Posts Tagged ‘sick pay’

Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

Outsourcing, North Woolwich & Class War v. Rees-Mogg. Three years ago on Tuesday 26th February I spent the morning photographing several protests against outsourcing, had a rather late pub lunch, then went to North Woolwich for a short walk before rushing back to meet Class War who were protesting outside a Palladium show by Jacob Rees-Mogg.


Rally for an end to Outsourcing

A legal challenge was taking place at the High Court on this day to extend the employment rights of the 3.3 million workers whose jobs are outsourced from the companies where they work to contracting companies which then sell them back to their place of employment at cut rates.

Labour Shadow Business minister Laura Pidcock

The contractors do this by cutting wages, trimming things such as pensions, maternity pay and holiday pay to the bare legal minimum, increasing workload and reducing hours of work and often bullying managers. Outsourced workers generally have little job security and are often denied necessary safety equipment and not given proper safety training.

Workers, mainly migrants who work for the Ministry of Justice, Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the University of London were taking part in a one day strike in a coordinated action by the UVW and IWGB trade unions and the BEIS PCS branch to demand an end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes. They had started their march at 8.00am at the University of London and after a rally outside the High Court had marched to Parliament Square where I met them at 11am.

Rally for an end to Outsourcing


Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS

From Parliament Square the marchers went on to hold a further rally outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Victoria St. Those striking at the BEIS included catering and security staff who are members of the PCS and are demanding the London Living Wage as well as end to outsourcing and the insecurity, discrimination and low pay it causes.

The PCS strikers led a lively rally with plenty of singing, dancing and shouting of slogans expressing their demands, which was followed by several speeches, including from Labour MP Chris Williamson, who brought messages of support from Labour shadow cabinet members and promises that a Labour government would end outsourcing.

Outsourced Workers protest at BEIS


Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry

The marchers continued the short walk to the Ministry of Justice in Petty France, where low paid workers belonging to the United Voices of the World union at the Ministry of Justice have been campaigning for some time to get the London Living wage, but the Justice Minister has refused to talk with them. Many wore t-shirts calling it the Ministry of Injustice.

During the rally outside the building some of the UVW workers who had already been on strike for 24 hours went back into the ministry to resume work, to cheers and hugs from those on the street outside. The rally ended with music and dancing on the pavement, and I left for a rather late pub lunch in Holborn.

Outsourced Workers at Justice ministry


North Woolwich

I’d been intending to walk a short section of the Capital Ring, mainly beside the River Thames, for some months as it had been quite a few years since I’d last been there and wanted to see how it had changed. I had an afternoon with nothing else I needed to photograph and although the sunny weather with clear blue skies was not ideal it seemed a good opportunity.

Panoramic photographs almost always have large expanses of sky, and on days like this it tends lack interest, as well as often giving unnatural looking variations in tone when getting closer to the sun. Getting to North Woolwich should have been simple and reasonably fast, but unfortunately there was trouble on the DLR and I had to make a less direct route, so had to rather rush on the walk and leave it half-finished. It was a few months later before I found time to go back and complete it.

North Woolwich


Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show

I find it hard to understand why anyone should want to come and listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg, let alone pay £38 for a ticket to do so at the London Palladium.

So too did Class War, and with Jane Nicholl dressed as a nun, Mother Hysteria, and Adam Clifford as Jacob Rees Mogg they loudly asked why people had come to listen to him “spout homophobic, transphobic, racist, pro-hunting, misogynist, classist, privileged” nonsense.

Their show on the street outside was almost certainly a better show than anything that would take place later inside the venue, and all for free. Police spent a considerable amount of public money on harassing them, and provided their own rather hilarious input by searching Mother Hysteria and threatening to arrest her for carrying offensive weapons after some novelty stink bombs were found in her handbag. When I left the officer who had stopped and searched her had already spent 20 minutes trying to write her notice of stop and search, probably at a loss trying to find some way to put it that doesn’t make it sound incredibly stupid.

