Posts Tagged ‘London University’

Sick Pay, Holidays And Pensions – End Outsourcing

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

Sick Pay, Holidays And Pensions – End Outsourcing – Nine years ago on Friday 28th June 2013 I photographed a protest by low-paid workers at the University of London who with their supporters ran into the Senate House and protested noisily inside the building for sick pay, holidays and pensions for all workers at the University.


I’ve spent some time over the past few days thinking about strikes and industrial actions, partly because of the rail strikes. My local station is one of the few that still has a train service, but out of solidarity with the workers I won’t be using it on strike days, and on the days in between it is still likely to be unreliable.

The campaigners met up at SOAS before the protest

Of course I support the strikers, many of them low paid workers and all of whom have seen the value of their wages cut over the last few years. And these have been years when for all the problems that politicians and media state many of the wealthy have got considerably wealthier – and some made huge fortunes over Brexit and profited greatly (and not always legally) over Covid. We are living in an increasingly unfair society, and with a government which despite claims about levelling up is doing its damnedest to make the rich richer while making the poor poorer.

After marching quietly past university buildings they dashed towards Senate House

The government and train operating companies make much of the need to modernise the railways and I can only agree with them. We desperately need to get back to a sensible structure for running railways, to reverse the breakup of the system into small pieces, each with its highly paid management, caused by the doctrinaire privatisation of the 1990s. And yes, there are other changes which could greatly improve the system, but what the companies mean by modernisation is largely slashing the additional rates for overtime, weekend and night work. It’s ‘we’ll give you more pay if we can cut your wages at the same time’.

and were all inside the building before security noticed

June 28th is said to be the date on which new restrictions on the right to protest pushed through parliament in the last session come into effect. I think the protest by the IWGB on behalf of low paid workers employed by contract companies at London University on Friday 28th January 2013 would clearly have been illegal in several ways had this law been in place then. And it would be precisely those aspects that made this and most other protests over low pay effective that could have resulted in arrests.

They swarmed up the stairs towards the Vice-Chancellor’s office

I don’t know how (or even if) the police will enforce the new laws. Although I think they will have little appetite to do so, there will be considerably political pressure on them. And while the large unions will worry about the huge impact legal measures would have on their funds and largely play safe, perhaps the small grass-roots unions who have been so much more effective for low paid workers will feel they have less to lose.

They held a noisy protest outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office

Back in 2013, the low paid workers who keep London University running were taking part in a ‘Summer of Action’, supported by the grass roots IWGB union (Independent Workers of Great Britain) and the students of the ULU (University of London Union.)

making sure he and his staff could hear why they were protesting


Many of the the cleaners, security guards and catering staff who work in the same buildings as other service staff employed by the university have brutally inferior conditions of service as they employed on behalf of the university by contracting companies who give them none of the kind or working conditions that any considerate employer would provide.

They then returned to the large lobby below to tell those attending conferences why workers were protesting.

Often they are not provided with proper safety equipment and expected to work in unsafe ways to get the job done, and may have to put up with harsh and unreasonable demands over workload, derogatory treatment and even racism from the managers employed by contract companies.

But this ‘3 Cosas’ protest was largely about three things, sick pay, holidays and pensions, on which these outsourced staff often have to fight even to get the rock-bottom statutory minimum provisions. Statutory sick pay is so low that few workers can afford to take time off when they are sick. Even at the height of Covid, many who were unwell had to drag themselves into work, putting their own health and that of others at risk to pay their rent and feed their families.

They continued a noisy protest in the lobby and its balconies for a few minutes

It took many protests such as this to persuade the University and other bodies to end the unfair outsourcing – even when studies showed there were considerable advantages in having a properly employed workforce and little if any financial loss. At SOAS, where the protesters met before the protest the Justice for Workers Campaign led by SOAS Unison branch began in 2006 and was only finally successful in 2018.

and then decided it was time to leave, pleased that the protest had gone so well.

The IWGB is still campaigning against outsourcing at University College London (UCL) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as well as other campaigns. A few days ago I photographed them outside the London offices of the world’s largest healthcare multinational Health Corporation of America (HCA) Healthcare, who run the private London Bridge Hospital, and they also support other groups of low-paid workers, including foster carers, delivery drivers, minicab drivers and cycling instructors.

More about the 3 Cosas protest at Cleaners Surprise Senate House Invasion.


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Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel
Three protests on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now! Irish Embassy

Selma James calls for the release of Margaretta D’Arcy

I don’t think my path has ever crossed, at least not knowingly, with that of ‘Guantanamo Granny’ Margaretta D’Arcy, though Facebook tells me we have 163 mutual friends. My eldest brother, around her age but long since dead, may well have sat down with her on Whitehall with Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100 back in 1961. Her life has been “decades of playwriting, acting, pageantry, pirate radio, books, peace activism, protest and imprisonment whilst bringing up her family of boys. She addresses Irish nationalism, civil liberties and women’s rights.”

Her political activities led to imprisonment in Northern India, in Armagh, in Holloway (for protests at Greenham Common against Cruise missiles.) This protest came after she was due in court after being jailed for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War against the use since 2001 of Shannon by US war planes in violation of Irish neutrality – and she served three months for refusing to sign a bond against further trespass on the airport.

