waiting to speak the officer finally left.

And when the protesters tried to had in a letter at Downing Street it was initially refused. Apparently you now need to give a week’s notice to hand in a letter. After some discussion a police officer agreed to take the report and ensure it was delivered to No 10. I don’t know whether it did eventually get there.

Close Yarls Wood, End Detention!
Cleaners International Justice Day
Voice for Justice UK Magna Carta Protest
Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – 2008

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – Back in 2008 I had rather more stamina than now and my day on Thursday 15 May 2008 included three protests and a walk around the outskirts of the closed Olympic site, ending with attending an exhibition opening in Brixton.


International Conscientious Objector’s Day – Tavistock Square

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

I’ve just checked on a web site which events are marked on 15th May, and although it lists nine, including National Nylon Stocking Day, it fails to mention the most important of all, that this is Nabka Day remembering the Palestinian Catastrophe, the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, belongings and homes following the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Long commemorated by supporters of Palestian rights, the commemoration of the 75th anniversary in 2023 was recognised by a UN General Assembly resolution. Today many are marking this around the world with events in many UK workplaces and Saturday 18th May there is a national march in London for Nabka 76 calling for and ent to the genocide in Gaza and for the UK to stop arming Israel.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Less well known (and also not mentioned on that web site), May 15th is International Conscientious Objector’s Day, first observed in 1982 as a European day and in 1985 adopted by War Resisters’ International. In London today (15 May 2024) there will be a ceremony in Tavistock Square as there was in 2008, though starting an hour later at 1pm.

In 1987 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recognised “the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right of freedom, thought, and religion“. However in many countries around the world this right is still denied.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Tavistock Square has a number of memorials including at the centre of the garden a statue of Mahatma Ghandi given to the city of London in 1967 by the Indian High Commissioner, and a cherry tree planted by the then mayor of Camden Millie Miller in 1967 to commemorate the victims of the Hiroshima bombing, as well as a memorial to the holocaust. On the railings of the square is a memorial plaque to those killed in the bus destroyed in the square by the London suicide bombing of 7 July, 2005.

At the north end of the garden, close to the cherry tree, is a large grey rough-hewn boulder of Cumbrian slate was unveiled in 1994 as a memorial to conscientious objectors by composer Sir Michael Tippett, himself a conscientious objector, and people gathered on the grass in front of this.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

After speeches and songs Bill Hetherington of the Peace Pledge Union read out the names and gave brief details of individual COs, past and present, from over 80 countries around the world, as a small representation of those who, as the words engraved on the memorial read, “…have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill.

As the names were read, those taking part brought up white carnations – a symbol of the peace movement – and laid them on the stone. Each had on it a label with the country and name of a CO. The inscription on the stone continues: “Their foresight and courage give us hope.”

On My London Diary at International Conscientious Objectors’ Day you can read more about the speakers and the event.


Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site

I had time before the next protest to go to Stratford and make my way around the southern edge of the Olympic site, now surrounded by a tall blue fence.

I went as far as the Lea Navigation where I photographed the notice closing the entrance to the Bow Back River channels which run through the site to navigation.

From the Greenway I could see huge piles of earth which are having to be processed because of their contamination from years of industrial production on the site. The site area was more or less unrecognisable although the City Mill River still flowed through it. It was a dismal day, with light rain or drizzle and everything looked bleak.

More pictures Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site.


Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON

Justice for Cleaners brought together London’s largely migrant cleaners in a campaign for a living wage, sick pay, holidays, trade union rights and respect and was backed by major unions including Unite (and the TGWU which had then recently merged with Amicus to form Unite.)

On May 15th 2008 they had planned a protest outside the RBS offices in Bishopsgate, where cleaners were employed by Pall Mall, but negotiations had led to some success and the demonstration had been switched to AON in Devonshire Square, EC2, a short walk away.

AON, based in Chicago, is one of the world’s leading companies in insurance, with a first quarter net income for 2008 recently announced as $218 million. The cleaners at its City of London offices take home less than it takes to live on in London.

