Posts Tagged ‘exploitation’

A Hero Remembered, Olympics and Iraq

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021


Some photographers love to travel, but I relish the great variety of events I have been able to photograph in London, (as well as the city itself.) Saturday 4th August 2012 demonstrates that well.

Raoul Wallenberg was clearly one of the great heroes of the twentieth century, and played a huge role while working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest in 1944-5. Historians now question the popular claims that he saved as many as 100,000 Jews and suggest the actual figure may be between 4,500 and 9,000, but as one of them commented, his “fame was certainly justified by his extraordinary exploits.”

Wallenberg and his fellow Swedish diplomat Per Anger issued thousand of official-looking “protective passports” identifying the bearers as Swedish citizens and rented over 30 buildings in Budapest which he declared to be Swedish territory. According to Wikipedia these eventually housed almost 10,000 people. The money for these came from the American Red Cross and it was apparently at US request that Wallenberg was posted to Budapest.

Wallenberg was not the only diplomat in Budapest issuing protective passports to save Jews, with others being provided with Swiss, Spanish and Portuguese documents. He is also said to have persuaded the Germans not to blow up the Budapest ghetto and kill its 70,000 inhabitants, though the Italian businessman Giorgio Perlasca who was posing as the Spanish consul-general claims that it was his intervention that saved them

Swedish Ambassador Nicola Clase speaks about Wallenberg

Wallenberg disappeared on 17th January 1945 after being summoned to see the commander of the Russian forces encircling the city to answer charges he was involved in espionage. He was taken to Moscow and little definite is known about him after than although the Soviet Government in 1957 released a document stating he had died in prison, probably of a heart attack on 17 July 1947. But there were later reported sightings of him. Documents released in 1996 by the CIA show he was working with their wartime predecessor.

Wallenberg was born on August 4th 1912, and a ceremony took place in his honour around the Wallenberg memorial, sculpted by Philip Jackson outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. It was a moving event, led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld with Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church in London reading Psalm 121 and giving an address about Wallenburg who he called an ordinary man who was brave when the time came and had followed the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be yourself and to do good for other people. The Swedish ambassador also spoke about him.

Earlier I had been at the Olympics. Not the thing on Stratford Marsh, but a rather smaller event organised by War on Want outside Adidas on Oxford St, claiming that workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.

War on Want point out that around the world thousands of workers producing clothes for Adidas are working for poverty wages that do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare. Many have to work beyond legal limits, up to 15 hours a day to scrape a living. And workers who try to organise trade unions face harassment and sacking.

The games began with badminton, and then moved on to hurdles, but police told them it was too dangerous on the pavement in Oxford St. They were made to move around the corner. Adidas sent along someone from their PR Agency to give misinformation to the press, but there was damning information on the War on Want web site on wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China producing goods for Adidas. I don’t expect things have changed that much for these workers since 2012.

Finally I made my way to Iraq Day 2012, “organized to celebrate the games with a hint of Iraq flavor” by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima- Baghdad in conjunction with the Local Leader London 2012 program.

There were some unplanned and fairly dramatic events on stage, and one of the performers stormed off the platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against the Kurds, and a group of Kurdish musicians were told they had to leave the stage, but generally it lacked much interest for me.

I was sorry for the many Iraqis and others who were unable to eat the Iraqi food that was on offer – for this event was taking place during Ramadan. I had been asked to photograph a fashion show that was a part of the programme, but for some reason it didn’t take place when it should have, and I had to leave before it happened.

More on all of these:

Iraq Day Festival
Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary
Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation


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.


Low Pay, Lousy Conditions. 3rd Aug 2013

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

IWGB are harassed by Westfield security after their protest in John Lewis

The two events I covered on Saturday 3rd August 2013 both concerned the fight to get decent wages and conditions for low paid workers in London, something which has largely been left to the left wing and grass roots unions to fight for rather than the big trade unions or the Labour Party.

Outside Sports Direct in Oxford St

The two major ways that low paid workers are cruelly exploited in modern Britain are through zero-hours contracts and outsourcing, and these were at the heart of the two protests.

