Posts Tagged ‘cleaners’

3 Cosas – 28 Jan 2014

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

It was the second day of the 3 day strike by the IWGB for union recognition and better conditions for outsourced workers at the University of London, and the union had hired an open-top bus to take their campaigners around London to protest.

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign was calling for Sick Pay, Holdidays and Pensions for the workers, who were only getting the minimal statutory provisions from the cost-cutting contracting companies who employed them. They worked alongside people who were employed directly by the University who enjoyed considerably better conditions of service.

Although the majority of the workers were members of the IWGB, the University and the contractors refuse to talk with this union. The University management instead recognises a union that has few if any members, using this as an excuse not to recognise the union the workers belong to.

After a lengthy tour of London, stopping at some of the workplaces and elsewhere for speeches from the top of the bus, we came to Parliament Square, where there was a short rally and MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham came to show their support.

I’ve written about the day at some length on My London Diary so I won’t go into much detail and repeat myself here. There are of course many more pictures, rather too many, as I got a little carried away and there was so much to photograph.

While the idea through the morning had been to draw as much attention to the strike and protest noisily, the next event was a suprise protest at another location where the IWGB were campaigning for union recognition and a living wage, the Royal Opera House. The bus stopped a short distance away and then members rushed into the foyer to hold a noisy protest there.

We then left and went for a final protest outside the offices of the contractor who employ many of the workers at the University, Cofely GDF-Suez. There the gates were locked and the protest took place on the street outside.

More pictures and text from the day:
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus
IWGB at Parliament
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez


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.


Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

One of the reasons why the UK has suffered so badly from the corona virus has been outsourcing. Not of course the major reason, which has been government incompetence and failure to take effective action, always a case of too little too late. A year after the outbreak began it is only now considering the kind of travel restrictions that would have saved many thousands of lives (and which even one government minister has said she was arguing in favour of at the start.) Three weeks before we had the first lock-down I was getting urgent messages from relatives who were in touch with the medical advice that was going to the government that, because of my age and diabetes, I should isolate myself.

And of course there has been the failure to work properly with existing public bodies, instead preferring to give huge payments to cronies to set up an ineffectual systems for testing and tracing, to source inadequate PPE and take large consultancy fees to no particular purpose, wasting billions.

Government has deliberately promoted policies which have increased the spreading of the virus, failing to stop much unnecessary work or ensure that proper protective measures are enforced and giving offers to people to go out for meals largely in indoor settings where the spread of infection was almost inevitable. Although they now deny it, their polices were based on ideas of herd immunity, where infection gives a large proportion of the population some immunity and stops the virus spreading; for this to work, perhaps 80% of us would need to have had it, and a quick back of envelope calculation showed that would mean perhaps 400,000 deaths – and I would have been rather too likely to be one of them. It’s a figure we may still reach, though 200,000 seems more likely now – and we are over half way there.

A couple of days ago on the Today programme on Radio 4 I heard Maria, a cleaner from the IWGB being interviewed. She contracted the virus, probably while travelling to work on crowded public transport, and tested positive. Before the test she had been ill at work and had asked her employer if she could go home, but had been told she had to stay. After the positive result, she had to continue to go to work, as the sick pay she would have received was simply not enough to live on.

Maria is probably one of those IWGB members in the pictures I took on 25 Jan 2018, and the other pictures I’ve taken at IWGB protests against outsourcing. Outsourced workers are employed not by the company at their work place – on this occasion the University of London – but by a company that is given a contract for the services they provide. Contracts are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and outsourcing companies cut their costs by paying low wages, giving only the statutory minimum in conditions – including sick pay, holidays, pensions etc – and often bullying the workers, demanding impossible workloads and failing to provide proper safety equipment – so that they can gain contracts and also make a profit for the company owners.

Usually too both the contractors and the workplace management refuse (often illegally) to recognise the trade unions to which the outsourced workers belong – such as the IWGB, and refuse to discuss any of the workplace issues with them. Often union members are disciplined and sacked for their union activities.

Had Maria been one of the cleaners at the various places where the IWGB have been able by organising protests like this and forcing the management to talk with them and to get the workers directly employed she would have got the kind of conditions that other workers at these places take for granted. She would have been able to call in to work when she knew she was ill and have time off, and would have been able to self-isolate after her positive corona test, as she would have been able to rely on proper sick pay.

Outsourcing and other poisonous working arrangements, particularly zero hours contracts, have been a major factor in directly spreading the infection, and are a part of the reason for its increased prevalence among our black and ethnic minority communities. Low pay too has an indirect effect, leading to more crowded housing conditions. Many low paid jobs too are ones that involve considerable contact with others, and often involve travel in crowded public transport to workplaces.

The first protest on that Thursday evening in January was calling for the University of London to directly employ the cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff that work in the premises that are part of the central administration, including offices and halls of residence, and took place outside the University’s Senate House. Earlier protests have persuaded the University to consider direct employment for some of these workers, but the IWGB call for all of them to be brought in-house as soon as possible. Students and some teaching staff from various colleges came to support the protest.

At the end of this protest a double-decker bus hired by the union arrived to take those present to a ‘secret location’ for a further protest and I was invited to go with them. It dropped us off around the corner from the Royal College of Music, and the protesters ran into the building. A new contractor had taken over the RCM cleaning contract and decided to halve the hours worked by cleaners and change shift times. Most of the cleaners have to work on several jobs like this to make ends meet and so were unable to change to the new hours and had been threatened with dismissal. The RCM and the contractor had refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who had launched a collective grievance; the cleaners have balloted for strike action and the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

It was a short and very noisy protest inside the foyer, and the protesters who had been very careful to avoid any damage left when the police arrived after 12 minutes and continued their protest outside.

More at:
Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London


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.


13 December 2014

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I started work on December 13th 2014 in Brixton, where a well-dressed Santa was with other Lambeth Living Wage protesters including National Shop Stewards Network chair Rob Williams, calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They entered a number of shops on the main shopping street where workers are only paid the minimum wage, spreading their message through a megaphone and placards and handing out leaflets and union membership forms to shop workers.

They left when asked to do so by security staff and continued along the street to the next shop on ‘Santa’s Naughty List’.
‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


The Victoria line from Brixton tube took me to Green Park and I made my way to join the ‘Advance to Mayfair’ protest organised by Class War at the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners. The protest was in solidarity with the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate who Westbrook are intended to evict before Christmas.

There had been some disagreements expressed on social media before the protest and the organiser was ill and unable to publicise the event over the previous few days and the protest was rather smaller than anticipated. The police had however come out in force for what was a small and well-behaved protest in which after some speeches, Class War delivered a Christmas card to Westbrook – and someone came out from their office to accept it.

This and other protests by and in support of the residents and the publicity they generated in the media worked, and a few days later Westbrook sold their interest in the New Era estate to the Dolphin Square Foundation and the New Era tenants were saved from eviction.
Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


My final destination for the day was the flagship John Lewis Store in Oxford St, not for some Christmas shopping, but to meet with members of the IWGB and John Lewis customers who were campaigning for equality for the cleaners. Cleaners who work in the store receive less than the living wage, and are not entitled to the considerable bonus payments that other staff who work in John Lewis receive as ‘partners’ in the business. John Lewis outsources the cleaning to cleaning contractors to avoid having to give them decent wages and conditions while retaining its reputation as a decent employer.

We met up in the café on the fifth floor of the store, and after unrolling there banners there was a brief speech about the unfair treatment of the cleaners from Alberto Durango before the protesters marched around the top floor to the escalator blowing vuvuzelas. They made their way slowly around to the down escalator on each floor, pausing to hang their banners over the balcony and continuing the noisy protest.

By the time they arrived at the ground floor, police had arrived and were confusing the issue, with some trying to stop the protesters leaving the store and others trying to force them out. Most of the protesters were trying to leave and like me had to push our way past police to get onto the pavement where the protest continued. Police made one or two arrests, though I think all were released without charge as John Lewis would not welcome the publicity a court appearance would provide.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


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.


WeWork doesn’t pay

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

I’d never heard of WeWork before I received an Facebook post inviting me to photograph a protest outside one of their London premises in Shoreditch. The company began in 2010, has its HQ in New York and provides flexible working spaces for companies from 1 to 500 people, equipped, serviced and ready to move in. In London alone it has 49 locations providing shared facilities.

When we started WeWork in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’. A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.

But community doesn’t extend to all that work there, and in particular not to the cleaners who keep these shared office and community spaces beautiful. WeWork outsource their cleaning to cleaning company CCM.

Outsourcing is always a bad deal for workers. The companies bid for contracts almost entirely on price, and they pare down prices by screwing the workers. Low pay, high workloads, the legal minimum terms and conditions and often a lack of equipment and concern over safety combined with bullying management enable outsourcing companies to keep costs to the bone and profits to the company owners.

Trade unions are anathema to such companies, and also to many US based firms, and grass roots unions such as CAIWU who manage the difficult job of unionising marginal and often immigrant workers find it hard to get basic rights for their members. Workers who stand up for their rights get victimised, and CAIWU were protesting here as five CAIWU members have been dismissed here in the past few months, with Wework staff members involved in getting CCM to dismiss them.

The loud protest outside the offices attracted a great deal of attention, with one local business owner coming to ask them to keep quiet and one man stopping to argue with the protesters, getting quite angry and pushing some of them. But these were the exceptions and many others read the fliers that the protesters were handing out and expressed support, including one team of workers who came out from the building and join the protest.

More at: Wework stop victimising cleaners


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.