Their offices are on private property where I’d previously been prevented from taking pictures by security officers, and the protest took place in front of the gates on the street.

Noisy public protests such as these are effective because they draw attention to the shameful way these workers are treated even though they work to clean the offices of prestigious companies – which is why the Tories brought in highly restrictive laws in an attempt to stop them.

Watching them through the gates were a number of security men as well as City of London police. Workers in Devonshire Square were walking post the protesters and those inside the offices will have been able to hear the protest which took place with a lot of whistle blowing, shouting and a powerful megaphone used to express the cleaners’ demands.

Although Unite were supporting the cleaners here, migrant workers in London soon largely lost confidence in them and other major unions, who they felt were at times making deals with management that were not truly reflecting their interests, particularly in some workplaces where they seemed to be more interested in preserving wage differentials than getting good deals for the poorest workers. The cleaners – and many other low paid workers – are now largely represented by grass roots unions such as United Voices of the World.

Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON


Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation – US Embassy

Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation protested at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square calling for an end of actions against the Iraqi people and the withdrawal of US forces.

They handed in a letter condemning the continuing US occupation which had caused an “unimaginable level of death and destruction to the people and country in the past five years” and noting the similarity between US actions and the Israeli repression of Palestinians, with the building of concrete walls to divide Baghdad into what Pentagon sources have described as “30 killing zones“.

Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation


Photofusion opening – Changing Spaces

On my way home I took a few pictures of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair before going to Brixton to view the opening of the ‘Changing Places‘ show.

This picture wasn’t posed – I just walked up to look at the photograph by Simon Rowe and saw the young woman standing there with her head at a very similar angle. You can see a few more picture from the opening on My London Diary.


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UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis – 2016

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis – Saturday 16th April 2016 was a busy day for me in London with a large march and rally by the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity demanding an end to privatisation of the NHS, secure homes for all, rent control and an end to attacks on social housing, an end to insecure jobs and the scrapping of the Trade Union Bill, tuition fees and the marketisation of education and smaller protests against repression in Iran and Palestine, all of which you can read about on My London Diary.

March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
Palestine Prisoners Parade

UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis

After all that I went with the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World on their protest against Topshop, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers there suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 for Topshop cleaners. All of the pictures in this post come from the UVW protests at first outside Topshop on the Strand, and then at the Topshop at Oxford Circus.

UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis

On Strand the shop was protected by security but soon a large group of police arrived and tried to move the protesters away from the store. The protesters refused to move and police began pushing them around roughly, but soon stopped, perhaps because they were being photographed and filmed by a large group of press who like me had been at the Peoples Assembly rally.

UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis

Police pulled one protester to the side and started to ask questions and a large crowd formed around him; the man refused to answer police questions and eventually the officer concerned gave up.

UVW Protest Topshop & John Lewis

There was a short rally on the pavement outside and Susanna, one of the two cleaners victimised by Britannia and Topshop spoke briefly but soon broke down in tears. After a couple of minutes she started again and was loudly applauded.

The protesters then marched off and I met them again on Oxford Street outside the flagship Topshop store close to Oxford Circus.

A squad of police rushed to stand in line to guard the main door on Oxford Street and pushed the protesters away. After a short while the UVW protesters marched around the block to other entrances, where police moved inside the store to meet them.

The UVW moved back to Oxford Street to continue the protest outside the main entrance, again blocked by police. Class War who were supporting the UVW moved their banner up to the police line and there was a standoff as the two groups eyed each other from a couple of feet away.

Class War then produced some yellow ‘Crime Scene’ tape and stretched it across in front of the police line, which left some officers looking rather perplexed.

The protesters then marched off towards John Lewis, where the UVW has long been The protesters then marched off towards John Lewis, where the UVW has long been holding protests calling for the cleaners to be treated equally with other workers in the store.

They walked towards the doors, but police pushed them back forcefully knocking one woman flying. Others rushed to help her, and UVW General Secretary Petros Elia protested angrily at the officer who had pushed her.

