Posts Tagged ‘victimisation’

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Friday, June 10th, 2022

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned – A rally on Wood Street on Friday 10th June 2016 marked the third day of what became the longest strike ever in the City of London, and later at City Hall a vigil remembered 11 road users killed on London streets since the mayoral election last month, including three cyclists.


Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike – 100 Wood St, City of London

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned

Cleaners belonging to the United Voices of the World union employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning to clean the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE held a rally at the end of their picket on the third day of their strike.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
The picket

The offices there are mainly used by Schroders and J P Morgan, both large and highly profitable companies, but the cleaners are on poverty wages and several union members had been sacked and others served with notice by Thames Cleaning for organising the workers to demand a living wage.

City Cleaners Strike, Cyclists mourned
Measuring the 10m required by the injunction

Rather than talk with the UVW, Thames’s response to the strike threat had been to spend over £20,000 in the High Court trying to get an injunction to prohibit the strikes and protests. Although the court would not stop them, they issued an injunction which set down strict conditions for the picket and protest and this left the UVW with crippling legal costs.

The UVW is a small grass roots union supported only by dues from its members and unlike the large established trade unions has little or no money to run its activities which include educational workshops as well as supporting its members in the workplace and at employment tribunals. Those who perform duties for it are paid the London Living Wage for the time spent and there are no highly paid union officials. The union had to issue an emergency appeal for cash – and received support from people and union branches across the trade union movement.

Candy Udwin, PCS Rep at the National Gallery holds a banner

One aspect of the injunction was that any protest connected with the strike had to keep at least 10 metres from the doorway of the offices. Of course picketing is covered by strict trade union laws and a lengthy code of practice that requires it to be as reasonably close as possible to the entrance and exit, and limits it to six or less clearly identified pickets with a supervisor (and possibly also a union organiser) behaving in a peaceful manner.

The protest took place over a carefully measured 10 metres away on the opposite side of the street after a picket which had begun in the early morning when the cleaners would normally have arrived for work. The strike continued for 58 days before the UVW was able to announce that a satisfactory agreement had been reached with the employer and all further action was ended.

There are four posts about the Wood Street Strike on My London Diary for June (and more in later months) :
UVW Cleaners on Strike in City
Day 3 UVW Wood St Cleaners Strike
UVW Wood St Strike Day 10
UVW Wood St Strike continues


London Traffic Deaths Vigil – City Hall

Although London had an impressive purpose-built County Hall on the south bank just downstream of Westminster Bridge, this was sold off when Margaret Thatcher vindictively disbanded the Greater London Council, leaving London rudderless for 14 critical years. After the Greater London Authority was created in 2000, it was without a proper home for two years before leasing and moving into a purpose-built oddly spherical building by Norman Foster in the misleadingly named ‘More London’ currently owned by the Kuwait sovereign wealth fund who disguise themselves as St Martins Property Investments Limited.

Many saw the move to the new building as a failure of purpose by the Labour government in noy re-acquiring County Hall for the new London-wide authority – but then Labour under Blair continued most of Thatcher’s policies rather than move away from her individualist greed-based approach towards one getting back to the social welfare which had been at the heart of post-war Labour.

London’s City Hall moved in 2022 to Kamal Chunchie Way, Newham, E16 into the former ‘The Crystal’ exhibition centre beside the northern end of London’s ‘Dangleway’ cable car, though this is expected to close fairly soon as no replacement sponsor has come up to keep it running.

Sadiq Khan had retaken London as a Labour Mayor on May 5th 2016, with a decisive win over Conservative Zac Goldsmith and the Green candidate Siân Berry trailing badly in third place. Since then, 11 people had died on the streets of London, roughly around the average for that period in Greater London (in 2019, the total for the year was 125.)

Siân Berry

Protests are – at least theoretically – not usually allowed in ‘More London’, but this one was hosted by Green Party London wide Assembly Member Caroline Russell, a member of the GLA Transport Committee and organised by London Women on Bikes (LWOB), #LondonBusWatch, Westminster Living Streets and BMX Life. Of the 11 who died, 3 were cyclists and the others were on foot.

Most road deaths are not ‘accidents’ but “happen because road users make mistakes, often made harder to avoid because of poor vehicle or road design. Many of them result from a lack of proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists in a road system which prioritises getting motorised vehicles from A to B as fast as possible rather than safety. Some are caused by the failure of police to enforce road traffic law – for example on advanced stop lines at traffic lights.”

