Posts Tagged ‘Qatari royal family’

Class War & The Shard – 2018

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

Class War & The Shard – 2018.

Ian Bone raises a fist as he comes out of the Royal Courts of Justice

February 8th 2018 was a good day for Class War, beginning with a visit to the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where thanks to barrister Ian Brownhill they emerged triumphant after stopping an attempt by lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50million pound apartments in The Shard.

Lawyers for the Qataris had tried to get an injunction against protests by Bone and “persons unknown” and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner, and the case had attracted considerable publicity in the media including an article by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian and another in Le Monde and many more.

Brownhill offered to conduct Bone’s defence pro-bono and contacted the Quatari’s solicitors who immediately offered to drop the case if Class War ‘would stop attacking the Shard’ whatever that meant. In the High Court the Qataris’ lawyers were forced to drop the attempt to ban protests and the demand for fees but Bone accepted a legal restriction on him going inside the Shard and its immediate vicinity.

The case also showed the police’s insecurity over Class War and documents presented in court on behalf of the Qataris clearly showed they had been given documents by the police including one with clearly defamatory false statements about another person associated with Class War who was not named in the injunction.

Another document presented was a surprising testimonial about Class War which made it sound a rather more impressive and powerful organisation than the small but influential irritant to the rich and unscrupulous it is. The police probably the source for this certainly seem to share the lawyers’ delusions of the organisations grandeur, with an unusually strong police presence outside the court and around a corner clearly outnumbering the Class War supporters.

So the protest that evening took place as Class War intended, pointing out that the ten £50m apartments in the Shard had remained empty since the building was completed. The protest stressed that these were just a small fraction of the plans to build another 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each across London, many replacing current social housing a time when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation.

As Class War stated, there are already a huge number of empty properties in London, many in large development of high priced flats which either remain unsold or are bought as investments and largely unoccupied. What the capital needs is not luxury flats but much more social housing – and to keep existing housing on council estates under threat of demolition.

The protest, as planned, was peaceful but very noisy, and again policed by a ridiculously large number of police and private security. Ian Bone’s poor health meant he was in any case unable to attend in person. The protesters were careful to remain outside the boundary of The Shard, marked with a metal line in the pavement, but police still tried to move them away to the other side of the road, making the patently spurious claim that they were causing an obstruction to commuters attempting to enter London Bridge station. The only real obstruction to commuters attempting to enter the station were the lines of police across their route.

More on My London Diary
Class War protest at Shard
Class War victory against Qatari Royals

Protest tells Harrods ‘Stop Stealing Tips’

Friday, January 7th, 2022

Protest tells Harrods ‘Stop Stealing Tips’
On Saturday 7th December 2017, the United Voices of the World trade union held a protest outside Harrods in Kensington demanding that the restauarant workers there receive the service changes that customers pay on meals.

The UVW is a grass roots union that represents workers in low paid sectors, and their members include chefs and waiters at Harrods. As well as demanding that the workers get the tips they are also demanding that conditions and wages to be improved for waiters who are currently paid at or a few pence per hour above the legal minimum, overworked and poorly managed.

A few people seemed not to support the protest

Harrods, the richest and most prestigious department store in the world, is owned by the immensely wealthy Qatari royal family – and they were then adding to that wealth by taking up to 75% of the tips that customers believed and intended to be going to the staff who served them.

THe UVW succeeded in getting a great deal of public support and even some from our right-wing mass media (it almost certainly helped there that Harrods is owned by foreigners) and several hundred people came to protest outside the store, notably including supporters of Class War.

Harrods was supported by a large contingent of police, who at times went beyond there duty to keep the peace and seemed to be taking the side of the Qatari royal family who of course have many friends in high places including the Foreign Office who will have put pressure on the Met to take effective action against the protesters.

Police film the protest from inside Harrods – but Class War held a banner in front of the doors

I described the protest as “robust but peaceful” and although at times the protesters blocked the entrances and crowded around the doors, at times holding them open they made no real attempt to enter the store, as police warned that they would immediately be arrested for aggravated trespass. A couple were arrested for trivial matters on the street during the protest, but generally the protest went well and people were in a good mood as it ended and I caught the tube to go home.

Later I heard that as UVW members were packing away their flags, banners, drums and vuvuzelas, police had come and made 4 more arrests, including that of UVW General Secretary Petros Elia. It also appeared that some had been dragged inside the store and locked up by Harrods security staff before being handed over to police.

All were later released without charge, but on police bail – with the condition that they were not to go within 50m of Harrods. It appears to have been a deliberate abuse of the law to try to stop further protests at Harrods – however legitimate these may be. One man who had been grabbed after letting off a smoke flare on the street during the protest – now a rather common occurrence at protests – had apparently accepted a police caution.

Following the protest, and with threats of more protests to come, Harrods finally gave in and agreed to give 100% of the service charge to staff, with an independent tronc master to administer the distribution with staff on the committee.

The UVW continues to fight for its workers at Harrods, and in December 2021 planned a further protest in advance of a strike in the Christmas shopping period. The strike and protest were both called off after Harrods agreed to large pay rises, taking all the waiters and chefs above the London Living Wage – for some it meant a pay rise of almost £5,000 a year, and Harrods has also guaranteed annual increases of 3% from 2023.

Small but active trade unions such as the UVW, along with a few of the major unions are showing that collective action works, while some larger unions seem more rather less interested in their lower paid members. In March 2021, Labour’s North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll published an article in the Journal and Evening Chronicle and on his blog with the title ‘What Have Trade Unions Ever Done For Us?’ which included the following two paragraphs

For a start, unions stopped child labour. Unionised workplaces are safer, with 50% fewer accidents. Every year unions train 10,000 safety reps. Union members earn, on average, 12.5 per cent more than non-members. They have better job security, and stay in their jobs for an average of five years longer than non-members. Unionised workplaces have higher productivity and fewer industrial tribunals.

Apart from that, though, trade unions have only gained us paid holidays, maternity and paternity leave, paid sick leave, equal pay legislation, pensions, and workplace anti-discrimination laws. Oh, and the weekend. It was unions that fought for a five day working week.

Jamie Driscoll’s blog

If you work, join a union. “You have a legal right to join a union. It’s illegal for an employer to disadvantage you because you are a union member.”