Posts Tagged ‘outsourcing’

At the LSE – Sept 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

I’d gone to the LSE to attend a session in the LSE’s 3-day ‘Resist’ festival organised by Lisa McKenzie, then a research fellow in the Department of Sociology there, though I imagine that this was one of several reasons her contract was not renewed. It’s OK if your work is purely academic, or if it supports the kind of people and companies that fund universities, but anything practical which supports the working classes is definitely infra-dig.

At the end of the session (more about it below) McKenzie called upon Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union to which many of the LSE cleaners now belong. He accused the management of the LSE of failing to protect the interests of cleaners working there who they have outsourced to a cleaning contractor in a cost-cutting exercise without insisting on decent working conditions and conditions of service. He invited all present to a meeting to discuss action by the cleaners which was to be held as a part of the Resist festival later that day. I hadn’t intended to stay for that, but decided to do so.

Covid has made many re-evaluate the contributions of many low-paid workers, and to realise how essential their services are to the running of society. Cleaners are one such group and the meeting organised by the UVW made clear how terribly they were being treated by their employers, Noonan, while the LSE was happy to pocket the few pennies they were saving by outsourcing and look the other way to the injustices taking place under their own roof – while claiming the moral high ground and uncovering and moralising on those in societies around the world.

It was also a meeting which would have shattered any prejudices about low-paid workers being less intelligent, less aware or less articulate than those in higher positions. Many of them were migrant workers and speaking in their second (or third) language, though some through interpreters, but made themselves heard more clearly than the average cabinet minister in a radio or TV interview.

The cleaners’ campaign for parity of treatment with other workers employed directly was supported by students – including those on a new graduate course in Equality – and the students union General Secretary, several post-graduate students and staff. One of those present was LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber who so sadly died aged 59 just over a year ago and is much missed.

Students and staff continued to support the cleaners in various actions and the campaign was partly successful. The cleaners were brought in house in June 2017, but are still remained “frustrated and grieved by their continuing treatment as “second-class” workers.” A petition was launched in April 2021 making 14 demands. A major continuing problem is that the LSE does still not recognise or talk with the cleaners’ trade union, the UVW, but talks with Unison which never consults the cleaners and fails to represent many of their needs.

The earlier session of ‘Resist’ was a lengthy and detailed indictment by Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing of a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing. This replaced the LCC-built Ferrier Estate in SE London, which was deliberately run-down, demonised and emptied by Greenwich Council from 1999 onwards.

Elmer accused the report of lies about the estate regeneration, of basing their report on that of the property developer and passing it off as their own, of placing the cultural legitimacy of an LSE report in the service of Government policy and the profits of Berkeley Homes and of accepting financial backing to validate the desired conclusions of their backers.

Elmer made a convincing case, but none of those responsible came to make any defence of the report, and it was hard to know whether there could have been any – though I suspect it might well have been only a matter of picking a few holes and making minor corrections to his analysis. Clearly universities should not be places where property developers or even governments call the tunes and the LSE would appear to have been caught out kowtowing to capital.

More at:
LSE Cleaners campaign launch
Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE


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.


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.


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.

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

Two years ago – 26 Feb 2019

Friday, February 26th, 2021

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

Two years ago today Class War protested outside the London Palladium against Jacob Rees-Mogg, who they accused of spouting “homophobic, transphobic, racist, pro-hunting, misogynist, classist, privileged” nonsense. Rees-Mogg had booked London’s best known venue to preach more of this to his fans, who had paid £38 for a ticket to this freak show.

I met up with Class War at a pub a short walk from the Palladium and found a small group there with Jane Nicholl dressed as a nun, Mother Hysteria, and Adam Clifford as Jacob Rees Mogg and there was time for them to take a selfie and everyone to finish their drinks before the small group moved off to the entrance to the Palladium where a few more of there supporters were waiting and long queues were waiting to enter for the performance inside.

As well as the fans there were of course a large group of security men and police in attendance (all probably thanking Class War for the overtime.) And when Class War held up posters and banners the waiting crowd had their hopes for what they had paid to come and see confirmed. One or two did come across to insult the protesters, and a few others passing by came to share their similar views of Mogg with Class War.

Police did their best to render the protest less effective and moved the group to the opposite side of the pedestrianised street and issued various warnings to harass them. Eventually they stopped and searched Jane Nicholl, threatening her with arrest as they found stink bombs in her handbag which they claimed were offensive weapons. I stood for almost 20 minutes watching the officer writing out “her notice of stop and search, perhaps because he is at a loss trying to find some way that doesn’t make the police action sound stupid” before deciding I had to go home and file my pictures.


