Posts Tagged ‘strike’

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – 2012

Friday, May 10th, 2024

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – Thursday 10th May 2012 saw two rather different marches by workers taking place in London, with a large protest by police and a day of public sector strikes with trade unionists marching to a rally. I also visited the Parliament Square Peace Campaign.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Other groups including Occupy and Right To Protest and others joined in call for justice in the policing of protest.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union but can join the Police Federation, a staff association that can represent and support their interests. Although it cannot call for strike action it can organise demonstrations such as this one, attended by off-duty police and some family members.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

It was an impressively large march, but rather dull as it marched past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St, most wearing black caps. The Police Federation had provided 16,000 black caps to represent the number of warranted officers expected to be lost over the next four years due to the cut in the police budget of 20-30%.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

My pictures concentrate too much on the relatively few officers from some areas who had come with placards. Most simply marched and mainly in silence. A few carried carried small posters with the names of officers who had been unable to attend due to being at work – and there were some police who were policing the police protest, on rather better behaviour than at some other protests.

Some people also came to protest against the police, with the Space Hijackers setting up a ‘professional protest stall‘ at the side of the march offering advice on making placards and chanting. Most of the police marchers were amused by their chants such as ‘One Solution – Institution’ and some of the mock placards, although there were a few jeers.

Those Police policing the protest were less amused, and threatened the Space Hijackers with arrest unless they removed one of their placards with the well-known acronym ACAB. They also stood in front to try and hide them and other protesters including those with a ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ who were shouting slogans against police violence and over deaths in custody for which there is seldom if any justice.

Some from Occupy London had come with plastic police helmets to join in the march, saying they were not against the police but called for a force that worked for the 99% rather than the 1%, or as one long-winded placard put it, “A fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!”

Others taking part on the march included Ian Puddick who got intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses. He marched with a sign ‘Police Corruption‘ and unfortunately there is still a great deal of that as well as racism in forces around the country.

More on My London Diary at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor.


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March

Unite, PCS and UCU were holding a one day strike against public sector cuts in pensions, jobs and services. Many had been up in the early hours picketing at their workplaces long before I arrived in London, but there were still pickets in place when I visited Tate Britain and walked past the House of Commons on my way to a rally outside St Thomas’ Hospital on the opposite bank of the Thames.

I arrived late for the rally there and people were just getting ready to march to a larger rally at Methodist Central Hall.

Workers are incensed by increases in their pension contributions and plans to increase them further. They are also worried by the increasing state retirement age which also applies to their pensions. Now in 2024 it is 66 and will increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. A further rise to 68 is planned and the date for that is likely to be brought forward – as the rise to 67 was.

As they marched, people were chanting “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late“. Pensioners also feel they are being cheated by the government’s decision to index them to the CPI inflation rather than the higher RPI inflation figures, which will mean them receiving some 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

I left the marchers as they went into the rally at Central Hall and returned to photograph the police march and visit the peace camp in Parliament Square.

More pictures at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square

I went to talk with Barbara Tucker who was continuing the Parliament Square Peace Campaign begun by Brian Haw on the 2nd June 2001. The protest, continued by her and other supporters was about to reach a total of 4000 days of 24 hour protest in the square, with others in the group maintaining the presence on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight.

They had then continued for almost 11 years despite constant harassment years by police, who have been pressured by politicians – as well as passing two Acts of Parliament intended to end the protest.

As I wrote in 2012:

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. This was apparently one of two visits over the weekend by police and council in which they illegally removed property from the site.

4000 Days in Parliament Square.

Despite an increase in harassment as a great attempt was made to clean up the capital for the Olympics, the peace protest continued in the square for another year, with Barbara Tucker starting a hunger strike in January 2013. Eventually she became too ill to continue and the protest came to an end in May 2013.


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Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – 2018

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike – London hasn’t had a great deal of snow for some years, but when I got off the bus on Wednesday 28th February 2018 close to London University I found myself walking into a blizzard. There was a couple of inches of snow underfoot and the biting wind was driving dense snowflakes into my face making it both difficult to walk and hard to see where I was going.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

I slipped a few times and almost fell as I walked through Byng Place, only just managing to stop myself and my camera bag falling into the snow, and for the first 15 or 20 minutes after I reached the meeting point for the march it was difficult to take pictures, with snowflakes landing on the lens surface as soon as I took away the cloth I had stuffed against it inside the lens hood and raised the camera to my eye.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

Most of the pictures from the start of the protest were ruined by snow on the lens making some areas soft and diffuse. It might sometimes have been an arty effect but wasn’t what I wanted. Fortunately after a while the snow died down and I was able to work more normally, though the occasional flake kept coming and there were a few thick flurries later on the march.

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

HE and FE march for pensions and jobs

Blizzard, Education and Hunger Strike

The UCU was on the fifth day of a strike to try and get the universities to talk with them about pay and pensions. On this march to a rally in Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, close to the Houses of Parliament, they were joined by staff from London FE colleges on the first day of a two-day strike over pay and conditions. And plenty of their students had come along to show their support.

Although students are now paying high fees for their university courses, the pay of university teachers has not benefited from this, and has not kept up with inflation. Much more teaching at universities is also being done by graduate students and others on part-time or often zero hours contracts.