One of the cyclists killed was BMX rider Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson, hit by a bus on the Strand during a BMX Life charity ride and many other BMX riders had come to the vigil, wearing tartan ribbons in his memory as he always rode in tartan. There were a number of speeches and then the names of those killed were read, followed by an eleven minutes of silence when those at the vigil were invited to stand in silence or to lie down, with or without bikes, in a silent ‘die-in’.

As the vigil came to an end and people were beginning to leave we were all called back for a highly emotional moment when Dan ‘Cash’ Stephenson’s daughter spoke through tears about her father.

London Traffic Deaths Vigil


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Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

Monday, May 30th, 2022

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers – Saturday May 30th 2015 was another varied day of events and protests across London.


Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail to apologise – Kensington.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I began the day travelling to High Street Kensington, just a short walk from the offices of the Daily Mail. It has the largest circulation of any UK newspaper but is also the UK’s least reliable source of information. Recently The Factual analysed 1,000 articles from each of 245 major news sources from around the world although mainly from the USA and including international news organisations such as Reuters and AP. The Mail came out with the third lowest score of any with a Factual Grade of 39.7% compared to the average of 61.9%. In a table listing all the results, even The Sun does a little better, as do the Daily Express and RT News, though all of these are way below average while The Guardian was above average along with the BBC, though neither among the top scorers.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

We don’t have a free press in this country, we have a press largely controlled by a small number of billionaires who, as these figures show, use it largely as a source of disinformation and the promotion of their prejudices – including homophobia, racism and misogyny. Articles are more generally written as click-bait rather than with any desire to inform or educate, and it was hardly surprising when in 2016 it was sanctioned by the International Press Standards Organisation for violating professional norms for accuracy and in 2017 Wikipedia editors decided it was a “generally unreliable” source.

Nurses, Coal, Art, Biafrans & Sunflowers

I was there for the start of a long protest by Filipino health workers outside the Daily Mail over its reporting of the Victoriano Chua case which insulted Filipino NHS workers as a whole despite the vital contribution they make to the NHS. The demanded the Daily Mail apologise for its racist comments and to recognise the contribution that they make, keeping our NHS afloat. As someone who a dozen years earlier had been looked after in intensive care by a Filipino nurse I feel very grateful to them, though angry at the UK government for not training enough nurses and doctors – and in particular for removing the training bursary for nurses which has now made the situation much worse. But I did feel they were asking the leopard to change its spots.

Filipino Nurses tell Daily Mail apologise


Walking the Coal Line – Peckham

Rye Lane

I left the Filipinos as their protest was still building up and journeyed across London to Peckham Rye where we were invited to take a tour of the proposed Peckham Coal Line elevated linear urban park between Peckham Rye and Queens Road Peckham stations as a distant part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival events – something vaguely related to the annual flower show.

The Coal Line was frankly hugely over-hyped, particularly in comparing it to New York’s ‘High Line’, and the walk was largely close to but not on the actual proposed line. The former coal sidings on the viaduct which inspired the project are next to a working rail line and could only be seen looking down from neighbouring buildings.

As I commented: “The walk is essentially an urban linear park that would make a useful short cut for some local walkers and cyclists, and could also be a part of a longer leisure walk from Brixton to the Thames. I hope it comes into existence, as the cost would be relatively low and it would be a useful addition to the area.

But I still enjoyed an interesting walk, visiting both the Bussey Building in the former industrial estate Copeland Park south of the line and the multi-storey car park to the north which now houses a cafe, a local radio performance space and another rooftop bar next to the Derek Jarman memorial garden and has good views of Peckham and central London. And having followed the official route to Queens Road Peckham I walked back a different way vaguely along the Coal Line at ground level, finally travelling more closely along it in an Overground train that took me to Canada Water and the Jubilee Line to Waterloo.

Walking the Coal Line


UK Uncut Art Protest – Westminster Bridge

UK Uncut met outside Waterloo station for their mystery protest taking direct action at an undisclosed location. Police liaison officers tried to find out where they were going and what they intended to do, but nobody was talking to them. Finally they set off and marched the short distance to Westminster Bridge where they spread a large piece of cloth on the roadway and painted a banner telling Parliament that collecting dodged taxes would bring in more than cutting public services.

