Posts Tagged ‘security staff’

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.


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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.


Show Workers Some Love

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

On St Valentine’s Day, Feb 14 2019, the Security and Receptionists Branch of the IWGB union and students launched their campaign for Goldsmiths University of London to directly employ its security officers, with a protest outside and inside the university buildings. The protest, on St Valentines Day, called on the university to show its workers some love.

I was pleased to be invited to go to photograph the event, and thankful that unlike many union pickets it was to take place at lunchtime rather than at the kind of ungodly hour of the morning that many of our worst paid have to clock in. I’m afraid I decline all requests that would involve me getting out of bed well before dawn and leave those to younger photographers who live closer, in part because travel until after the morning peak into London costs more than any likely return from reproduction fees.

Goldsmiths is in New Cross, a rather run-down area of South London that I’ve known for years and is rapidly sprawling over the whole area. Long ago, before I started taking photographs I made the pilgrimage to Chris Wellard’s Jazz & Blues Record Shop on Lewisham Way, probably the finest in the world until its closure in the mid-70s, later demolished for a new block for the college just a few yards further down the road. Goldsmiths has never quite gained the same reputation, though I have been there for the odd (sometimes very odd) meeting and event since. And more often to visit a late artist and photographer friend whose studios were just a little further on down the road at Lewisham Arthouse.

A group of students stood outside the old college building, waiting for the event to start, and eventually members of the IWGB arrived. Chris Wellard’s advertising always use to contain strict instructions to take the BR Southern trains from London Bridge rather than use the Underground (now the Overground) and perhaps they hadn’t observed these.

But things soon warmed up, and after some short speeches, including a warning from IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee that this was a peaceful protest and we should be careful not to cause any damage a show of hands was voted to protest inside the building. We walked inside and made our way through the campus, stopping at various areas where people were eating lunch to for the union leaders to speak briefly – and to considerable applause from most – about the campaign.

The protesters then walked down to New Cross Road, where the university management no has its offices in the former Deptford Town Hall, and sat down in the busy road outside for a few minutes blocking all traffic.

Walking back into the university campus, they group briefly occupied the foyer of the Ben Pimlott Building, before walking back to the front of the main building for a final rally.

It had been a lively and highly noticeable protest, bringing the claim for security staff to be directly employed by the university with similar terms and benefits to others at Goldsmiths to the attention of a large number of students, staff and management.

Exactly a year later, on Valentines Day 2020, the IWGB Security Guards & Receptionists Branch tweeted (with a short video):

More pictures at Bring Goldsmith’s Security In-House.


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.



Goldsmith’s Security

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Goldsmith’s University is a part of the University of London located in New Cross in south-east London. Like many other organisations it has outsourced many of the service jobs on campus, paying private companies to provide the vital services that keep the university running.

Outsourcing contracts are generally awarded to companies who put in the lowest tender, and they do this largely by cutting corners at the expense of their employees, who are on poor wages, with lousy conditions of service and often greatly overworked by bullying managers. At Goldsmith’s the security guards employed by CIS Security report not getting their statutory sick pay, grievance pay, maternity/paternity pay and public bank holidays off, and feel they are treated as second-class citizens, not allowed to make use of the car park, canteens that other staff can use.

Their campaign to be brought in-house – employed directly by the university – has been supported by the Student Assembly which passed a motion of support for the security guards and the campaign by their trade union, the IWGB, and asking for Goldsmith’s management to recognise the IWGB to which the majority of them belong.

The protest, called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) Security Guards and Receptionists branch and supported by the Goldsmiths Students union and the Goldsmiths branch of university teachers union UCU, took place on St Valentine’s Day, and placards, posters and balloons reflected this, calling for the university to ‘show some love’ for the people who work there.

It was quite an eventful protest, and after a brief rally in front of the main building, the campaigners went inside and spoke to people eating in two canteen areas before walking through the buildings to emerge on the busy main New Cross Road, where they stopped traffic for some minutes by sitting on the road in front of Deptford Town Hall which now houses some of the university management. They returned onto campus and occupied the foyer of another building for a short rally before walking back to where they had started the protest for a final short rally.

More at Bring Goldsmith’s Security In-House.


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