What particularly inflamed the situation was the intention of the universities to end the long-established pension scheme, replacing it with one that would greatly reduce pensions, and their refusal to discuss this with their union, the UCU.

The 5 day strike was supported overwhelmingly by UCU members and had shut down 61 UK universities, despite draconian threats by the management at some of them such as Royal Holloway (RHUL). Pickets had stood in the freezing weather and few people had crossed the picket line.

The move away from the pension scheme was largely driven by a small number of universities, particularly the Oxbridge colleges. Many of these are extremely wealthy, some owning huge areas of land including large parts of London and having vast reserves, not least in their wine cellars. A number of college principals had given their support to the union.

The dispute between the employers and the UCU continued for five years and was only ended in October 2023 when the employer body UUK made an offer of full restoration. This came after 69 days of strikes by the UCU and was a historic victory for UCU members and reversed further cuts made in 2022.

University teachers continue to fight for better pay, more appropriate workloads and job security. FE teachers, marching because of the loss of 15,000 jobs in the sector particularly as adult education has been savaged by austerity, and whose wages had been cut by 21% since 2009, continue to be treated unfairly.

I went into the rally in Central Hall largely to try to get warm after the freezing march, and was fortunate to arrive early enough to get inside – many of the marchers were left outside the the cold where the speakers went outside to speak after making their contributions in the hall.

The event was running late because of the larger than expected number of people on the march, and by the time the main speakers, John McDonnell and Frances O’Grady had performed I’d missed the time for another event I’d planned to cover, the handing in of some NHS petitions at the Department of Health. I But I was pleased to be able to stay longer in the warm.

HE & FE rally for pensions and jobs
HE and FE march for pensions and jobs


Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers – Home Office

I left the Methodist Central Hall and walked down to the Home Office where an emergency protest was taking place to support the hunger strike and refusal to work by the 120 women and a few men in immigration detention at Yarl’s Wood.

They had begun their action a week earlier to demand the Home Office respect the European Convention of Human Rights and end the separation of families, end indefinite detention with a 28 day maximum detention period, end charter flights which deport people without notice, and end the re-detention of those released from detention.

Their statement also called for an amnesty for those who have been in the UK for more than ten years and for the Home Office to stop deporting people before cases and appeals have been completed, as well as making full disclosure of all evidence to immigration tribunals.

They called for those in detention centres to be treated with dignity and respect and be given proper health care and an end to the detention of highly vulnerable people. They also want an end to employment in detention centres at ‘prison wages’ of £1 an hour.

Among the groups supporting the protest were the Movement for Justice, All African Women’s Group, Queer Strike and No Borders. Some of those taking part in the protest had previously served time in detention centres and knew first hand about the shameful way the UK treats them and some spoke at the event and several of those taking part in the hunger strike were able to speak to the protest from inside Yarls Wood by mobile phone.

Solidarity with Yarl’s Wood hunger strikers


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Climate, Pay & Pensions – 2019

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

Climate, Pay & Pensions – Friday 29th November 2019 was ‘Black Friday’ for some but for others it was ‘Buy Nothing Day’ and Climate Strike students were on the march, while separately University lecturers and others in the UCU along with students and other supporters were marching to Parliament in support of their 8 day strike over pensions, pay and conditions.


Youth Climate Strike March

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Over a thousand mainly school students met in Parliament Square to demand the government and other governments world-wide take urgent action to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Climate, Pay & Pensions

They demanded a Green New Deal to save their future and for the school curriculum to make clear the urgent need for changes in attitudes and action.

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Of course their protest fell on deaf ears in the Tory government, and although it did seem for some time that the Labour opposition was beginning to think seriously about the environmental crisis, as it seems more likely they might get into power their climate polices for a https://www.labourgnd.uk/gnd-explained Green New Deal are rapidly being abandoned and it now seems they are “unlikely to meet its £28bn green pledge at all.”

Climate, Pay & Pensions

Well over a thousand marched up Whitehall and on through Trafalgar Square to Regent Street, intending to go to Oxford Street on ‘Buy Nothing Day’, but police stopped them on Regent Street and diverted them into Mayfair and eventually back to Whitehall and Parliament Square.

Earlier they had been met by a group of XR’s ‘Red Brigade’ mimes who had come to salute the student march.

Many more pictures at Youth Climate Strike March.


UCU March for Planet, Pay and Pensions

The UCU march from London University was on the 4th day of their 8 day strike over pensions, pay and conditions and in solidarity with the Youth Climate Strike also taking place in London the same day.

Some had been on the picket lines since the early morning before the march began in Malet Street.

I saw the march as I came back from Regent Street where I had left the student march as I came on to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, and ran down to catch up with the front of the march on Whitehall, close to Downing St.

The march stopped there for some time, lining the road opposite the entrance to Downing St and shouting towards it, before moving on towards Parliament.

As well as their call for proper working conditions and better pay many of the marchers also came calling for changes in what is taught and with posters and placards about climate change. Some had already marched to support the students.

They then marched on to Parliament Square, where I left them as they moved towards a rally.

