Posts Tagged ‘United Voices of the World’

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – 2016

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – I celebrated 14th May 2016 with a busy day of protests around London.


Reclaim Holloway

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop
Jeremy Corbyn

Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network marched from rally on Holloway Road demanding that when Holloway prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

The prison is in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency and the then Labour leader turned up on his bike to speak before the march to give his support.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

There was a long rally outside the prison with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

Islington Council wanted to see the site used for social housing and in 2022 gave https://www.ahmm.co.uk/projects/masterplanning/holloway/ planning permission for a development by Peabody, who bought the site in 2019 with help from the GLA, and London Square for 985 new homes. 60% of these will be affordable, including 415 for social rent, together with a 1.4-acre public park, a Women’s Building, and new commercial spaces.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford St

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

A rolling protest outside shops which support the Israeli state made its way along Oxford St from Marks and Spencers, with speakers detailing the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It came on the day before Nabka Day, the anniversary of the ‘day of the catastrophe’ which commemorates when around 80% of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property.

The protesters included both Palestinians and Jews opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. They were met by a small group of people holding Israeli flags who stood in their way and shouted insults, accusing them of anti-Semitism.

The organisers were clear that the protest was not anti-Semitic but against Zionism and some actions of the Israeli government. Both police and protesters tried hard to avoid confrontation with those who had clearly come to disrupt and provoke.

Many UK businesses play an important part in supporting the Israeli government by selling Israeli goods and those produced in the occupied territories and in other ways, and their were brief speeches as the protest halted outside some of them detailing some of these links.

More on My London Diary at 68th Anniversary Nabka Day.

This Saturday, 18th May 2024, you can join the march in London, starting at the BBC on the 76th anniversary of the Nabka calling for an end to the current genocide in Gaza.


Vegan Earthlings Masked Video Protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans in white masks from London Vegan Actions were standing in a large circle on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, some holding laptops or tables showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. Although bright sun made the laptop screens almost impossible to see and the sound outdoors was largely inaudible the large circle of people standing in white masks did attract attention.

More pictures Vegan Earthlings masked video protest.


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Also protesting in front of the National Gallery were a small group holding posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons‘.

More pictures Refugees Welcome say protesters.


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

After Topshop suspended two cleaners who were members of the United Voices of the World trade union for protesting for a living wage and sacked one of them protests were taking place outside their stores around the country.

The UVW were supported by others at the London protest which began outside Topshop on Oxford Street by others including trade unionists from the CAIWU and Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Class War.

A large crowd of police and extra illegal security guards wearing no ID blocked the entrance to the shop stopping both protesters and customers from entering. The several hundred protesters held up placards and banners and protested noisily but made no serious attempt to go in to the store.

A man wears a mask of Topshop owner Phillip Green

Some protesters, led by the Class War ‘Womens Death Brigade’ moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes before the whole group of protesters marched to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuade them to move.

They stopped outside John Lewis, another major store in a long-running dispute with the union as it allowed its cleaning contractor to pay its cleaners low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for workers who keep its stores running.

The protest there was again noisy and there were some heated verbal exchanges between protesters and police, but I saw no arrests. After a few minutes the protesters marched off to continue their protest outside another Oxford Street Topshop branch close to Marble Arch.

More at Topshop protest after cleaners sacked.


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Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – 2017

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – Thursday 14th December 2017 was six months on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and as on every 14th of the month since there was a silent walk to remember the victims and call for justice. But earlier in the evening I photographed two groups of workers striking for a living wage.


Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse – Hackney

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

On the day that the ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Last of the Jedi’ opened at Picturehouse Hackney, workers at the chain held a strike calling for them to be paid the London Living Wage. Workers and supporters demonstrated in solidarity on the pavement outside the cinema as it opened.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Picturehouse is a part of the multinational company Cineworld and has refused to recognise the trade union which the workers belong to, BECTU, instead claiming they are represented by a company run staff forum. As well as a fight for pay this is also for union recognition.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Members voted to dissolve the staff forum in 2019 and is no longer a recognised trade union. Although there have been some pay increases some workers around the start of this year were still only paid £9.80 an hour, over £2 short of the London Living Wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse


City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage – Gracechurch St, City

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

United Voices of the World union and supporters protested noisily outside the offices of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a large company in the heart of London’s financial district with a £2 million profit and a 32% increase in revenue this year.

The cleaners of their offices are not employed by LHH and the cleaning was outsourced to City Central Cleaning & Support Services Limited who had rejected their demand for a living wage and unlawfully threatened them with dismissal if they strike.

The cleaners were being paid the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, far less than the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour independently assessed as the minimum needed to live on in London.

After an hour of noisy protest by supporters outside the offices the cleaners were cheered as they went in to start their cleaning shift.

Following this protest, in late January 2018 LHH announced they would be re-tendering their cleaning contract to guarantee that within the month the cleaning staff are paid the London Living Wage of £10.20 per hour. It was the first victory of the year for the UVW.

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage


Grenfell Silent Walk – North Kensington

I was late arriving at Notting Hill Methodist and the silent march was starting early, with people already in line behind the banner on the road at the side of the church. It marked 6 months since the terrible fire, and six months in which nothing had been done to prosecute those who were clearly responsible for the conditions that led to the 72 deaths. Six years on nothing has changed.

At the front were grieving relatives, some who had escaped from the flames and local clergy, and police and march stewards were ensuring that photographers and others kept a respectful distance.

When the march moved off it was led by a line of stewards. Many of the relatives held white roses and photographs of some of those who died and behind them were others carrying large green heart-shapes for Grenfell with single word messages such as ‘JUST US’ , ‘GRENFELL’ and ‘JUSTICE’.

Many taking part walked with green battery-powered candles and further back in the march there were many placards demanding the truth about Grenfell. One banner read ‘Fight For Justice’ and the community will not get it unless they keep on fighting. They have kept on fighting, but it seems less and less likely that the long-running inquiry will deliver any real justice.

Further back on the march were some more angry posters, including one which read ‘You can run BUT you can’t hide – Kensington & Chelsea Council ARE COMPLICIT IN MURDER’.

By Ladbroke Grove station firefighters were lined up as a guard of honour for the marchers, many of whom stopped to thank them for their bravery and persistence which saved many lives, some embracing them. I stayed on Ladbroke Grove to photograph as the rest of the march went past.

The march seemed much more moving than the service I’d watched on livestream earlier in the day. I was actually here with the several thousand on the march, and close to where the totally avoidable tragedy took place. There are many more pictures from the march on My London Diary at Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on.


LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

Friday, September 29th, 2023

LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners: in September 2016 then LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and a couple of students organised a series of discussions, films, lectures and exhibitions in the 3 day campus-wide 3-day free ‘Resist: Festival of Ideas and Actions’. The festival explored how political resistance is understood within academic research, the arts, grassroots activism campaigns, student debate and mainstream politics.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

As a part of this festival LSE cleaners began a campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the LSE. I had contributed some protest pictures to be used in publicity for the festival and attended some of the events on 28-29th September 2016.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

The success of this festival was perhaps one of the reasons why Dr McKenzie was not given a further contract at the LSE. She has since worked at Middlesex University, Durham University and the University of Bedfordshire and is Board Chair of the Working Class Collective.


Working Class debate at LSE Resist – Wednesday 28th September 2016

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

There was a lively open debate around ideas of the working class at lunchtime on the steps in front of the LSE building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields led by LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber and Martin Wright of Class War with contributions from others including LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and Class War’s Ian Bone.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

I arrived late, partly because the LSE then was a huge building site and the Facebook invitation to the event had included a map incorrectly suggesting it was taking place in Houghton Street, so unfortunately missed the some of the opening remarks by Graeber.