Class War protest Rees-Mogg freak show


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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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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.

A Busy Saturday – August 15th 2015

Sunday, August 15th, 2021


I began my working day rather later than the pickets outside the National Gallery, who held a short rally after picketing since the early morning on the 61st day of their strike against plans to outsource the jobs of 400 gallery assistants and the sacking of PCS union rep Candy Udwin for her union activities.
More at: National Gallery 61st day of Strike

A related protest against the privatisation of visitor assistants was taking place a little later outside Tate Modern on Bankside, with workers giving out leaflets calling for equal pay and conditions for outsourced and in-house workers at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London. Privatised staff doing the exactly the same job have zero hours contracts with no guarantee of regular work, get £3 an hour less, and do not get the decent pensions, sick pay and holidays enjoyed by their colleagues.
More at: Equalitate at Tate Modern

Back over the river to Aldwych and the Indian High Commission, where two protests were taking place on Indian Independence Day. Sikhs were supporting the call by hunger striker Bapu Surat Singh, now on hunger strike for over 200 days, calling for the release of Sikh political prisoners and other prisoners of all religions who have completed their jail terms but are still in prison.

Many of the Sikhs held posters of Gajinder Singh, a founding member Dal Khalsa which calls for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, and they called for a referendum to be held in the Punjab and among the Sikh diaspora around the world on the setting up such as state.
More at: Sikhs call for release of political prisoners

Also protesting outside the Indian High Commission were a crowd of Kashmiris calling for freedom. Kashmir is a disputed territory with parts occupied by India, Pakistan and China, and since 1987 the Indian occupation has turned their area into one of the most militarised places in the world, with around one Indian soldier for every 14 Kashmiris.

Over 100,0000 Kashmiris have been killed since the current uprising against Indian occupation began in 1987, and torture is used as a mean to get confessions and terrorise the civilians including women and children. In Kashmir Indian Independence day is observed as ‘Black Day’.
More at: Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom

Back in Trafalgar Square Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) remembered its fighters killed in the fight against Iran and ISIS for self-determination. Like the PKK, PJAK owes allegiance to Abdullah Öcalan and the ideals of the Rojava revolution.
More at: Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs

A few yards away, Koreans were holding their monthly silent protest for the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy, mainly school children who obeyed the order to ‘Stay Put’ on the lower decks as the ship went down. They continue to demand that the Korean government raise the Sewol ferry for a thorough inquiry and punish those responsible as well as bringing in special anti-disaster regulations.
More at: 16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest

Finally I made my way to Oxford Circus to meet members of the United Voices of the World and supporters including those from SOAS Unison, the National Gallery strikers, Class War and others who were marching to protest outside Sotheby’s in Old Bond St. The UVW werecampaigning for proper sick pay, paid holidays and pensions for the cleaners who work there, and so far Sotheby’s response had been to sack two of the union members, Barbara and Percy.

Police harassed the protesters as they arrived outside Sotheby’s, trying to move them off the road they were marching along and onto the pavement, and they responded by sitting down on the road and refusing the police orders to move. After some minutes they got up and marched around the block, past the rear entrance to Sotheby’s, with two union officials going into some of the shops on the way to hand out leaflets explaining the action. Police tried to stop these two going into the shops and some arguments developed.


The marchers returned to the street in front of Sotheby’s and held a short rally, again ignoring police who tried to move them off the road. Police then tried to stop them marching around the block again, holding some while others surged around and the marchers made another circuit, returning to Sotheby’s for a short final rally before marching back towards Oxford Circus.
More at: United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2.

My day wasn’t quite over, and I moved to Grosvenor Square, where two young women, one black and one white, had organised a Black Lives Matter protest close to the US embassy in solidarity with events across the US against the collective and systemic unlawful arrests and killings of black people in America. The protest around the statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was supported by groups including BARAC (Black Activists Rising Against Cuts) and the Nation of Islam.

More at: BlackoutLDN solidarity with Black US victims.