Eventually a senior officer came to see what had happened and listened to the complaint. To my surprise he then asked the officer to apologise for using excessive force – something I’ve never known to happen at a protest before.

There were a few speeches to explain to the shoppers walking by why the protest was taking place. Clearly many who listened felt that the cleaners were being shabbily treated by companies like Topshop and John Lewis who use outsourcing to get work done on the cheap with conditions that are greatly inferior to their directly employed workers.

The UVW left to return to continue their protest at Topshop, but I left them at Oxford Circus to take the tube – I was already late for dinner.

More on My London Diary:
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand


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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.


Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis – 2014

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023

Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis – on Saturday 13th December 29014 a Santa led protests in Brixton for a living wage for shop workers, Class War protested against property developers wanted to evict tenants on a Hackney estate so they can refurbish and let them at high private rents, and a cleaners union protested inside John Lewis on Oxford street for a living wage and better treatment for cleaners working there.


‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage – Brixton

Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis

Lambeth Living Wage campaigners, led by an impressive Santa, protested in and outside shops in the centre of Brixton, handing out fliers calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They urged shop workers to join a union and gave out forms.

Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis

The protest was supported by Unite the Resistance, the Socialist Party and Unison (who provided the Santa costume) and also the Fast Food Rights Hungry for Justice campaign supported by the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union, BFWAWU, the National Shop Stewards Network and other groups.

Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis

The small group went into a number of shops and used a megaphone to tell shoppers and workers why they were protesting and handed on union membership forms to the workers there. At some stores they were stopped as they tried to enter and instead protested outside, and where they were able to walk in they left when requested.

I met them at the first shop they protested at, Morleys Stores and went along with them to Subway and Poundland before I had to leave for another protest. They continued visiting more shops for a couple of hours.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’ – Berkeley Sq

Living Wage, New Era & John Lewis

Supporters of Class War protested at the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners in solidarity with the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate. Westbrook see the estate simply as an opportunity to make large profits and intend to evict the existing tenants of these low rent social properties by Christmas so they can then refurbish them and then re-let them at market rents, around four times as much as the threatened tenants were paying.

This was a smaller protest than either the organisers or police had anticipated. It hadn’t been well publicised and illness and some disputes between supporters of Class War had reduced the numbers attending, though a few of the New Era residents had also come to protest.

Class War arrived with two banners and some placards and a Christmas Card for Westbrook Partners with some far from seasonal greetings. Rather to my surprise, a representative from Westbrook was present to meet the protesters and receive the card.

Protests by the New Era residents had earlier attracted considerable media attention, particularly after a video by Russell Brand went viral. A few days after this protest Westbook who were also under pressure from Hackney Council sold the estate to the Dolphin Square Foundation, a charity which provides secure social accommodation, and the threat of evictions was lifted.

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis – Osford Street

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and customers protested inside John Lewis’s Oxford St store, calling for the London Living Wage for cleaners there and an end to their treatment as second-class citizens. Many of the Christmas shoppers inside the store applauded their noisy protest.

I met with the IWGB an hour before the protest and they told me they planned to protest inside the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford Street which would be full of Christmas shoppers and told me when I could meet them at the restaurant on the 5th floor.

I arrived to find them unpacking their banners and placards and a PA system, with John Lewis staff watching them and asking them not to get in the way of people taking their food to the tables, so they cleared the way.

The protest began with a speech by IWGB organiser Alberto Durango to let those in the restaurant know why they were protesting and then the group moved off, stopping at A suitable point to share the message that John Lewis does not employ the cleaners, but uses a cleaning contractor. This means the cleaners get low pay, poorer conditions; they want to be paid a living wage and to be treated like the others who work in the store.

Along with the cleaners were a group of John Lewis Customers who met and marched with them with placards ‘JOHN LEWIS YOUR CUSTOMERS SAY PAY YOUR CLEANERS THE LIVING WAGE’.