More pictures UCU March for Planet, Pay and Pensions.


BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Saturday, July 15th, 2023

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession: Monday 15th July 2019


BEIS workers begin indefinite strike, Westminster

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Low paid cleaning and catering workers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on Victoria Street celebrated the third anniversary of their fight for proper pay and conditions with cakes as they walked out on the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

The workers are demanding the London Living Wage and to be directly employed by the department rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

As the workers came out on strike hey got a rousing reception from a crowd of around 100 with speeches from one of the strikers, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, newly elected UCU general secretary Jo Grady , Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Labour MP Mary Glindon, National Vice-President of the PCS Zita Holbourne, Sam Gurney, TUC Regional Secretary, Kiri Tunks, Joint President of the NEU and Sandy Nicoll of SOAS Unison who led the succesful campaign to bring workers there back in-house. and one of the strikers.

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

I stayed long enough to eat a piece of one of the cakes which had been made for the protest, but then had to leave as the party continuned outside BEIS.

More pictures at BEIS workers begin indefinite strike.


XR call for Ecocide Law – Royal Courts of Justice, Strand

BEIS Birthday Strike, Ecocide and XR Procession

Extinction Rebellion was beginning another series of protests in five major cities against the criminal inaction by the government on climate and ecological collapse.

The main theme of the day’s protest was to call for a law making ecocide a criminal offence.

The protesters brought a yacht named after Polly Higgins who fought for years for an Ecocide Law to the Royal Courts of Justice.

They continued her fight blocking the Strand all day with performances, discussions, speeches, music and ceremonies in front of the yacht.

We need urgent action and our government along with most others has failed, continuing with policies which seem designed to make the situation worse and bring life on earth to an end, and XR is certainly bringing that to people’s attention, even if our media are still largely ignoring it and concentrating on trivia. But although I fully support the aims of XR I do find some of XR’s activities – yachts and new-age mumbo jumbo – off putting. In part I guess it’s a class thing – much of their activity seems insufferably middle class. Its probably an age thing too.

XR call for Ecocide Law


XR Summer Uprising procession

Having occupied the street across the front of the Royal Courts of Justice all day, the protesters and their yacht moved on around afternoon tea time to their home for the next three days, on Waterloo Millennium Green, a park area just south of Waterloo Station.

At the front of the procession were banners and a large crowd of people with XR flags, more banners, posters and placards, as well a large pink dodo. Bringing up the rear was the blue yacht named for the late Ecocide Law protester Polly Higgins, on a boat trailer, escorted by police.

When the procession was all on Westminster Bridge it came to a halt and people sat down blocking the road for a short protest against the police violence towards peaceful protesters when they were arresting people during the ‘Garden Bridge‘ occupation of the bridge in April.


There were a few short speeches there and the procession moved on. It came to a halt a little further on after police tried to block it on from moving onto the Millennium Green.

By this time the back of the procession was on its way around the IMAX Waterloo roundabout, and the rush hour was beginning. I hung around for around half an hour before deciding it was time to get on a train home. But by stopping the protest police had brought a large area of south London quite unnecessarily to a standstill.

Many more pictures at XR Summer Uprising procession.


LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa: On Wednesday 15th March 2017, students and supporters joined cleaners on the picket line at the London School of Economics for a lunchtime rally on the first day of the 2 day strike by members of United Voices of the World union.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Cleaners at the LSE have felt let down by management at least since January 2012 when the contractor who the LSE had outsourced them to cut their hours and was bullying them into signing new contracts.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

As I wrote back then, “Outsourcing – as doubtless research by the LSE will have shown – almost invariably leads to lower wages and poorer working conditions for the staff involved. And although the cuts and alleged bullying is being carried out by Resource Group, the responsibility for it must lie with the LSE who are responsible for the contract with them.”

David Graeber (right) at the protest

In September 2016 the cleaners with the United Voices of the World trade union launched a new campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the university with a meeting which was a part of the LSE’s 3-day ‘Resist’ Festival organised by LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie which had featured talks and debates often critical of the LSE, with contributions by LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber and Martin Wright of Class War and in particular a damning indictment by Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) of a report by a group of LSE academics on the redevelopment of the Ferrier Estate, deliberately run-down, demonised and emptied by Greenwich Council from 1999 onwards, as Kidbrooke Village.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa
Protesters walk into the estates office foyer

The protest on 15th March 2017 began with a rally on the LSE campus demanding equal sick pay, holidays and pensions etc to similar workers directly employed by the LSE and an end to bullying and discrimination by their employer Noonan.

LSE Cleaners Protest, Police Arrest Lisa

Grim Chip of Poetry on the Picket Line performed and there were several speeches by UVW members including LSE cleaner Mildred Simpson.

Dvid Graeber and Petros Eila

The protesters then marched the short distance across Kingsway to the LSE Estates Division where cleaning contractors Noonan have their LSE office. They walked in and occupied the foyer there for over and hour, only leaving after being promised that Allan Blair LSE Director of Facilities Management would talk with the cleaners union the United Voices of the World.

As they left the foyer, police jostled some of them before assaulting and arresting LSE academic Lisa McKenzie, charging her with assault and then bundling her into a waiting police van.