In all the travelling around central London on foot or by bus, I had time to take a few pictures between protests.
More at: London Views.


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.


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.


UVW at Wood St – 29 June 2016

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

The strike and protests organised by the United Voices of the World union against anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning who employed the cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices in the City of London, managed by CBRE and mainly let to Schroders and J P Morgan is a good example of one of the things the current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is aiming to prevent.

The UVW use loud rallies and protests outside workplaces (and sometimes in their foyers) to shame employers who are exploiting low paid workers, many migrants, into talking to the union. These workers, often employed by small and intensely anti-union companies, are often on minimum legal rates of pay, well below the London Living Wage and usually on the statutory minimum (and minimal) conditions of service – and sometimes even have problems getting these.

Outsourcing of low paid work such as cleaning is widespread, and contractors get the contracts by cutting costs – such as wages and conditions of service – and also by using bullying management to over-work their employees. Often too they cut costs by ignoring safety issues and failing to supply protective clothing and other essential safety material.

The UVW strike at Wood St was the longest industrial dispute in the history of the City of London, and it continued after Thames Cleaning had agreed to pay the London Living Wage for some days until they also agreed to re-instate the two workers who had been sacked. These pictures come from a rally on day 22 of the 58 day strike.

The strike was only successful because of the continuing pressure provided by loud protests such as this one, which made the companies working in the offices very aware of what was happening and made them and the building owners put pressure on the contracting company to meet the union and agree to their demands. Protests such as these, by the UVW and other grass-roots unions including CAIWU, the IWGB and a few branches of major unions have been successful in getting many of London’s lowest paid workers a living wage.

The PCSC bill, if it becomes law, will make these activities illegal. Already under existing laws, the company was able to take legal action to try and get an injunction to stop the strike. Although this failed it did get strict conditions put on the UVW’s actions at Wood St, and landed the union with crippling legal costs. Fortunately many supporters came forward with donations.

I came to take pictures on a number of occasions during the strike, which you can find on My London Diary. These pictures are all from Day 22: UVW Wood St Strike continues.

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

3 Cosas – 28 Jan 2014

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

It was the second day of the 3 day strike by the IWGB for union recognition and better conditions for outsourced workers at the University of London, and the union had hired an open-top bus to take their campaigners around London to protest.

The ‘3 Cosas’ campaign was calling for Sick Pay, Holdidays and Pensions for the workers, who were only getting the minimal statutory provisions from the cost-cutting contracting companies who employed them. They worked alongside people who were employed directly by the University who enjoyed considerably better conditions of service.

Although the majority of the workers were members of the IWGB, the University and the contractors refuse to talk with this union. The University management instead recognises a union that has few if any members, using this as an excuse not to recognise the union the workers belong to.

After a lengthy tour of London, stopping at some of the workplaces and elsewhere for speeches from the top of the bus, we came to Parliament Square, where there was a short rally and MPs John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham came to show their support.

I’ve written about the day at some length on My London Diary so I won’t go into much detail and repeat myself here. There are of course many more pictures, rather too many, as I got a little carried away and there was so much to photograph.

While the idea through the morning had been to draw as much attention to the strike and protest noisily, the next event was a suprise protest at another location where the IWGB were campaigning for union recognition and a living wage, the Royal Opera House. The bus stopped a short distance away and then members rushed into the foyer to hold a noisy protest there.

We then left and went for a final protest outside the offices of the contractor who employ many of the workers at the University, Cofely GDF-Suez. There the gates were locked and the protest took place on the street outside.

More pictures and text from the day:
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus
IWGB at Parliament
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez


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.


Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

One of the reasons why the UK has suffered so badly from the corona virus has been outsourcing. Not of course the major reason, which has been government incompetence and failure to take effective action, always a case of too little too late. A year after the outbreak began it is only now considering the kind of travel restrictions that would have saved many thousands of lives (and which even one government minister has said she was arguing in favour of at the start.) Three weeks before we had the first lock-down I was getting urgent messages from relatives who were in touch with the medical advice that was going to the government that, because of my age and diabetes, I should isolate myself.

