Posts Tagged ‘union recognition’

Gitmo, London Uni, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine Miners

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

Gitmo, London Uni, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine Miners – Protests in London on Friday 23rd May 2014 included those against the continuing illegal detentions in Guantánamo, redundancies for support workers at London University, killing and human rights abuses in Ethiopia and those supporting hunger strikes in Israeli jails and strikes by miners in Ukraine.


Obama keep your promises – Trafalgar Square

A year after President Obama again pledged to close Guantánamo, activists in black hoods and orange jumpsuits in London and 40 other cities reminded him of yet another broken promise and called for the urgent release of Londoner Shaker Aamer – prisoner 239. The protest in London was part of an international day of action coordinated by the US organisation Witness Against Torture.

In the year since Obama made the promise only 12 prisoners have been released and 154 remain, subjected to appalling conditions, beatings and daily abuse of their human rights. Former London resident Shaker Aamer’s family in Battersea include a son born a few months after his capture by bandits in Afghanistan. He was one of the first transferred to Guantanamo and has been there over 12 years, despite having been cleared more than once for release.

More at Obama keep your promises.


Defend UoL Garden Halls workers – Senate House, University of London

The IWGB trade union protested at Senate House, the headquarters building of the University of London demanding proper consultation and negotiation over the redundancies of 80 workers at the University of London’s Garden Halls in Bloomsbury.

Those under threat of losing their jobs include porters, cleaners and security guards and include many of those who are active in the continuing struggle for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign at London University.

Although most of the workers are members of the independent union, the Independent Workers of Great Britain, both the University and its contracted employer Cofely refuse to talk with the IWGB and recognise instead more compliant traditional unions with few if any members among the workers. The IWGB states “many of these workers have been at the University of London for decades” and “the University bears responsibility for the treatment of these workers, regardless of the fact that their roles are contracted to private companies.”

The lunchtime protest was a noisy one with with workers using a megaphone, drums, whistles and shouting to make their demands heard. They intend to come back every Friday until the end of term or until management engages in meaningful talks over the issues.

More at Defend UoL Garden Halls workers.


Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Oromo and Ogaden National Liberation Front supporters had come to protest opposite Parliament over the Ethiopian government’s killing of Oromo university students peacefully protesting the grabbing of Oromo land and calling for the release of political prisoners.

There are around 30 million Oromo living in Ethopia and adjoining areas of Somalia and they are the Largest ethnic group in the country; their language is Africa’s third most widely spoken. There were a number of democratic kingdoms in the area before they were conquered in the late nineteenth century by Abyssinian emperor Menlik II, aided by the European colonial powers and their modern weapons. Around half the Oromo are said to have been killed in these wars and since then successive regimes have made determined attempts to destroy Oromo identity – its language, culture, customs and traditions.

This oppression continues, now with the help of the US government who since 9/ll have worked with the Ethopian government as part of their worlwide fight against “terrorism”, according tto BBC Newsnight and and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism “using billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression” with programmes of deliberate starvation of communities, and “of mass detentions, (and) the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings.

More at Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings.


Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails – G4S HQ, Victoria St

Protesters outside the London HQ of security firm G4S supported the mass hunger strike by Palestinians demanding an end to Israels’s illegal policy of rolling Administrative Detention which can jail them for years without charge or trial in prisons which G4S secures.

The hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners had begun a month earlier with 134 detainees taking part. Israel uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial, using rolling detention orders of 1-6 months which are renewable indefinitely in defiance of international law.

The detention orders are based on “secret evidence” which neither those detained or their lawyers have any right to see, and in the years up to 2014 there had been around 2000 made each year. Those given them include 9 Palestinian MPs. Often when released from one order detainees are immediately re-arrested on another.

Those taking part in hunger strikes included 34 years old Ayman Al-Tabeesh who has spent over 10 years in Israeli prisons. He began his second hunger strike in February 2014 and 70 days later had lost over 25kg; at the time of this protest he had been advised after 85 days that he was at grave risk of a heart attack. His brother had sent a message of support to the protesters for their earlier protest in support of the hunger strikers stating “We need you to tell the international community of Israel’s criminal brutality against our prisoners, the violation of their rights. The occupations illegal never ending administrative detention orders is nothing less than a slow death for Palestinian prisoners.”

