Posts Tagged ‘partners’

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Friday, July 14th, 2023

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis: Four protests on what started out as a very wet day in London on Saturday 14th July 2012.


Tenants Protest Letting Agents Scam – Drivers & Norris, Holloway Rd

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

My working day began on the pavement outside letting agents Drivers & Norris on Holloway Road, condemning them for having taken over £300 from home seekers and providing nothing return but refusing to return the payment.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Some of the members of the Harringey Private Tenants Action Group taking part in the protest had paid upfront fees of £300 in cash to secure new flats, but the company had failed to provide them with any offers of accommodation but had refused to return the fee.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Drivers & Norris and other companies say that the cost is to cover the reference checks that they have to make, but these cost them around £19. The fees are simply a scam to increase the company profits at the expense of poor and vulnerable people in need of housing.

Letting Agents, Bears, Bahrain & John Lewis

Police arrived and attempted to get the protesters to stop, suggesting it might distract drivers on the busy main road and cause an accident. It seemed simply another attempt by the police to suppress the right to lawful protest and to take the side of the wealthy against the poor. The protesters of course refused to stop and the officers went in to drink tea with the estate agents leaving the small peaceful protest to continue.

My comment back in 2012 “Agents have profited greatly from the lack of affordable housing in the London area, with property prices well above anything that anyone on an average wage can afford. Coupled with a systematic attack by successive governments on the security of private tenants and on the provision of social housing over more than 30 years this has resulted in a dire shortage of housing for ordinary people in London and the south-east. Even where housing developments are taking place in London, the properties are often many bought by overseas investors interested in high profits in an overheated housing market.” Things since then have got worse.

More at Tenants Protest Letting Agents Scam.


PETA ‘Spare the Bears’ March – Marble Arch

From Holloway Road I rushed down to Marble Arch on the Underground to meet the PETA march as it arrived there from its start close to Waterloo. I’d gone there before going to Haringey, but hadn’t found anything I thought worth photographing in the steady rain, so had gone away to return to the march later.

PETA was demanding an end to killing of bears for the Queen’s Guards’ ceremonial headwear. It takes the skin of a whole black bear to make a busby, and they are cruelly hunted. They say some bears escape after being shot several times and bleed to death and that in “some Canadian provinces, there are no restrictions on the shooting of mothers who have nursing cubs, leading to the slaughter of entire families during hunts.”

The MoD still takes 100 bear skins a year from Canadian hunters and justifies its refusal to move to using synthetic materials by saying “one has come remotely close to matching the natural properties of bear fur in terms of shape, weight and its ability to repel moisture in wet conditions.” Perhaps we should just stop dressing parts of our army as toy soldiers.

More pictures PETA ‘Spare the Bears’ March.


Solidarity with the Bahraini prisoners – Bahraini embassy, Belgrave Square

A short bus ride and walk took me to the Bahraini embassy where protesters were gathering to call for the release of prisoners in Bahrain, to condemn the killing of Mohammad Rahdi Mahfoodh and attacks on his funeral, and for an end to the puppet regime of the Bedouin Al Khalifa tribe.

I arrived as the protest was beginning and some of the protesters and speakers including Jeremy Corbyn had arrived.

But unfortunately I had to leave for the cleaners’ protest in Oxford St before things really got going and before the main speeches from Corbyn and others.

Solidarity with the Bahraini prisoners


John Lewis cleaners step up protest – Oxford St

At the protest during Friday’s strike

I had been at the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford Street the previous day when their cleaners were taking a day of strike action, with a rally and a brief invasion of the store, the first strike at John Lewis since it became the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) following a strike in 1920.

The cleaners have been in dispute with the JLP for some years, campaigning for their service to the company to be recognised and to be treated like the other workers there who are ‘partners’ and benefit from an annual bonus from the company profits. They also are demanding to be paid the London Living Wage. Rather then directly employ its cleaning staff JLP has outsourced them to Integrated Cleaning Management (ICM).

A woman stops to photograph the protest

The strike was precipitated when ICM announced there would be a 50% cut in jobs and hours to clean the store, and refused to pay the living wage. ICM also refuse to recognise the IWW, officially recognised as a trade union in the UK in 2006, for collective bargaining, although almost all the cleaners are now members.

ICM is part of the Compass Group, and the IWW point out this had pre-tax profits of £581 million in the last year and paid its chairman Sir Roy Gardner £477,000 pa. They also say that Gardner is a major donor to Conservative Party funds, and gave £50,000 to Cameron’s election campaign.

Today police had arrived in advance of the protest and were stationed in small groups at each of the shop entrances. Behind those at the main entrance watching the rally cleaners pointed out to me one of the JLP management who scurried away as soon as he saw my camera pointing in his direction – but not before I had photographed him.

Despite talks that have dragged on for some years, John Lewis still refuses to accept that it should treat its cleaners with the same decency as its other workers, hiding behind the fact that they are not the actual employers although the cleaners work in their store and are essential to its running.

