Tag Archives: Brittania Services Group

Nationwide TopShop protest

A month on from the previous London demo, matters have escalated. TopShop’s cleaning company, Brittania have now sacked one of the two suspended workers, Susana, a single mother with several years service to the company.

09 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

She is determined to see justice, and the grassroots ‘United Voices of the World’ union have expanded the protest so that 17 shops around the UK were targeted by actions today.

Also more groups have come forward to support the fight, moved not only by the issues of living wage, harassment and bullying, but also by the fact that Philip Green’s tax arrangements see TopShop paying very little in the way of UK tax.

01 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

08 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

Today’s protest in London began at 5pm outside the flagship Oxford Street store, and was briefly visited by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who held a banner in support.

Like last month, the policing was intense, with two Inspectors on duty, Forward Intelligence Officers, the mysterious green van with what is thought to be a petapixel camera on a pole, plus other surveillance officers and dozens of uniformed police. All this was on top of some very large private security guards hired by TopShop.

03 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

11 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

The police were quite pushy-shovey, marking out arbritary lines for where people could and couldn’t stand. Even the Police Liaison Officers, supposed to be all smiley, got a bit shouty at times.

02 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

05 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

Despite the excessive policing, the protest remained good-natured and there were no arrests. A walk up Oxford Street took the roughly 150 activists to TopShop’s Marble Arch branch where the shutters came down and customers were huddled out of a rear door. Business was effectively suspended for around 30 minutes, and amongst the noise, some drumming, vuvulezas, and chants, one egg was thrown.

07 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

By 7pm the march was back at the Oxford Circus branch, and after a few more speeches on the open mic, the protest was finished for the day.

12 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

We heard that there had been a banner drop inside the store, and also that 600 hand-written notes had been left amongst clothes inside the store, telling readers about the bullying, the suspensions and sackings, the poor wages and Philip Green’s tax avoidance.

For more background info, read my previous post, and for future events in this rapidly growing campaign check the United Voices facebook page

06 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

10 UVW TopShop 16th May © @indyrikki

Topshop protests over Living Wage and suspensions

Cleaners at Topshop are sub-contracted to a company, Britannia Services Group, that made £1.34m profit after tax. Philip Green, worth nearly £5bn, runs the Arcadia Group that owns Topshop. Arcadia made more than £250m profit last year, but it is registered to Philip Green’s wife, who lives in the Monaco tax haven. Mr. Green recently bought a £100m yacht.

The cleaners pay all the tax due on their £6.75 per hour poverty wages, leaving them without enough money to cover London rent and food.

Despite a workplace culture of fear and intimidation, some cleaners have been campaigning and organising to raise awareness and push for a London Living Wage (http://www.livingwage.org.uk/what-living-wage). As a result of their lawful activities, two have been suspended and a third is under threat. Susana, an Ecuadorian single mother, has worked at Topshop for several years, and despite being bullied at work, shows great courage, along with Carolina and Luz, in standing up to the corporation.

They are all members of the grassroots union United Voices of the World (www.uvwunion.org.uk), which has had some notable successes despite running on a shoestring budget made up of small subscriptions and donations.

04 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

Today’s protest began at the Strand branch of Topshop, as the People’s Assembly march and rally drew to a close in nearby Trafalgar Square. The UVW received solidarity from Class War activists who unfurled a large banner in front of the doors to the Strand shop and later set off smoke bombs. UVW organiser, Petros Elia addressed the crowd.

01 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

02 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

Perhaps expecting major public disorder during the austerity protest, or perhaps buoyed by a new financial year, the demonstration was notable for the excessive policing, with several vans of riot police, two sets of evidence gatherers, and the attention of a Chief Inspector, all for a small industrial dispute with a few dozen protesters.

05 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

06 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

After a short speech from Susana, the decision was taken to march to the Oxford Circus flagship store, and there, as news spread, more people joined the protest swelling numbers to around a hundred or so, although the many bystanders and bemused shoppers soon blocked roads around the store.

03 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

Again, police resources seemed limitless, with at times, nearly as many officers as protesters. Ironic that most of the protesters pay tax, which covers police salaries and overtime, and yet the police were deployed to assist the private security of a huge corporation that aggressively avoids contributing to the UK tax system.

07 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

08 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

Police claimed that the demonstration (mainly on the pavement in front of the shop) was ‘wilfully obstructing the highway’, and they aggressively pushed people away from the shop, but because they didn’t facilitate the protest by providing a space for it to continue, this led to a walkabout and a short visit to the John Lewis store (which also pays its sub-contracted cleaners far less than the Living Wage).

09 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

Topshop used to have a paragraph on their ‘code of conduct’ web page, which stated that they “fully subscribe” to “the concept of a living wage”, but publicity surrounding this vague declaration led to its removal last month.

10 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

The IVW have a great track record and won a major victory in similar actions against Sotheby’s recently. On today’s showing, this powerful campaign looks to continue, and morale and optimism is high that Topshop will have to relent to save public face.

11 UVW Top Shop protests ©2016 @indyrikki

UVW post info about future protests on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/uvwunion)

Current petition: https://www.change.org/p/sotheby-s-london-reinstate-your-cleaners-and-pay-them-the-living-wage/u/16116671?recruiter=187171441&utm_source=share_update&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive