Posts Tagged ‘London Living Wage’

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education, Iran, Palestine & Topshop – Saturday 16th April 2016 was another busy day for me in London.


March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Gower St

The Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march 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.

The march was a large one, with the crowd filling across the street for around a quarter of a mile well before the start and at times it was slow to move through the crowd to get to a stage where there were a number of speeches, including from Ian Hodson, Baker’s union (BWAFU) General Secretary and Kate Hudson of CND before the march set off.

Eventually the march did set off, and I went with it taking pictures for some distance, working my way towards the back of the march before leaving to take the tube to Charing Cross to be in Whitehall before the start of the rally.

March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression – Parliament Square

I’d expected to find the next protest at Downing St, but there was no sign of it when I arrived, but I saw them marching a short distance away and ran and after and caught up with them shortly before they reached Parliament Square Ahwazi Arabs in London were demonstrating as they have done every April since 2005 in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in 2005 in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

Ahwaz is a mainly ethnically Arab province that was invaded by Iran in 1925 and ten years later incorporated into the state, given the name Khuzestan in 1936. Since then the state has persecuted the Ahwazi attempting to eliminate their culture and have brought in many Persian settlers. The motive for the conquest was undoubtedly the rich oil reserves which were for many years exploited by the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company which became BP in 1954.

There have been many anti-Iran protests and insurgency since 1925, and in April 2005 there were four days of widespread peaceful unrest put down by the Iranian military with at least 12-15 deaths and many injuries and arrests. A similar uprising at the time of the 2011 Arab spring was also brutally suppressed, and the repression of the entire community continues, with arbitrary arrests and executions.

Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression


Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally – Trafalgar Square

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square which was now packed with marchers from the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity march 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.

Many of the marchers had placards and posters calling for Prime Minister David Cameron, ‘Dodgy Dave’ to resign, and there were a number of pigs heads referring to his initiation in a bizarre ritual at the notorious Oxford dining society, the Piers Gaveston, where, according his unauthorized biography by Michael Ashcroft, as the Daily Mail put it “the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.”

At the rally there was a long succession of speeches, including by then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite and others, some of whom I photographed. But more interesting is perhaps my picture of Danielle Tiplady, a leader of the Bursary or Bust campaign looking rather like one of the lions as she talks with Natalie Bennett.

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally


Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education – Trafalgar Square

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I drifted away from the rally as the speeches continued, it seemed forever, to the North Terrace from where I could hear music. There were some of the marchers preferred to dance to the ‘dig it sound system‘, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion“.

Not that the speeches that I heard were not interesting, but there were just too many different things covered by the People’s Assembly March, and while their causes were all legitimate and demonstrated the terrible suffering this immoral government for the wealthly was inflicting on the majority population, it had just gone on (like the government) far too long.

Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


Palestine Prisoners Parade – Trafalgar Square

Also on the North Terrace were a group of people who had taken part in the People’s Assembly March dressed in clown outfits as the Palestine Prisoners Parade. They attracted attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

Those imprisoned in Israel include young children, often held for long stretches in solitary confinement, accused of throwing stones, as well as people who have objected when Israeli settlers have stolen fruit or land. Human rights organisations have protested about the imprisonment and treatment of many of them, and some have taken part in hunger strikes against their continued incarceration.

Palestine Prisoners Parade


UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand

As the rally was coming to a close the United Voices of the World hold a further protest against Topshop, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop.

UVW General Secretary Petros Elia

Class War had come to support the UVW, and when a large crowd of police came to try and move the protesters away there were arguments and quite a bit of pushing by police when people tried to prevent them filming protesters by holding up banners and placards. One man was pulled to one side by police who appeared to be about to arrest him; a crowd formed around him as he refused to answer police questions and eventually the officer concerned gave up.

There were a few short speeches including one by Susanna, one of the two cleaners victimised by Britannia and Topshop, who broke down in tears before continuing and ending her speech to loud applause. The protesters then decided it was time to march to another location.

UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand


UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest – Oxford St

The UVW marched to Oxford Street and tried to enter the Topshop close to Oxford Circus but were stopped by a large squad of police.

After a brief confrontation outside the shop they marched on to another site where the UVW are in dispute, John Lewis, where they are also demanding a living wage for the cleaners.