The cleaners were employed by ICM on the legal minimum wage, more than two pounds an hour below the London Living Wage, a figure representing the minimum needed to live in London. This is calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation, overseen by the Living Wage Commission and was in 2012 backed by both London Mayor Boris Johnson and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The rally on the pavement in front of the shop was peaceful but lively and noisy and received a great deal of support from shoppers passing by on the busy street including John Lewis customers. The cleaners were to strike again the following Friday with further protests outside the store then and on every Saturday afternoon.

Friday protest Cleaners Strike at John Lewis
Saturday protest John Lewis cleaners step up protest


Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka – On Saturday 23rd August 2014 I photographed four protests in Westminster, one against an aspect of our racist immigration policies, the second against the UK selling arms to Israel which have been used in attacks on Gaza (along with a counter demonstration), the anniversary of chemical attacks by the Syrian regime and a protest calling for UK support against the continuing genocide of the Tamil nation.


Divided Families protest over cruelty – Downing St

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

The cruel and unfair immigration rules set up by the Home Office under Theresa May mean that anyone earning less than £18,600 was unable to bring a non-EU spouse into the country (Brexit means that similar rules now apply to most EU countries.)

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

This income requirement discriminates against women, the retired and disabled young and many minority ethnic people who have on average lower incomes than the general population. For couples with children, the income limit is even higher, and to secure visas for a spouse and two children you would need an income of £24,800.

Families Separated, Gaza, Ghouta and Sri Lanka

Fees for applications are also expensive – from £1048 to £1538 per person and applicants may also need to pay a healthcare premium of from £1560 to £3120 for adults and around three-quarters of this for each child. For applications made in the UK there is an extra £800 if you want a faster decision. And applicants also need to supply a great deal of documentation.

The policy, which also includes tougher English Language tests, a proof of greater attachment to the UK than of any other country and extending the probationary period from two to five years, is in direct contradiction of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states:

‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’

Universal Declaration on Human Rights

People at the protests included many whose families were divided as they were unable to meet the income levels, as well as a number of parents and friends of divided families.

Many carried placards with images of the divided families, along with captions such as ‘I WANT MY DADDY TO CUDDLE ME NOT SKYPE ME’. I felt deeply for those caught by what seem to be vindictive, unnecessary and totally insupportable polices. It was impossible not to agree with the placards with messages such as ‘WHY IS LOVE DIVIDED BY LAW? THERESA MAY HAS NO HEART!!! THE LAW NEEDS TO CHANGE….’

Divided Families protest over cruelty


Gaza Protest – Stop Arming Israel – Downing St

A large rally at Downing St called on the UK to stop selling arms to Israel, and for an end to Israeli war crimes. Among the protesters were many Jews from various Jewish groups, including the ultra-orthodox Neturei Karta who had walked down from north London to support the protest.

Israel had carried out air strikes on Gaza in July 2014 following a number of incidents including the shooting by the IDF of two Palestinian teenagers and the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. There were other incidents including house demolitions and the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth. Hamas replied to air strikes with rocket fire on Israel.

The Israeli invasion of Gaza began in earnest on 20th July and the ground war was still continuing though on a lesser scale when this protest took place, with a ceasefire being agreed and coming into effect on 26th August.

There are more details about the invasion in the Wikipedia Timeline, which states “2,256 Palestinians and 85 Israelis died, while 17,125 Palestinians, and 2,639 Israelis suffered injuries.”

At the protest there was a row of black boxes representing coffins and the names of children killed, and some people carried ‘bloodstained’ bundles representing dead children

Three people came to wave Israeli flags across the road and were led away for safety by police.

Earlier one of the Palestinian protesters had tried to seize one of the flags and was dragged away by police. At the end of the rally opposite Downing St some of the protesters marched around London and I went with them as far as Trafalgar Square where I had another event to cover.

More pictures: Gaza Protest – Stop Arming Israel


Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary – Trafalgar Square

A rally marked a year after the Ghouta massacre of 21/08/2013 when Assad regime forces outraged the world by using Sarin gas, killing 1,477 residents including over 400 children in this Damascus suburb. The world failed to act against Assad.

One man was wearing wolf head with bloody hands and placard ‘I AM CHEMICAL BASHAR AL ASSAD AND ONE YEAR ON I AM STILL GASSING SYRIAN CHILDREN. THANK YOU FOR UN VETO’

After an hour-long rally in Trafalgar Square the protesters, who were mainly Syrians, marched along the pavements to Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing St, where they laid flowers in memory of the dead.

More pictures: Syria Chemical Massacre Anniversary


Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killing – Downing St

Also present when I returned to Downing St were Tamils protesting over the continuing genocide of the Tamil nation, calling for a UN investigation and referendum on Tamil Eelam.

