Posts Tagged ‘Tate Modern’

Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.


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Architecture is always political

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) holds up a poster with the quote ‘Architecture Is Always Political’ from Richard Rogers, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects at a protest on the pavement outside the RIBA on Portland Place on Thursday 15th Oct 2015.

The protest was against the nomination of NEO Bankside, a luxury development beside Tate Modern in London which breaks all planning requirements for social housing and sets a dangerous precedent for social cleansing for the prestigious Stirling Prize. Rogers was responsible for the design by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners of “the 217 apartments and penthouses in four Pavilions … with unparalleled views towards The City and St Paul’s Cathedral”. Or, as some might see it, degrading many views from the CIty and St Pauls. Some residents in the new development have taken and lost a case seeking to have the Tate Modern extension’s viewing platform closed as it overlooks their flats – and have now appealed to the Supreme Court, where a hearing is expected in December 2021. I hope it rejects their case. The flat dwellers could readily install blinds or curtains to protect their privacy.

The protesters stated on the reverse of the flyer that “this development is a class war against the poor and on the reverse explained why. NEO Bankside contains 217 homes with a market price ranging from £1.25 million to £19.75 million when 345,000 Londoners, 4% of the city’s population, are on council waiting lists for homes.”

NEO Bankside reduced the percentage of its affordable housing required uder Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act from 40% to a paltry 27.5%, by getting the property developers Native Land to undervalue the estimate of sales to just over half of the actual sale value.They then paid Southwark Council £11 million to build its reduced affordable housing quota off-site on land sold to them by the council for a pittance, demolishing a council-run children’s home and day-care nursery in the process.

ASH pointed out that rather than 217 luxury flats mainly for non-resident tax exiles and foreign investors, the cost of NEO Bankside could have built 2,260 Peabody flats at the cost per flat of another of the Stirling nominations. At a time when 42,000 families were evicted from rented accomodation last year and 88,000 London children will be homeless this winter, such buildings are clearly socially unacceptable.

Having made the flyer, at the protest they folded them into paper aeroplanes and made them fly, although the police threatened them with fines for littering (but they picked them all up after flying them) and then attempted to call paper aeroplanes offensive weapons and that flying them could constitute and assault – which was laughed out of court on the pavement as it would surely have also been had any case been taken.

The protest then carried out its own award ceremony, ‘The O J Simpson 2015 Prize for getting away with murder’, The winner was NEO Bankside, but no one from the architects came to claim it. Although most of those going into RIBA for the official ceremony (tickets at over £200 a head including VAT and booking fee) walked past trying to ignore the protest, there were some architects who stopped to share their reservations about NEO Bankside with the protesters, and it seems that RIBA had clearly been embarrassed by the revelations about NEO Bankside and were misled over some aspects of the scheme. The prize instead went to Burntwood School, an impressive revitalisation of a 1950s LCC comprehensive girls’ school in Wandsworth by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM).

More pictures at NEO Bankside Stirling Prize nomination.


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


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.