Posts Tagged ‘picket’

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Friday, June 10th, 2022

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned – A rally on Wood Street on Friday 10th June 2016 marked the third day of what became the longest strike ever in the City of London, and later at City Hall a vigil remembered 11 road users killed on London streets since the mayoral election last month, including three cyclists.


Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike – 100 Wood St, City of London

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning to clean the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE held a rally at the end of their picket on the third day of their strike.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
The picket

The offices there are mainly used by Schroders and J P Morgan, both large and highly profitable companies, but the cleaners are on poverty wages and several union members had been sacked and others served with notice by Thames Cleaning for organising the workers to demand a living wage.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
Measuring the 10m required by the injunction

Rather than talk with the UVW, Thames’s response to the strike threat had been to spend over £20,000 in the High Court trying to get an injunction to prohibit the strikes and protests. Although the court would not stop them, they issued an injunction which set down strict conditions for the picket and protest and this left the UVW with crippling legal costs.

The UVW is a small grass roots union supported only by dues from its members and unlike the large established trade unions has little or no money to run its activities which include educational workshops as well as supporting its members in the workplace and at employment tribunals. Those who perform duties for it are paid the London Living Wage for the time spent and there are no highly paid union officials. The union had to issue an emergency appeal for cash – and received support from people and union branches across the trade union movement.

Candy Udwin, PCS Rep at the National Gallery holds a banner

One aspect of the injunction was that any protest connected with the strike had to keep at least 10 metres from the doorway of the offices. Of course picketing is covered by strict trade union laws and a lengthy code of practice that requires it to be as reasonably close as possible to the entrance and exit, and limits it to six or less clearly identified pickets with a supervisor (and possibly also a union organiser) behaving in a peaceful manner.

The protest took place over a carefully measured 10 metres away on the opposite side of the street after a picket which had begun in the early morning when the cleaners would normally have arrived for work. The strike continued for 58 days before the UVW was able to announce that a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the employer and all further action was ended.

There are four posts about the Wood Street Strike on My London Diary for June (and more in later months) :
UVW Cleaners on Strike in City
Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike
UVW Wood St Strike Day 10
UVW Wood St Strike continues


London Traffic Deaths Vigil – City Hall

Although London had an impressive purpose-built County Hall on the south bank just downstream of Westminster Bridge, this was sold off when Margaret Thatcher vindictively disbanded the Greater London Council, leaving London rudderless for 14 critical years. After the Greater London Authority was created in 2000, it was without a proper home for two years before leasing and moving into a purpose-built oddly spherical building by Norman Foster in the misleadingly named ‘More London’ currently owned by the Kuwait sovereign wealth fund who disguise themselves as St Martins Property Investments Limited.

Many saw the move to the new building as a failure of purpose by the Labour government in noy re-acquiring County Hall for the new London-wide authority – but then Labour under Blair continued most of Thatcher’s policies rather than move away from her individualist greed-based approach towards one getting back to the social welfare which had been at the heart of post-war Labour.

London’s City Hall moved in 2022 to Kamal Chunchie Way, Newham, E16 into the former ‘The Crystal’ exhibition centre beside the northern end of London’s ‘Dangleway’ cable car, though this is expected to close fairly soon as no replacement sponsor has come up to keep it running.

Sadiq Khan had retaken London as a Labour Mayor on May 5th 2016, with a decisive win over Conservative Zac Goldsmith and the Green candidate Siân Berry trailing badly in third place. Since then, 11 people had died on the streets of London, roughly around the average for that period in Greater London (in 2019, the total for the year was 125.)

Siân Berry

Protests are – at least theoretically – not usually allowed in ‘More London’, but this one was hosted by Green Party London wide Assembly Member Caroline Russell, a member of the GLA Transport Committee and organised by London Women on Bikes (LWOB), #LondonBusWatch, Westminster Living Streets and BMX Life. Of the 11 who died, 3 were cyclists and the others were on foot.

Most road deaths are not ‘accidents’ but “happen because road users make mistakes, often made harder to avoid because of poor vehicle or road design. Many of them result from a lack of proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in a road system which prioritises getting motorised vehicles from A to B as fast as possible rather than safety. Some are caused by the failure of police to enforce road traffic law – for example on advanced stop lines at traffic lights.”

One of the cyclists killed was BMX rider Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson, hit by a bus on the Strand during a BMX Life charity ride and many other BMX riders had come to the vigil, wearing tartan ribbons in his memory as he always rode in tartan. There were a number of speeches and then the names of those killed were read, followed by an eleven minutes of silence when those at the vigil were invited to stand in silence or to lie down, with or without bikes, in a silent ‘die-in’.

As the vigil came to an end and people were beginning to leave we were all called back for a highly emotional moment when Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson’s daughter spoke through tears about her father.

London Traffic Deaths Vigil


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Police & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

PPolice & Public Sector March, 4,000 Days of the Parliament Square Peace Campaign approaches – some of my pictures from Thursday 10th May 2012.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor – Westminster

Occupy supporters in plastic helmets joined the police march

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Occupy, Right To Protest and others joined in to protest for justice in policing.