Placards called for an end to the use of rape to destroy their nation and sexual violence against children.

More pictures: Tamils protest Sri Lankan rapes & killing


Zero Hours at Sports Direct, Cleaners at John Lewis Westfield

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Zero Hours at Sports Direct, Cleaners at John Lewis Westfield – On Saturday 3rd August 2013 I photographed one of many protests calling for an end to zero hours contracts at Sports Direct branches then hurried to Stratford, where a surprise protest inside the store demanding demanded that their cleaners get a living wage and be treated in the same way as other workers in the store.

End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct, Oxford St

Over 85% of the 20,000 part-time staff at Sports Direct branches across the country were on Zero-hour contracts which deprived them of sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights. These contracts have no guaranteed weekly hours or income and have now become widely used – including by Buckingham Palace and 13 out of 32 London Boroughs.

Essentially they deny the whole concept of a contract as normally understood, agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers. They provide no guaranteed weekly hours or income and are used to cut wages and avoid holiday pay and pensions. Despite 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.

Zero hours contracts are also illegal if they do not give workers the statutory minimum requirements for paid holidays, wages, sick pay, maternity pay etc, but these again are difficult to enforce. There are various types of zero hours contracts but all are essentially designed to exploit workers.

The protest started with around 50 people making a lot of noise on the pavement outside the shop and handing out leaflets to the many shoppers passing by. Many of those who took the leaflets expressed surprise that such contracts were legal – and a change in law in 2015 made it illegal for contracts to deny employees the possibility of working for another employer – though there is no effective mechanism to stop employers penalising workers who turn down shifts offered because they have another job at that time.

After around 50 minutes the protesters surged into the small street-level area of the store, intending to go down the escalator leading to the main store area. Security staff blocked their path and told them to stop, and they did. One security man tried to push a protester who complained he was being assualted but otherwise the situation remained calm, with people blocking the way to the escalators in protest being watched by police and security.

A police officer came to talk with one of the leading protesters, who made it clear they were taking care to cause no damage and would shortly leave after making their point. The officer retired and after a few minutes people left the store to continue the protest on the pavement for a few minutes before calling an end.

More at End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct.


Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield – Westfield Centre, Stratford

I walked from Oxford Street to take the Central Line to Stratford where I met a group of members of the IWGB outside Stratford Station on their way to protest inside John Lewis. They have been conducting a long term campaign to get the cleaners in John Lewis stores to be treated like others who work on the shop floor.

John Lewis is very proud of the fact that its workers are ‘partners’, with higher pay and better benefits than other shop workers, getting a share in the company’s profits – in 2013 this was a bonus equivalent to nine weeks pay. But the staff who keep the store clean get low pay, lousy conditions of service and are generally treated like dirt by the contract company that employs them.

The cleaners want to be directly employed by John Lewis and so get a share in the profits and the better conditions. They were then getting £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, and only statutory sick pay, holidays and pensions from the contracting company which employed them.

Their claims are supported by many of the ‘partners’ they work alongside, and by many John Lewis customers. But the ‘partners’ are afraid to speak out; one of them, Ralph Ashley who worked at Stratford did so and urged his fellow workers to join the IWGB, and was targeted and sacked after he gave an interview to the Guardian. As well as their own demands, the protesters also demanded he get justice and be re-employed.

The IWGB members and supporters kept quiet as they moved through Stratford Westfield and made their way to to the third floor restaurant in the large John Lewis store where they got out banners, whistles, plastic trumpets and megaphones before moving out into the centre of the shop for a noisy protest.

Their noisy protest as they marched around the different levels of the store to make their way to the escalators handing out leaflets attracted a great deal of attention and they stopped occasionally to explain the protest and many stopped to watch and listen.

Eventually they reached the first floor ‘street’ level, holding a slightly longer protest there before moving outside. Here a small group of Westfield Security tried to stop the protest and to prevent me taking pictures both with little success. Eventually we left the enclosed street and went outside and around the side of the store.

As the protesters were packing up the police arrived and having been assured that this was a peaceful protest and that the protesters were about to leave took no further action.

Much more at Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield.


Tax Robbery, Racism & John Lewis

Monday, March 21st, 2022

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


Great British Tax Robbery – HSBC, Regent St.

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

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

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

My London Diary, March 2015

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

Great British Tax Robbery


Stand Up to Racism March – BBC to Trafalgar Square

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

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

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

Stand Up to Racism March


Britain First Protests anti-Racist March – Piccadilly Circus

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

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

Britain First Protests anti-Racist March


Stand Up to Racism Rally – Trafalgar Square

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

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

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

Stand Up to Racism Rally


John Lewis customers support Living Wage – Oxford St

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

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

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

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

John Lewis customers support Living Wage


John Lewis Cleaners Protest

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

John Lewis Partnership

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

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

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

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

Mick Dooley of London TUSC

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

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

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

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

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

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.