Posts Tagged ‘UVW’

Goodbye & Good Riddance – May – June 2023

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024

Goodbye & Good Riddance – May 2023; Continuing my series of posts about some of the many protests I covered in 2023, a year when there was much to protest about.

May always starts with May Day, but after that things went downhill with the coronation weekend, when I found other things to do in Derbyshire, though I did take a few pictures of the decorations, as well as finding a couple of hours to walk around the centre of Chesterfield. But most of the month I was preoccupied with other matters, including a book launch and an exhibition opening by two friends, birthday celebrations and other family matters. Things got a little more back to normal in June.

Goodbye & Good Riddance - May - June 2023
London May Day March – 1st May 2023. Indigenous Ecuadorian dance group Warmis UK march with United Voices of the World trade union. Several thousand gathered at Clerkenwell Green for the International Workers Day March to Trafalgar Square. Those taking part came from a wide range of trade unions and political organisations and included many from London’s wide range of ethnic communities. Peter Marshall

Click the link to see more pictures including many of the banners on the march.

Goodbye & Good Riddance - May - June 2023
Baslow, Derbyshire 14 May 2023.
I didn’t entirely escape the coronation as “I couldn’t avoid a short glimpse when some twit put the TV on” though I did walk out of the room and there were quite a few decorations on the street. The following day I had a couple of hours before my train left Chesterfield for London and you can see some pictures from there and elsewhere in Derbyshire in Coronation Weekend – Baslow & Chesterfield.
Goodbye & Good Riddance - May - June 2023
Unite to Defy Protest Against Racism and Police State, London. 27 May 2023
Protesters at Downing St. Gypsy Traveller League, Black Lives Matter, Just Stop Oil, DPAC, Not My Bill, Republic, Stand Up to Racism and others united in a rally calling for an end to all racial discrimination and against the draconian measures in the Police and Crime Act and other recent laws which remove human rights and make the UK a police state, before marching to Downing St where the GTL handed in a letter. Peter Marshall

Another 70 pictures in the album on the link above.

Goodbye & Good Riddance - May - June 2023
Jeremy Corbyn – 40 Years As Islington North MP. Highbury Fields, 10 June 2023.
I was pleased to have a ticket for the celebration of Jeremy Corbyn’s 40th anniversary as MP for Islington North as all were taken up quickly for the event in a small area of Highbury Fields. It was sweltering and there was little shade and I was only able to stay for the first 90 minutes of the 4 hour event, unfortunately having to leave before Corbyn arrived. Tosh McDonald, Vice President of Aslef, Andrew Feinstein, Stella Assange and others. Peter Marshall
Time to Act on Abortion Law, London, UK. 17 June 2023.
People at the Royal Courts of Justice before the march to a rally opposite Downing St called by British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Women’s Equality Party and the Fawcett Society demands for urgent reform of UK abortion law after a woman was sentenced to 28 months in prison after using abortion pills to end her own pregnancy, prosecuted under an 1861 law. Peter Marshall
Puma End Your Support of Israeli Apartheid, Carnaby St, 24 Jun 2023.
Campaigners from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign continue their regular protests at the Puma shop on Carnaby St calling on the company to end sponsorship of the Israel Football Association. Puma is the main international sponsor of the IFA, aiding Israel to whitewash its human rights abuses and normalising the illegal settlements. Peter Marshall
Early Years Equality Protest, Downing St. 24 Jun 2023.
Campaigners protest opposite Downing St at the way in which the government treats children under 5 and the Early Years Sector. Many came dressed in orange and hung ribbons with their demands onto a Rights on RIbbons Tree. They say the government policy is to put babies in underfunded infant storage units so parents can go back to work neglecting the development and rights of the children. Peter Marshall
Just Stop Oil – Don’t Deport Marcus, London. 24 Jun 2023.
Hundreds marched from Parliament Square to the Home Office to demand that environmental protester and German citizen Marcus Decker not be deported after serving his 2 year 7 month sentence, one of the longest ever for a non-violent protest after hanging a Just Stop Oil banner on the Dartford QEII bridge. Marcus gave an eloquent speech by phone calling for continued actions to save the world. Peter Marshall
Free Assange Rally – ‘Anything to Say? 24 Jun 2023.
Hundreds protest at a rally in Parliament Square around Davide Dormino’s ‘Anything To Say?’, life-size bronzes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning who all had the courage to say no to the intrusion of global surveillance and to lies that lead to war standing on chairs. They called for the release of Julian Assange from Belmarsh prison and for him not to be deported to the USA. Peter Marshall

You can see more pictures from these and other protests and events in my Facebook Albums.


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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.


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

End outsourcing at University of London

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023

End outsourcing at University of London: Five years ago, on Wednesday 25th April 2018 I was with workers from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain – IWGB on the first day of a two day strike at the University of London central administration by over 100 cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post room staff and audiovisual staff.

End outsourcing at University of London

They were calling for an end to the outsourcing of their jobs in the university to various contracting companies and demanding to be directly employed by the University, and receive the same conditions and benefits as directly employed colleagues. As well as the workers, academics, students and other trade unionists came to support them in a lively rally outside the gates to Stewart House in Russell Square..

End outsourcing at University of London

The rally was part of a successful campaign led by the IWGB which began in 2010 and ten years later the university central administration changed to directly employ porters, receptionists, post room and audio visual technicians, with cleaners following shortly after in November 2020.

End outsourcing at University of London

The IWGB are still campaigning to bring workers in-house in other universities in London, including UCL, and they and other unions have been successful elsewhere. United Voices of the World are one of these and some of their members had come to the rally to show their support.

Here’s what the IWGB say about their campaign:

Cleaners and security staff at universities across London are organising for equality with directly-employed staff!