The banners slowed the protesters down a little and the police were able to rush past them, and pushed them back with considerable force as they tried to move towards the store doors. Susanna, one of the Topshop 2, was violently thrown to the ground and was helped up by both other police and protesters, who demanded an apology – and rather to my surprise the officer in charge after some arguments got the officer concerned to come and make one.

After some minutes of protest blocking the road in front of Jown Lewis and the store entrnace the protesters decided to return to Topshop. As they did so the police seized and questioned a woman who was wearing a mask and a man in a hood and goggles which they made him removed, threatening him with arrest; reluctantly he did so. After they had released him I decided to leave the protest for home.

UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest


More pictures and text about all the protests on My London Diary:
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


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Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis. Saturday 21st March 2015 was another busy day for me in London, covering protests against the criminal activities of UK banks, a large march and rally against racism in the UK (and a few racists opposing this) and customers of John Lewis calling on the company to treat its cleaners fairly.


Great British Tax Robbery – HSBC, Regent St.

UK Uncut campaigners arrived at the HSBC Regent St branch dressed as detectives and robbers to highlight the bank’s crimes in causing the financial crash and tax dodging, which have led to drastic cuts in vital public services and welfare and attempt a ‘Citizen’s Arrest’.

UK Uncut had a clear message for both HSBC and the government, accusing them of being criminals:

The government told us they’d “protect the poorest and most vulnerable”. They said “those with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of the cuts”. And what have we seen? Dismantling the NHS and wrecking the welfare state. Cutting schools, youth clubs, sure start centres, domestic violence refuges and libraries. Slashing local council budgets. Attacking disabled people with inhumane ‘work capability assessments’ and cuts to vital benefits. Removing access to justice through legal aid cuts. Allowing the big six energy companies to push people into fuel poverty. Cutting jobs, wages and pensions. Selling off social housing and moving people away from their communities. Driving hundreds of thousands into food banks and making families choose between heating or eating

My London Diary, March 2015

The bank closed a few minutes before the protesters arrived and kept its doors shut as the protesters’ ‘forensic team’ chalked around ‘crime victims’ on the ground and put crime scene tape around the area, sealing off the door with a banner. There was a speech from a NHS campaigner from East London about the effects of the cuts on the NHS and ‘criminals’ with HSBC on their chests posed for pictures. After a few minutes the protest was ended as many of those taking part were, like me, joining the Anti-Racism protest.

Great British Tax Robbery


Stand Up to Racism March – BBC to Trafalgar Square

Thousands came to the Stand Up to Racism march from the BBC to Trafalgar Square to reject the scapegoating of immigrants, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and to celebrate the diversity of Britain, with the message ‘Migrants are Welcome Here!

The march began at the BBC, who campaigners accuse of having a policy of ignoring protests in the UK, especially those against government policies – such as the racist hounding of immigrants under their ‘hostile environment’.

Among those marching were DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts. Government policies have also targeted disabled people, cutting benefits and subjecting them to unfair ‘fitness to work’ tests which largely ignore medical evidence.

Stand Up to Racism March


Britain First Protests anti-Racist March – Piccadilly Circus

A small and rather sad extreme right-wing group stood on the steps around Eros waving flags and shouting insults at the anti-racist marchers as the thousands marched past. It was a reminder of the kind of bigotry the great majority were marching against.

Some of the marchers paused to shout back at them, while others followed the advice of the march stewards and ignored the small group. There were a few scuffles but generally police kept the two groups apart, though later I learnt that after I had gone past a group of anti-fascists had seized the Britain First banner.

Britain First Protests anti-Racist March


Stand Up to Racism Rally – Trafalgar Square

Lee Jasper holds up a large poster responding to Trevor Phillips saying he is not a criminal, murderer or thief

Several thousand who had marched to ‘Stand up to Racism’ through London stayed on to listen to speeches at a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Speakers included Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, Zita Holbourne, Omer El Hamdoon, Lee Jasper and many others, whose photographs you can see on My London Diary.

Stand Up to Racism Rally


John Lewis customers support Living Wage – Oxford St

John Lewis is a company proud of its history and its reputation as a company based on its constitution as the UK’s largest employee owned business with both John Lewis and Waitrose owned in Trust by its 80,000 ‘partners’. They say everyone who works in its stores are not just employees, but a partners in the company, and in almost every year they enjoy a share in its profits.

