Posts Tagged ‘Oxford St’

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.


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

Just a year ago

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Just a year ago on Saturday 18th January I was going up to London as usual on a Saturday morning to photograph a number of protests. The day didn’t get off to a good start, as when I arrived at the location for the first event I was the only person there. I was a few minutes early, so I hung around, but when the actual time arrived and there was still only one person there (and even the organiser on Facebook hadn’t turned up) I gave up and left.

Before Facebook it was rather more difficult to share information about any protest, but now anyone can post an event. There is some indication of how much support any event has attracted, with Facebook showing the number of people who have clicked to show an interest or attend, but the numbers are incredibly unreliable. Interest means little or nothing, and often the great majority of those who perhaps thought on a Wednesday evening they might go change their minds if it means getting out of bed early on a wet Saturday morning. So its not unusual to find something doesn’t happen, though it is sometimes rather unpredictable.

Fortunately it was a fairly short walk to Downing St, where on the pavement opposite there was something for me to photograph. While a few of the global rich were meeting at the World Economic Forum on the exclusive Swiss mountain resort of Davos, The Equality Trust, who I’d not heard of, but get funding from the EU, together with nine other organisations were holding holding an event as part of what they described as “a mobilisation by thousands of people in more than 30 countries worldwide to demand a fairer, more equal and sustainable future.” And for once the 94 who had said they were going on FB wasn’t that far from the actual attendance.

And though it wasn’t the most exciting protest I’ve covered it was certainly hard to disagree with what they were calling for:

  • good quality education, accessible housing, decent jobs and healthcare for all
  • an end to poverty wages, cuts in public spending and the decimation of social rights
  • an end to hunger and homelessness in the world’s sixth-largest economy
    fair and progressive taxation and an end to tax breaks for the wealthy
  • a wellbeing economy that serves people and planet, instead of profiting from environmental destruction.

As often when I’m covering a protest at Downing St, there was another taking place that I hadn’t been aware of, with a small group of protesters against Brexit calling for the release a report that had been completed before the December election but was held up by Boris Johnson because it revealed important Russian interference in UK politics including large donations to the Conservative Party and pro-Brexit campaigns.

From Downing St I walked up to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square where two events were taking place. Since the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16 2014 there have been regular vigils in memory of the 304 victims, including the 250 high school children who were drowned after being told to ‘stay put’ on a lower deck. These silent vigils, mainly by Koreans or those with Korean relatives took place monthly for several years but are now quarterly.

Also on the north Terrace, elaborate preparations were taking place by Anglo-Iranian Communities in the UK and supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran’s National Council of Resistance of Iran for a rally in support of the anti-regime protests following the admission that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane. These protest in Iran have been suppressed with illegal force by the clerical regime. I was unable to wait for the start of the protest as I wanted to cover another event, and later abandoned my plans to return.

At Oxford Circus I joined protesters from Earth Strike, organised by the Revolutionary Socialist Group, who were handing out leaflets before their series of protests along Oxford Street outside banks and stores involved in the exploitation of the Global South and the destruction of the environment.

I went with them as they walked up and down Oxford St, stopping outside shops including HSBC, H&M, Microsoft, ee, McDonald’s and Zara for short speeches about the particular contributions these companies are making to climate change and how they exploit workers and resources in the South.

By the time it had got too late to be worth returning to Trafalgar Square and instead I went west to a protest close to the Russian Embassy in Kensington. Russia’s support has saved President Assad in Syria and they were protesting the war crimes of Assad and Putin against the people of Syria in Idlib province.

Russian support, particularly air support has enabled Assad to defeat and drive back the Syrian rebels who would otherwise probably have driven him from office and set up a more democratic government. Since mid-December Assad has waged a brutal and unprecedented military campaign with air raids that have targeted hospitals and markets and killed hundreds of civilians. Over 500,000 have fled from their homes but are unable to escape as the Turkish border is closed.

I talked with the protesters, many of whom I recognised from earlier Syrian protests. The situation in Syria is desperate and the Syrians, given hope in the early years by Western countries, have now been abandoned by the international community. One of the women had been saying her prayers at the protest, and unfortunately as I said to her there seems now to be little else we can do but pray and hope.