It was a noisy protest and attracted the attention of many shoppers at various levels of the store as they protesters slowly made their way down floor by floor, stopping on the balcony at each level.

By the time they reached the third floor, John Lewis managers were asking the protesters to stop and leave the store. The continued on their way down, protesting loudly as they did so. A few police arrived and began to go down with them.

When they reached the ground floor there was confusion with police and John Lewis security staff, some trying to stop the protesters leaving and others pushing them out and the protest continuing. I got pushed in all directions and my pictures here were largely blurred. Eventually together with most of the protesters I got outside and the protest continued there.

We get news that some people have been arrested inside the store. Outside one police officer tries to stop the protest by grabbing the amplifier, but people hold on to it and others shout and film
him. He manages to pull out the leads, but then steps back, and the protest continues. Police rush out carrying one protester who has been arrested but is still shouting for cleaners to get a living wage and put him into the back of a police van.

Police won’t give any details of the arrests. Some of the IWGB went to wait outside the police station where people were arrested, waiting there until they were released in the early morning. I don’t think any were actually charged perhaps because mobile phone footage from inside the store shared on the web showed them being assaulted by police while trying to leave.

Many more pictures at Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis.


Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail – 2016

Saturday, November 18th, 2023

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail – On Friday 18th November 2016 I went with members of the Independent Workers Union CAIWU to protests at three companies over their treatment of cleaners before a protest over the abduction by Israel, torture amd imprisonment of a British national father of five.


Cleaners In Lloyds Against Racist Sacking

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

CAIWU, the Cleaners & Allied Independent Workers Union is an independent grass roots workers union helping to improve the lives of cleaners across the UK. Many of the workers who clean the offices of London’s many prestigious offices are employed by cleaning companies who pay minimum wage and treat their workers abdominally with bullying and arbitrary management and lousy conditions of service, often failing to provide safe working conditions.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

Respectable and prestigious companies who would never employ people on such terms nevertheless contract out their cleaning to companies who do so on their behalf. Many cleaners who tried joining our major unions found that these were more concerned with taking their union dues than fighting for their rights and set up several grass roots unions to represent them more actively in the workplace.

CAIWU is one of these and has had considerable success in getting workers a living wage and improving their conditions, as well as defending them against discrimination.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail

Following the sacking of two members who cleaned Lloyd’s but were employed by Principle Cleaning Services, a company which Lloyd’s outsources its cleaning to, members of CAIWU went with posters, vuvuzelas and a powerful megaphone to protest noisily inside the foyer of the Lloyd’s building at lunchtime.

Cleaners protests, UK father in Israeli Jail
The security officer who was pushing Alberto suddenly dives to the floor, pretending he has been hit

Two black workers were disciplined and dismissed from the site by Principle Cleaning Services following a window cleaning accident. CAIWU say that white workers involved in a similar accident were left off without even a warning and that this is a clear case of racist discrimination. They also say that another African worker, a CAIWU member, was also recently dismissed for trivial reasons because of his trade union activities.

After a brief protest inside the building in which a security guard began to assault some of them and then dived to the floor claiming falsely he had been hit they left and continued their noisy protest outside.

More at Cleaners in Lloyds against racist sacking


Cleaners at Mace protest Dall nepotism

Next the CAIWU group made its way to Mace in Moorgate, where they again rushed into the lobby for a protest against the cleaning contractor there, Dall Cleaning Services.

Here they complained about nepotism with a cleaning supervisor roster made up of five members of the same family. The also say that after Dall had promised cleaners the London Living Wage they promptly reduced the working conditions and also dismissed two cleaners without notice or proper procedures. They had come to demand the reinstatement of the two workers dismissed and also proper conditions of service and working conditions.

Again after a brief protest inside the lobby they left and continued the protest outside for a few minutes before catching a bus to Holborn.

More at Cleaners at Mace protest Dall nepotism.


Cleaners at Claranet for Living Wage – Holborn

Again at Claranet’s offices CAIWU briefly occupied the lobby for a brief protest leaving when security began pushing them around to continue their protest on the pavement outside.