He was followed by Whitechapel anarchist Martin Wright, a working-class activist from East London who told us he was proud of his record of not working. He now regularly broadcasts his pithy comments on current affairs on the ‘Red and Black’ channel on You Tube.

Ian Bone, the founder of Class War, once described by the gutter press as the ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Britain‘ gave a typically witty and thought-provoking contribution.

And of course Lisa McKenzie spoke at some length and depth, and there was a great deal of discussion among the main speakers, with contributions from many of those sitting around on the steps, mainly LSE students. I took a great many pictures some of which you can see on My London Diary, but think I managed to keep my mouth shut and listen rather than speak.

More pictures at Working Class debate at LSE Resist.


Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE

The following day I was back on the same steps to hear Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) give a lengthy and detailed indictment, ‘The Intellectual Bloodstain’ on a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing, on the site of a council estate which was demolished between 2009 and 2012.

The Ferrier Estate had been built for the Greater London Council in 1968-72 on the site of a former RAF base. The first section had five 12 storey towers and three years later a second section six more were added. The estate had around 1,900 flats.

When the GLC was abolished in 1986 for having opposed the Thatcher government it was a sad day for London in general, with the capital being left without its essential city-wide authority, something it has not yet recovered from despite the setting up of the GLA in 2000. But for the Ferrier estate in was even worse news as the estate was transferred to the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Greenwich made Ferrier a sink estate and failed to maintain the estate properly; its population were markedly multi-ethnic, including many refugees while most of the rest of the borough’s estates were predominantly white.

You can read Elmer’s talk in full on the ASH web site and it makes interesting reading. Perhaps the key fact is that the estate still had 1732 flats which were housing council tenants at social rents, but in the replacement Kidbrooke Village although there will be 4,763 new apartments, only 159 will be at social rent. Some of the others will be ‘affordable’, meaning at up to 80% of market rent, but that means completely unaffordable to those who previously lived there – or to almost all of the 15,000 on the council’s housing waiting list.

As a former member of Greenwich Council was quoted by Elmer as stating, ‘Ten years ago residents on the Ferrier Estate were told that they would have the right to come back. What Greenwich Council didn’t mention is that they would need to win the Lottery to do so.

Elmer uses the case of Ferrier to ague about a key tropes behind the LSE produced report, the idea of ‘urban villages’ and also points out some of the omissions and inaccuracies of the report as well as attacking their use of inadequate and often misleading concepts such as ‘human scale‘, ‘unique identity‘, ‘social interaction‘ (which means going to shop at Sainsbury’s), ‘locally driven‘, ‘mixed communities‘ and more as well as pointing out some simple lies lifted directly from the developers’s marketing book.

His report points out “the white elephant standing in the middle of the living room of every one of these luxury apartments – that is, their complete failure to meet the housing needs of the local community” and went on to look more widely at housing issues in the UK before concluding his talk by convening a People’s Court for the indictment of the LSE Four, listing four charges and calling for their suitable punishment “in the name of Architects for Social Housing and on behalf of the former residents of the Ferrier Estate.” I think they were unanimously found guilty.

At the end of the meeting Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union spoke briefly about the failure of LSE management to protect the interests of the LSE cleaners in outsourcing them to a cleaning contractor with no insistence on decent working conditions and conditions of service and inviting all present to a meeting later that do to discuss further action.

More pictures at Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE.


LSE Cleaners Campaign Launch

Later on Thursday I went to the meeting where cleaners at the LSE began their campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the university.

The cleaners, employed by Noonan on a LSE contract, are paid the London Living Wage, but have only the statutory minimum holidays, sick pay and pension contributions, while workers directly employed by the LSE have more generous terms. They also complain they have lost rest facilities, are not allowed in the canteen with other workers, exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed to use lifts to move heavy equipment between floors and are generally treated like dirt.