Against war crimes in Idlib
Earth Strike Oxford St rolling protest
‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Support for Anti-regime Protests in Iran
Release the Russia Report
Fight Inequality Global Protest


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.


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


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.


1988 Free Mandela march

Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66
Camden Town

Although I first took pictures at protests in the 1970s, I had been taking part in protests since the middle of the 1960s. But I was then a penniless student with no idea about how you could cut costs by developing and printing your own films; I did own a camera, a Halina 35X, but had dropped it in the lake at Versailles and it never worked reliably after that, delivering random but usually very slow shutter speeds from its rusty leaf shutter.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

Even after I had taken a short photographic course and got a job and could afford a new camera (a cheap Russian Zenith SLR) and had rigged up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen of our flat, I was still going on protests as a protester and took few if any photographs.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31
BBC

Of course there were fewer protests back in the 70s and 80s, or at least it was harder to find out about them in the days before the World Wide Web. There were of course huge events such as the Miners’ Strike, but unless you lived in the mining areas or could travel to them, which didn’t fit with my full-time job you read about most of these after the events were given newspaper coverage if at all. Many other protests related to strikes and union issues were simply impossible to know about unless they concerned your own union.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

My attendance at protests was largely limited to the big national demonstrations organised by groups I belonged to – such as CND and the Anti-Apartheid movement and a few others that were advertised in advance in the alternative press. Many protests were only advertised by fly-posting on walls mainly in the areas they were to take place in – and there were few if any such postings in the area where I lived.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

I began to be more a photographer of protests than an actual protester in the 1980s, particularly after a few of my photographs were accepted for an exhibition on protest (and I think one won a prize.) I began to realise that I could make a great contribution to the various causes with a camera than simply marching or attending rallies, and, a little later, began contributing my photographs to a picture library concerned with social issues, and later still providing my services directly to some protest groups.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988

As more and more people and groups went on-line things began to change. I found out about more and more protests, at first as groups set up web sites to promote their activities. I’d spend an evening or more a week going through a list of perhaps 20 or thirty different groups and using sites which listed bus and travel diversions and various search engines to find out about events and put them in my diary. Then Google arrived and made searching easier and finally Facebook and I had little time to photograph anything but protests.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-13

The Free Nelson Mandela march in London was on Saturday 17th July 1988, the day before his 70th birthday and two years before he was released from prison. I walked with the protesters taking pictures from Camden Town to Hyde Park, and took a few pictures in the crowds in Hyde Park, but none of the stage and speakers at the rally. You can see more of the pictures in the Flickr album uploaded a couple of days ago. Clicking on any of the pictures above will take you to the larger version in the album.


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.


October 12th 2019

Monday, October 12th, 2020
Ian Hodson, National President of the Baker’s Union BFAWU speaking

I was back with Extinction Rebellion on Saturday 12th October 2019, beginning in a rather wet Trafalgar Square, where Trade unionists were holding a rally in driving rain to show their solidarity with Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers. It was raining hard enough to make it difficult to take pictures, with rain drops settling immediately on my lens filters as soon as I wiped them off with my chamois leather held in my left hand.

It’s hard to hold an umbrella and take photographs, though I did for some pictures, and sheltered under other people’s for others. But umbrellas both greatly restrict movement and also other people’s view and I don’t like to use one.

But Global Extinction was the only issue that campaigners were protesting about in Trafalgar Square, there were also a hundred or two campaigners from the 3 million organisation, EU residents living in the UK who were protesting against the promise broken by Vote Leave that “There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK. EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.” They had dressed for their protest in blue and yellow rain ponchos, highly suitable for the weather.

From Trafalgar Square I got on a bus to take me to Marble Arch. Although police had cleared XR from their road blocks and got the buses running, rain in London always results in slow-moving traffic, but the journey did give me time both to dry off a little myself and more importantly to clear most of the interior condensation which was misting up my lenses.

Extinction Rebellion’s main event was their ‘Strength in Grief ‘ procession on the Day of Indigenous Resistance marking the anniversary of Colombus’s landing in the Americas. It began with a number of speakers representing various communities across the world as well as others reflecting on both injustice and grief and the effects of global climate change already causing deaths and suffering across the Global South.