The cleaners here are employed by NJC under a contract by Claranet, and both NJC and Claranet have ignored the union’s attempts to negotiate for the London Living Wage and have confirmed they have no intention of considering to pay this.

The union has called on Claranet which claims to be an ethical company to insist the cleaners are paid the London Living wage now.

More at Cleaners at Claranet for Living Wage.


Release British father from Israeli Jail – G4S HQ, Westminster

Protesters pose for a selfie with Laila Sharary, wife of the British father held by the Israeli military

Human rights group Inminds were protesting outside the headquarters of British security company G4S over the abduction by Israel and subsequent torture of British national and father of five, Fayez Sharary.

The protest took place at G4S because the company trains Israel’s police forces and was at the time responsible for the security of Israel’s prison. Protests like this and pressure by the BDS movement led to G4S ending its contracts with the prisons in December 2016 and in June 2023 the world’s largest private security company Allied Universal, which owns G4S, announce it was selling all its remaining business in apartheid Israel.

An image projected on the neighbouring building shows Fayez Sharary with his daughter

Sharary had gone to the West Bank for a family visit and was arrested by Israeli forces when leaving on 15th September and tortured for 3 weeks by Israeli secret police Shin Bet to force a confession.

Laila Sharary and their 3 year old daughter were also arrested but released after 5 hours

At a military trail an Israeli judge declared this confession worthless and pointed out that several of the charges against him were for activities which were not illegal, ordering his release. But he was instead held in a G4S secured prison and a few days later the military returned him to court and got the judge’s order set aside.

Torture is not a crime in Israel and the insist the UN Conventions Against Torture which they have signed do not apply to Palestinians. The UN treatment centre for victims of torture in the occupied Palestine territories treated 845 Palestinians in 2014, including 317 women and 135 children.

Laila Shahary reads out a statement

Sharary is a British citizen who has lived in this country for over 23 years but he has received no support from the British Embassy and had no legal support at either of his military trials.

More at Release British father from Israeli Jail.


Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Friday, July 14th, 2023

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis: Four protests on what started out as a very wet day in London on Saturday 14th July 2012.


Tenants Protest Letting Agents Scam – Drivers & Norris, Holloway Rd

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

My working day began on the pavement outside letting agents Drivers & Norris on Holloway Road, condemning them for having taken over £300 from home seekers and providing nothing return but refusing to return the payment.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Some of the members of the Harringey Private Tenants Action Group taking part in the protest had paid upfront fees of £300 in cash to secure new flats, but the company had failed to provide them with any offers of accommodation but had refused to return the fee.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Drivers & Norris and other companies say that the cost is to cover the reference checks that they have to make, but these cost them around £19. The fees are simply a scam to increase the company profits at the expense of poor and vulnerable people in need of housing.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Police arrived and attempted to get the protesters to stop, suggesting it might distract drivers on the busy main road and cause an accident. It seemed simply another attempt by the police to suppress the right to lawful protest and to take the side of the wealthy against the poor. The protesters of course refused to stop and the officers went in to drink tea with the estate agents leaving the small peaceful protest to continue.

My comment back in 2012 “Agents have profited greatly from the lack of affordable housing in the London area, with property prices well above anything that anyone on an average wage can afford. Coupled with a systematic attack by successive governments on the security of private tenants and on the provision of social housing over more than 30 years this has resulted in a dire shortage of housing for ordinary people in London and the south-east. Even where housing developments are taking place in London, the properties are often many bought by overseas investors interested in high profits in an overheated housing market.” Things since then have got worse.

More at Tenants Protest Letting Agents Scam.


PETA ‘Spare the Bears’ March – Marble Arch

From Holloway Road I rushed down to Marble Arch on the Underground to meet the PETA march as it arrived there from its start close to Waterloo. I’d gone there before going to Haringey, but hadn’t found anything I thought worth photographing in the steady rain, so had gone away to return to the march later.