We were all shocked when one of the cleaners stood up and told how she had been sacked by Noonan after 12 years of service at the LSE. The UVW will fight her unfair dismissal as well as pursuing their other claims.

Others attending the meeting included most of the students from a new graduate course at the LSE on issues of equality, something the LSE has a long history of campaigning for outside of the institution but seemed rather blind to on its own campus. Support for the cleaners was expressed by the LSE Students Union General Secretary and by several LSE staff members, and Sandy Nicoll from SOAS Unison told the meeting about their 10 year fight to bring cleaners there in-house.

Several of the cleaners spoke in Spanish, and their comments were translated for the benefit of the non-Spanish speaking in the audience,

There were suggestions for further actions to improve conditions and fight the unfair redundancy, and I was to photograph some of these in the months that followed, eventually leading the them being taken back in-house as LSE employees in 2017.

More pictures at LSE Cleaners campaign launch.


Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby’s – 2015

Saturday, July 8th, 2023

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby’s: Wednesday 8th July 2015 was budget day, and campaigners were out in Whitehall to protest. For the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign it was just another Wednesday and they lined up to remind MPs of the need for action. Later United Voices of the World were back at Sotheby’s who had sacked four workers for taking part in the previous week’s protest.


DPAC Protests – Downing St, Westminster Bridge & Parliament Square

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

Disabled People Against Cuts supporters, some in wheelchairs and mobility scooters, were protesting against the changes to benefits which will hit the disabled hardest. Their supporters included Global Women’s Strike, Winvisible, Women Against Rape, Unite Community and Class War.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

They began at Downing St with a ‘Balls to the Budget’ protest, arriving with footballs and balloons and and after some speeches on the pavement opposite Paula Peters led protesters across the road towards the gates, which were protected by two lines of police.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

From there they tried to throw balls carrying messages such as ‘If the Tories had a soul they’d sell it’, ‘Cuts Kill‘ and ‘Blood on your hands‘ over the gates, but most fell short.

Budget Day, Shaker and Sotheby's - 2015

They then moved off down Whitehall and Parliament Street on their way to Westminster Bridge. Police who had largely stood back and watched earlier tried to persuade them to go on to the pavement but were ignored.

They moved to the middle of Westminster Bridge as a small group on the Embankment in front of St Thomas’s Hospital facing the Houses of Parliament displayed a huge banner with the message ‘#Balls2TheBudget #DPAC’ with ahand making an appropriate two-finger sign.

This was then brought up onto the bridge and stretched across its full width, and along with the protesters it completely blocked traffic in both directions.

After some minutes Paula Peters called for the protesters to move to Parliament, leading the protesters and the huge banner on her own chariot past Boadicea.

Here they made use of the banner to completely block all traffic moving through the busy road junction.

They held a short rally on the street and were joined by strikers marching down from the National Gallery led by the sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin, victimised for her trade union activities.

By now police patience had grown thin, and reinforcements arrived to try to clear the protesters from the streets. They tried to grab the large banner and began to push protesters and press onto the pavements.

The press as usual obeyed the police instructions more or less, though that didn’t stop some being pushed rather too violently. Most of the protesters let themselves be pushed to the pavement, but many of those in wheelchairs refused to move. Eventually police made some arrests, including Andy Greene of DPAC who was on his mobility scooter.

Eventually police brought a specially adapted van they had hired into which they could put Andy, still on his mobility scooter and the others arrested and take them safely to the police station. Unlike normal police vans it had large windows through which I was able to take pictures.

More on My London Diary
DPAC Parliament Square Budget Day protest
DPAC blocks Westminster Bridge
DPAC ‘Balls to the Budget’


Joint Strikers Budget Day Rally

Public sector workers striking against the privatisation of the council services in Barnet and Bromley came to join the PCS strikers and held a rally in Parliament Square, along with various trade union speakers, including one of the four cleaners sacked by Sotheby’s.