Rich despise the poor

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
Security escort a member into the club past protesting union members

The rich or at least a significant proportion of them are really not very nice people. It’s perhaps why some of them are rich, making deals and evading tax without any concern for others just for their own profit. It was the rich who made millions from the slave trade and the plantations, the rich who are still profiting from exploiting people in mines, from dispossessing people of their lands, polluting their water. The rich who profit from fossil fuels that are killing the planet, the rich who profit from asset-stripping and putting workers out of their jobs.

The street was sealed off by red barriers at both ends with security staff who let club members through

Of course most of us gain a little from such activities, with investments by our pension funds and other similar ways, but its the rich whose naked greed drives the process and who gain most massively. And while the country may lose billions through Brexit, the rich will keep their tax dodges and clever investments to keep and increase their wealth, congratulating themselves on having persuaded over half of the country to vote against their own interests.

Security staff help a club member who had assaulted protesters and tried to walk through the club’s barriers on the street

Inequality – the gap between the rich and the poor – has increased greatly in the UK over my lifetime. Studies of incomes show us becoming more equal until around 1979 and then increasing since then, with a small blip in 2008. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, four million British workers are now living in poverty, half a million more than five years ago. Not only are the rich becoming richer, but policies including Universal Credit and benefit sanctions are making many of the poor destitute. On the streets we see an increasing gap, with more people homeless and reduced to begging, while the wealthy have become more ostentatious, and nowhere is this more evident than in Mayfair.

A club member is escorted past the protesters

Of course it is inexcusable that an exclusive private club such as LouLou’s which charges high prices for membership and services should pay workers less than the living wage, but what I find even more disgusting is the attitude shown towards the protesting workers and their supporters by some members as they go past the protest, and by the managers and staff of the club. Rather than talk to the union and pay a proper wage they employ extra security to confront the protesters.

Ian Bone asks a police officer why they are siding with the club owner who is refusing to pay a living wage

A large proportion of those now in poverty in the UK are in work – but also have to claim benefits to keep alive. These benefits are paid for by other tax-payers, essentially a subsidy from us to low-paying organisations and also to landlords, many of whom are extremely rich. Everyone in full-time work deserves a living wage, and we should have minimum wage rates that ensure this. In London that means the ‘London Living Wage’, determined each year and not the much lower government figure.

Police warn a Jane Nicholl she will be arrested if she continues to shout using bad language while a legal observer looks on

Police at the event seemed to adopt a rather aggresive approach towards the protesters from the IWGB Cleaners and Facilities Branch and supporters, threating some with arrest, while ignoring some rather aggresive action by the security. They also refused to take any action when the protesters pointed out that the security staff were not wearing a visible SIA licence as required by the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The protest was loud and at least one protester was threatened with arrest for shouting at members going into the club because of the language she used.

More at LouLou’s stop exploiting your workers


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.


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.

IWGB welcomes new Vice Chancellor

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Although Universities like to present themselves as centres of enlightenment, when it comes to their relationship with workers who provide vital services to them, things are rather different. Unions including the IWGB have a long record of fighting and eventually winning battles against intransigent university managements for the London Living Wage and for better terms and conditions of service.

The IWGB, supported by other unions, after a series of protests and strikes in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign won improved sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced workers at the University of London (Central Administration). But outsourced workers employed by contracting companies to work for the university are still under far worse conditions than those directly employed by the university, and often subject to poor and bullying managers, and a new campaign began in 2017 to bring them into direct employment.

Actions by IWGB members and its supporters – including many university students and staff – forced to the University to make a committment to bring the workers in-house, but a year later this promise was still to be kept, with only 12 receptionists having been brought back to direct employment

This action followed a failure of the newly appointed University Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson to reply to the IWGB’s request for a meeting to discuss the issue. Instead of talking with the IWGB union about their demand for all the workers to be taken into direct employment without delay the University has been spending large amounts on buying in extra security staff.

Although the great majority of the staff involved are now IWGB members, the University continues to take advantage of our immoral trade union laws which enable them to ignore the union and instead only officially talk and negotiate with a union which has no or very few members among the workers involved.

To their great shame our larger established trade unions collude with this practice – and even often claim the credit for concessions which have only been won because of the work of the IWGB and other grass roots unions who similarly remain unrecognised by the employers. Workers have a right to choose who should recognise them, and this is something that the unions once fought for but now too often refuse to support.

The 12 receptionists were given new contracts in May 2019, but these were negotiated with another union “behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB“, and 7 of the 12 have brought grievances against the university, some of which involve a breach of transfer of employment (TUPE) regulations.

Since this protest, the University have also set a timetable to bring the  security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020, but have refused to bring the gardeners also involved back in house.

The IWGB are continuing to demand that the gardeners are also brought back in house and that any new contracts should be made in consultation with the union to which the workers belong and be approved by them.

More about the protest and more pictures at  IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor


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.