Security stop protesters from going down the escalator in Sports Direct

The first, at Sports Direct in Oxford St called on the company to abandon the use of zero-hour contracts which deprive all their 20,000 part-time workforce (over 85% of staff) sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights.

The protest continues inside Sports Direct

Zero hours contracts, as I explained on My London Diary “are a peculiar legal casuistry that in essence denies the whole concept of a contract as normally understood, agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers … Although they give no guarantee of any income, they oblige the workers to be available for work at the employer’s whim, making it impossible for them to take on other work.”

IWGB get out flags, placards and banners on the top floor of John Lewis

All the advantages are for the employer who has a contract which imposes great constraints on workers while denying them the employment rights which are a part of normal employment and leaving them open to the whims of managers as to whether they work or not. A limited reform in 2015 prohibited terms in them which prevented people working for other employers, but if that leads to them being unable to work when the employer demands them to, they may still find their hours very much reduced in future or their contracts terminated.

And begin their protest in John Lewis in Stratford Westfield

The protest was a noisy one and after around 50 minutes handing out leaflets and speaking to shoppers on the street outside, they surged into the small street level area of the shop, where they made no attempt to push post security men who stopped them at the entry to the escalator leading down to the main store. They continued the protest inside the store being careful not to cause any damage. After around five minutes one of the police officers who were watching came to talk to one of the leading protesters and was told they would leave shortly, and after a few more minutes they did, ending the protest on the pavement a few minutes later.

They take the escalator to continue the protest on the floor below

I made my way to Stratford to join the IWGB union who were making a surprise visit to protest inside the John Lewis store in Stratford Westfield. The cleaners there are outsourced to sub-contractor ICM of the Compass Group, who had recently announced pre-tax profits for the year of £575 million. They pay the cleaners £6.72 per hour, considerably less than the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour set by the GLA and backed by the London Mayor.

Everyone in John Lewis could hear the protest and stopped to look and listen

Outsourcing enables John Lewis to distance itself from the low pay and poor conditions of service of these workers who share the workplace with the much-lauded John Lewis ‘partners’, who as well as higher pay and better benefits, also get a share in the company’s profits, enabling John Lewis to claim it is a ‘different sort of company’ with a strong ethical basis, but still leave its cleaners – a vital part of its workforce – on poverty wages.

I met the cleaners outside Westfield and walked with them through the shopping centre to John Lewis at its far end, trying with them to look inconspicuous. In the store we went up to the cafe area on the top floor where they got out banners, placards and a large megaphone from their bags and then proceeded to walk around in a noisy protest.

They then took the escalator to the floor below and walked around that making the case for a fair deal for the cleaners to management and customers. Among those protesting (centre, above) was a man who had been a ‘partner’ in the Westfield store and was dismissed after he gave an interview to The Guardian supporting the cleaners’ case for equal treatment, and he was greeted by many of his former colleagues on the shop floor.

I get told I can’t take photographs

After protesting on each floor of the store, there were a numbber of final speeches, including one by the dismissed ‘partner’, on the ground floor before the group left, going out into the Westfield Centre in front of John Lewis. Here they were met by the centre manager and security staff who tried to stop the protest, with some pushing them (and me) around. Here I was told I was not allowed to take pictures, but took little notice. Very slowly we all made our way out of the centre by the nearest exit, still followed by Westfield security, and were met by two police officers who were told the protest was finishing.

Many more pictures at:

Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield
End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct


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.


Organised Crime – Public & Private Sector

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

I don’t know who drew the often published cartoon which shows a young boy talking with his father and saying “Dad, I’m considering a career in organised crime” to which his father replies ‘Government or Private Sector”, but it comes to mind when thinking about the secret UK-Iran business meeting which I photographed Ahwazi activists and Peter Tatchell gate-crashing on July 3rd 2015. Though the UK-Iran crimes involve both sectors.

To take pictures I had to rush in with the group of protesters to the National Iranian Oil Company offices in Westminster, which are clearly private property and I Would probably be committing an offence, but I felt there was a clear public interest in covering the protest by the Hashem Shabani Action Group against the exploitation and environmental destruction of their homeland by Iran and the UK and the long history of anti-Arab oppression by the Tehran regime.