Everyone who works there, except the cleaners who play a vital role in the proper running of the stores. John Lewis gets out of making them partners by using other companies to employ them and provide the cleaning as a service, choosing its cleaning company through competitive tendering. Cleaning companies cut wages and conditions of service such as sick pay, maternity pay, pensions, holiday pay to the bone – usually the absolute legal minimum – so they can put in low tenders and still make good profits. They exploit the workers – a largely migrant workforce with limited job opportunities – while John Lewis can claim it isn’t them who are doing so and try to maintain their reputation as a good employer.

For some years the cleaners have been protesting to get a living wage and also for John Lewis to recognise their responsibility as the actual company the cleaners are providing a service to. They want to be treated equally with the others who work in the stores, rather than the second-class employees they are now. The least John Lewis could do would be to insist on contractors paying the living wage and giving employees decent conditions of service as a condition of tender, but they had refused to take any responsibility.

Many customers of John Lewis – a very middle-class group – back the cleaners’ case for fair and equal treatment, and a few had come to hand out flyers and talk to shoppers to back their case in a very restrained protest. One of them told me it was the first time she had ever taken part in any protest. They were supported by a few members of the cleaners union, the IWGB, who had brought some of their posters.

John Lewis customers support Living Wage


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University of London 3 Cosas Strike

Friday, January 28th, 2022
On the IWGB battlebus

Eight years ago on Tuesday 28th January 2014 low paid workers at the University of London were on the second day of their 3 day strike. Their union had organised a day of action around London and I had been invited to come and photograph it, having photographed a number of their previous protests.

University cleaners, maintenance and security staff were demanding that the University recognise their trade union, the IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) and give them better pay and conditions, comparable with other university staff they work alongside. The ‘3 Cosas’ were sick pay, paid holidays and pensions – all areas where these staff were only being given the legal minimum (and sometime not even that.)

As I wrote in 2014:

“although these workers work at the university and carry out work essential for the running of the university, the university does not employ them. Most low paid workers – cleaners, maintenance and security staff, catering works and others – at the University of London are no longer directly employed by the University, but work in the University on contracts from contractors Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace at the end of last year.) The policy of outsourcing these workers seems largely intended to evade the responsibilities of London University towards an essential part of their workforce.”

3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus

It meant an early start for me, although the pickets had been outside Senate House for four hours when I arrived at 9am. Living outside London though on its edge I seldom arrive before 10am as it doubles my travel costs and I’ve never been a happy early riser. Fortunately the weather was good, a bright winter day and I’d dressed for the weather with thermal underwear, thick socks and a woolly hat, though it was still pretty chilly on top of the open-top bus.

The bus turned out to be a 1960 Routemaster which was sold by London Transport in 1986 but only converted to open-top in 2001. (I’d long thought that there was a plentiful supply of such vehicles after drivers attempted routes under low bridges, but apparently not, although a couple of bridges near where I live have had quite a few victims over the years.) Compared to modern buses, Routemasters offered a very bumpy ride with considerable vibration, and taking pictures on the upper deck required some faster than normal shutter speeds and most of the time working one-handed while clinging on with the other.

Space on bus tops is also quite small and moving around impeded both by the seats and the other riders (I think it’s a more appropriate term than passengers) and though they were very cooperative the top of the bus was pretty full. Most of the pictures I made were taken when the bus was stopped either at junctions or for short protests and my fisheye lens proved really useful.

The bus trip began at Senate House, and then began an extensive tour around central London, making a tour of various university sites where IWGB members were striking. There was a great deal of booing as we passed the Unison headquarters on Euston Road, as many of the workers had left Unison in disgust as they felt the were not supporting the demands of low-paid workers. The IWGB had intended to stop outside the offices of The Guardian newspaper, but had been held up too much by London’s traffic and drove past and on to Parliament Square.

Here we jumped off the bus and marched to Parliament where the IWGB had arranged to meet Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for a short rally (and Andy Burnham sent a short message of support.)

There was a short shower before the bus came to pick us up on the Embankment, taking us to a side street near the Royal Opera House. Everyone kept quiet as we got off, then rushed around the corner and into the foyer. IWGB members there had voted for a strike the following month for union recognition and the London Living Wage.