Apparently the receptionist at the estates office had complained that she had been assaulted by McKenzie as the four people holding the UVW banner pushed past her on their way into the office. I had been following close behind them and neither I nor the other protesters had seen any evidence of assault.

None of the other three holding the banner were arrested and it seemed fairly clear that the arrest was not for any offence. Perhaps the police were still aggrieved after a case against her when she was wrongly charged for three offences at a protest in Febnuary 2015 was thrown out of court. That had taken place at the time she was standing in the General Election against Iain Duncan Smith and was an arrest that appeared clearly politically motivated.

But on this occasion it could well have been that the LSE management had pointed her out as a trouble-maker. McKenzie, a working class academic and author of a highly acclaimed study of class and culture on the Nottingham estate where she lived for more than 20 years has been the a subject of constant criticism from others both inside the LSE and in the wider academic community, and when her contract there came to an end it was not renewed.

The protesters were left angry and confused. Why was Lisa being picked on? The protesters felt it must be politically motivated and it was difficult to see any other reason. I think she was later released without charge, possibly because there was CCTV evidence that showed there was no case to answer.

More on My London Diary:
Police arrest Lisa again
LSE cleaners strike and protest


National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby’s

Monday, August 15th, 2022
National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby’s. I thought to myself “nothing much ever happens in London in the middle of August” as I began to think about writing this post for August 15th. Then I looked back in my diary to 2015 and found out just how wrong I was, and there were also some other years where I’ve photographed several events. But on August 15th 2015 I photographed seven protests as well as taking a few pictures as I walked around London.

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

Three of the protests in 2015 were about labour disputes, all in the cultural sector, at the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Sothebys, while the other four were over things outside the UK, in India, Kashmir, Iran and South Korea. Just another day in London.


National Gallery 61st day of Strike – Trafalgar Square

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's
Candy Udwin, PCS rep

It was the 61st day of the strike by PCS members at the National Gallery against the privatisation which will outsource the 400 galley assistants in what is called “modernisation” but which actually is just a cost-cutting exercise.

National Gallery, Tate, Sikhs, Kashmir, Iran, Sewol & Sotheby's

People who work at the gallery would no longer be employed by the gallery and would lose the terms and conditions they currently have from a responsible employer. Outsourcing companies cut costs and extract their profits from the contracts by increasing workload and reducing pay and conditions for the workers, treating them extremely poorly in ways that a public body such as the National Gallery itself never would.

The dispute had also become one demanding the reinstatement of PCS union rep Candy Udwin, sacked for her trade union activities. The PCS picket who had arrived earlier as on every strike day were joined by supporters from other unions.


Equalitate at Tate Modern – Bankside

From Trafalgar Square I took a bus to St Paul’s Churchyard and then walked across the footbridge to Bankside and Tate Modern. There and at Tate Britain visitor assistants whose work has already been outsourced get £3 an hour less than directly employed colleagues, are on zero hours contracts and get far inferior employment rights.

This was the first public demonstration by Equalitate, who supported by the PCS are fighting to get equal pay and conditions for all staff doing the same job. They stood on the busy public riverside walkway in front of the gallery and handed out fliers. Many who took them were shocked to hear about the unfair treatment, but mainly they were tourists and not UK residents.


Sikhs call for release of political prisoners – Indian High Commission

A shorter bus ride took me back to Aldwych and the Indian High Commission. It was Indian Independence Day and Sikh protesters from Dal Khalsa were there supporting the call by hunger striker Bapu Surat Singh, for the release of Sikh political prisoners and for the ‘2020’ campaign for a referendum for an independent Sikh state, Khalistan. He is 82 and began his hunger strike on 16th January, 8 months ago.

The Sikhs are the “indigenous people of Punjab” and say they “have a historical homeland, a separate religion and have the right to self-determination” which was ignored at the time of the 1947 partition of India, with their land being split between India and Pakistan. They intended to hold the referendum in the state of Punjab and among Sikh diaspora living in America, Canada, United Kingdom, European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya and Middle Eastern Countries.


Kashimiris Indian Independence Day call for freedom – Indian High Commission

Kashimiris were also protesting at the Indian High Commission on what is celebrated in Kashmir not as ‘independence day’, but as ‘black day’ against the Indian military occupation of much of their country. There are also areas of this disputed country occupied by Pakisatn and China.

There is one Indian soldier for every 14 Kashmiris in the country, and more than 100,000 people have been killed since the current uprising against Indian occupation began in 1987. Many Kashmiris, including women and children have been tortured and some deliberatly maimed or blinded by the Indian Army. Pakistan has been less repressive with fewer human rights violations in the areas it controls, but also has a policy of continuous suppression, exploitation and bullying of Kashmiris.


Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs – Trafalgar Square

Another short journey took me back to Trafalgar Square, where on one part of the North Terrace Iranian Kurds from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) were remembering its fighters killed in the fight against Iran and ISIS for self-determination.

