Posts Tagged ‘London Living Wage’

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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Rev Paul Nicholson & More – 2014

Friday, March 29th, 2024

Rev Paul Nicholson & More: Many of us particularly in London have fond memories of the Rev Paul Nicolson (1932-2020), a redoubtable campaigner for the poorer members of our community. He appears somehow to have passed Wikipedia by but you can read more about his life from many online sources. On Saturday 29th March 2014 I photographed the Thousand Mothers March in Tottenham he and Taxpayers Against Poverty organised demanding demanding living incomes, decent truly affordable homes for all and rejecting the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, hunger and cold homes.

Rev Paul Nicholson & More

Huff Post tells us Nicolson worked in the champagne trade from 1965 until he made a dramatic career change in 1967 and was ordained by the Church of England as a Minster in Secular Employment. This meant he had to find a job in the real world and he got a job at the ICI HQ in Millbank as a personnel officer. In 1975 he took one of the first Employment Trununals challenging ICIs redundancy procedures and was later involved in supporting other trade unionists elsewhere. In 1979 he ventured into politics becoming an Independent councillor where he then lived in North Herts.

Rev Paul Nicholson & More

After a long fight against the Poll Tax in 1997 he founded the charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), based in London, a group who were were deeply concerned about the impact of the Thatcher Government’s ‘poll tax’ – a fixed payment from every adult, regardless of their income or circumstances. Z2K became a registerd charity in 2005 and Nicolson left it in 2012 withdrawing to found Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP) to avoid the restrictions on political campaigning by charities.

Rev Paul Nicholson & More

Perhaps his most important action was to commission Minimum Income Standards research from the Family Budget Unity in 1999, which formed the basis of the London Living Wage, with Mayor Ken Livingstone setting up the Greater London Authority Living Wage Unit in 2005.

Rev Paul Nicholson & More

What would have been an ever greater achievement would have been the adoption by the authorities of the Memorandum to the Prime Minister on Unaffordable Housing he commissioned by Professor Peter Ambrose in 2005. New Labour read it but did nothing, continuing to concentrate on unaffordable housing. Had Corbyn been allowed to win by the Labour Party in 2017 we would have seen changes in the right direction – but policies like there were why thy fought hard to prevent his election.

Of course I’ve not mentioned the best-known fact about Nicolson. It was while he was living in Turville near High Wycombe that he allowed the BBC to take over his church to film The Vicar of Dibley. Dawn French was playing Grealdine Grainger as the Vicar, but the real vicar was Paul Nicolson, though I think he kept away from the cameras.

He retired and settle in Tottenham, becoming welll known for his campaigning in the area – and for a number of arrests and trials. He had called this march and its demands were neatly summarise on the placard hanging from a string around his neck: ‘We march for Freedom from Hunger, Cold, Outrageous Rents – Fight for a Living Wage’.

You can read a short article on him in the Guardian which contains around 30 of his letters which were published by the newspaper as well as links to many more. He truly was a great campaigner.

I left the march as it passed Tottenham Police Station with Carole Duggan walking in front of a large banner with the face of Mark Duggan, her nephew, murdered by police in Tottenham in 2011.

More about the march and many more pictures at Mothers march for justice.


I was on my way to two further protests that day which you can read about on My London Diary:

At Kilburn Square was a Kilburn Uniform Day protest where the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and TUSC were calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

Kilburn Uniform Day

And in Parliament Square, staff and students from Oasis Academy Hadley in Ponders End were protesting against the Home Office plans to deport fellow A-Level Student Yashika Bageerathi to Mauritius.
She came here with her mother and two younger siblings in 2012 after physical abuse from a relative and claimed asylum in 2012. The application has been rejected and the whole family are under threat of deportation.

Yashika is now 19 and the Home Office decided they could deport her on her own and she had been in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre since March 19th. She and her fellow students want her to be allowed to stay – at least until she has taken her exams this summer. The #FightForYashica petition had attracted over 171,000 signatures.

Attempts by the Home Office to deport Yashika failed before this protest when pressure from campaigners led to British Airways refusing to take here. Ahe had been booked into an Air mAURITIUS flight for the day following this protest, but an avalanche of tweets led to them refusing to take her.

Finally she was deported on her own in April 2014 and fortunately was helped there to take her A-levels, receiving the grades she needed to go on to university and end her brief period in the public eye.

Fellow Students Fight for Yashika.


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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.


BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Saturday, July 15th, 2023

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession: Monday 15th July 2019


BEIS workers begin indefinite strike, Westminster

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Low paid cleaning and catering workers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on Victoria Street celebrated the third anniversary of their fight for proper pay and conditions with cakes as they walked out on the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

The workers are demanding the London Living Wage and to be directly employed by the department rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

As the workers came out on strike hey got a rousing reception from a crowd of around 100 with speeches from one of the strikers, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, newly elected UCU general secretary Jo Grady , Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Labour MP Mary Glindon, National Vice-President of the PCS Zita Holbourne, Sam Gurney, TUC Regional Secretary, Kiri Tunks, Joint President of the NEU and Sandy Nicoll of SOAS Unison who led the succesful campaign to bring workers there back in-house. and one of the strikers.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

I stayed long enough to eat a piece of one of the cakes which had been made for the protest, but then had to leave as the party continuned outside BEIS.

