Posts Tagged ‘Great Britain’

‘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.


Turkey and Voting Systems

Monday, July 25th, 2022

Turkey and Voting Systems – Saturday 25th July 2015, seven years ago today,wasn’t a particularly busy day for me in London, and I covered only three protests. What caught my attention, because of our current political situation was a protest following the May 2015 election over the unfairness of our current voting system. The other two were about repression in another country which has featured greatly in the news recently particularly over the export of grain from the Ukraine, our NATO ally Turkey.


Free Steve Kaczynski from Turkish Jail – Kingsway

Turkey and Voting Systems

Steve Kaczynski, born in Scotland was at one time employed by the BBC World Service as an expert on Turkey. He was arrested in April 2015 during a raid on a left-wing Turkish cultural centre on suspicion of being a British spy and was still in jail without charge, now on hunger strike.

Turkey and Voting Systems

Kaczynski was at the centre to show international solidarity against fascism when it was raided by Turkish police following a hostage incident in a courthouse where a state prosecutor and the two gunmen holding him captive were killed, but there is no evidence that he was in any way involved with the incident.

Turkey and Voting Systems

The Turkish media has made much of rumours leaked by the government that he was a British or German spy, but those who know him find this impossible to believe. His arrest appears to be part of a systematic programme by the AKP Turkish government to intimidate any political opposition.

The protest outside the building housing the Counsellor’s Office for Culture & Information of the Turkish Embassy on Kingsway, close to Holborn Station, included some from the British left as well as the Turkish Popular Front in the UK. Those who knew him described him as a kind and gentle man who abhors violence and has long campaigned for human rights and political freedom. The protesters handed out leaflets to people passing by and made a lot of noise singing and chanting, but the office was closed on a Saturday morning and it was unlikely that there was anyone in there to hear them.

Steve Kaczynski was finally released three months later, after surviving a 61 day hunger strike.

Free Steve Kaczynski from Turkish Jail


Make seats match votes – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Great Britain in balloons, viewed from the north-west tip of the Scottish mainland

The May 2015 General Election resulted in the Conservative Party who got only 36.8% of the votes, just a little over a third, being returned with an overall majority, though only a small one.

A lone Green balloon on the south coast – and not enough room to put in the London area


Our first past the post constituency-based electoral system brings in huge differences based on both which party you vote for and the area in which you live. There was a Tory MP elected for every 34, 241 Tory voters, a Labour MP for every 40,290 Labour voters, but a Lib-Dem for every 301,990 Lib-Demo Voters and only 1 UKIP and one Green MP despite their parties getting 3,881,099 and 1,157,630 votes respectively. Two small parties with significant votes got no MPs at all.

A petition had been started before the election by Owen Winter, the independent member of the youth parliament for Cornwall, got over 200,000 signatures in a week or two and their were other similar well-supported petitions on other sites calling for voting reform and a system of proportional representation that would result in a government that reflected how people voted – signed in total by more than half a million people.

The protest included a map of the UK made by balloons of different colours for the various parties holding seats in the UK, which doubtless made sense for anyone sitting in a helicopter above the event but was pretty well impossible to see and photograph clearly at ground level.

After a short introduction, people went through the ‘map’ with pins popping balloons for the constituencies where no candidate got over 50% of the votes. Again this was hard to make visual sense out of at ground level.

What seemed to me lacking – apart from the other 499,000 or so who had signed the petitions – was any clear suggest of how a fairer voting system might work, though on My London Diary I put forward one suggestion which might work as well as retaining some of the advantages of the present system. But almost any system of PR would give us a fairer result than the current one, popular with the Conservatives and Labour as it entrenches their unfair advantage. Although the SNP also benefit from the current system they support electoral reform.

Make seats match votes


Kurds blame Turks for Suruc massacre – Downing St

32 Young activists were massacred by ISIS at Suruc on their way with toys, books and other materials to build a playground, library and other projects in Kobani (or Kobane). Kurds and supporters protested at Downing St, blaming our NATO ally Turkey for supporting ISIS.

People hold pictures of some of those killed by ISIS

Kobani is a Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria, close to the Syria–Turkey border, which became a part of Rojava, the autonomous area in the north of Syria under Kurdish control as a consequence of the Syrian Civil War. It was beseiged by ISIS from September 2014 to January 2015, and the defeat of ISIS in the area by the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, backed by US air support was a key turning point in the war against Islamic State.

Turkey has carried out a campaign of repression against the Kurds in Turkey who in return have been trying, sometimes by military means, to free themselves from Turkish domination which treats them as inferior citizens, outlawing their language and culture, and kidnapped and still holds their leader, Abdullah Ocalan. More recently Turkey has invaded parts of Rojava, and the Kobani area accepted the Syrian Army and their Russian support into the area in an attempt to protect it from Turkish invasion.

Turkey allows ISIS to operate on and across their border, as well as assisting them in the smuggling out of oil and other goods through Turkey vital in their economic support. They have also allowed recruits and supplies to reach them through Turkey. They appear to hope that ISIS will solve the Kurdish problem for them by defeating the Kurds in Iraq ad Syria.

After many speeches, including one by Edmonton MP Kate Osamor who has many Kurds in her constituency, they marched off towards the BBC which they say ignores attacks on Kurds and routinely sides, like the British Government with the Turkish government against them.

Kurds blame Turks for Suruc massacre