They lifted up the banner and then ‘dropped’ it over the side of the bridge. It was a long run to take a picture of it hanging from the bridge, and I’m not sure worth the effort. It would have been better to have lowered it on the downstream side so as to get the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Another group of protesters in Parliament Square were protesting against the plans to get rid of the Human Rights Act, and some of the UK Uncut people had joined them before the end of the ‘Art’ protest. In May 2022 the government announced it was getting rid of the act and replacing it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’ which will allow the police to “perform freer functions“, Leading charities concerned with human rights have condemned the changes as affecting “the ability of individuals to hold the government and public bodies to account by bringing cases when their human rights have been breached.” They state “The Human Rights Act has greatly benefited a vast number of people from across society, improving their health and wellbeing; ensuring their dignity, autonomy, privacy, and family life; and overall improving their quality of life.” Many see the changes as yet another move towards fascism and a police state.

UK Uncut Art Protest


Biafrans demand independence – Trafalgar Square.

Biafra came from the Kingdom of Nri of the Igbo people, which lasted from the 10th century to 1911 and was one of Africa’s great civilisations before the European colonisation.

Biafra was incorporated into Southern Nigeria by the colonialists in the 1884 Berlin Conference and then became part of the united Nigeria in 1914. Biafrans declared independence from Nigeria in 1967, but lost the long and bloody civil war that followed, with many Biafran civilians dying of starvation.

Biafrans demand independence


Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers – Trafalgar Square

After a large rally in Trafalgar Square, National Gallery staff striking against privatisation marched towards the Sainsbury Wing, holding a sit down and short rally outside after police blocked the doors to the gallery. The gallery doors were then locked.

Candy Udwin, a PCS rep at the National Gallery had been sacked for her trade union activities in connection with the plans to privatise gallery staff and the opposition to it by staff. Exhibitions in the Sainsbury wing have already been guarded by privatised staff, and the security there is also run by the private company. After 100 days of strike action the dispute was finally resolived in early October 2015 after the appointment of a new gallery director with terms and conditions of service protected and Udwin returning to work.

Mass rally Supports National Gallery strikers


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Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch.
Thursday 5th February 2015 was an extremely varied and rewarding day for me.


Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest

The day started rather quietly with the London Guantánamo Campaign and their monthly lunch-time protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square which had been taking place every month for 8 years, calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including Londoner Shaker Aamer. I’ve not photographed them every one of those almost a hundred months, but most times when I have been working in London on the day they were protesting.

Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


From Grosvenor Square I went to Trafalgar Square, joining protesters outside the National Gallery where management had told 400 of its 600 staff they were no longer to be employed by the gallery but by a private company. Staff there were incensed when on a five day strike one of their PCS union reps, Candy Udwin, was suspended.

Nobody answered the door.


The National Gallery was then the only major museum or gallery in London not paying its lowest paid staff the London Living Wage. The privatisation further threatened the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on poverty pay. These staff are responsible for the security of the paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.

Eventually the petition was handed to the Head of Security


Staff who were then on a five-day strike had come with supporters to present a 40,000 signature petition to management against the privatisation and call for the reinstatement of their union rep. First they tried the management door, but no one came to open it, so some entered the Sainsbury Wing of the gallery to try to deliver it. Security asked them to leave, and promised that the Head of Security would take the petition would personally hand it to management who were refusing to come down to meet the strikers.

Jeremy Corbyn joins the march and Candy Udwin speaks

After consultation with the members the petition was handed over and the strikers and supporters marched down Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. A rally took place outside, with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn, while the petition was being handed in.

No Privatisation At National Gallery


Around the Elephant

I took the tube to the ELephant and Castle on my way to visit the continuing occupation against Southwark Council’s demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and had time to walk a little around the area before and afterwards.

Around the Elephant


Aylesbury Estate Occupation

Protesters against the demolition of council estates and its replacement by private developments with little or no social housing across London had marched to the Aylesbury Estate and occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland Road at the end of the previous Saturday’s March for Homes.

Entering the occupied building required a rather tricky climb to the first floor, and both my age and my heavy camera bag argued against it, although I was told I was welcome. Instead I went with a group of supporters who were distributing flyers for a public meeting to flats across the estate. They split into pairs and I went with two who were going to the top floor of the longest single block on the whole estate, Wendover, where one of them lived.

There are I think 471 flats in the block and from the top floor there are extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built. But there was one broken window that gave me a clear view.

Aylesbury Estate Occupation


Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch

Ken Loach, Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie


My final event of the day was the book launch for Lisa McKenzie’s ‘Getting By’, the result of her years of study from the inside of the working class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for others who have researched this and similar areas.

St Ann’s in that time was undergoing a huge slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived there.