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union, but the Police Federation can organise demonstrations like this when thousands of off-duty police, some with family members made a impressively large if rather dull protest past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St. Most wore one of the 16,000 black caps produced for the protest, the number of officers expected to be lost over the next four years as the police budget is cut by 20-30%.

Police officers attempt to intimidate the Space Hijackers

Like other public sector workers, police had suffered a two year wage freeze, as well as increases in pension contributions and many have also had large cuts in overtime. As well as those protesting, police were also on duty controlling the protest, though it was unlikely to get out of hand. But there were others as well as police, including the Space Hijackers who had a stall giving advice on how to protest, and also Occupy protesters who were calling for “a fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!

Others were there to protest against various aspects of police corruption and faced some aggravation from the officers on duty as well as some protesters. The Defend The Right To Protest group reminded police marchers of Alfie Meadows, Sean Rigg, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes and many others killed or seriously injured by police officers. Officers on duty made some attempts to intimidate some of the non-police protesters – and also photographers covering the event.

More at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March – St Thomas’ Hospital to Westminster

Public sector workers in Unite, PCS and UCU were on a one-day strike against cuts in pensions, jobs and services, and picketed workplaces and marched from a rally at St Thomas’ Hospital across Westminster Bridge to Methodist Central Hall for a further rally.

PCS picket at Tate Britain

Some of the pickets had begun at 5am, and a few were still in place as I walked past workplaces in Westminster – including the Houses of Parliament to meet the marchers coming over Westminster Bridge.

As they marched, many chanted “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late”, as retirement age is set to increase to 68 and beyond, while retirement contributions are increasing. They are also losing out because the government has decided to index pensions to the lower CPI inflation figures which mans they get around 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

More on My London Diary at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square – Parliament Square Peace Campaign

Brian Haw came to Parliament Square to begin his protest there on the 2nd June 2001, and the Parliament Square Peace Campaign he started had been there for almost 4,000 days, with a presence night and day, 24 hours a day since then.

Barbara Tucker

After Brian’s death from cancer the protest was continued by Barbara Tucker and other supporters who have maintained the protest on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight. Over the years the campaign has been subjected to frequent illegal harassment by police officers, Westminster Council officials and thinly disguised members of the security service, and laws have been enacted intended to bring the protest to an end.

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. Clearly a blanket is not a structure, and police and council have also removed other items of property. Later her umbrella was also taken away. Barbara’s health deteriorated and she eventually had to leave the square, and the protest finally ended early in May 2013.

4000 Days in Parliament Square


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University of London 3 Cosas Strike

Friday, January 28th, 2022
On the IWGB battlebus

Eight years ago on Tuesday 28th January 2014 low paid workers at the University of London were on the second day of their 3 day strike. Their union had organised a day of action around London and I had been invited to come and photograph it, having photographed a number of their previous protests.

University cleaners, maintenance and security staff were demanding that the University recognise their trade union, the IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) and give them better pay and conditions, comparable with other university staff they work alongside. The ‘3 Cosas’ were sick pay, paid holidays and pensions – all areas where these staff were only being given the legal minimum (and sometime not even that.)

As I wrote in 2014:

“although these workers work at the university and carry out work essential for the running of the university, the university does not employ them. Most low paid workers – cleaners, maintenance and security staff, catering works and others – at the University of London are no longer directly employed by the University, but work in the University on contracts from contractors Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace at the end of last year.) The policy of outsourcing these workers seems largely intended to evade the responsibilities of London University towards an essential part of their workforce.”

3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus

It meant an early start for me, although the pickets had been outside Senate House for four hours when I arrived at 9am. Living outside London though on its edge I seldom arrive before 10am as it doubles my travel costs and I’ve never been a happy early riser. Fortunately the weather was good, a bright winter day and I’d dressed for the weather with thermal underwear, thick socks and a woolly hat, though it was still pretty chilly on top of the open-top bus.

The bus turned out to be a 1960 Routemaster which was sold by London Transport in 1986 but only converted to open-top in 2001. (I’d long thought that there was a plentiful supply of such vehicles after drivers attempted routes under low bridges, but apparently not, although a couple of bridges near where I live have had quite a few victims over the years.) Compared to modern buses, Routemasters offered a very bumpy ride with considerable vibration, and taking pictures on the upper deck required some faster than normal shutter speeds and most of the time working one-handed while clinging on with the other.

Space on bus tops is also quite small and moving around impeded both by the seats and the other riders (I think it’s a more appropriate term than passengers) and though they were very cooperative the top of the bus was pretty full. Most of the pictures I made were taken when the bus was stopped either at junctions or for short protests and my fisheye lens proved really useful.

The bus trip began at Senate House, and then began an extensive tour around central London, making a tour of various university sites where IWGB members were striking. There was a great deal of booing as we passed the Unison headquarters on Euston Road, as many of the workers had left Unison in disgust as they felt the were not supporting the demands of low-paid workers. The IWGB had intended to stop outside the offices of The Guardian newspaper, but had been held up too much by London’s traffic and drove past and on to Parliament Square.