Fortunately I was able to enter the building without being personally confronted by the security staff who were busy trying to grab some of the protesters, and along with two other photographers and a couple of videographers was able to run up the six flights of stairs to the floor where the secret meeting was taking place, though I was in a pretty poor state by the time I reached the top landing, worried I might collapse. I was after all probably around 20 years older than most of the others, though only seven older than Peter Tatchell.

I did manage to photograph the peaceful protest inside the meeting, where most of those present were enjoying a buffet lunch, and to take some pictures of the confrontation in the corridor outside, where one youngish man in a blue suit, thought by the protesters to be an Iranian military officer, became rather violent and assaulted another of the photographers. But the corridor was dimly lit and some of my pictures were less than sharp, mainly blurred by moving subjects with the slowish shutter speed I needed.

I may have mentioned in other posts that I very seldom watch TV. I last lived with a TV back in 1968, when I got married and moved into a flat without one, and since then it’s been something I just don’t have time for in my life. Of course I’ve watched TV elsewhere – and can do so now by computer, but its never become a regular habit. One of the consequences of this is that there are many celebrities and public figures that I don’t easily recognise, only hearing them on radio or seeing the occasional picture in the press. So although Lord Lamont or Tory MP Richard Bacon, leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Iran, both leading the call for the peaceful and non-violent Hashem Shabani Action Group, (motto ‘Our weapons are pens. Our bullets are words‘), to be banned as a terrorist group were present, I failed to get newsworthy pictures of them.

Having made their point, the protesters decided to leave and I went with them, only to be stopped by police in the foyer of the building. We were prevented from leaving despite showing our press cards, but told we were not under arrest. The photographer who had been assaulted complained to the police, who went upstairs to ask questions, returning after a few minutes to say that the perpetrator probably had diplomatic immunity, and the photographer decided not to press charges.

Eventually after around 45 minutes – during which the building manager brought us fruit juice – press and protesters were allowed to leave and join those outside who had been unable to get past security for more photographs.

More on My London Diary about the dubious history of Britain and Iranian oil and the protest at Ahwazi crash secret UK-Iran business meeting.


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.


Drivers protest at Uber offices

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Uber drivers in London claim that on average they earn £5 an hour after taking into account their expenses, well below the national minimum wage and less than half the London Living Wage, the independently assessed minimum needed to live in London.

United Private Hire Drivers, a branch of the IWGB – Independent Workers Union of Great Britain – has been recruiting and organising private hire drivers including those working for Uber and organised a protest outside the Uber offices in Aldgate on the day before Uber’s Wall Street share flotation. The flotation at $45 per share meant a bonus of billions for Uber’s founders and for early investors including Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong but absolutely nothing for the drivers.

Those who bought into the shares at the flotation may also have lost, unless they sold their shares at exactly the right time; the shares had lost around 7% at the end of the first day of trading and have only very briefly peaked above the opening price. In August they slumped down to around $32. Of course they may rise again – particularly if Uber ever manages to make money.

Despite cheating and exploiting its workers, avoiding tax and failing to properly recognise the status of the workers who drive for it, Uber has still never made a profit and may never do so. Of course it has done very nicely for the people at the top of the organisation – and those early investors.

In some respects, Uber certainly does point to the future of private hire, and highlights the antiquated and expensive nature of our London black cab system. And it provides a service many find very useful if not always entirely necessary, but at the expense of both its drivers and tax payers in general, cheated out of tax.

Better and cheaper true public transport services could do much to reduce the need and the desire for the service Uber offers, and there seems to be no inherent reason why a similar public service could not replace both Uber and black cabs and other hire services, although paying drivers decently and providing proer conditions of service as well as paying taxes would inevitably increase the cost to users.

The drivers say that fares need to be increased to £2 per mile and that the commission to Uber, currently 25%, needs to go down to 15%. They want an end to unfair dismissals for for Uber to respect the rights of drivers as workers which were confirmed by an Employment Tribunal ruling in 2016.

The protest involved drivers boycotting the Uber app from 7am to 4pm, and it was impossible to know how successful that had been. But there were rather fewer drivers than I expected outside the offices and blocking one lane of the busy road, though I left before the protest was over.


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.

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