Posts Tagged ‘St Georges’

A Bad Day Out

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

I didn’t much enjoy Thursday 20th Feb 2020, though I was pleased to be able to cover a protest by UVW Security guards working at St George’s University Hospital in Tooting. They had been on strike for 3 weeks demanding to be directly employed rather than outsourced to a private contractor and working under the minimum legal terms and conditions of service.

Although they belong to the United Voices of the World union, the university had refused recognise or talk with their union, and has called on the police to intimidate the workers and try to break their strike – and police even carried out an unlawful arrest of a UVW staff member and barrister. I’d arrived too late on that occasion to photograph the picket, when everyone had left the area.

On 20th Feb I arrived too early. Although when I had first been sent details of the protest planned to take place on an Open Day for postgraduate students they were planning to start at 4pm, the time had later been changed to 6pm and I’d not checked before setting out. So I arrived two hours early and was surprised to find that I was the only one there.

After a little checking on my phone I found out what was happening, and decided that rather than missing the event I’d go for a walk around the area. It wasn’t a bad day for February, and I enjoyed the walk by the Rover Wandle, but by the time the sun had gone down it did start to get rather cold.

There was still no sign of the protesters, but after a phone call I met up with them close to Tooting Broadway station, where they had a large number of balloons to give the protest a party theme, and were writing slogans on them, which proved a little difficult. After some short speeches on a rather dark street corner they marched down to the hospital. It was hard to take photographs as they marched as the street lighting was poor and they were moving at a fast walking pace.

At the hospital they walked in though the main doors to a corridor area; there were very few security staff on duty, perhaps because most were on strike. I think perhaps the change of time for the protest had misled the hospital management as well as me, as there were no police present, though I had seen some when I arrived around 4pm.

Once inside there were more speeches with the union making their demands for the security guards to be made direct employees of St George’s University London and for them to receive pay and T&Cs of employment in line with SGUL standards. Among those to speak in support was drill music star Drillmaster who is standing for London Mayor.


It was a noisy protest, with music and dancing as well as speeches. Police arrived and after some fairly terse discussion came to an agreement with the protesters that they would leave in a few minutes time.

My day was not over, though I was already a couple of hours later than expected. I ran across Clapham Junction to jump on a train for home just as it was leaving, only for it to make an unscheduled stop at the next station, Wandsworth Town. After around 15 minutes we were all told to get off as the train would be going no further as the line was closed at Barnes where someone had committed suicide by throwing themselves under a train. Despite this being an unfortunately common happening at Barnes, South West Trains appeared to have absolutely no contingency plans. Eventually I got a bus back to Clapham Junction, a well-staffed station but where nobody seemed to know what was happening, and joined hundreds of passengers going from platform to platform in search of a train that would take one of the two alternative routes that avoid the accident location.

I took a chance and jumped on a Kingston train. No one on the platform or on the train knew how far it was going, but I knew that if necessary I could catch a bus home from Kingston. At Kingston the guard thought they might get to Twickenham – where again I might get a bus. Eventually it reached Twickenham, where everyone was told to leave the train. Fortunately by that time – two hours after the incident – someone had the sense to
set up a shuttle service for stations further west, and eventually I arrived home, around five hours later than I had expected when I set out and fuming at the incompetence of South West Trains.

More at:
St Georges’s Hospital Security Guards
Wandle Wander


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