More at Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails.


Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners – Holborn

A protest outside the registered offices of London mining company Evraz, owned by Russian Oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, supported miners in the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine who had ensured peace and unity at Kryviy Rih and were striking to maintain real wages.

Kryviy Rih is a city in south-east Ukraine, at the centre of the largest steel industry in Eastern Europe with a population of around three-quarters of a million people. Protests there in 2014 demanded “Putin, Get Out!” and supported the Ukrainian government against the Russian separatists in Ukraine, with the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine organising to defend the protests there.

The miners were striking for a doubling of wages to meet the rapid rise in the cost of living which has meant a 30-505 drop in real wages. They were angered after a 20% increase promised the previous month was not paid. The Miner’s union state “We are deeply convinced that the main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine. In fact the oligarchs are almost completely exempt from taxes on their profits.”

On 11th May 2014 the miners had marched through the streets of Kryvyy Rih to protest at the offices of the mining company EVRAZ and had called for support in London where the company, owned by Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich, along with his business partner Alexander Abramov, is based. The protest in Holborn was one of a number including at the registered office of the company in the City of London, at Chelsea Football Ground and elsewhere. This year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine the British government accused the company of “providing financial services or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine” and after sanctions were applied to Abramovich the trading of Evraz shares on the London Stock Exchange was suspended.

In April 2022, Russian forces were around 60km from the city, but the ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih steel plant which had closed down all of its four blast furnaces at the start of the Russian invasion restarted production with one furnace in early April, though hampered by the loss of around 94% of their staff to military duties or by evacuation.

More at Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners.


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Outsourcing and Covid

Monday, January 25th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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IWGB welcomes new Vice Chancellor

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Although Universities like to present themselves as centres of enlightenment, when it comes to their relationship with workers who provide vital services to them, things are rather different. Unions including the IWGB have a long record of fighting and eventually winning battles against intransigent university managements for the London Living Wage and for better terms and conditions of service.

The IWGB, supported by other unions, after a series of protests and strikes in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign won improved sick pay and holiday pay for outsourced workers at the University of London (Central Administration). But outsourced workers employed by contracting companies to work for the university are still under far worse conditions than those directly employed by the university, and often subject to poor and bullying managers, and a new campaign began in 2017 to bring them into direct employment.

Actions by IWGB members and its supporters – including many university students and staff – forced to the University to make a committment to bring the workers in-house, but a year later this promise was still to be kept, with only 12 receptionists having been brought back to direct employment

This action followed a failure of the newly appointed University Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson to reply to the IWGB’s request for a meeting to discuss the issue. Instead of talking with the IWGB union about their demand for all the workers to be taken into direct employment without delay the University has been spending large amounts on buying in extra security staff.

Although the great majority of the staff involved are now IWGB members, the University continues to take advantage of our immoral trade union laws which enable them to ignore the union and instead only officially talk and negotiate with a union which has no or very few members among the workers involved.

To their great shame our larger established trade unions collude with this practice – and even often claim the credit for concessions which have only been won because of the work of the IWGB and other grass roots unions who similarly remain unrecognised by the employers. Workers have a right to choose who should recognise them, and this is something that the unions once fought for but now too often refuse to support.

The 12 receptionists were given new contracts in May 2019, but these were negotiated with another union “behind their backs and behind the back of their chosen trade union, the IWGB“, and 7 of the 12 have brought grievances against the university, some of which involve a breach of transfer of employment (TUPE) regulations.

Since this protest, the University have also set a timetable to bring the  security officers in-house in May 2020 and cleaners in-house in November 2020, but have refused to bring the gardeners also involved back in house.

The IWGB are continuing to demand that the gardeners are also brought back in house and that any new contracts should be made in consultation with the union to which the workers belong and be approved by them.

More about the protest and more pictures at  IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor


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