In the foyer we were met by a man who introduced himself as the Unison Health & Safety rep and told the IWGB President and the other protesters that the ROH had already agreed that the cleaners will get the Living Wage, but had not yet told them. The Opera House recognises Unison, despite the workers almost entirely being IWGB members. It’s a ridiculous situation but one which is allowed under our poor trade union laws, though not one that makes sense for either workers or employers.

After making their views clear the IWGB members left quietly and got back onto the bus for the final visit of the day, to the Angel Islington, where Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over employing the workers at the University of London from the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace in December) has its offices. As at the Royal Opera House, there were plenty of police present and waiting for the protesters, but here they managed to lock the metal gates on the two entrances to Angel Square as the bus arrived, leaving the protest to take place in front of one of them in Torrens Place.

From here the bus was going on to the union offices at the Elephant and Castle and I was invited to join them for a very late mid-afternoon lunch but unfortunately I had work to do on the many pictures I had taken and had to leave them and make my way home.

IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Parliament
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus


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John Lewis Cleaners Protest

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

A protester holds a message from John Lewis customer Una Kroll: ‘Outsourcing is a way of avoiding responsibility’

John Lewis Cleaners Protest
On Saturday 3rd January 2015 I met cleaners from the Cleaners And Facilities Branch of the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) outside John Lewis’s flagship Oxford Street store. They were there to hold a protest rally demanding the company lived up to its ethical reputation and paid the workers who keep the shop clean a living wage.

When John Spedan Lewis set up his small drapers shop on Oxford Street in 1864 he had the revolutionary idea of involving those who worked for him in the running and progress of the business, setting up a constitution that made all of them partners.

The ultimate purpose was expressed in Principle 1 of this consitution:

The happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.
Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members, they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards – profit, knowledge and power.

John Lewis Partnership

Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, speaking at the protest

But although staff on the counters and running other aspects of the business remain partners – and almost every year get an extra bonus payment as a share of the profits, the cleaners who work in the store who are not included in the scheme and say that in this and other respects they are being treated as second-class citizens.

Although the cleaners work in the store next to the John Lewis partners they are not employed by John Lewis. John Lewis pays a cleaning contractor to employ its cleaners, who get lower rates of pay and far inferior conditions of service than staff who are directly employed.

This lets John Lewis maintain the pretence of being an ethical employer while these people who work there get bullied, work under poor and often unsafe conditions, are paid less than a living wage and get only statutory minimum holidays and sick pay.

Mick Dooley of London TUSC

Neither John Lewis nor the cleaning contractor recognise the IWGB although a large majority of the cleaners belong to it, and neither had been willing to engage in talks about the dispute. John Lewis attempts to disclaim any responsibility for the cleaners, but the trade unionists and others who came to speak dismissed this as a a shallow attempt at deception. The work done by the cleaners takes place in the store and is essential to its running and should be properly recognised and paid.

In a protest before Christmas I had met with members of the IWGB in the restuarant at the top of the store and photographed an unannounced protest by them inside the store. This time was very different, with the protest being held on the wide pavement outside and given as much advance publicity as possible.

The union had received considerable support from John Lewis customers, with over 125,00 signing a petition calling on the company to live up to its ethical reputation and ensure that the cleaners are paid a living wage. Some of them came to protest with the union.

After speeches in front of the store on Oxford St, the protesters marched around the block containing the store which has entrances for shoppers on three sides. Although they arrived at some of these before the police and security they made no attempt to go inside, determined to avoid any trespass, though there were some arguments with police over a thin metal line in the pavement which marked the edge of the property.

Many shoppers on the street stopped briefly to find what the protest was about and most expressed support for the workers. The main doors to the store were closed by John Lewis security staff for much of the roughly an hour and a half protest.

Xmas Protests – Low Wages, Evictions, John Lewis – 2014

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Three Xmas Protests – Low wages, Evictions, John Lewis – in Brixton, Mayfair and Oxford St on December 14th 2014.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage

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

While I was with them they visited department store Morleys, Subway and Poundland and they were going on to other stores in Brixton paying poverty wages. The protest was supported by Unite the Resistance, the Socialist Party, Unison (who provided the Santa costume), 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.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’

Scrooge at Christmas 2014 was US property developers Westbrook Partners who were intending to evict the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate by Christmas so they can refurbish these low rent social properties and re-let them at market rents at roughly four times the current rents. Class War and friends protested at their Mayfair offices of in solidarity with the tenants.