There are a bewildering array of Iranian Kurdish political groups listed on the UK government web site, including the PJAK. Like the PKK, PJAK owes allegiance to Abdullah Öcalan and the ideals of the Rojava revolution and was possibly an offshoot of the PKK, but unlike them is not banned in the UK as its activities are directed largely agains Iran. It operates from northern Iraq. According to the UK government site it reached a ceasefire with the Iranian authorities in 2011 but is still engaging in underground activities in Iran.


16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest – Trafalgar Square

A small group, mainly Koreans continute its monthly silent vigils to remember 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. The call on the Korean government to raise the ship for a thorough inquire, to punish those responsible and bring in regulations to prevent similar tragedies in future.


United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2 – Mayfair

I met members of the United Voices of the World trade union at Oxford Circus, along with other supporters including Paula Peters of DPAC and Candy Udwin, the victimised PCS rep from the National Gallery and some of the other PCS strikers, Class War and others.

They marched from there to protest against Sotheby’s who had sacked two union members, Barbara and Percy, for protesting for proper sick pay, paid holidays and pensions.

Police harassed the marchers and stopped them outside Sotheby’s attempting to move them onto the pavement on the opposite side of the road. The marchers sat down and blocked the road, ignoring the police requests. It’s a very minor route with plenty of alternatives but in a very wealthy area.

Finally they got up and marched around the block, with union officials Vera and Petros going into shops on the way and handing out leaflets explaining why the UVW were continuing to take action against Sotheby’s and asking shop owners and workers to complain to them. Police harassed them and tried to stop them doing this.

They returned to the street in front of Sotheby’s for a short rally – with again police trying without success to move them off the road – and then set off to march around the block again. This time police made an effort to stop them marching, holding UVW leader Petros Elia, and blocking the road, but other protesters simply walked past them on the pavement and marched around the block again.

They returned for a final short rally in front of Sotheby’s before deciding it was time to finish and marching back to an alley close to Oxford Circus, where and I was pleased to at last be able to go home.


You can find more pictures and text on these at the links below on My London Diary, where there are also a few more ‘London Views’, mostly taken from the top of buses, my favourite way of travelling around the city when it is too far to walk. But London’s traffic congestion means the Underground is often much faster.

United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2
16th ‘Stay Put’ Sewol silent protest
Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs
Kashimiris Independence Day call for freedom
Sikhs call for release of political prisoners
Equalitate at Tate Modern
London Views
National Gallery 61st day of Strike


Ministry of Justice cleaners protest – 2018

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest – 2018 Four years ago today we were in some ways in a very different place. For one thing it was pouring with rain on Thursday 9th of August and for another Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister had no doubts about coming to join a picket line as United Voices of the World cleaners and supporters celebrated the end of their 3-day strike with a rally outside the Ministry of Justice in Petty France with a lively protest despite pouring rain.

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

But in other ways it was depressingly similar. We still have a Tory government that was determined to ignore the needs of the poor and low paid – and Boris Johnson is still prime minister, if not for long. But whichever of the two candidates wins to succeed him, the country is bound to lose, with the wealthy getting wealthier and the rest of us suffering.

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018
Class War and others had come to support the strikers

And of course in some ways things have got worse. We have now left the EU and are slowing finding out what a terrible deal was negotiated, largely thanks to a combative approach rather than trying to work with Europe to reach sensible solutions – and in part because of the overriding political need to “get things done” rather than read the small print.

A cleaner is waiting for a back operation for a work injury – NHS underfunding and privatision mean long waits

And we’ve had Covid, most of us several times, with a failure to take sensible actions in time that led to thousands of extra deaths, saved from being far worse by a successful vaccination programme with at last some competent planning and hard work beyond their duties particularly by NHS workers and many volunteers. But Covid also led to huge waste of public money in contracts awarded to mates of the Tory party who too often failed to deliver – or even didn’t really exist.

Leaflets tell workers leaving the Ministry of Justice why the cleaners are striking

The protest in August 2018 marked the end of a three day strike by United Voices of the World cleaners at the Ministry of Justice, but also at Kensington & Chelsea council and hospitals and outpatient clinics in London run by Health Care America. At all three workplaces they were demanding the London Living Wage and better conditions of employment.

UVW’s Petros Elia tried to take protesters in out of the pouring raid but is stopped by security

It seemed impossible to believe that workers at the Ministry of Justice should not be paid the London Living Wage. The LLW was introduced in 2002 following an initiative by the London Citizens coalition and was taken up by the Mayor of London and was calculated by the Greater London Authority until 2016. A UK Living Wage was also established in 2011. The levels are now calculated based on the real cost of living by the Living Wage Foundation, with the 2022 London Living Wage being £11.05 per hour, and the UK Living wage £9.90.

I’m getting soaked taking pictures – and Susanna from the UVW holds up an umbrella over me

In the 2015 budget, Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced a ‘National Living Wage’, replacing the earlier National Minimum Wage and almost certainly intended to counter the success of the living wage campaigns, setting the amount at a lower level. Currently this is £9.50 – even in London where it is £1.55 less than the real living wage.

Speeches continue in the pouring rain under umbrellas

While a considerable number of employers do now pay a real living wage, others still fail to do so. Too many hide from meeting the obligation to give their staff a living wage and decent conditions of service by outsourcing low paid workers to contracting companies, who usually stick to the basic minimum of legal conditions and pay, while all decent employers give significantly greater benefits and the living wage.