Rally for an end to Outsourcing

This protest had come at the end of a long and varied day for me, which had begun with a coordinated action by the UVW, IWGB, and the BEIS PCS branch demanding an end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes. A legal challenge was demanding better rights for the 3.3 million outsourced workers in the UK, and protesters had met at the University of London at 8am to march to a protest outside the High Court before moving on to a rally in Parliament Square where I joined them a couple of hours later.


Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

From Parliament Square it was a short walk to the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Victoria St where outsourced workers including catering and security staff in the PCS were striking in support of their demand for the London Living Wage as well as end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes.


Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

After a rally and speeches at the BEIS, the protest by outsourced workers moved on to the Ministry of Justice (though they call in the Ministry of Injustice) where low paid workers belonging the the United Voices of the World union who had been on strike for 24 hours were going back to work. They also want the London Living Wage and fair conditions of service rather than the poverty and insecurity of outsourcing.


North Woolwich

When the protest at the Justice Ministry came to an end I went to have a quick lunch and, as I had several hours to spare before the Class War action, went to take some photographs at North Woolwich. Unfortunately I arrived at Bank station for the DLR only to find there were no trains running – and no information as to when they might resume service.

It took me rather longer than anticipated to get there, taking the Northern Line to London Bridge and a train to Woolwich Arsenal. Fortunately by then services were running from there to North Woolwich, saving me a walk across the river but I still had rather less time than I needed and had to rush away before finishing my planned route, mainly beside the River Thames. It was a pleasant day for a walk, but a clear blue sky is not good for panoramic views.

As usual, more about all these on My London Diary:
Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show
North Woolwich
Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry
Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS
Rally for an end to Outsourcing


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.


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


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.


Show Workers Some Love

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

On St Valentine’s Day, Feb 14 2019, the Security and Receptionists Branch of the IWGB union and students launched their campaign for Goldsmiths University of London to directly employ its security officers, with a protest outside and inside the university buildings. The protest, on St Valentines Day, called on the university to show its workers some love.

I was pleased to be invited to go to photograph the event, and thankful that unlike many union pickets it was to take place at lunchtime rather than at the kind of ungodly hour of the morning that many of our worst paid have to clock in. I’m afraid I decline all requests that would involve me getting out of bed well before dawn and leave those to younger photographers who live closer, in part because travel until after the morning peak into London costs more than any likely return from reproduction fees.

Goldsmiths is in New Cross, a rather run-down area of South London that I’ve known for years and is rapidly sprawling over the whole area. Long ago, before I started taking photographs I made the pilgrimage to Chris Wellard’s Jazz & Blues Record Shop on Lewisham Way, probably the finest in the world until its closure in the mid-70s, later demolished for a new block for the college just a few yards further down the road. Goldsmiths has never quite gained the same reputation, though I have been there for the odd (sometimes very odd) meeting and event since. And more often to visit a late artist and photographer friend whose studios were just a little further on down the road at Lewisham Arthouse.

A group of students stood outside the old college building, waiting for the event to start, and eventually members of the IWGB arrived. Chris Wellard’s advertising always use to contain strict instructions to take the BR Southern trains from London Bridge rather than use the Underground (now the Overground) and perhaps they hadn’t observed these.

But things soon warmed up, and after some short speeches, including a warning from IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee that this was a peaceful protest and we should be careful not to cause any damage a show of hands was voted to protest inside the building. We walked inside and made our way through the campus, stopping at various areas where people were eating lunch to for the union leaders to speak briefly – and to considerable applause from most – about the campaign.

The protesters then walked down to New Cross Road, where the university management no has its offices in the former Deptford Town Hall, and sat down in the busy road outside for a few minutes blocking all traffic.

Walking back into the university campus, they group briefly occupied the foyer of the Ben Pimlott Building, before walking back to the front of the main building for a final rally.

It had been a lively and highly noticeable protest, bringing the claim for security staff to be directly employed by the university with similar terms and benefits to others at Goldsmiths to the attention of a large number of students, staff and management.

Exactly a year later, on Valentines Day 2020, the IWGB Security Guards & Receptionists Branch tweeted (with a short video):

More pictures at Bring Goldsmith’s Security In-House.


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.



3 Cosas – 28 Jan 2014

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

It was the second day of the 3 day strike by the IWGB for union recognition and better conditions for outsourced workers at the University of London, and the union had hired an open-top bus to take their campaigners around London to protest.

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign was calling for Sick Pay, Holdidays and Pensions for the workers, who were only getting the minimal statutory provisions from the cost-cutting contracting companies who employed them. They worked alongside people who were employed directly by the University who enjoyed considerably better conditions of service.