The protest at the Irish Embassy called for her immediate release and was supported by organisations including the Global Women’s Strike, Troops out of Ireland, Winvisible, Women of Colour, Kilburn Stop the War, Labour Caribbean Solidarity, Payday Men’s Network, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

Students march to protect Education

London University Students held a peaceful protest to show they intend to keep up their protests for democratic, public education free from exploitation and police violence and to support university cleaners on a 3-day strike for ‘3 Cosas’ – sick pay, holidays and pensions – and for recognition of their trade union, the IWGB.

After a rally outside the University of London Union in Malet St they marched on a tour of key sites including Senate House, the University & Colleges Employers Association in Woburn House in Tavistock Square, Holborn Police station, where they protested loudly against police violence and in particular at the execution by police of Mark Duggan and ending with another short rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the Tavistock Square offices, a few of those in a black block at the front of the march made a brief token entry into the lobby, accompanied by rather more photographers and videographers, and some paint was thrown at the outside of the building, hitting several protesters and photographers.

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel

People protested close to the Israeli Embassy in response to a call by African asylum seekers for international action to support their protests against the arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of refugees inside Israel.

Tens of thousands of African asylum seekers have been protesting on the streets of Israel since the beginning of the month, holding mass rallies against their treatment by the Israeli authorities. New laws mean anyone entering the country without proper papers to be held for up to a year without trial, and for those who are already in the country to be held in infinite detention, at a detention facility in the Negev desert which like many other Israeli prisons is run by the private security company G4S.

Although there are around 50,000 African refugees in Israel, only a few hundred have had their applications processed. Most live illegally on the streets, taking whatever work is available in the ‘black economy’, with constant exploitation and threat of arrest. A recent strike by those working as cleaners, cooks, dishwashers and other low paid workers had brought many restaurants, hotels and businesses to a standstill.

Police tried to move the protesters to the opposite side of the busy main road, still further from the embassy which is in a private street, but they refused to move. Eventually police gave up and brought some cones from across the road to allow others to pass the growing protest in safety.

More on all these on My London Diary:

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel
Students march to protect Education
Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now!


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


A Bad Day Out

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

I didn’t much enjoy Thursday 20th Feb 2020, though I was pleased to be able to cover a protest by UVW Security guards working at St George’s University Hospital in Tooting. They had been on strike for 3 weeks demanding to be directly employed rather than outsourced to a private contractor and working under the minimum legal terms and conditions of service.

Although they belong to the United Voices of the World union, the university had refused recognise or talk with their union, and has called on the police to intimidate the workers and try to break their strike – and police even carried out an unlawful arrest of a UVW staff member and barrister. I’d arrived too late on that occasion to photograph the picket, when everyone had left the area.

On 20th Feb I arrived too early. Although when I had first been sent details of the protest planned to take place on an Open Day for postgraduate students they were planning to start at 4pm, the time had later been changed to 6pm and I’d not checked before setting out. So I arrived two hours early and was surprised to find that I was the only one there.

After a little checking on my phone I found out what was happening, and decided that rather than missing the event I’d go for a walk around the area. It wasn’t a bad day for February, and I enjoyed the walk by the Rover Wandle, but by the time the sun had gone down it did start to get rather cold.

There was still no sign of the protesters, but after a phone call I met up with them close to Tooting Broadway station, where they had a large number of balloons to give the protest a party theme, and were writing slogans on them, which proved a little difficult. After some short speeches on a rather dark street corner they marched down to the hospital. It was hard to take photographs as they marched as the street lighting was poor and they were moving at a fast walking pace.

At the hospital they walked in though the main doors to a corridor area; there were very few security staff on duty, perhaps because most were on strike. I think perhaps the change of time for the protest had misled the hospital management as well as me, as there were no police present, though I had seen some when I arrived around 4pm.

Once inside there were more speeches with the union making their demands for the security guards to be made direct employees of St George’s University London and for them to receive pay and T&Cs of employment in line with SGUL standards. Among those to speak in support was drill music star Drillmaster who is standing for London Mayor.


It was a noisy protest, with music and dancing as well as speeches. Police arrived and after some fairly terse discussion came to an agreement with the protesters that they would leave in a few minutes time.

My day was not over, though I was already a couple of hours later than expected. I ran across Clapham Junction to jump on a train for home just as it was leaving, only for it to make an unscheduled stop at the next station, Wandsworth Town. After around 15 minutes we were all told to get off as the train would be going no further as the line was closed at Barnes where someone had committed suicide by throwing themselves under a train. Despite this being an unfortunately common happening at Barnes, South West Trains appeared to have absolutely no contingency plans. Eventually I got a bus back to Clapham Junction, a well-staffed station but where nobody seemed to know what was happening, and joined hundreds of passengers going from platform to platform in search of a train that would take one of the two alternative routes that avoid the accident location.

I took a chance and jumped on a Kingston train. No one on the platform or on the train knew how far it was going, but I knew that if necessary I could catch a bus home from Kingston. At Kingston the guard thought they might get to Twickenham – where again I might get a bus. Eventually it reached Twickenham, where everyone was told to leave the train. Fortunately by that time – two hours after the incident – someone had the sense to
set up a shuttle service for stations further west, and eventually I arrived home, around five hours later than I had expected when I set out and fuming at the incompetence of South West Trains.

More at:
St Georges’s Hospital Security Guards
Wandle Wander


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