The rain slackens off for Richard Burgon to speak

Shadow Justice minister Richard Burgon came to support the workers and brought a message from then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who promised that a Labour government would end the outsourcing of low paid jobs. Since Keir Starmer became leader, Labour’s policies have changed, and ministers who stand with workers are liable to be sacked. It now seems to be the Labour party only in name.

American healthcare companies have now taken over even more of our health facilities, and earlier this year the High Court dismissed a legal challenge against the takeover by Operose Health, a subsidiary of American health insurance giant Centene, of GP practices in London. This is a significant stealth privatisation of part of the NHS, with Centene now running 58 GP services.

Privatised GP practices generally have failed to employ permanent doctors and rely instead on locum provided care, which greatly reduces the quality of service. Takeovers like this have also meant many doctors leaving the profession early – and we are currently short of 9,000 GPs.

And the protest ends with dancing in the street

You can read more about the protest which was supported by other groups including Class War in My London Diary Ministry of Justice cleaners protest.


Pride, Class War Protest and Paedophiles

Monday, June 27th, 2022

Pride, Class War Protest and Paedophiles – Saturday 27th June 2015 in London. And a rather fine stencilled grafitti which I’ve not seen elsewhere – and I suspect was very quickly removed. Banksy couldn’t have done a better job, though I could perhasp have got the bottom of the image in my picture. And I would have preferred a red bus, though at least the blue one means the bus stop stands out better.


Pride Parade – Baker St

Pride in 2015 had a little more political edge than in recent years as this was the 30th anniversary of the support it gave to the miners strike and there were rather more trade union and other groups trying to reclaim the event as the radical festival it was until around the late 1990s.

My photographs from 2015 reflect this, and as usual I paid little attention to the large corporate groups who now provide sponsorship which enables them to dominate the parade and advertise their services to the crowds who line the route.

Despite this, as I wrote in 2015, ” It seems a long way from the event when I first photographed it in the early 90s when Pride was a protest.”

Pride is also a considerably over-photographed event, with people with cameras and yet more with mobile phones swarming over the area before the parade starts. I don’t object to this as photography is very much a democratic medium, but it would be nice if rather more of them were polite enough not to walk in front of me when I’m taking pictures.

I note in one of the captions, “I got the queen to pose for me with a friend. And found I now had collected another ten photographers at my shoulders“. This is one of the few events where I do occasionally ask people to pose. This is something I think has little or no place in photographing protests and documenting events, but at Pride many pose as soon as they see the camera pointed at them, so I feel OK to sometimes ask them to perform a little differently, perhaps with a different background, as in the picture above.

I didn’t stay as long as usual photographing people before the parade began as I wanted to go and meet Class War who were planning a little diversion.

Pride Parade


Class War protest ‘corporate pinkwashing’ – Piccadilly Circus and Pall Mall

While many criticised the corporate takeover of Pride, and some had tried to oppose it by joining in the march as protesters, Class War had decided it was time for a more direct approach.

I met them outside a pub close to Piccadilly Circus and photographed them as they protested outside Barclay’s Bank at Piccadilly Circus against corporate sponsorship of Pride in London, briefly closing the branch as the parade approached. After this short protest which hardly attracted the attention of the police, they rolled up the banner and ran, following along the route and looking for opportunity to protest at the march itself.

On Pall Mall they found a place where the crowds were thinner and they could take over a section of the barriers along the road for the event. And as the flag bearers at the front of the parade came in sight they pushed those barriers aside and rushed out onto the street with their banner.

I rushed out with them and photographed them as for a minute or so they led the parade until Pride Marshals and police guided them back behind the barriers again.

They continued to protest with megaphone and banner for a few minutes as the parade arrived, but when they saw a squad of officers heading towards them they rolled up the banner and hastened away. I followed some down into the subway where they lost the police, coming out at another subway entrance. They began to discuss further interventions at the event, but I think probably went to a nearby pub after I said goodbye and left. Later I heard police had continued to follow some of the others for half an hour or so, but made no arrests.

Class War protest ‘corporate pinkwashing’


Victims & Survivors call for Justice – Downing St

It’s hard to assess some of the claims made by conspiracy theorists about paedophiles in high places and the activities of the family courts. Clearly the activities of people such as Jimmy Saville and Sir Cyril Richard Smith MBE MStJ DL have provided plenty of fire behind the clouds of smoke and many of those at this protest had very disturbing personal stories to tell.

So while many prominent claims have been found to be false, there also seem to be many cover-ups and failures to properly investigate; all too often the response by the authorities appears to be to close ranks, make false claims against the complainants and deny the realities.

Someone once said that around 30% of conspiracy theories turn out to be true. I’ve no idea whether this figure is accurate, but certainly it reflects the truth that some are. Its just very difficult to decide which.

While we can be confident that there are no chem trails (just atmospheric conditions that make normal combustion products visible), that Magna Carta doesn’t give us much in the way of freedoms now, that 9/11 actually happened and Trump lost the election some others are less certain. And while there are clearly not 76 paedophile MPs, there may well be a handful or so still lurking in the House of Commons, and certainly there have been some very questionable decisions made by family courts – or at least they would be very questionable if we were allowed to know about them.