And of course there has been the failure to work properly with existing public bodies, instead preferring to give huge payments to cronies to set up an ineffectual systems for testing and tracing, to source inadequate PPE and take large consultancy fees to no particular purpose, wasting billions.

Government has deliberately promoted policies which have increased the spreading of the virus, failing to stop much unnecessary work or ensure that proper protective measures are enforced and giving offers to people to go out for meals largely in indoor settings where the spread of infection was almost inevitable. Although they now deny it, their polices were based on ideas of herd immunity, where infection gives a large proportion of the population some immunity and stops the virus spreading; for this to work, perhaps 80% of us would need to have had it, and a quick back of envelope calculation showed that would mean perhaps 400,000 deaths – and I would have been rather too likely to be one of them. It’s a figure we may still reach, though 200,000 seems more likely now – and we are over half way there.

A couple of days ago on the Today programme on Radio 4 I heard Maria, a cleaner from the IWGB being interviewed. She contracted the virus, probably while travelling to work on crowded public transport, and tested positive. Before the test she had been ill at work and had asked her employer if she could go home, but had been told she had to stay. After the positive result, she had to continue to go to work, as the sick pay she would have received was simply not enough to live on.

Maria is probably one of those IWGB members in the pictures I took on 25 Jan 2018, and the other pictures I’ve taken at IWGB protests against outsourcing. Outsourced workers are employed not by the company at their work place – on this occasion the University of London – but by a company that is given a contract for the services they provide. Contracts are usually awarded to the lowest bidder, and outsourcing companies cut their costs by paying low wages, giving only the statutory minimum in conditions – including sick pay, holidays, pensions etc – and often bullying the workers, demanding impossible workloads and failing to provide proper safety equipment – so that they can gain contracts and also make a profit for the company owners.

Usually too both the contractors and the workplace management refuse (often illegally) to recognise the trade unions to which the outsourced workers belong – such as the IWGB, and refuse to discuss any of the workplace issues with them. Often union members are disciplined and sacked for their union activities.

Had Maria been one of the cleaners at the various places where the IWGB have been able by organising protests like this and forcing the management to talk with them and to get the workers directly employed she would have got the kind of conditions that other workers at these places take for granted. She would have been able to call in to work when she knew she was ill and have time off, and would have been able to self-isolate after her positive corona test, as she would have been able to rely on proper sick pay.

Outsourcing and other poisonous working arrangements, particularly zero hours contracts, have been a major factor in directly spreading the infection, and are a part of the reason for its increased prevalence among our black and ethnic minority communities. Low pay too has an indirect effect, leading to more crowded housing conditions. Many low paid jobs too are ones that involve considerable contact with others, and often involve travel in crowded public transport to workplaces.

The first protest on that Thursday evening in January was calling for the University of London to directly employ the cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff that work in the premises that are part of the central administration, including offices and halls of residence, and took place outside the University’s Senate House. Earlier protests have persuaded the University to consider direct employment for some of these workers, but the IWGB call for all of them to be brought in-house as soon as possible. Students and some teaching staff from various colleges came to support the protest.

At the end of this protest a double-decker bus hired by the union arrived to take those present to a ‘secret location’ for a further protest and I was invited to go with them. It dropped us off around the corner from the Royal College of Music, and the protesters ran into the building. A new contractor had taken over the RCM cleaning contract and decided to halve the hours worked by cleaners and change shift times. Most of the cleaners have to work on several jobs like this to make ends meet and so were unable to change to the new hours and had been threatened with dismissal. The RCM and the contractor had refused to discuss the changes with the IWGB who had launched a collective grievance; the cleaners have balloted for strike action and the union is also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

It was a short and very noisy protest inside the foyer, and the protesters who had been very careful to avoid any damage left when the police arrived after 12 minutes and continued their protest outside.

More at:
Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music
End Outsourcing at University of London


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.