Posts Tagged ‘minimum wage’

13 December 2014

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I started work on December 13th 2014 in Brixton, where a well-dressed Santa was with other Lambeth Living Wage protesters including National Shop Stewards Network chair Rob Williams, calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They entered a number of shops on the main shopping street where workers are only paid the minimum wage, spreading their message through a megaphone and placards and handing out leaflets and union membership forms to shop workers.

They left when asked to do so by security staff and continued along the street to the next shop on ‘Santa’s Naughty List’.
‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


The Victoria line from Brixton tube took me to Green Park and I made my way to join the ‘Advance to Mayfair’ protest organised by Class War at the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners. The protest was in solidarity with the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate who Westbrook are intended to evict before Christmas.

There had been some disagreements expressed on social media before the protest and the organiser was ill and unable to publicise the event over the previous few days and the protest was rather smaller than anticipated. The police had however come out in force for what was a small and well-behaved protest in which after some speeches, Class War delivered a Christmas card to Westbrook – and someone came out from their office to accept it.

This and other protests by and in support of the residents and the publicity they generated in the media worked, and a few days later Westbrook sold their interest in the New Era estate to the Dolphin Square Foundation and the New Era tenants were saved from eviction.
Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


My final destination for the day was the flagship John Lewis Store in Oxford St, not for some Christmas shopping, but to meet with members of the IWGB and John Lewis customers who were campaigning for equality for the cleaners. Cleaners who work in the store receive less than the living wage, and are not entitled to the considerable bonus payments that other staff who work in John Lewis receive as ‘partners’ in the business. John Lewis outsources the cleaning to cleaning contractors to avoid having to give them decent wages and conditions while retaining its reputation as a decent employer.

We met up in the café on the fifth floor of the store, and after unrolling there banners there was a brief speech about the unfair treatment of the cleaners from Alberto Durango before the protesters marched around the top floor to the escalator blowing vuvuzelas. They made their way slowly around to the down escalator on each floor, pausing to hang their banners over the balcony and continuing the noisy protest.

By the time they arrived at the ground floor, police had arrived and were confusing the issue, with some trying to stop the protesters leaving the store and others trying to force them out. Most of the protesters were trying to leave and like me had to push our way past police to get onto the pavement where the protest continued. Police made one or two arrests, though I think all were released without charge as John Lewis would not welcome the publicity a court appearance would provide.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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 Hotel Visit

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Hotels are big business particularly in London, and its a highly profitable business particularly because it relies on exploiting low paid workers. The United Voices of the World is not the only union that takes up their cause, but it does so more directly than the larger unions, who have not had great success in either organising among the low paid often migrant workers the sector relies on, or at representing them.

Part of the reason for the greater militancy shown by the UVW is the reluctance of managements to engage with the union. Many hotels are run by organisations that are essentially anti-union and often prepared to flout even the weak laws on unions which we have, and to employ contractors who fail to implement even the minimum legal standards for wages, terms and conditions to provide their services.

I can’t comment with any certainty on the details of the individual case that led UVW members and supporters (including some IWGB members) to protest in the foyer of the Hilton Doubletrees Hotel close to Marble Arch. The union claimed that one of their members who had worked there for six months had been paid illegally at less than the minimum wage and was owed a large amount by the cleaning contractor.

Having got no satisfaction by contacting the hotel management and the cleaning contractor, the UVW had decided that some more direct action was called for, and around twenty of them walked into the hotel foyer and began to make their demands along with a great deal of shouting as well as loud music and dancing, demanding to talk to the hotel manager and the manager of the contract cleaning firm. 

Police eventually arrived and I was impressed that the officers tried to get the two sides to talk about the dispute. Unlike on many other occasions they actually listened to what the union had to say rather than simply try to clear them out with threats of arrest. By the time I left the protesters were still in the foyer and waiting for a representative from the contracting firm on her way to meet with them.

I don’t know how the dispute was finally settled – or even if it has yet been or whether the union is now pursuing legal action – but this was a good example of how the UVW is prepared to support its members. There are employers who rely on exploiting individuals, particularly migrant workers who are often ignorant of their rights and sometimes have a limited command of English to argue for themselves. The UVW educates them and speaks for them in meetings with employers, at employment tribunals and, if necessary, on the street at workplaces and has a remarkable record of successes through solidarity.

More pictures at Cleaners at Hilton Doubletree Hotel .


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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