Class War came with banners and posters and a Christmas Card which they presented to Westbrook with the message ‘Christmas Greetings! – but not for Rich Bastards’ and a pictures of wrapped gifts and the cover image from Ian Bone’s autobiography ‘BASH THE RICH’. It’s an interesting read and might make a friend a good Christmas Present, available from Freedom Press at a special discount.

This was one of a number of protests by the residents, Class War and other housing activists, with a video by Russell Brand going viral and a petition with 350,000 signatures that led to Hackney Council entering into talks with Westbrook and resulted in the estate being sold to the affordable housing group Dolphin Living.

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis

Many shoppers who can afford it go to John Lewis to buy Christmas presents, but members of te IWGB trade union and supporters including some John Lewis customers were there not to buy gifts but calling for the London Living Wage for cleaners there and an end to their treatment as second-class citizens. Many of the Christmas shoppers applauded their noisy protest.

I met the cleaners on the top floor of the store where they had gathered in the restaurant before getting out banners and flags and a megaphone, with IWGB organiser Alberto Durango used to inform customers why they were holding the protest.

The together with a group of John Lewis customers they slowly and loudly made their way around the top floor to the escalator, moving carefully through the gangways to avoid any damage.

They made their way down floor by floor, pausing on the balconies to display their banners.

John Lewis security staff and managers met the protesters and asked them to stop protesting and leave the store. They continued their way protesting until they reached the ground floor, where police stopped them from leaving. Here the situation became confused, with a great deal of unnecessary pushing by the police which blurred many of the pictures I made. The protesters were trying to get out, store security was pushing them out and the police were pushing them back. Eventually most of the protesters managed to get past the police and the protest continued on the pavement outside. The protest inside the store had been totally non-violent for a little over a quarter of an hour and had the police not decided to push the protesters back they would simply have walked out.

A police officer made an attempt to seize the amplifier the protesters were using, but they held onto it and eventually he gave up. At least one person was arrested and carried out of the store by police, though I think charges were later dropped.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


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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.


Cake, Yacht and Dodo

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

The cake came outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) where PCS members who work as cleaners and catering workers were beginning the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry, demanding they be paid the London Living Wage, and get decent conditions of employment.

It was the third anniversary of the founding of the BEIS, and also the third anniversary of the campaign to get the workers there decent pay and to be employed directly by the BEIS, rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark whose only concern is cutting costs to the bone by exploiting the workers so they can undercut competitors for the contracts and make profits at the workers’ expense.

A crowd of around a hundred supporters was there to cheer the strikers when they came out of the BEIS to begin their strike and there were speeches from trade unionists including PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, and UCU’s Jo Grady as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and some of the BEIS workers. I did manage to get a piece of the cake before I had to leave for the Royal Courts of Justice.

Extinction Rebellion had brought the yacht to to court to begin their ‘Summer Uprising’, another series of protests in five major cities against the criminal inaction by the government on climate and ecological collapse. The yacht was named Polly Higgins after the Scottish barrister who fought for years for an Ecocide Law and had died of cancer 3 months earlier, only 50.

When I arrived some kind of new age ceremony was taking place with people bringing water from across the country to pour into a large bowl and a Druid celebrant in long white robes. It’s one of the kind of things that makes it hard for many to take XR seriously as a movement.

But of course it is serious and the crisis that we face is existential. An ecocide law would be a powerful way to restrain some of the worst excesses of companies that are driving us to extinction. There were some good speeches at the event, with some very clear thinking, but also a few which made me cringe a little.

Eventually it was time to march, with the pink Dodo and the yacht, making our way across the river towards Waterloo where XR was to set up a camp on Waterloo Millenium Green.

There really is a climate and ecological emergency, with too many species going the way of the dodo, and we do need governments to tell the truth and make real and difficult actions to halt what seems an inevitable slide into irreversible heating which will make the world uninhabitable for many species, probably including our own. It’s time to end the kind of lip-service which has our government setting targets long into the future while ramping up disastrous policies like Heathrow expansion, road-building and coal mines.