Joint Strikers Budget Day Rally


Save Shaker Aamer weekly vigil

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign was also in Parliament Square, holding its regular Wednesday weekly vigil calling for the immediate release and return to the UK of Londoner Shaker Aamer and for the closure of the illegal torture prison at Guantanamo.

Save Shaker Aamer weekly vigil


Sotheby’s 4 sacked for protesting

Later I met the United Voices of the World and their supporters at Oxford Circus, marching with them to Sotheby’s.- in Old Bond Street. As well as their original demands for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions they were now demanding the reinstatement of the ‘Sotheby’s 4’, cleaners sacked for taking place in the protest a week earlier.

At Sotheby’s police tried to move them away to the other side of the road, but the protesters, including a group from Class War and supporters from Lewisham People Against Profit, SOAS Unison, the National Gallery strikers and others ignored their requests. They left the entrance clear but wanted to make their presence clearly felt, protesting on the road outside.

Eventually two vans of police reinforcements arrived and started to push the protesters away, leading to a number of arguments. Eventually protesters were pushed to the pavement opposite, making it easier for taxis to drop clients directly in front of the entrance to Sotheby’s rather than having to walk past the noisy protest.

The protest was continuing when I had to leave after around an hour later.

Much more on My London Diary at Sotheby’s 4 sacked for protesting.


Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest – 2015

Saturday, July 1st, 2023

Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest: Art is big business, and Sotheby’s is arguably the biggest name in that business. Like all businesses they rely on the services of cleaners, porters and other low paid workers to keep the business running smoothly. But back in 2015 they decided they didn’t want to pay them a proper wage and give them decent conditions of service.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

While the protest by the United Voices of the World trade union members and friends was taking place, wealthy art investors were attending and making their bids at a a Contemporary Art Evening Auction including works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol. Sotheby’s later announced that the evening “realised £130.4m ($204.7m / €183.9m), Sotheby’s highest-ever total for a sale of Contemporary Art in Europe. Warhol’s only hand-painted one-dollar bill painting sold for £20.9 million, the highest price for any work sold in London this week.”

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

Many wealthy people and institutions which spend lavishly on themselves and their business seem to begrudge paying the low paid workers they depend on a living wage. Perhaps that’s how these people got wealthy in the first place, screwing the peasants and workers.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World   - Ian Bone of Class War

The cleaners at Sotheby’s are not directly employed but are outsourced – so Sotheby’s were able to deny responsibility for the way they were treated. Earlier representations and threats of protests by the workers had resulted in them being promised by their then employers a settlement including the reinstatement of suspended trade union members, contractual sick pay, the backdated payment of the London Living Wage and an end to the use of toxic cleaning products.

Sotheby's 'Dignity under the Hammer' protest - 2015 - United Voices of the World

But after this agreement was reached with contractor CCML, Sotheby’s fired the company and brought in new contractors, Servest, who refused to honour the agreement, instead sending a letter to all the workers threatening with sacking if they protested. They also began unfair unfair disciplinary action against one of the union reps, while refusing to investigate his report of threats of violence made to workers by their managers.

The day after this protest four cleaners reporting for work were stopped and told they were not allowed to enter because they had been at this protest. The United Voices of the World union continued their actions in support with further protests and they were supported in parliament by an Early Day Motion and sponsored by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.

Eventually there was victory for the UVW, and in early 2016 they were able to report that “ALL outsourced workers at Sotheby’s, including cleaners, caterers, porters and security guards would receive both the London Living Wage and contractual (much improved) sick pay.” There is more information on their web site including a video and photographs and links to other news items on the campaign.

The protest was much enlivened as you can see in some of the pictures by the support of other groups, notably Class War, and you can read an account of this protest on My London Diary (link below) with more comments in the picture captions.