Here we jumped off the bus and marched to Parliament where the IWGB had arranged to meet Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for a short rally (and Andy Burnham sent a short message of support.)

There was a short shower before the bus came to pick us up on the Embankment, taking us to a side street near the Royal Opera House. Everyone kept quiet as we got off, then rushed around the corner and into the foyer. IWGB members there had voted for a strike the following month for union recognition and the London Living Wage.

In the foyer we were met by a man who introduced himself as the Unison Health & Safety rep and told the IWGB President and the other protesters that the ROH had already agreed that the cleaners will get the Living Wage, but had not yet told them. The Opera House recognises Unison, despite the workers almost entirely being IWGB members. It’s a ridiculous situation but one which is allowed under our poor trade union laws, though not one that makes sense for either workers or employers.

After making their views clear the IWGB members left quietly and got back onto the bus for the final visit of the day, to the Angel Islington, where Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over employing the workers at the University of London from the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace in December) has its offices. As at the Royal Opera House, there were plenty of police present and waiting for the protesters, but here they managed to lock the metal gates on the two entrances to Angel Square as the bus arrived, leaving the protest to take place in front of one of them in Torrens Place.

From here the bus was going on to the union offices at the Elephant and Castle and I was invited to join them for a very late mid-afternoon lunch but unfortunately I had work to do on the many pictures I had taken and had to leave them and make my way home.

IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Parliament
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus


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November 30th 2011

Monday, November 30th, 2020

November 30th fell on a Wednesday in 2011, and it was the day of a strike by public sector workers against government plans to cut their pensions as part of the austerity programme following the banking crisis. As I wrote back then:

Feelings are certainly running very high over pension injustice, as well as over the government cuts in jobs and services. The widespread feeling across the country – not just trade unionists – that our government is made of of the wealthy and privileged who just do not understand the problems of ordinary people was reflected in the two hand-written placards I photographed, both with photographs of Cameron and Osborne alongside the texts ‘Eton Boys, Do you Feel Our Pain, As You Order Your Champagne‘ and ‘No Cuts For You, Eton Boys!!’

The day had begun early for strikers at Wandsworth Town Hall who had been on the picket line since 6am at the Town Hall and other council sites across the borough, though I only joined them around 4 hours later, when many were about to leave to join the TUC march in central London, and I also made my way to a packed Lincoln’s Inn Fields where around 20,000 were assembling.

As well as public sector workers – including many from associations which have no record of previous strike action or taking part in protests – there were activists from groups such as the Education Activist Network and other student groups, people wearing ‘Anonymous’ Guy Fawkes ‘V for Vendetta’ masks and other supporters, including political artist Kaya Mar with his painting of coalition leader David Cameron and his Lib-Dem sidekick Nick Clegg carrying blood-stained axes.

There were also a group of French trade unionists from the CGT, come to support their English colleagues – here in a picture beside Frances O’Grady, Dep Gen Sec of the TUC and John Rimmer, president of the NASUWT.

More joined the march along the route to Westminster. It was a peaceful march which hardly merited the huge police presence, and I think the French trade unionists will have thought it very restrained, although some groups, particularly some of the students, did liven it up a little with loud chanting and the occasional surge. The rally had already begun when I arrived, although the end of the march was still almost a mile back.

I didn’t wait to hear the speeches, but went to Piccadilly Circus, where Occupy London protesters from the camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral were gathering for a protest against corporate greed. I stood with them for around half an hour while we all waited for something to happen, watched by a large crowd of police. It began with a diversion as around 30 people with the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ banner that I’d photographed earlier on the TUC march rushed across the road to protest outside Boots, drawing much of the police attention.

Others by Eros were getting ready the main banner ‘All Power to the 99%’ which they then rushed along the street with the rest of the protesters following, going down Haymarket, and I rushed along with them taking pictures. At Panton St, one of them lit a bright orange flare and they all turned down the street to Panton House, where some rushed into the foyer.

I stopped there to take a few pictures rather than rushing to follow them up the stairs. By the time I turned to follow them the stairs were rather crowded but I made my way up to the third or fourth landing before deciding I was out of breath and probably not going to get to the top as the stairs were too crowded. By then the police had begun to catch up, and stopped me going down. And although police were shouting and me and the others on the stairs to go down, other police were pushing us out of the way when we tried to do so as they rushed up to the roof.

Eventually I managed to make my way out and try to take a few pictures as protesters on the roof lowered banners over the edge while others outside formed a ‘human microphone’ to let everone know what the protest was about.

Occupy London had chosen Panton House as it contains the London offices of the mining Company Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies they say is the highest paid CEO in the UK, but according to their statement, “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

I was sorry not to have made it to the roof as several other photographers had done, but at least I was able to slip through the police kettle and go home early after a rather tiring day.

More pictures at:

Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed
TUC Nov 30 March
Wandsworth Nov 30 Rally