PETA was demanding an end to killing of bears for the Queen’s Guards’ ceremonial headwear. It takes the skin of a whole black bear to make a busby, and they are cruelly hunted. They say some bears escape after being shot several times and bleed to death and that in “some Canadian provinces, there are no restrictions on the shooting of mothers who have nursing cubs, leading to the slaughter of entire families during hunts.”

The MoD still takes 100 bear skins a year from Canadian hunters and justifies its refusal to move to using synthetic materials by saying “one has come remotely close to matching the natural properties of bear fur in terms of shape, weight and its ability to repel moisture in wet conditions.” Perhaps we should just stop dressing parts of our army as toy soldiers.

More pictures PETA ‘Spare the Bears’ March.


Solidarity with the Bahraini prisoners – Bahraini embassy, Belgrave Square

A short bus ride and walk took me to the Bahraini embassy where protesters were gathering to call for the release of prisoners in Bahrain, to condemn the killing of Mohammad Rahdi Mahfoodh and attacks on his funeral, and for an end to the puppet regime of the Bedouin Al Khalifa tribe.

I arrived as the protest was beginning and some of the protesters and speakers including Jeremy Corbyn had arrived.

But unfortunately I had to leave for the cleaners’ protest in Oxford St before things really got going and before the main speeches from Corbyn and others.

Solidarity with the Bahraini prisoners


John Lewis cleaners step up protest – Oxford St

At the protest during Friday’s strike

I had been at the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford Street the previous day when their cleaners were taking a day of strike action, with a rally and a brief invasion of the store, the first strike at John Lewis since it became the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) following a strike in 1920.

The cleaners have been in dispute with the JLP for some years, campaigning for their service to the company to be recognised and to be treated like the other workers there who are ‘partners’ and benefit from an annual bonus from the company profits. They also are demanding to be paid the London Living Wage. Rather then directly employ its cleaning staff JLP has outsourced them to Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM).

A woman stops to photograph the protest

The strike was precipitated when ICM announced there would be a 50% cut in jobs and hours to clean the store, and refused to pay the living wage. ICM also refuse to recognise the IWW, officially recognised as a trade union in the UK in 2006, for collective bargaining, although almost all the cleaners are now members.

ICM is part of the Compass Group, and the IWW point out this had pre-tax profits of £581 million in the last year and paid its chairman Sir Roy Gardner £477,000 pa. They also say that Gardner is a major donor to Conservative Party funds, and gave £50,000 to Cameron’s election campaign.

Today police had arrived in advance of the protest and were stationed in small groups at each of the shop entrances. Behind those at the main entrance watching the rally cleaners pointed out to me one of the JLP management who scurried away as soon as he saw my camera pointing in his direction – but not before I had photographed him.

Despite talks that have dragged on for some years, John Lewis still refuses to accept that it should treat its cleaners with the same decency as its other workers, hiding behind the fact that they are not the actual employers although the cleaners work in their store and are essential to its running.

The cleaners were employed by ICM on the legal minimum wage, more than two pounds an hour below the London Living Wage, a figure representing the minimum needed to live in London. This is calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation, overseen by the Living Wage Commission and was in 2012 backed by both London Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The rally on the pavement in front of the shop was peaceful but lively and noisy and received a great deal of support from shoppers passing by on the busy street including John Lewis customers. The cleaners were to strike again the following Friday with further protests outside the store then and on every Saturday afternoon.

Friday protest Cleaners Strike at John Lewis
Saturday protest John Lewis cleaners step up protest


Royal College of Music, Al Quds 2015

Monday, July 10th, 2023

Royal College of Music, Al Quds: I photographed two unrelated protests on Friday 10th July 2015. The first was calling for decent pay and conditions for outsourced workers and the second was the annual Al Quds day march.


IWGB protest at Royal College of Music – Kensington

Royal College of Music, Al Quds

Outsourced cleaners and other low paid workers at the Royal College of Music immediately south of the Albert Hall in South Kensington belonging to the IWGB were protesting to get similar conditions of sick pay, holidays and pension to workers employed directly by the RCM.