Although the majority of the workers were members of the IWGB, the University and the contractors refuse to talk with this union. The University management instead recognises a union that has few if any members, using this as an excuse not to recognise the union the workers belong to.

After a lengthy tour of London, stopping at some of the workplaces and elsewhere for speeches from the top of the bus, we came to Parliament Square, where there was a short rally and MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham came to show their support.

I’ve written about the day at some length on My London Diary so I won’t go into much detail and repeat myself here. There are of course many more pictures, rather too many, as I got a little carried away and there was so much to photograph.

While the idea through the morning had been to draw as much attention to the strike and protest noisily, the next event was a suprise protest at another location where the IWGB were campaigning for union recognition and a living wage, the Royal Opera House. The bus stopped a short distance away and then members rushed into the foyer to hold a noisy protest there.

We then left and went for a final protest outside the offices of the contractor who employ many of the workers at the University, Cofely GDF-Suez. There the gates were locked and the protest took place on the street outside.

More pictures and text from the day:
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus
IWGB at Parliament
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez


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.


Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

One of the reasons why the UK has suffered so badly from the corona virus has been outsourcing. Not of course the major reason, which has been government incompetence and failure to take effective action, always a case of too little too late. A year after the outbreak began it is only now considering the kind of travel restrictions that would have saved many thousands of lives (and which even one government minister has said she was arguing in favour of at the start.) Three weeks before we had the first lock-down I was getting urgent messages from relatives who were in touch with the medical advice that was going to the government that, because of my age and diabetes, I should isolate myself.

And of course there has been the failure to work properly with existing public bodies, instead preferring to give huge payments to cronies to set up an ineffectual systems for testing and tracing, to source inadequate PPE and take large consultancy fees to no particular purpose, wasting billions.

Government has deliberately promoted policies which have increased the spreading of the virus, failing to stop much unnecessary work or ensure that proper protective measures are enforced and giving offers to people to go out for meals largely in indoor settings where the spread of infection was almost inevitable. Although they now deny it, their polices were based on ideas of herd immunity, where infection gives a large proportion of the population some immunity and stops the virus spreading; for this to work, perhaps 80% of us would need to have had it, and a quick back of envelope calculation showed that would mean perhaps 400,000 deaths – and I would have been rather too likely to be one of them. It’s a figure we may still reach, though 200,000 seems more likely now – and we are over half way there.

A couple of days ago on the Today programme on Radio 4 I heard Maria, a cleaner from the IWGB being interviewed. She contracted the virus, probably while travelling to work on crowded public transport, and tested positive. Before the test she had been ill at work and had asked her employer if she could go home, but had been told she had to stay. After the positive result, she had to continue to go to work, as the sick pay she would have received was simply not enough to live on.

Maria is probably one of those IWGB members in the pictures I took on 25 Jan 2018, and the other pictures I’ve taken at IWGB protests against outsourcing. Outsourced workers are employed not by the company at their work place – on this occasion the University of London – but by a company that is given a contract for the services they provide. Contracts are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and outsourcing companies cut their costs by paying low wages, giving only the statutory minimum in conditions – including sick pay, holidays, pensions etc – and often bullying the workers, demanding impossible workloads and failing to provide proper safety equipment – so that they can gain contracts and also make a profit for the company owners.

Usually too both the contractors and the workplace management refuse (often illegally) to recognise the trade unions to which the outsourced workers belong – such as the IWGB, and refuse to discuss any of the workplace issues with them. Often union members are disciplined and sacked for their union activities.

Had Maria been one of the cleaners at the various places where the IWGB have been able by organising protests like this and forcing the management to talk with them and to get the workers directly employed she would have got the kind of conditions that other workers at these places take for granted. She would have been able to call in to work when she knew she was ill and have time off, and would have been able to self-isolate after her positive corona test, as she would have been able to rely on proper sick pay.

Outsourcing and other poisonous working arrangements, particularly zero hours contracts, have been a major factor in directly spreading the infection, and are a part of the reason for its increased prevalence among our black and ethnic minority communities. Low pay too has an indirect effect, leading to more crowded housing conditions. Many low paid jobs too are ones that involve considerable contact with others, and often involve travel in crowded public transport to workplaces.

The first protest on that Thursday evening in January was calling for the University of London to directly employ the cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff that work in the premises that are part of the central administration, including offices and halls of residence, and took place outside the University’s Senate House. Earlier protests have persuaded the University to consider direct employment for some of these workers, but the IWGB call for all of them to be brought in-house as soon as possible. Students and some teaching staff from various colleges came to support the protest.

