Posts Tagged ‘poverty wages’

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival – 2012 On Saturday 4th August 2012 much of the nation and all of the media were in the grip of another sporting obsession the 2012 London Olympics and two of the events I covered had at least some link to this. The third was something rather more serious, celebrating the work of one of the great heroes of the Second World War, not a military hero but a man who saved the lives of many.


Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation – Adidas, Oxford St

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want held a protest outside Adidas on Oxford Street, playing games and handing out leaflets because workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want stated:
Around the world thousands of workers, mainly women, producing clothes for Adidas are not paid enough to live. There wages do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare.
With such low wages, workers have to work excessive hours just to scrape together enough to get by, sometimes beyond legal limits – up to 15 hours a day.
In many cases workers are told that if they try to organise trade unions to defend their rights, they face harassment or they will be fired.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

Around 20 police stood around watching as War On Want began their games in protest, and they stopped play as the protesters began their badminton game using a banner as a net, claiming it might endanger people walking past. The street was even more crowded than usual with people who had come to London to attend the events, some of whom stopped to talk with the protesters and express their disgust at the exploitation of foreign workers, but the action by Scottish police drafted down to London perhaps reflected a lack of experience in dealing with protests.

The badminton continued for a few minutes in a side street, and then they turned to a rather short hurdles event. Again when they ‘ran’ this on the pavement in front of the Adidas shop police fairly soon stopped it, perhaps because Adidas complained that half the area of pavement was its property.

As well as leaflets, War On Want was handing out Freepost postcards to people to send to Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, care of War on Want, calling for Adidas to end the exploitation of workers.

Unusually Adidas sent out a person from their PR agency to talk to me as I began to take pictures of the event, and she later sent me an e-mail stating Adidas was “fully committed to protecting workers rights and to ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain.” Unfortunately it was clearly an attempt to mislead as it was irrelevant to the claims that were made by War on Want about wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China producing goods for Adidas. She also said that they had tried to contact War on Want to discuss their claims but had been unable to do so.

A War on Want press release gave full links to the cases on which their claims were made and stressed that they had taken part in discussions with Adidas, “but the multinational continues to deny the widespread nature of the problems and has failed to respond to the organisation’s demands that the firm commits to paying a living wage.”

Of course Adidas is not the only major sponsor of London 2012 and other major sporting events – and London 2012 showed itself also to be blind to the activities of Dow, Atos, BP and all the others.

More at Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation.


Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary – Great Cumberland Place

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

A ceremony took place around the monument erected to Raoul Wallenberg in 1997 in Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. Led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld it was attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Swedish Ambassador as well as many from the synagogue and the Swedish Church in London.

Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue leading the chanting of a Psalm in Hebrew

Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church talked about Wallenberg, who he called ‘an average man’ who grew up in a banking family but was too sensible, too friendly and too nice to be a banker and so became a businessman. Faced with the situation of thousands of Jews being sent to their death in Hungary he did everything he could to help, following the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be yourself and to do good for other people, an ordinary man who was brave when the time came and became one of Sweden’s greatest heroes.

The Swedish Ambassador lays one of several wreaths

The memorial shows Wallenberg standing in front a a large wall made of stacks of the roughly 100,000 very official looking ‘protective passports’ he issued identifying the bearer as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation. Although these had no legal status, they looked impressive and, sometimes with the aid of a little bribery, saved the bearers from deportation.

Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary


Iraq Day Festival – Queen’s Walk, South Bank

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

The Iraq Day 2012 festival also had an Olympic link, being “organized to celebrate the games with a hint of Iraq flavor” by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima-Baghdad in conjunction with the Local Leader London 2012 program.

Although it aimed to build stronger relationships among British-Iraqi communities and promote the the rich cultural heritage of Iraq including its music, food and art in several ways it actually demonstrated the differences between different Iraqi communities.

Given the continuing political divisions and unrest in Iraq after the US-led invasion the stated aim to promote tourism to the country seems entirely wishful thinking. Current UK advice on travel to Iraq begins “Iraq remains subject to regional tensions. Militia groups opposed to western presence in Iraq continue to pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq – including through attacks on Global Coalition military bases, diplomatic premises, and foreign nationals…” and ends with the paragraph “If you’re travelling or moving to Iraq, you should take appropriate security precautions before travelling. Outside of the Kurdistan Region you are strongly advised to employ a private security company, make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport and consider pre-deployment training.

US travel advice is even blunter: “Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.”

I saw one performer storm off the platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against the Kurds and overheard a loud and bitter argument between the director of a fashion show and the event organisers. I’d been told the show would start in two minutes and when I went home an hour later it still had not happened.

Afternoon prayers

There was a great deal of Iraqi food on offer, and while many of those going past along the riverside walk stopped to taste and buy some this was perhaps rather insensitive so far as many of the Iraqis present were concerned. The event was taking place during Ramadan and although they could see and smell the Iraqi food on offer they were fasting until after sunset at 2041.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners – On Wednesday 13th July 2016 I photographed two protests about the inadequate and badly run Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, a protest supporting a cross-party bill to save the NHS from privatisation, a party against replacing Trident and the longest running strike in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback at Vauxhall – Vauxhall

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The hardest part of photographing the protest at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre was actually finding the place, hidden away in a back street. This was one of around 20 protests around the country at the centres where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Wood St Cleaners

The assessments are almost solely designed to save money for the DWP, enabling them to ignore medical evidence of need and are carried out by people who are given a financial incentive to fail claimants. They often mean that genuine claimants lose essential benefits for months before they are restored on appeal. They have led to many becoming desperate, with some needing hospital treatment and a few have committed suicide after being failed.

PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood was later in the day presenting a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles.

People from various campaigns had come out to support the bill, which although it had no chance of progressing into law did lead to a greater awareness of the privatisation which is slowly but apparently inevitably putting our NHS into the hands of private, mainly American, health companies, and eroding its basic principles.

Among those who came out to speak was Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott.

NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster

Campaigners from Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and other supporters met outside the Victoria St offices of Capita PLC, one of the companies along with ATOS responsible for carrying out the shoddy cash-saving PIP assessments.

In particular these assessments are unfair on many claimants whose conditions vary day to day including many with mental health issues. The assessments make no allowances for this and fail to take any account of the medical evidence in coming to their conclusions.

After protesting for some time on the very busy pavement where there were a number of speakers, Paula Peters of DPAC led the group out into the the middle of Victoria Street where they stood with banners and in wheelchairs blocking traffic.

They then marched the short distance to the DWP headquarters in Caxton St, holding a further protest with speakers in the road outside.

Finally they marched past the Houses of Parliament to College Green where the media had set up their ‘Westminster village’ crowded with cameras for Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. Police stopped them as they tried to go onto the grass in front of the TV cameras, and for some time they stood along the side before finally ignoring the police and going on to the green. Where the TV crews ignored the protest.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Square

CND members and supporters were today lobbying MPs against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

In Parliament Square they had organised a ‘Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party’ and there were various Christian groups with placards placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement, with Buddhists from the Battersea Peace Pagoda adding their support.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St Cleaners – City of London

Finally I went to the heart of the CIty of London where a rally was taking place in support of cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE.

By 13th July this had already become the longest-running strike ever in the City of London and it continued into August. The UVW say:

As days became weeks, the inconvenience for white-collar workers at 100 Wood Street rightly turned into a major embarrassment for their employers, and especially for CBRE, the managers of the building. City of London police were called many times, security staff were intimidating, and the tenants were barely coping with a trickle of the former cleaning operation. Eventually, after a surprise flashmob in the CBRE’s lobby, and then a big march to mark the 50th consecutive day, the decision was taken after 61 days to raise all their pay to the London Living Wage!

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/100-wood-street/

Many more pictures at Solidarity for Wood St cleaners.


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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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Xmas Protests – Low Wages, Evictions, John Lewis – 2014

Monday, December 13th, 2021

Three Xmas Protests – Low wages, Evictions, John Lewis – in Brixton, Mayfair and Oxford St on December 14th 2014.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage

Lambeth Living Wage campaigners, led by an impressive Santa, protested in and outside shops in the centre of Brixton, handing out flyers calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They urged shop workers to join a union and gave out forms.

While I was with them they visited department store Morleys, Subway and Poundland and they were going on to other stores in Brixton paying poverty wages. The protest was supported by Unite the Resistance, the Socialist Party, Unison (who provided the Santa costume), the Fast Food Rights Hungry for Justice campaign supported by the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union, BFWAWU, the National Shop Stewards Network and other groups.

‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’

Scrooge at Christmas 2014 was US property developers Westbrook Partners who were intending to evict the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate by Christmas so they can refurbish these low rent social properties and re-let them at market rents at roughly four times the current rents. Class War and friends protested at their Mayfair offices of in solidarity with the tenants.

Class War came with banners and posters and a Christmas Card which they presented to Westbrook with the message ‘Christmas Greetings! – but not for Rich Bastards’ and a pictures of wrapped gifts and the cover image from Ian Bone’s autobiography ‘BASH THE RICH’. It’s an interesting read and might make a friend a good Christmas Present, available from Freedom Press at a special discount.

This was one of a number of protests by the residents, Class War and other housing activists, with a video by Russell Brand going viral and a petition with 350,000 signatures that led to Hackney Council entering into talks with Westbrook and resulted in the estate being sold to the affordable housing group Dolphin Living.

Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis

Many shoppers who can afford it go to John Lewis to buy Christmas presents, but members of te IWGB trade union and supporters including some John Lewis customers were there not to buy gifts but calling for the London Living Wage for cleaners there and an end to their treatment as second-class citizens. Many of the Christmas shoppers applauded their noisy protest.

I met the cleaners on the top floor of the store where they had gathered in the restaurant before getting out banners and flags and a megaphone, with IWGB organiser Alberto Durango used to inform customers why they were holding the protest.

The together with a group of John Lewis customers they slowly and loudly made their way around the top floor to the escalator, moving carefully through the gangways to avoid any damage.

They made their way down floor by floor, pausing on the balconies to display their banners.

John Lewis security staff and managers met the protesters and asked them to stop protesting and leave the store. They continued their way protesting until they reached the ground floor, where police stopped them from leaving. Here the situation became confused, with a great deal of unnecessary pushing by the police which blurred many of the pictures I made. The protesters were trying to get out, store security was pushing them out and the police were pushing them back. Eventually most of the protesters managed to get past the police and the protest continued on the pavement outside. The protest inside the store had been totally non-violent for a little over a quarter of an hour and had the police not decided to push the protesters back they would simply have walked out.

A police officer made an attempt to seize the amplifier the protesters were using, but they held onto it and eventually he gave up. At least one person was arrested and carried out of the store by police, though I think charges were later dropped.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


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