Royal College of Music, Al Quds

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain is a registered trade union which organises cleaners, porters, hospitality workers, domestic workers and other precarious workers in a number of sectors. It is a grass-roots union run by and representing mainly low paid migrant workers in London and has proved effective in getting better pay and conditions for these groups of workers who have largely been neglected by the larger traditional unions, who have often seemed more concerned with preserving differentials in pay than in improving the lot of the lowest paid.

Royal College of Music, Al Quds

The IWGB had called for talks with the RCM management and their employers to discuss their claims, offering to call off the protests if they agreed to this. But the employers had refused to recognise the IWGB or to hold talks with them.

Royal College of Music, Al Quds

So the IWGB and supporters came and held a noisy protest outside the College entrance, handing out leaflets about why they were protesting to those entering the College for a graduation ceremony. RCM security tried to move them further away where the protest would probably not have been heard inside, but they refused to move, while taking care not to impede those entering or leaving the college.

One woman came out to argue with the protesters, telling them to go away and eventually lost her temper and kicked one of them. The RCM’s head of security quickly led her away. The protest was continuing when I left for my next event.

IWGB protest at Royal College of Music


Al Quds Day march – Portland Place to US Embassy

The annual Al Quds Day march on the last Friday of Ramadan, organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission gathered close to BBC Broadcasting House, marching from there to a rally at the US Embassy, calling for justice and freedom for Palestine.

As I’ve written in previous posts, he celebration of Al Quds Day on the last Friday of Ramadan was introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran 1979 and spread from there to other countries. The march in London is organised by the IHRC which has received some support from the Iranian regime.

As usual, most of the banners and placards and the chanting on the march were calling for freedom for Palestine, and there were many placards against Israeli violence in Gaza and the West Bank, and calling for a boycott of Israel, a movement which seems to be growing in strength.

This year I saw few celebrating Khomeini and fewer Hezbollah flags and badges than in some previous years. As usual the Neturei Karta were prominent with their anti-Zionist placards stating that ‘Authentic Jewry Always Opposed Zionism And the State of “Israel”‘, but I found no evidence for anti-Semitism, which opponents of the march always charge it with.

Perhaps because the march was on a Friday there were fewer Zionists protesting against the march, and I only saw one man who was protected by march stewards and then led away by police. I imagine there would have been more waiting to protest against the march when it reached the US Embassy, but I left before then.

Al Quds Day march


Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest – 2015

Saturday, July 1st, 2023

Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest: Art is big business, and Sotheby’s is arguably the biggest name in that business. Like all businesses they rely on the services of cleaners, porters and other low paid workers to keep the business running smoothly. But back in 2015 they decided they didn’t want to pay them a proper wage and give them decent conditions of service.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

While the protest by the United Voices of the World trade union members and friends was taking place, wealthy art investors were attending and making their bids at a a Contemporary Art Evening Auction including works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. Sotheby’s later announced that the evening “realised £130.4m ($204.7m / €183.9m), Sotheby’s highest-ever total for a sale of Contemporary Art in Europe. Warhol’s only hand-painted one-dollar bill painting sold for £20.9 million, the highest price for any work sold in London this week.”

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

Many wealthy people and institutions which spend lavishly on themselves and their business seem to begrudge paying the low paid workers they depend on a living wage. Perhaps that’s how these people got wealthy in the first place, screwing the peasants and workers.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World   - Ian Bone of Class War

The cleaners at Sotheby’s are not directly employed but are outsourced – so Sotheby’s were able to deny responsibility for the way they were treated. Earlier representations and threats of protests by the workers had resulted in them being promised by their then employers a settlement including the reinstatement of suspended trade union members, contractual sick pay, the backdated payment of the London Living Wage and an end to the use of toxic cleaning products.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

But after this agreement was reached with contractor CCML, Sotheby’s fired the company and brought in new contractors, Servest, who refused to honour the agreement, instead sending a letter to all the workers threatening with sacking if they protested. They also began unfair unfair disciplinary action against one of the union reps, while refusing to investigate his report of threats of violence made to workers by their managers.