More pictures at BEIS workers begin indefinite strike.


XR call for Ecocide Law – Royal Courts of Justice, Strand

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Extinction Rebellion was beginning another series of protests in five major cities against the criminal inaction by the government on climate and ecological collapse.

The main theme of the day’s protest was to call for a law making ecocide a criminal offence.

The protesters brought a yacht named after Polly Higgins who fought for years for an Ecocide Law to the Royal Courts of Justice.

They continued her fight blocking the Strand all day with performances, discussions, speeches, music and ceremonies in front of the yacht.

We need urgent action and our government along with most others has failed, continuing with policies which seem designed to make the situation worse and bring life on earth to an end, and XR is certainly bringing that to people’s attention, even if our media are still largely ignoring it and concentrating on trivia. But although I fully support the aims of XR I do find some of XR’s activities – yachts and new-age mumbo jumbo – off putting. In part I guess it’s a class thing – much of their activity seems insufferably middle class. Its probably an age thing too.

XR call for Ecocide Law


XR Summer Uprising procession

Having occupied the street across the front of the Royal Courts of Justice all day, the protesters and their yacht moved on around afternoon tea time to their home for the next three days, on Waterloo Millennium Green, a park area just south of Waterloo Station.

At the front of the procession were banners and a large crowd of people with XR flags, more banners, posters and placards, as well a large pink dodo. Bringing up the rear was the blue yacht named for the late Ecocide Law protester Polly Higgins, on a boat trailer, escorted by police.

When the procession was all on Westminster Bridge it came to a halt and people sat down blocking the road for a short protest against the police violence towards peaceful protesters when they were arresting people during the ‘Garden Bridge‘ occupation of the bridge in April.


There were a few short speeches there and the procession moved on. It came to a halt a little further on after police tried to block it on from moving onto the Millennium Green.

By this time the back of the procession was on its way around the IMAX Waterloo roundabout, and the rush hour was beginning. I hung around for around half an hour before deciding it was time to get on a train home. But by stopping the protest police had brought a large area of south London quite unnecessarily to a standstill.

Many more pictures at XR Summer Uprising procession.


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


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

Hospital Law Change, Living Wage Protest

Saturday, March 11th, 2023

On Tuesday 11th March 2014 I attended two protests, the first at Parliament against a change in the law on closing hospitals, and the second calling for a living wage for cleaners at Chelsea College.

Stop Hospital Killer Clause 119 – Parliament

Hospital Law Change, Living Wage Protest

Unite, GMB, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and other hospital protest groups protested outside Parliament against Clause 119 inserted to change the law over hospital closures into the Care Bill, which was having its third reading in the House of Commons.

Hospital Law Change, Living Wage Protest

In 2014 the High Court ruled that health minister Jeremy Hunt had acted illegally in proposing a downgrading of maternity and A&E services at Lewisham hospital because the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich was going bust.

Hospital Law Change, Living Wage Protest

So Jeremy Hunt decided to change the law, and inserted Clause 119 into the Care Bill to give the special administrators overseeing an English NHS Trust in financial difficulties powers to close, merge or alter the services at any other hospital to balance the books without any proper consultation or regard to the social and health effects.

It was a measure which went entirely against the whole idea that local people and local GPs would be in control of health services in their own areas, something which had been stated to be at the centre of Tory/Coalition health policies. The local commissioning groups it says will be at the centre of local health provision will have absolutely no say over what happens to the services that they commission when this clause is invoked.

Though many saw these local groups rather as ways to make the continuing process of passing the NHS over to private companies easier than providing any real local control.

Clause 119 was a panic measure drafted in a fit of pique after Health secretary Jeremy Hunt was defeated in his attempts to raid the thriving Lewisham Hospital to meet the huge PFI debts of some other hospitals in South East London. The attempt to close Lewisham with the deterioration in services for the people in the area provides a clear and obvious example of why actions of this kind should remain illegal.

Lewisham’s closures were stopped by powerful local opposition which brought doctors, local councils, Millwall Football Club and the whole local community out onto the streets – and also making donations to enable Hunt to be taken to the courts. And taken again to fight his unsuccessful appeal against the original decision.

The protest on 11th March 2014 began with a period of silence to mark the death early that day of RMT General Secretary Bob Crow. Speakers at the rally included a member of the Shadow health team, other MPs, consultant Jackie Davis of the National Health Action party, Rachael Maskell, Unite Head of Health, and several NHS activists including Jill from Lewisham and Sandra from Charing Cross.

