Posts Tagged ‘second-class citizens’

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.

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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