It’s interesting to see the very different attitudes of the police towards the protesters and Sotheby’s staff in the pictures. Eventually after urging from Sotheby’s police brough in reinforcements and tried to clear the protesters well away from the auction entrance, although the protesters had made no attempt to impede those entering, simply offering them fliers about the dispute.

Sotheby’s ‘Dignity under the Hammer’ protest

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


Ripper Selfies, Custody Deaths, Halloween Skate & Poor Yorick

Monday, October 31st, 2022

A varied set of events from seven years ago on Saturday 31st October 2015


Ripper ‘Selfies with Dead Women’ – Cable St, Sat 31 Oct 2015

The Fourth Wave: London Feminist Activists (LFA) protested at the Jack the Ripper ‘museum’ against Halloween event publicity inviting visitors to take ‘selfies’ with the body of one of his dead victims. They were joined by comedian Kate Smurthwaite, Class War and the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance.

LFA came in cat masks and the Sisters of Perpetual Resistance came in their curious triangular black hoods with a banner ‘What a Bloody Ripp-Off’ and a bucket ‘Dead Women Can’t Protest‘. Comedian Kate Smurthwaite was there holding a poster ‘Corpses ain’t Tourism‘ and a little late Class War arrived with their ‘Women’s Death Brigade‘ banner.

The LFA also brought a decidely unsexy blowup doll with a mask of Ripper shop owner Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe with a Fawcett Society t-shirt ‘This is what a feminist looks like’, the word feminist crossed out and replaced in red by the word ‘CAPITALIST’.

Among those who spoke as well as the event organiser were Kate Smurthwaite and Becky Warnock whose petition against the s-called museum had got over 12,000 signatures.

Ripper ‘Selfies with Dead Women’


UFFC Annual Remembrance Procession – Whitehall, Sat 31 Oct 2015

Families and friends of people killed by police or in prisons made their annual march at a funereal pace from Trafalgar Square to Downing St, to a rally with speakers including those from the families of Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg, Sheku Bayoh and others.

This procession has taken place each year since1999 and you can see my pictures from this year when it took place on 29th October 2022.

In 2015 the march, led by family members holding banners, made its way in silence down Whitehall before erupting into a noisy protest at Downing St.

Here there were speeches from family members including including Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson the uncle of Oscar Grant who was killed by a police officer in Los Angeles, Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennet whose twin brother Leon Patterson was killed by Manchester police in 1992, Kadisha Brown-Burrell, whose brother Kingsley Burrell died in police custody in 2011. Shaun Hall, the brother of Mark Duggan, shot by police in 2011 in Tottenham and Marcia Rigg whose brother Sean was killed in Brixton police station in 2008.

A small group of family members took a letter into Downing St while the rally continued. Although as t-shirts worn by many stated there have been ‘1518 deaths in police custody since 1990′ including many with clear evidence of beating and murder, not a single case has yet resulted in any justice. Police and authorities have prevented proper investigation of cases, committed perjury and obstructed the course of justice to protect the officers concerned.

More at UFFC Annual Remembrance Procession 2015.


Halloween Skate 2015 London – Hyde Park Corner, Sat 31 Oct 2015

On a very much lighter level I met with London Friday Night Skate at Hyde Park where they were to begin their annual Halloween skate in varied Halloween costumes.

I didn’t try to follow them after they left to skate their lengthy route through Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden to an after-party at a pub near Kings Cross.

Halloween Skate 2015 London


UVW Hamlet-themed Barbican Flash-mob – Barbican Centre, Sat 31 Oct 2015

Alas Poor Yorick Got No Sick Pay‘ was the message on the skull held up by the Cleaners union United Voices of the World as they staged a protest on the last night of a season there of Hamlet.

The were protesting for full payment of the living wage and sick pay for the cleaners there and and an end to the use of workfare in the centre. The cleaners are not directly employed by the Barbican and get far worse conditions of service and treatment than directly employed workers from the outsourcing company which the Barbican has a contract with.

The Shakespearian theme was continued in posters such as ‘To Be or Not to Be… Paid a Living Wage‘ and ‘To Be or Not to Be… Paid Sick Pay‘ while those theatre-goers seeing the protest were urged to tweet photos and videos with hashtag #Hamlet.

Among the protesters were Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Sandy Nicoll, currently suspended SOAS Branch Secretary, and there were banners ‘Boycott Workfare’ and from ‘Unite the Resistance’ as well the UVW banner. Several from Class War had also come to support the cleaners.

There had been a couple of police officers present when I arrived on time for the protest, but they had disappeared well before the UVW turned up around 20 minutes late. Barbican security staff made some attempts to move the protesters on, but I imagine they are also outsources on lousy terms and conditions and that their hearts were not really in it.

Eventually after a number of speeches and some noisy chanting the police returned and talked with the UVW General Secretary Petros Elia who was leading the protest. He told them that the protesters were about to leave before tonight’s Hamlet was due to start and continue the protest outside the main entrance, and they then did so.

Outside the Barbican we joined some of the cleaners who work in the Barbican who had stayed outside and the protest continued with a rally in the street.

UVW Hamlet-themed Barbican Flash-mob


Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

Monday, October 17th, 2022

I photographed three quite different protests in London on Saturday 17th October 2015


End the killing in Palestine – Israeli Embassy

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

October 2015 saw the start of a wave of uncoordinated knife attacks on Jews in Jerusalem, mainly be individuals acting alone, probably enraged by increasing restrictions on Palestinian access to the holy area called by Muslims al-Haram al-Sharif and by Jews the Temple Mount, while at the same time Jewish activists were given greater access.

An Israeli intelligence service report blamed the Palestinian “feelings of national, economic and personal deprivation” while others suggested that Palestinians were responding to what seemed to them and human rights organisations as summary executions being carried out by Israeli forces against Palestinians involved in incidents.

According to Wikipedia, in October 2015 Israeli security forces killed 51 Palestinians in the West Bank and 18 in the Gaza strip. While the killing of Israelis makes the BBC news headlines, the deaths of Palestinians at the hand of Israeli security forces, illegal settlers and other Jewish extremists is seldom mentioned.

More pictures at End the killing in Palestine


Junior Doctors protest to save the NHS – Waterloo Place & Whitehall

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

Junior doctors met for a rally in Waterloo Place to protest the changes to NHS contracts that will mean working more unsocial hours at standard rates, remove safeguards that stop hospitals overworking doctors, and penalise those volunteer for charities, have families or carry out research.

The new contracts are aimed at making the NHS more profitable for private companies to take over NHS activities and many mainly Tory MPs have interests in private healtcare companies. But overwhelming doctors who work in the NHS want to see it kept as a serrvice dedicated to the public good rather than working to make profits for shareholders at the expense of both healthcare workers and the treatment given to patients.

A banner covered in names of doctors who were on duty so couldn’t attend


After a number of speeches in Waterloo Place, thousands of junior doctors and their supporters marched to sit down briefly outside Downing St before continuing to a final rally in Parliament Square.

Graffiti artist Stik (Centre) stands under two of the placards he designed against privatisation of the NHS

More pictures at Junior Doctors protest to save the NHS.


Cleaners protest in Barbican – Barbican Centre

Palestine, NHS & Cleaners in the Barbican

I met the cleaners outside the main entrance to the Barbican in Silk Street, where thee United Voices of the World held a noisy rally with a few speeches. They were here after the Barbican management had ignored requests to talk with the UVW union over failing to pay the living wage until 6 months late, contractual sick pay, and cleaners were being victimised for their for trade union activities. They were also protesting the use of unpaid ‘Workfare’ in the centre.

After a while a small group from the UVW , led by UVW General Secretary Petros Elia, ran inside past security staff and made their way to the middle of the arts centre to protest there. The Barbican was holding an event called ‘Battle of Ideas’ which had a large banner ‘Free Speech Allowed’ but Barbican security were not happy with free speech from Petros, despite which he was able to finish the protest, receiving a round of applause from Barbican customers.