Fortunately the rain had eased off considerably, and had almost stopped by the time the rally ended and the march moved off down Oxford St, going to another rally outside the BBC who are largely failing in their duty to inform us about the threat of global extinction and the failures of our political systems to respond to it.

The campaigners marched on, but I’d had enough. I’d been working with my jacket open at the top so I could put my camera under it, but that meant the rain could get in around my neck, and after several hours I was rather cold and wet, and my lenses were steaming up again. I stopped close to Bond Street station and photographed the rest of the march – several thousand, many in interesting costumes – as it went along Oxford Street until the last marchers had passed me, then made my way down to the station.

Many more pictures from the three events on My London Diary:

XR Strength in Grief Procession
Brexit unfair for EU citizens
Trade Unionists join the Rebellion


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.


Socialism is Survival

Friday, May 29th, 2020
Capitalism is Extinction – Socialism is Survival’

In 2008 Richard Wilkinson wrote an opinion in The Guardian, ‘Follow Cuba’s emissions standard‘ in which he states:

“According to the WWF, Cuba is the only country that has managed to combine an environmentally sustainable footprint per head of population with an acceptably high quality of life as measured by the UN Human Development Index. And if Cuba can do that without the latest and most economical technology, how much easier should it be for us?”

Follow Cuba’s emissions standard

Part of the reason for this is, as he also states, that resources in Cuba, though relatively limited are shared much more equally than in market-led democracies such as the UK and the US. He makes the point that material differences between people are destructive, reducing well-being and quality of life and leading to many social problems, and that wealthy societies such as our should be concentrating on reducing inequalities rather than pursuing economic growth.

Cuba Leads the Way

To put it simply, we already have enough, and the important thing is now that everyone gets a decent share. We don’t need exact equality, but we do need to avoid the kind of indecent excess we now see, with the rich with more money than they can ever sensibly spend and the poor unable to afford decent food and safe housing, with too many sleeping on the streets or in overcrowded properties, often with little or no security of tenure and too many in jobs on less than a living wage and often zero hours contracts.

Smach Capitalism! Save Our Planet!

The biggest challenge we face as a world and as a nation is of course not the largely irrelevant matter of Brexit but climate change, and inequality also drives that – both directly by the senseless consumption of the ultra-rich and the poor quality environment of the poor, and indirectly by the encouragement to consume of living in the same society as those who feature most largely in our advertising and media coverage. We are going to have to make huge changes to survive, cutting down our footprint on the world’s resources to perhaps a quarter of the current UK levels, a change that it is hard to see a market-led capitalist system adapting to. And while Wilkinson suggests it should be easier for us, I think our current wealth and political system probably make it impossible. At least without a real revolution.

The Solution is Socialism

The Revolutionary Communist Group put it more starkly and simply than Wilkinson: “Capitalism is Extinction – Socialism is Survival’ but also base their conclusion on the closest we have in the world to a socialist state, Cuba. Despite punitive economic sanctions imposed by the USA (and perhaps sometimes as a result of them) Cuba under communism has made enormous strides in some areas, producing universal literacy and one of the leading health services in the world – and its medical services are one of the country’s main sources of foreign income. Increased life expectancy – to values similar to much rich countries such as the USA and UK – in a roughly static population is now presenting familiar problems. Energy use has remained relatively low with per-capita consumption only around a quarter of that in the UK.

Of course that isn’t the whole story, though it is perhaps difficult to know exactly what is, as all sources of information about the country reflect considerable bias. Many in the RCG have been to Cuba and seen the country at first hand, but what and who they saw will to some extent be affected by their own political affiliations and those of their hosts. Much of the more commonly spread information in the media comes from émigrés who left the country because of their dissatisfaction with the situation and the regime, or from anti-communist individuals and and capitalist organisations.

‘Practically Perfect In Every Way’

Castro and his guerrilla band took the country back from one of the worst and most corrupt governments in history, a dictator who had seized power in a military coup in 1952, but haven’t managed to eliminate corruption – though it is now said to be is the 60 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries by Transparency International. It would be hard not to admire a country which has withstood the sanctions and intrigues of the USA for so many years. Castro himself was apparently the target of over 600 assassination attempts by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency but died of natural causes in 2016.

You can read more about the protest and rolling picket outside various temples of consumerism on Oxford St at Cuba leads on climate say RCG.


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.