At the end of this protest a double-decker bus hired by the union arrived to take those present to a ‘secret location’ for a further protest and I was invited to go with them. It dropped us off around the corner from the Royal College of Music, and the protesters ran into the building. A new contractor had taken over the RCM cleaning contract and decided to halve the hours worked by cleaners and change shift times. Most of the cleaners have to work on several jobs like this to make ends meet and so were unable to change to the new hours and had been threatened with dismissal. The RCM and the contractor had refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who had launched a collective grievance; the cleaners have balloted for strike action and the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

It was a short and very noisy protest inside the foyer, and the protesters who had been very careful to avoid any damage left when the police arrived after 12 minutes and continued their protest outside.

More at:
Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London


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.


More From May Days: 2018

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

My May Day in 2018 was rather more varied than usual, taking in several other events as well as the traditional May Day march and rally where I started as usual at Clerkenwell Green, along with the Kurdish and Turkish communists and others. Without our various migrant communities it would have been a very much smaller and less colourful event.

Rather than photograph the actual march I left a few minutes before it started to take the underground to Westminster, where the Chronic Lyme Disease Support Group UK was holding a protest to raise awareness of the hidden epidemic of the disease here. Carried by ticks, the disease is hard to diagnose and the NHS has failed to introduce proper tests and make doctors aware of its prevalence and proper treatment.

The general public need to know about the dangers and in particular to take precautions against tick bites and to be ready to remove ticks promptly and safely from their skin. I was fortunate to have met this group shortly before a holiday with friends a couple of years earlier so carried a small bent plastic tick remover for when we got bitten. If you ever walk through tall grass or woods you should have one ready.

From outside Parliament it was a short walk to the Home Office, where Movement for Justice were protesting against a planned charter flight later in the week for a mass deportation to Jamaica. This was in the middle of the Windrush scandal and the flight would include members of the Windrush generation. The Home Office, particularly under Theresa May, has been guilty of enforcing an unjust, scandalous and racist immigration policy which is still continuing.

I rushed away from the Home Office and up Whitehall to the Strand, where I was just in time to meet the May Day march from Clerkenwell Green. I was almost certainly more out of breath than the members of the Musician’s Union whose band were leading it.

The rally was, as I noted, a rather humdrum event dominated by trade union speakers which failed to represent the make-up of the march, dominated by our migrant communities.

It seemed rather curious that speakers apparently were supposed to be ‘non-political’ in their speeches because of the elections later in the week. If you can’t be political at a May Day Rally why bother?

May Day Rally

The rally was enlivened a little by the final contribution which was from a victimised union rep from the Brixton Ritzy, but by the time she spoke most had left either to go home or to the local pubs. Those left were getting ready to continue the day with a protest organised by the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain), United Voices of the World the union, staff from Picturehouse Cinemas, the Women’s Strike Assembly – UK, London Wobblies, Another Europe Is Possible, Plan C London, Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the Precarious Workers Brigade representing precarious workers, people on poverty pay and exploitative contracts whose largely unskilled work is essential to keeping society running.

They marched to protest outside a number of exploitative workplaces where disputes were currently taking place, demanding guaranteed hours of work, a living wage, the decriminalisation of sex work, an end to trade union victimisation and repeal of the anti-union laws.

After their first protest at the Ministry of Justice where cleaners are demanding a living wage, they went on to further protests at King’s College, where cleaners demand to be directly employed with proper terms of employment and a living wage.

I left the protest at King’s to join the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union CAIWU who had been celebratingd International Workers’ Day with an open-topped bus tour stopping to protest outside some of London’s most notorious employers. Their final protest of the day was at the Royal Opera House, where they were in dispute over the victimisation of five members for their trade union activities.

By now I was getting rather tired, but made a short detour on my way home taking the tube to Brixton, where an emergency demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall before Thursday’s council elections was calling for a public inquiry into Lambeth Labour’s housing policy, an immediate halt to estate demolitions and a call to stop the privatisation via Homes for Lambeth which is leading to social cleansing.  

Lambeth Labour’s election manifesto had a proud claim that it was well on the way to “complete our ambitious programme of building 1,000 extra homes at council rent for local families“, while the actual number of council homes with with secure council tenancies built was – according to a Freedom of Information request – only 17. The protesters say that even than figure was around double the actual number.

Lambeth Housing Tell Us the Truth
CAIWU Mayday Mayhem at Royal Opera
Precarious Workers – King’s College
Precarious Workers – Ministry of Justice
May Day Rally
May Day March on the Strand
Against Deportation Charter Flights
Lyme Disease epidemic
London May Day March meets


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