Stop Hospital Killer Clause 119


Pay UAL Cleaners a Living Wage – Chelsea College of Art

A short walk down Millbank, just past Tate Britain, took me to UAL Chelsea College of Arts where GMB and the University of the Arts Students’ Union were calling on the College to ensure that their cleaners, employed by Bouygues Energy & Services, are paid the London Living Wage.

The cleaners were then being paid on the national minimum wage, which for those over 21 was £6.31, less than three-quarters of the London Living Wage, calculated annually by the Greater London Authority, then £8.80 per hour.

The protesters went to call on Vice-Chancellor Nigel Carrington, who after a few minutes came out to talk with them. He told them he thought that they had some good points, but that he did not employ the cleaners and could not grant them the living wage. He also said that he cleaners were paid more then there would be less money to spend on other things, including the student courses and provision.

The protesters responded that many organisations insist that contractors pay the living wage to all employees, and that contracting out of services is simply a way to exploit employees – paying lower rates and giving them worse conditions of employment – while keeping the institutions hands clean.

They were told they could go in to the staff forum meeting so long as they put down their banners, placards and megaphones, and the students decided to do so. The rest of us left.

Pay UAL Cleaners a Living Wage


Transgender Rights & Justice For the Cleaners

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

On Saturday 3rd January 2015 I photographed two protests. First was a vigil following the suicide of a transgender teenage girl and the second another protest in the long series of actions calling on John Lewis to pay their cleaners a living wage.


Vigil for Leelah Alcorn – Trafalgar Square, Saturday 3rd January 2015

Transgender Rights & Justice For the Cleaners

Leelah Alcorn was a 17-year-old who threw herself under a lorry after her Christian parents forced her into ‘conversion therapy’, refusing to acknowledge her gender and forbidding her from transitioning.

Transgender Rights & Justice For the Cleaners

Before her death Leelah had written a poignant suicide note on her Tumblr blog blaming her Christian parents, saying that from the age of four she had felt she was “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” and describing her relief when she found the possibility of transgender transitions – but her feeling of hopelessness after she realised that her parents “would never come around” to her transition.

Transgender Rights & Justice For the Cleaners
Roz Kaveney reads her poem for Leelah Alcorn

Leelah wrote: “The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights.”

Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s f**ked up’ and fix it. Fix society.

Even after her suicide her parents remained unwilling to accept her transition, burying her with a gravestone under her former name ‘Joshua’.

Those taking part in the vigil included a number of people who had also transitioned as well as other supporters of transgender rights. Speakers condemned the practice of ‘conversion therapy’ which has no basis in medical science and carries a high risk of suicide, calling for it to be banned and for those carrying it out to be prosecuted. It is already banned in some US states. They also demanded that her gravestone carry her chosen name of Leelah.

The protest ended with the lighting of candles and a two minute silence in memory of Leelah.

More at Vigil for Leelah Alcorn


Pay John Lewis Cleaners a Living Wage – Oxford St, Saturday 3rd January 2015

Members of the Cleaners And Facilities Branch of the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) protested along with John Lewis customers protested outside the flagship Oxford St John Lewis store calling for them to live up to their ethical reputation and pay those who keep the shop clean a living wage. The cleaners complain the company treats them as second class citizens.

They were also protesting at the assaults on protesters by police at their previous month’s protest inside the store, where many were attacked as they were trying to leave after a peaceful protest. This time the protesters made no attempt to enter the store which was guarded by a line of police and extra security officers, but protested on the wide pavement outside.

Over 125,000 John Lewis customers had signed a petition calling on the company to ensure that it live up to its ethical reputation and ensure that the cleaning contractor pays all cleaners working in the store the London Living Wage. Neither John Lewis or the contractor recognise the IWGB as representing the workers, although it is the registered trade union which almost all the cleaners belong to.

As well as not being paid enough to live on, the cleaners have much poorer conditions of service than the directly employed staff they work alongside – who also get a large annual bonus as “partners” in the business. By outsourcing the cleaning John Lewis is refusing responsibility for work done in its store and vital for its running. They could include conditions for proper pay and conditions for the cleaners in the specification of their contracts but fail to do so.

IWGB (Independent Workers Union of, Great Britain) General Secretary Alberto Durango

The protest was led by IWGB General Secretary Alberto Durango and President Jason Moyer-Lee. There were short speeches of support by others including Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, (Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb) and Mick Dooley of London TUSC, as well as a great deal of noisy shouting and blowing of horns.

Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

Many of the public on busy Oxford Street took the flyers being handed out and expressed support for a proper wage for the workers and disgust at the failure of John Lewis to treat them properly.

After around an hour and a quarter the event ended with a march around the outside of the large building, with security and police rushing inside the shop to meet them at every door. But even though the protesters sometimes arrived before them, they made no attempt to go inside.

More pictures at Pay John Lewis Cleaners a Living Wage