It was a great evening, attended by many of those I’ve photographed over the years at various housing campaigns.

Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch


More on all these on My London Diary:
Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Around the Elephant
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


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SOAS Shut Down 2015

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Students at SOAS, University of London, occupied the Brunei Suite on the Bloomsbury campus on October 6th 2015, after a leaked management document detailed £6.5m of cuts including the loss of 186 courses, roughly a third of the curriculum.

This leak came as the latest in a whole series of decisions by management which dismissed or ignored the views of both students and staff, and led to a unanimous vote of no confidence in the management two days later by the General Assembly of the SOAS Student Union.

As well as the course cuts and problems with switching courses and choosing tutorials, they complained that management had ignored an overwhelming vote in support of the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign, ignored the opposition to the outsourcing of cleaners, security staff and other workers and failed to respond to the strike by Fractional workers (who are responsible for much of the teaching) for fair pay. The students said that management were failing to deal with the gender pay gap and that institutional racism is thriving in SOAS.

They called for a restructuring of the Executive Board and Board of Trustees to give students, academic staff and support staff authority over the running of our university, and suggested that a large proportion of the savings needed could be made by the Executive Board cutting their own inflated salaries rather than making staff redundant.

The entrance to the occupation after management locked the doors

The management responded with lies and by harassing the students, including by cutting off the power on 23rd October, and when many teaching and administrative staff refused to cross a picket line they locked the doors of the university. The entrance to the occupation became through the high ground floor windows.

Sandy Nicoll, Unison Branch Secretary

After a rally held on 27th October which I had missed they tried to intimidate the trade unions by suspending Unison Branch Secretary Sandy Nicoll, falsely claiming he had let students into the main building to protest outside the offices of recently appointed SOAS Director Baroness Amos.

The protest on Thursday 29th was held to call for the reinstatement of Nicoll, and there were messages of support for Sandy from colleges and trade unions around the country as well as a long series of speakers who came to give their support in person.

It was a well-attended and noisy protest with much banging on catering pots and pans with Nicoll getting a lengthy welcome before he could speak.

At the end of the rally there was music and dancing, with people taking part in the 'Strikey-Strikey', an adaption of the Hokey-Cokey:
You put your left arm in
Your left arm out
In, out, in, out
You shake it all about
You do the strikey-strikey
And you turn around
That's what it's all about
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Woah, the strikey-strikey
Knees bent
Arms stretched
Ra-ra-ra...

Things appeared to be drawing to a conclusion and I got ready to leave when things livened up a little with people setting off smoke flares as they paraded with banners in front of the occupied building to the music of a violin and drums.

The management finally backed down and reinstated Sandy Nicoll and eventually the occupation came to an end too, with management changing some of its plans but not meeting the main student demands. Dissent continued on campus and there was a further occupation in 2017. There have been some victories, and after a 12 year fight the cleaners became directly employed by SOAS at the end of August 2018.

More at SOAS Shut Down after Sandy suspended.


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Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

More from May Days: 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2020

My May Day started as usual with the march from Clerkenwell Green, dominated visually by members of the Turkish and Kurdish communities and with the usual mix of trade unionists and left-wing groups, perhaps even more international in nature than in previous years.

The march to Trafalgar Square was made a little livelier than usual by the presence of Class War and other anarchist and anti-capitalist protesters, some of whom took over the whole of the road rather than keep to one carriageway. Police tried hard to control them and made at least one arrest, which led to some scuffles.

One issue that dominated the rally in Trafalgar Square was the strike against privatisation at the National Gallery which overlooks the square, and in particular the victimisation by the management of Candy Udwin, the PCS rep there.

Later in the afternoon anti-capitalist protesters met up at Tower Hill, and led by lass War and their Lucy Parsons banner went on to block Tower Bridge this afternoon and blocked traffic, calling for social housing rather than social cleansing for Londoners and an end to cuts in foundation courses and other aspects of education. It was a lively event, and I left them when they marched off along Tooley St past London Bridge to protest in Westminster.

I walked back across Tower Bridge and on to Aldgate where Class War were organising their ‘Reclaim the Beats’ “epic street party” outside the tower block where they had held around 30 weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against the separate entrance down a side alley for the social housing tenants in the block.

A huge cheer went up as they unfurled a new banner showing leading politicians with the message “All Fucking Wankers”, a replacement for that seized by police at an earlier protest. Although it had later been judged to be an acceptable political comment, the police contrived to lose it rather than face the indignity of returning it to Class War.