The day after this protest four cleaners reporting for work were stopped and told they were not allowed to enter because they had been at this protest. The United Voices of the World union continued their actions in support with further protests and they were supported in parliament by an Early Day Motion and sponsored by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.

Eventually there was victory for the UVW, and in early 2016 they were able to report that “ALL outsourced workers at Sotheby’s, including cleaners, caterers, porters and security guards would receive both the London Living Wage and contractual (much improved) sick pay.” There is more information on their web site including a video and photographs and links to other news items on the campaign.

The protest was much enlivened as you can see in some of the pictures by the support of other groups, notably Class War, and you can read an account of this protest on My London Diary (link below) with more comments in the picture captions.

It’s interesting to see the very different attitudes of the police towards the protesters and Sotheby’s staff in the pictures. Eventually after urging from Sotheby’s police brough in reinforcements and tried to clear the protesters well away from the auction entrance, although the protesters had made no attempt to impede those entering, simply offering them fliers about the dispute.

Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest

‘3 Cosas’ – Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions

Monday, April 10th, 2023

‘3 Cosas’ – Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions – Senate House, London

'3 Cosas' - Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions

Ten years ago today, on Wednesday 10th April 2013, I was with cleaners and other outsourced workers at the University of London for a noisy protest at Senate House calling for equal sick pay, holidays and pensions with equivalent workers employed directly by the University – the 3 causes in their continuing ‘3 Cosas Campaign.’

'3 Cosas' - Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions

Companies that want to maintain a respectable facade use outsourcing as a way to get workers on the cheap, using contractors to employ them under conditions of service that no respectable employer would use.

'3 Cosas' - Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions

Outsourced workers are generally only entitled to the minimum Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), with no payment for the first three days out of work, after which they get the state provision – in 2013 of £85.85 per week in London.

Those who are on the university payroll get considerable extra benefits on top of the SSP, depending on their length of service. A worker who has been in the job for more than five years is eligible for full pay for the first six months of absence, and then a further six months on half pay plus SSP (so long as this total does not exceed their normal pay.) The university can at its discretion increase the period of sick pay in exceptional cases.

Natalie Bennett, then leader of the Green Party, supports the campaign

Holiday entitlement for outsourced works is also usually the statutory minimum of 28 days paid holiday (including bank holidays) but some of the caterers are on ‘zero hour contracts’ which means they get no holiday pay at all. In 2012 when many halls of residence were in use for the Olympics many outsourced staff were prevented from taking any holidays over the summer period.

Those directly employed by the university get an extra 5 to 10 days paid leave, as well as up to six more ‘school closure days, The 3 Cosas campaign wants similar treatment for all workers as well as more flexibilityover when they can take holidays. Many of the outsourced workers have families in South America or Africa, and given the high travel costs in visiting them would like to be able to take longer than two week breaks.

Companies who employ the outsourced workers generally also have far poorer management staff (often also underpaid) who bully staff and often impose quite impossible workloads so that the job is done much less well than it should be. Staff turnover is also often high. We’ve clearly seen the results of this elsewhere in hospitals where outsourcing of cleaning has contributed greatly to the spread of hospital-acquired infections.

Putting services such as cleaning out to contract may immediately cut costs, but doesn’t necessarily mean real long-term savings for organisations. Often it leads to necessary work not getting done which leads to greater costs in the long term, and it always results in lower standards of service. Any savings that are made are at the cost of the low-paid workers; outsourcing should be a badge of shame for any respectable company – and should be made illegal, along with zero hours contracts.

On My London Diary I give a clear description of the protest lead by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the union which now represents many of the outsourced workers at the university, so I’ll not go through the details again here. But although the IWGB has a majority in many if not most workplaces the University and the outsourced employers refuse to recognise them, and the campaign is also about union recognition.

You can also see many more pictures at ‘3 Cosas’ -Sick Pay, Holidays & Pensions.