The yacht went with them at the back of the procession, which halted for some time to block Waterloo Bridge, remembering the many arrests there in the previous XR protests, before continuing. It was then stopped by police on Waterloo Rd, causing far more rush hour traffic chaos than necessary by completely blocking the Waterloo roundabout. Eventually they were allowed to continue and occupy the green space they were heading for, but by that time I had left and walked into Waterloo station to catch my train home.

XR Summer Uprising procession
XR call for Ecocide Law
BEIS workers begin indefinite strike


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.


UVW at Wood St – 29 June 2016

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

The strike and protests organised by the United Voices of the World union against anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning who employed the cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices in the City of London, managed by CBRE and mainly let to Schroders and J P Morgan is a good example of one of the things the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is aiming to prevent.

The UVW use loud rallies and protests outside workplaces (and sometimes in their foyers) to shame employers who are exploiting low paid workers, many migrants, into talking to the union. These workers, often employed by small and intensely anti-union companies, are often on minimum legal rates of pay, well below the London Living Wage and usually on the statutory minimum (and minimal) conditions of service – and sometimes even have problems getting these.

Outsourcing of low paid work such as cleaning is widespread, and contractors get the contracts by cutting costs – such as wages and conditions of service – and also by using bullying management to over-work their employees. Often too they cut costs by ignoring safety issues and failing to supply protective clothing and other essential safety material.

The UVW strike at Wood St was the longest industrial dispute in the history of the City of London, and it continued after Thames Cleaning had agreed to pay the London Living Wage for some days until they also agreed to re-instate the two workers who had been sacked. These pictures come from a rally on day 22 of the 58 day strike.

The strike was only successful because of the continuing pressure provided by loud protests such as this one, which made the companies working in the offices very aware of what was happening and made them and the building owners put pressure on the contracting company to meet the union and agree to their demands. Protests such as these, by the UVW and other grass-roots unions including CAIWU, the IWGB and a few branches of major unions have been successful in getting many of London’s lowest paid workers a living wage.

The PCSC bill, if it becomes law, will make these activities illegal. Already under existing laws, the company was able to take legal action to try and get an injunction to stop the strike. Although this failed it did get strict conditions put on the UVW’s actions at Wood St, and landed the union with crippling legal costs. Fortunately many supporters came forward with donations.

I came to take pictures on a number of occasions during the strike, which you can find on My London Diary. These pictures are all from Day 22: UVW Wood St Strike continues.

London 14 May 2016

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Class War at UVW protest against Topshop sacking and suspensions of cleaners

May 14 has always been a special day for me, and five years ago I celebrated my birthday on the streets of London photographing various protests around town before going home to a more private event. The day’s work ended for me on Oxford St, where the United Voices of the World union were protesting against Philip Green’s Topshop after members who work as cleaners were suspended and one sacked for their union activities – demanding the London Living Wage. The protest was supported by other groups including Class War, cleaners from the CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Although Philip Green makes millions, the cleaners were on the national minimum of £6.70 per hour, nothing like a enough to live on in London.

Police were out in force to prevent the protesters entering the Topshop store and there was a noisy protest on the pavement for some time facing the line of police before Class War led the protesters into the centre of the road to block Oxford St.

Police tried to clear the road, and began threatening arrests and the protesters decided to march west down Oxford St, briefly blocking Oxford Circus

before stopping to protest outside John Lewis, where the UVW have been campaigning for several years to get the cleaners recognised as a part of the workforce with similar respect and conditions of service to other John Lewis staff.

There were heated arguments as police manhandled some of the protesters there, but things calmed down a little and the campaigners moved on for a final protest outside the Marble Arch Topshop.

Things seemed to be coming to an end and I was late for dinner so I hurried away.

My day’s work had begun in Holloway, where Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network were holding a rally and march to HMP Holloway, demanding that when the prison closed the site be used for much-needed social housing and community facilities, rather than for expensive private flats. Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn rode up on his bike to speak at the rally.

I moved on from the rally at the end of the march outside Holloway Prison to Oxford St, where the Revolutionary Communist Group and friends were reminding shoppers of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The rolling picket urged shoppers to boycott stores which support and fund Israel, including Marks and Spencer, and stopped for brief speeches in front of some of them for short speeches.