Victims & Survivors call for Justice


City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Friday, June 10th, 2022

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned – A rally on Wood Street on Friday 10th June 2016 marked the third day of what became the longest strike ever in the City of London, and later at City Hall a vigil remembered 11 road users killed on London streets since the mayoral election last month, including three cyclists.


Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike – 100 Wood St, City of London

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning to clean the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE held a rally at the end of their picket on the third day of their strike.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
The picket

The offices there are mainly used by Schroders and J P Morgan, both large and highly profitable companies, but the cleaners are on poverty wages and several union members had been sacked and others served with notice by Thames Cleaning for organising the workers to demand a living wage.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
Measuring the 10m required by the injunction

Rather than talk with the UVW, Thames’s response to the strike threat had been to spend over £20,000 in the High Court trying to get an injunction to prohibit the strikes and protests. Although the court would not stop them, they issued an injunction which set down strict conditions for the picket and protest and this left the UVW with crippling legal costs.

The UVW is a small grass roots union supported only by dues from its members and unlike the large established trade unions has little or no money to run its activities which include educational workshops as well as supporting its members in the workplace and at employment tribunals. Those who perform duties for it are paid the London Living Wage for the time spent and there are no highly paid union officials. The union had to issue an emergency appeal for cash – and received support from people and union branches across the trade union movement.

Candy Udwin, PCS Rep at the National Gallery holds a banner

One aspect of the injunction was that any protest connected with the strike had to keep at least 10 metres from the doorway of the offices. Of course picketing is covered by strict trade union laws and a lengthy code of practice that requires it to be as reasonably close as possible to the entrance and exit, and limits it to six or less clearly identified pickets with a supervisor (and possibly also a union organiser) behaving in a peaceful manner.

The protest took place over a carefully measured 10 metres away on the opposite side of the street after a picket which had begun in the early morning when the cleaners would normally have arrived for work. The strike continued for 58 days before the UVW was able to announce that a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the employer and all further action was ended.

There are four posts about the Wood Street Strike on My London Diary for June (and more in later months) :
UVW Cleaners on Strike in City
Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike
UVW Wood St Strike Day 10
UVW Wood St Strike continues


London Traffic Deaths Vigil – City Hall

Although London had an impressive purpose-built County Hall on the south bank just downstream of Westminster Bridge, this was sold off when Margaret Thatcher vindictively disbanded the Greater London Council, leaving London rudderless for 14 critical years. After the Greater London Authority was created in 2000, it was without a proper home for two years before leasing and moving into a purpose-built oddly spherical building by Norman Foster in the misleadingly named ‘More London’ currently owned by the Kuwait sovereign wealth fund who disguise themselves as St Martins Property Investments Limited.

Many saw the move to the new building as a failure of purpose by the Labour government in noy re-acquiring County Hall for the new London-wide authority – but then Labour under Blair continued most of Thatcher’s policies rather than move away from her individualist greed-based approach towards one getting back to the social welfare which had been at the heart of post-war Labour.

London’s City Hall moved in 2022 to Kamal Chunchie Way, Newham, E16 into the former ‘The Crystal’ exhibition centre beside the northern end of London’s ‘Dangleway’ cable car, though this is expected to close fairly soon as no replacement sponsor has come up to keep it running.

Sadiq Khan had retaken London as a Labour Mayor on May 5th 2016, with a decisive win over Conservative Zac Goldsmith and the Green candidate Siân Berry trailing badly in third place. Since then, 11 people had died on the streets of London, roughly around the average for that period in Greater London (in 2019, the total for the year was 125.)

Siân Berry

Protests are – at least theoretically – not usually allowed in ‘More London’, but this one was hosted by Green Party London wide Assembly Member Caroline Russell, a member of the GLA Transport Committee and organised by London Women on Bikes (LWOB), #LondonBusWatch, Westminster Living Streets and BMX Life. Of the 11 who died, 3 were cyclists and the others were on foot.

Most road deaths are not ‘accidents’ but “happen because road users make mistakes, often made harder to avoid because of poor vehicle or road design. Many of them result from a lack of proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in a road system which prioritises getting motorised vehicles from A to B as fast as possible rather than safety. Some are caused by the failure of police to enforce road traffic law – for example on advanced stop lines at traffic lights.”

One of the cyclists killed was BMX rider Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson, hit by a bus on the Strand during a BMX Life charity ride and many other BMX riders had come to the vigil, wearing tartan ribbons in his memory as he always rode in tartan. There were a number of speeches and then the names of those killed were read, followed by an eleven minutes of silence when those at the vigil were invited to stand in silence or to lie down, with or without bikes, in a silent ‘die-in’.

As the vigil came to an end and people were beginning to leave we were all called back for a highly emotional moment when Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson’s daughter spoke through tears about her father.

London Traffic Deaths Vigil


Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

Monday, May 30th, 2022

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers – Saturday May 30th 2015 was another varied day of events and protests across London.


Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail to apologise – Kensington.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I began the day travelling to High Street Kensington, just a short walk from the offices of the Daily Mail. It has the largest circulation of any UK newspaper but is also the UK’s least reliable source of information. Recently The Factual analysed 1,000 articles from each of 245 major news sources from around the world although mainly from the USA and including international news organisations such as Reuters and AP. The Mail came out with the third lowest score of any with a Factual Grade of 39.7% compared to the average of 61.9%. In a table listing all the results, even The Sun does a little better, as do the Daily Express and RT News, though all of these are way below average while The Guardian was above average along with the BBC, though neither among the top scorers.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

We don’t have a free press in this country, we have a press largely controlled by a small number of billionaires who, as these figures show, use it largely as a source of disinformation and the promotion of their prejudices – including homophobia, racism and misogyny. Articles are more generally written as click-bait rather than with any desire to inform or educate, and it was hardly surprising when in 2016 it was sanctioned by the International Press Standards Organisation for violating professional norms for accuracy and in 2017 Wikipedia editors decided it was a “generally unreliable” source.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I was there for the start of a long protest by Filipino health workers outside the Daily Mail over its reporting of the Victoriano Chua case which insulted Filipino NHS workers as a whole despite the vital contribution they make to the NHS. The demanded the Daily Mail apologise for its racist comments and to recognise the contribution that they make, keeping our NHS afloat. As someone who a dozen years earlier had been looked after in intensive care by a Filipino nurse I feel very grateful to them, though angry at the UK government for not training enough nurses and doctors – and in particular for removing the training bursary for nurses which has now made the situation much worse. But I did feel they were asking the leopard to change its spots.

Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise


Walking the Coal Line – Peckham

Rye Lane

I left the Filipinos as their protest was still building up and journeyed across London to Peckham Rye where we were invited to take a tour of the proposed Peckham Coal Line elevated linear urban park between Peckham Rye and Queens Road Peckham stations as a distant part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival events – something vaguely related to the annual flower show.

The Coal Line was frankly hugely over-hyped, particularly in comparing it to New York’s ‘High Line’, and the walk was largely close to but not on the actual proposed line. The former coal sidings on the viaduct which inspired the project are next to a working rail line and could only be seen looking down from neighbouring buildings.

As I commented: “The walk is essentially an urban linear park that would make a useful short cut for some local walkers and cyclists, and could also be a part of a longer leisure walk from Brixton to the Thames. I hope it comes into existence, as the cost would be relatively low and it would be a useful addition to the area.

But I still enjoyed an interesting walk, visiting both the Bussey Building in the former industrial estate Copeland Park south of the line and the multi-storey car park to the north which now houses a cafe, a local radio performance space and another rooftop bar next to the Derek Jarman memorial garden and has good views of Peckham and central London. And having followed the official route to Queens Road Peckham I walked back a different way vaguely along the Coal Line at ground level, finally travelling more closely along it in an Overground train that took me to Canada Water and the Jubilee Line to Waterloo.

Walking the Coal Line


UK Uncut Art Protest – Westminster Bridge

UK Uncut met outside Waterloo station for their mystery protest taking direct action at an undisclosed location. Police liaison officers tried to find out where they were going and what they intended to do, but nobody was talking to them. Finally they set off and marched the short distance to Westminster Bridge where they spread a large piece of cloth on the roadway and painted a banner telling Parliament that collecting dodged taxes would bring in more than cutting public services.

They lifted up the banner and then ‘dropped’ it over the side of the bridge. It was a long run to take a picture of it hanging from the bridge, and I’m not sure worth the effort. It would have been better to have lowered it on the downstream side so as to get the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Another group of protesters in Parliament Square were protesting against the plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act, and some of the UK Uncut people had joined them before the end of the ‘Art’ protest. In May 2022 the government announced it was getting rid of the act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ which will allow the police to “perform freer functions“, Leading charities concerned with human rights have condemned the changes as affecting “the ability of individuals to hold the government and public bodies to account by bringing cases when their human rights have been breached.” They state “The Human Rights Act has greatly benefited a vast number of people from across society, improving their health and wellbeing; ensuring their dignity, autonomy, privacy, and family life; and overall improving their quality of life.” Many see the changes as yet another move towards fascism and a police state.

UK Uncut Art Protest


Biafrans demand independence – Trafalgar Square.

Biafra came from the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation.

Biafra was incorporated into Southern Nigeria by the colonialists in the 1884 Berlin Conference and then became part of the united Nigeria in 1914. Biafrans declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, but lost the long and bloody civil war that followed, with many Biafran civilians dying of starvation.

Biafrans demand independence


Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers – Trafalgar Square

After a large rally in Trafalgar Square, National Gallery staff striking against privatisation marched towards the Sainsbury Wing, holding a sit down and short rally outside after police blocked the doors to the gallery. The gallery doors were then locked.

Candy Udwin, a PCS rep at the National Gallery had been sacked for her trade union activities in connection with the plans to privatise gallery staff and the opposition to it by staff. Exhibitions in the Sainsbury wing have already been guarded by privatised staff, and the security there is also run by the private company. After 100 days of strike action the dispute was finally resolived in early October 2015 after the appointment of a new gallery director with terms and conditions of service protected and Udwin returning to work.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers