Posts Tagged ‘TUSC’

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022

NHS and Housing Marches in East London, 2014


Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday – Whitechapel

The National Health Service came into operation in the UK on 5th July 1948, established by a Labour government despite considerable opposition from the Conservative Party and some doctors’ organisations. In most recent years there have been protests marking the anniversary against the increasing privatisation of the system, large parts of which have now moved away from being provided by the NHS itself to being provided by private companies, motivated by profits rather than public service.

The opposition to Aneurin Bevan’s plans in the 1940s led to a number of compromises, but the NHS was launched with three basic principles – to meet the needs of everyone, to be free at the point of delivery, and to be based on clinical need rather than the ability to pay. Although those principles remain, there are some respects in which they are not entirely met.

Prescription charges – currently £9.35 per item – were introduced in England in 1952, removed from 1965-8 but then re-introduced, remaining free for under-16s and over 60s, with some other exceptions. And we pay too for NHS dentistry, and many people find it impossible to get dental treatment under the NHS as no practice in their area will take them on.

Access to GPs and other services at surgeries around the country is also much more difficult for many, and it can be difficult or impossible to get an appointment in a timely fashion. Many services dealing with relatively minor medical issues are no longer available, and people have either to pay for them or continue to suffer. Some of these problems have been exacerbated by the take-over of many surgeries by healthcare companies as a part of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.

Twenty years ago, when I had a hospital stay of several weeks, hospitals have been forced to put some essential services – such as cleaning – out to tender, resulting in two of the three hospitals I was in being in filthy conditions.

In 2014, cuts in funding were threatening the closure of surgeries in Tower Hamlets as they failed to pay for the extra needs faced in inner-city areas. Local hospitals were also threatened, particularly because of the huge debts from PFI contracts for the building an management of new hospitals. The deals with the private sector made under New Labour have left the NHS with impossible levels of debt – and the companies involved with high profits, continuing in some cases for another 20 or 30 years.

After a short rally with speakers including the local mayor and MP as well as health campaigners including local GPs, there was a march by several hundreds to a larger rally in Hackney. But I left the marchers shortly after it passed Whitechapel Station.

Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday


Focus E15 March for Decent Housing – East Ham

Earlier I had been to photograph a march through East Ham and Upton Park in a protest over the terrible state of housing in England, and in London in particular. The event had been organised by Focus E15 Mums with the support of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, but included many other protest groups from Hackney, from Brent and from South London on the march as well as groups including BARAC, TUSC and others.

They included a number of groups who had stood up and fought for their own housing against councils lacking in principles and compassion who had suggested they might move to privately rented accommodation in Birmingham, Hastings, Wales or further afield, but who had stood their ground and made some progress like the Focus E15 Mothers.

Many London councils are still involved with developers in demolishing social housing and replacing it with houses and flats mainly for high market rents or sale, with some “affordable” properties at rates few can afford, and with much lower numbers than before at social rents. Many former residents are forced to move to outer areas of London in what campaigners call ‘social cleansing’.

Families that councils are under a statutory duty to find homes for are often housed in single rooms or flats, sometimes infected by insects or with terrible damp, often far from their jobs or schools. Councils are under huge pressure and funding cuts sometimes make it impossible for them to find suitable properties, though often there are empty properties which could be used, particularly on estates such as the Caarpenters Estate in Stratford which Newham had been emptying since around 2004 in the hope of redeveloping.

Government policies and subsidies for housing have largely been a way of subsiding private landlords, and we need national and local governments – as I worte ” determined to act for the benefit of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing, removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give them decent security – and criminalising unfair evictions.” Housing really is a national emergency and needs emergency measaures.

Much of what is currently being built in London is sold to overseas buyers as investments and often left empty as its owners profit from the rapid rises in property values in London. We need to make this either illegal or to impose heavy duties on overseas owners including increased council taxes on empty properties.

The march attracted considerable attention on the streets of East London, and as I note several motorists stopped to put money in the collection buckets – something I’ve never seen happen before. I left the march as it reached East Ham Station to go to the NHS event.

Focus E15 March for Decent Housing


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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.

Hunger, Housing and Injustice

Monday, March 29th, 2021

My work on Saturday 29th March 2019 began in north London at Bruce Castle Park in Tottenham, where the indefatigable Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty had organised a march demanding living incomes and decent truly affordable homes, calling for an end to the bedroom tax, the housing benefit cap, unfair taxes, hunger and cold homes.

The Reverend Paul Nicolson who died peacefully on Thursday 5th March 2020 aged 87 had long campaigned on these issues, and had commissioned the work on poverty that helped groups such as London Citizens and Unison to persuade the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone to introduce the London Living Wage.

His Christian principles led Nicolson to found the Zacchaeus Trust, an anti-poverty charity providing frontline services on Social Security benefits, housing and homelessness as well as the campaigning organisation TAP, and he supported and spoke at many protests calling for justice for disabled and others on low wages and often inadequate benefits.

I left the march as it passed Tottenham Police Station on its way to a rally at Tottenham Green to make my way to Kilburn, where the Counihan Battlebus Housing For All campaign, along with the TUSC Against Cuts and Unite Community were holding a protest in Kilburn Square over child hunger and housing problems, calling for rents to be capped and for everyone to have a home.

Children played a large part in the protest and were having fun, but also making a serious point, with placards “Going to school hungry is not fair!” As I pointed out in my rather long article on the protest:

Children going to school hungry is a direct result of government policy and its inhumane (they call it ‘tough’ to make it sound positive) sanctions policy. What we need is not this kind of vindictive approach but more jobs and an end to poverty wages. And it would be far more productive to attack the huge sums involved in tax evasion and tightening up the rules on tax avoidance than the relatively small amounts of benefit fraud or the largely mythical workshy.

The journey from Kilburn to Parliament Square was fortunately a simple one on the tube and I arrived as students and staff from Oasis Academy Hadley came from Enfield to protest against the planned deportation of one of their students, 19-year-old Yashika Bageerathi. She had come to the UK with her family in 2011 to escape a dangerous situation in Mauritius and was in the final year of her A level course, in which she was expected to get high grades.

The Home Office decided that since she was 19 she could be deported without her family, and had already detained her in Yarl’s Wood ten days earlier. Two deportation attempts failed when both British Airways and Air Mauritius refused to fly her to Mauritius, possibly because of the huge public campaign to allow her to stay and complete her exams.

It was impossible to see why Home Office minister Theresa May was so keen on this deportation – other than wanting to seem to have a tough policy on immigration, and as I wrote, morally their position seemed indefensible. But deport her they finally did.

Despite spells in Yarl’s Wood which disrupted here education and the deportation which took place six weeks before her A Level exams, she was able to take the exams and passed with straight A grades. She then issued a statement thanking everyone – both in the UK and on her return in Mauritius for their support, and clearly stating “I have no desire for a life in the public eye any longer” and that she wished to begin a new chapter in her life.

More at:
Fellow Students Fight for Yashika
Kilburn Uniform Day
Mothers march for justice