A few minutes later a mobile sound system in the form of a small house on wheels with ‘Affordable Housing’ across its roof and the party really kicked off. After a few minutes people moved out to block the main road and then to march off to protest at Tower Bridge and in Bermondsey. I was too tired to go with them and instead went down the stairs into Aldgate East tube.

‘Reclaim the Beats’ at ‘Poor Doors’
Anti-Capitalists block Tower Bridge
May Day Rally supports National Gallery
May Day march against austerity and racism


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WeWork doesn’t pay

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

I’d never heard of WeWork before I received an Facebook post inviting me to photograph a protest outside one of their London premises in Shoreditch. The company began in 2010, has its HQ in New York and provides flexible working spaces for companies from 1 to 500 people, equipped, serviced and ready to move in. In London alone it has 49 locations providing shared facilities.

When we started WeWork in 2010, we wanted to build more than beautiful, shared office spaces. We wanted to build a community. A place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’. A place where we’re redefining success measured by personal fulfillment, not just the bottom line. Community is our catalyst.

But community doesn’t extend to all that work there, and in particular not to the cleaners who keep these shared office and community spaces beautiful. WeWork outsource their cleaning to cleaning company CCM.

Outsourcing is always a bad deal for workers. The companies bid for contracts almost entirely on price, and they pare down prices by screwing the workers. Low pay, high workloads, the legal minimum terms and conditions and often a lack of equipment and concern over safety combined with bullying management enable outsourcing companies to keep costs to the bone and profits to the company owners.

Trade unions are anathema to such companies, and also to many US based firms, and grass roots unions such as CAIWU who manage the difficult job of unionising marginal and often immigrant workers find it hard to get basic rights for their members. Workers who stand up for their rights get victimised, and CAIWU were protesting here as five CAIWU members have been dismissed here in the past few months, with Wework staff members involved in getting CCM to dismiss them.

The loud protest outside the offices attracted a great deal of attention, with one local business owner coming to ask them to keep quiet and one man stopping to argue with the protesters, getting quite angry and pushing some of them. But these were the exceptions and many others read the fliers that the protesters were handing out and expressed support, including one team of workers who came out from the building and join the protest.

More at: Wework stop victimising cleaners


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Hackney Housing

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

I took a short walk in Hackney before the protest outside the town hall to remind me exactly where Marian Court was, just behind the rather empty ‘fashion village’, an implant into the area with government money, £1.5m of Boris Johnson’s regeneration funding after the 2011 riots. It seems if anything to have been an expensive way to prove that gentrification isn’t an effective way to combat racist policing with a shoot to kill policy, and has failed to generate the promised jobs.

Marian Court appears to have been a well-designed small estate built for the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in the late 1950s. It was built to the standards of the time and was in need of modernisation, and had been allowed to deteroriate. But as on many other council estates, rather than investing in the relatively modest cost of the necessary refurbishment, the council decided on an expensive scheme involving total demolition and the building of roughly twice as many housing units on the site by private developers, with a large proportion for sale at high market prices and others also at high prices as ‘affordable’ or shared ownership properties. Reports say that despite the roughly doubling of the number of units there will be 40% less social housing than at present.

The replacement flats in such schemes are almost always built to lower space standards than the existing properties, and demolition and rebuild involves an enormous environmental impact. Given our current problems with global warming and the impending threat of human extinction unless we take urgent actions to avoid this, demolition of existing buildings such as this should now be a rare last resort.

The human impact is of course also huge, with the estate being emptied. Those in social housing will have been offered rehousing, but usually in far less convenient places than this, targeted in part because of its central location and close transport links, and also probably with less security of tenure and higher rents. Leaseholders typically get compensation at far less than the cost of a similar property in the same area – or the new properties.

Schemes such as this effectively lead to social cleansing, despite the promises often made (but seldom kept) by local councils about residents being able to stay in the area or move back into the redeveloped properties. Those on low incomes are forced to move to the peripheries of the borough, to outlying borough or sometimes well outside London, away from jobs, schools, friends and other links in the community.

The protest at Hackney Town Hall, organised by East End Sisters Uncut and London Renters Union was over the failure by Hackney Council to provide suitable rehousing for two families remaining in Marian Court, both of whom attended and spoke at the event, and who seem to have been victimised because they particular housing needs and have stood up for their rights. You can see more about both of them and their issues with the council at Hackney don’t victimise housing activists.

And a few pictures of the area including Marian Court in Hackney


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