Outsourced workers suffer from far worse terms and conditions than directly-employed colleagues, facing no sick pay, bare minimum holiday entitlement and meagre pensions. Bullying, mismanagement and discrimination by unaccountable outsourced managers are common.

Workers in the IWGB union are leading the fightback. Through public campaigning and strike action we can end outsourcing at London universities!

End outsourcing at University of London

Among the speakers at the gates of Senate House was Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who also brought support from Jeremy Corbyn and promised a Labour government would bring in new trade union laws and end the unfairness of outsourcing. Unfortunately should we now get a Labour government at the next election its policies will be more about protecting company profits than protecting workers.

There were plenty of others as well as IWGB members who spoke, and one was a woman from UCU at Goldsmiths University who had come with a large donation from them to the strike fund.

Billy Bragg came to give his support, singing three songs, and got us joining in on some of them, and Archie Shuttlebrace sang with Rebecca Wade Morris. Chip Hamer (Grim Chip) and another of the poets from Poetry on the Picket Line performed some of their work.

Then it was time for a march around Russell Square, with over 200 people briefly holding up traffic. The march was lead by the yellow Precarious Workers Mobile three-wheeler and a samba band.

They returned to the gates of Stewart House and the rally continued with more music, poetry and dancing.

More at End outsourcing at University of London


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


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.


Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Five years ago on Saturday 23rd September 2017 I photographed a lively march in North London against council plans for a huge giveaway of council housing to developers before rushing down to Brixton in South London where low paid workers at the Ritzy cinema had been on strike for a year.


Haringey against council housing sell-off

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

When Labour came to power in 1997, Tony Blair made his first speech as prime minister in the centre of London’s Aylesbury Estate, declaring that “the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government” and promising that housing would be at the centre of his government’s programme.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

But their policy of estate regeneration has proved a disaster, leading to the demolition of social housing and its replacement by housing for the rich and overseas investors, along with small amounts of highly unaffordable ‘affordable housing’ and a largely token amount of homes at social rents.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

As an article in the Financial Times by Anna Minton in January 2022 pointed out, Labour’s continuing support for Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ and for ‘buy-to-let mortgages’ together with the pegging of housing benefit to market levels encouraged an enormous growth of buy to let properties from previously council flats and houses. In 2019 a Greater London Authority report found that 42 per cent of homes sold under Right to Buy were now privately let, with average rents in London of £1752 in the private sector compared to social rents of £421 a month.

As Minton also points out, under New Labour there were only 7,870 new council homes built during their 13 years in office, a miniscule number compared to Thatcher’s period as Conservative prime ministers when the lowest annual number was 17,710 homes.

Under New Labour the average was 562 per year compared to 41,343 under Thatcher – though numbers dropped steeply during her tenure. Housing Associations have provided some social housing, but have become increasingly more commercial in their operations.

Labour’s housing policies were disastrous and largely continue, with Labour councils in London continuing to collude with developers to demolish council-owned homes. A prime example of this was the proposed ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’, HDV, under which Haringey Council was making a huge transfer of council housing to Australian multinational Lendlease.

The protest in Haringey was a lively one involving many local residents as well as other housing activists from across London. The council’s deal would have led to the destruction of many of the council’s estates over a 15 year period, and led to a revolt at local elections which replaced many of those backing the scheme by more left-wing Labour members supported by Momentum.

Under new management, the council has produced an updated version of its redevelopment plans, although some activists see these as still representing a give-away to developers. But there does seem a greater emphasis on collaboration with the local community over redevelopment schemes and on providing a greater element of social housing.

Local government is still subject to restrictions imposed by national policies, and in particular policies that encourage rising house prices, rents and subsidise private landlords, while still making it hard for councils to build new council properties.

I left the march close to its end at Finsbury Park to catch the tube down to Brixton.

Haringey against council housing sell-off


One year of Ritzy strike – Brixton

Strikers at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton were celebrating a year of strike action with a rally supported by other trade unionists, including the United Voices of the World and the IWGB and other union branches.

The BECTU strikers were demanding the London Living Wage, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay and for managers, supervisors, chefs and technical staff to be properly valued for their work. The also demand that four sacked union reps are reinstated.

BECTU had been in dispute with the Ritzy since 2014, and had called for a boycott of the cinema, which was only finally called off in 2019. The Ritzy is one of a network of cinemas operated by Picturehouse Cinemas Ltd and owned by Cineworld, the world’s second largest cinema chain, based in London and operating in 10 countries including the USA.

The Ritzy was closed for the rally, After a number of speeches there was a surprise with the arrival to cheers of a newly acquired ‘Precarious Workers Mobile’ bright yellow Reliant Robin, equipped with a powerful amplifier and loudspeaker. After more speeches this led the protesters in a slow march around central Brixton.

One year of Ritzy strike


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

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

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

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

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


National Gallery 61st day of Strike – Trafalgar Square

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

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

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

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

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


Equalitate at Tate Modern – Bankside

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

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


Sikhs call for release of political prisoners – Indian High Commission

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

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


Kashimiris Indian Independence Day call for freedom – Indian High Commission

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

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


Kurdish PJAK remembers its martyrs – Trafalgar Square

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

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


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

A small group, mainly Koreans continute its monthly silent vigils to remember the victims of the Sewol ferry tragedy, mainly school children who obeyed the order to ‘Stay Put‘ on the lower decks as the ship went down. The call on the Korean government to raise the ship for a thorough inquire, to punish those responsible and bring in regulations to prevent similar tragedies in future.


United Voices – Reinstate the Sotheby’s 2 – Mayfair

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Ministry of Justice cleaners protest – 2018

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

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

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speeches continue in the pouring rain under umbrellas

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

The rain slackens off for Richard Burgon to speak

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

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

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

And the protest ends with dancing in the street

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