Soon police arrived and there was a fairly friendly discuss in which the UVW agreed to leave the building in a few minutes without any trouble. They did so, and continued the protest outside the entrance in Silk Street. I took a few photographs and then left for home as it had been a long day and I wanted to get back and have my dinner.

Cleaners protest in Barbican


Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Friday, September 30th, 2022

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Five years ago on 30th September 2017 United Voices of the World, a grassroots trade union for low paid, migrant and precarious workers, protested in South Kensington against luxury car dealers H R Owen who had suspended their two cleaners without pay for asking to be paid a living wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

The UVW has many members among London’s low paid minority ethnic communities, particularly Spanish speakers, and has led successful campaigns to get them better treatment at work and to be paid the London Living Wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

In this and other protests they have been supported by other groups, particularly Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group and there were a number from these and other unions at the protest.

Angelica Valencia

The Ferrari showrooms have only two cleaners, Angelica Valencia and Freddy Lopez, and they were then employed at the minimum wage by cleaning company Templewood, who the UVW also say have made unlawful deductions from their wages and are in breach of the minimum wage legislation.

Freddy Lopez, speaking in Spanish, with Claudia ready to translate

Almost a hundred supporters met outside South Kensington Station in the late afternoon and then marched to the Ferrari showroom. On their way they paused briefly to protest at H R Owen’s Lamborghini showrooms and then the entrance to their offices.

They stopped outside the showrooms on the Old Brompton Road for a long and noisy protest, with speeches, chanting, drumming and ending with dancing on the roadway.

Ian Bone of Class War waves his stick at a branch of Foxtons

Loud peaceful protests such as this attract a great deal of local attention to the disputes and shame employers into meeting the demands of low paid and badly treated workers. They are effective in persuading the owners of businesses to lean on outsourcing companies to treat their staff better.

Although outsourcing companies are only concerned with exploiting their workers for greater profits, businesses such as H R Owen are very much aware of the negative publicity from the exploitation on their premises being made public.

The success of protests like this, particularly against some of the leading companies in the City of London, by the UVW and other active grass roots unions is doubtless one of the reasons that led the government to enact the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which gave the police powers to act against noisy protests. It remains to be seen how the police, and the Met in particular, will make use of these.

Jane Nicholl makes her opinion clear

The amount of money involved in paying decent wages to the two cleaners is clearly miniscule compared the the price of the cars being sold in the showrooms. The web site tells me that in 2022 the Ferrari range is priced between £166,296 – £263,098.

Class War had brought some ‘DO NOT ENTER CRIME SCENE’ tape and some of the supporters of the cleaners had come carrying mops which they waved at the people inside the showroom.

Victor of the UVW speaks with his usual passion

As the poster states, both of the cleaners voted for strike action in the workplace ballot, giving this a 100% vote. Most if not all the strikes by the UVW have had very high levels of support among workers. The poster also points out that H R Owen are making £400 million a year but the strikers were only paid £7.50 an hour. Paying them a living wage would have a totally insignificant impact on company profits but make a huge difference to the cleaners.

Police talked to the protesters and tried to keep traffic flowing along the road, though there was very little of it and little disruption was caused. But Class War did hold up a few cars for a minute or two with their banner.

The peaceful protest ended with music and dancing – and some more speeches. On their web site, the UVW state:

“In a David vs Goliath battle, UVW members Freddy and Angelica, friends from Ecuador, took on luxury car dealership HR Owen and beat the odds; overcoming intimidation and suspensions, they won the London Living Wage. Their victory was a testament to the power of UVW’s worker-led direct actions.”

https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/en/campaigns/hr-owen-ferrari-dealership/

You can see many more pictures of the successful protest at Cleaners at luxury car dealers HR Owen.


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