A small group of militant Zionists had come along to wave Israeli flags and shout insults at them. The protesters (who included several Jews and some Palestinians) made clear that this was not an anti-Semitic protest but against some actions of the Israeli government and it took place the day before Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering when roughly 80% of the Palestinian population were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. This year the attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem have largely been precipitated by the continuing attempts by Jewish settlers to displace the Palestinian population of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Founded in 1865, the area became home to Jerusalem’s Muslim elite, but in 1948 became home to Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem.

Vegans had come to Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets and wearing masks to show the film ‘Earthlings’ which includes scenes of horrific cruelty to animals and calling for an end to the farming and eating of animals. Some also pointed out the contribution that becoming vegan could make towards solving the climate crisis as Vegan dietts use less water, land and grain and produce less CO2.

Also on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square were a small group of protesters standing in front of the National Gallery who held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

More about all these protests on My London Diary:

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Reclaim Holloway

Saturday 16th April 2016

Friday, April 16th, 2021

There was a lot happening in London on Saturday 16th April 2016, and I managed to catch some of it. The largest march was organised by the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity. It demanded 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.

It was a large march and by the time I arrived people were fairly tightly packed on around 500 metres of Gower St waiting for the march to start, and it took me some time to make my way through to the gazebo where speeches were being made before the start of the the march – though I found plenty to photograph as I moved through the crowd.

Finally I made my way to the front of the march and photographed some of the main banners lined up there, but police held up the start of the march and I had to leave before it moved off.

I was disappointed in Whitehall as there was no sign of an event I had been expecting to take place there – or perhaps I was too late. But in Parliament Square I met Ahwazi Arabs from the Ahwazi Arab People’s Democratic Popular Front and the Democratic Solidarity Party of Alahwaz who have demonstrated London in solidarity with anti-government protests in Iran every April since 2005, on the anniversary of the peaceful Ahwazi intifada in which many were killed and hundreds arrested by the Iranian regime.

The Ahwaz region, an autonomous Arab state, was occupied by Iran in 1925 iand they incorporated it into the country in 1935 largely to allow the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP since 1954) to exploit its rich oil reserves. Since then Iran has pursued a campaign to eliminate Ahwazi culture and change the ethnic makeup of the region by encouraging Persian settlers. BP dominated Iranian oil until Iran nationalised it in 1951, and again became an important force there after the CIA (and MI6) engineered coup in 1953 and the company is still the major partner supplied by the National Iranian Oil Company.

I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, by which time the Peoples Assembly marchers were arriving for a rally.

Things were visually rather more interesting on the North Terrace, where people were dancing to the ‘dig it sound system’, which carried a message from Tom Paine: “The World is my country – All people are my brethren – To do good is my religion”.

And in one corner the Palestine Prisoners Parade were attracting attention with juggling, hula hoops and speeches to the often arbitrary detention without proper trial suffered by many Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Many of them are on rolling detention orders, released and immediately re-arrested and put back in prison.

As the rally came to an end the United Voices of the World trade union began a protest a short distance away on the Strand, supported by Class War and others, demanding the reinstatement of 2 workers suspended by cleaning contractor Britannia for calling for the London Living Wage of £9.40 an hour for all those working at Topshop. The UVW say Brittania is systematically victimising, bullying and threatening cleaners and Topshop refuse to intervene.

The fairly small crowd held a noisy protest outside the shop entrance, with was blocked by security men, and a large group of police arrived and began to try to move the protesters, and began pushing them around. The protesters didn’t retaliate but simply moved back; some holding up placards in front of the police cameraman who was filming the event were threatened with arrest.

Eventually the protesters marched away, walking back along the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where they picked up a few more supporters and then on to Top Shop at Oxford Circus for another protest and stand-off with the police.

After a fairly short protest there the protesters marched on to John Lewis, where the UVW have a long-standing dispute calling for the cleaners to be treated equally with others who work there. As they approached the store some police became more violent and one woman was thrown bodily to the ground several yards away.

Other police and protesters went to help her and the protesters called for – and eventually got – an apology for the inappropriate use of force. Things calmed down and the protest continued, but as it moved off after several speeches with many leaving for home the police picked on two individuals and began searching them and threatening arrest and the situation became more tense, with police threatening both protesters and press.

More on My London Diary
UVW Topshop & John Lewis Protest
UVW Topshop 2 protest – Strand
Palestine Prisoners Parade
Dancing for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education
Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education