Tag Archives: Living Wage

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

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Protest at TopShop over London Living Wage

01 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

Yesterday afternoon saw the launch of a new campaign by the grassroots union, United Voices of the World, which represents key workers in London’s outsourced economy – the porters, cleaners, shop assistants, security guards and so on – jobs characterised by precarious contracts and low pay.

 The UVW union has no paid officials and runs on goodwill, solidarity and small subscriptions. It represents mainly Latin American migrant workers, but is open and welcoming to all. For such a shoestring enterprise it has an astonishingly successful track record in defending workers at numerous Employment Tribunal cases, winning its members tens of thousands of pounds in settlements and also gaining living wage agreements for hundreds of workers in just a few short years.

 Its biggest victory has been a historic agreement for sub-contracted staff (security and cleaners) at the world-renowned Sotheby’s auction house in Mayfair. After UVW’s series of boisterous and embarrassing protests during public auctions, an agreement has been reached committing Servest (the company contracted to provide services to Sotheby’s) to not only pay the London Living Wage, but also to offer Occupational Sick Pay, the first time outsourced private sector employees have been offered anything more than the far smaller Statutory Sick Pay. (my Sotheby’s reports and pics 1 2

 So, UVW have now turned their attention to London High Street retailers, beginning at TopShop with a 100-strong protest at their flagship Oxford Circus store yesterday afternoon. This will be the first living wage campaign targeted at a fashion retailer in the UK.

02 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

 With drums, horns, cowbells, a megaphone and loud chanting, the crowd drew much attention from passers-by and shoppers.

08 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

After some short speeches from Union organisers and TopShop cleaners, a good-natured attempt to enter the store was repelled by security staff, and then a line of police helped block the main entrance.

03 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

06 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

The drumming and chanting created a carnival atmosphere in the Spring-like sunshine, and at times the road was filled with interested onlookers. Volunteers handed out hundreds of leaflets highlighting the disparity between the massive profits reported by Philip Green’s Arcadia Group (registered under his wife’s name in a Monaco tax haven), and the poverty-inducing wages paid to staff (expected to rise in line with minimum wage to £7.20 per hour from April).

05 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

07 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

The campaign is pushing for a London Living Wage of £9.40 per hour (based on scientific methodology and the true cost of living). This is not to be confused with George Osborne’s promise of a ‘living wage’ by 2020, which is actually merely a rebranding of the minimum wage and is not related to the cost of living.

Many of the workers are actually sub-contracted and work for Brittania Services Group, but despite TopShop’s own Code of Conduct claiming to subscribe to the concept of the “living wage”, the retailer has not taken any action to promote this “concept” for its staff.

After a couple of hours, the protest went on a walkabout, briefly blocking Oxford Circus before visiting and briefly invading John Lewis.

09 UVW TopShop ©@indyrikki

Despite a campaign involving comedian/activist Mark Thomas a couple of years ago, this supposedly ethical store still sub-contracts its cleaners at rates impossible to live on in the capital.

The UVW is planning to target the Science Museum and the Daily Mail in a series of further actions this year.

They have launched this petition relating to TopShop.

 

 

 

 

 

John Lewis Cleaners Xmas Ad 2013

This is a parody of the £7 million John Lewis Xmas TV advertisement.

Mark Thomas and friends visited the Sloane Square branch of Peter Jones (part of the John Lewis partnership), and decorated the toy department cartoon grotto where children are invited to pose with cartoon characters from the notorious advert. Mark and co added placards so that the hare, the bear and the other woodland creatures showed support for the John Lewis cleaners who are earning between £6.87 and £7.02 per hour, way below the London Living Wage of £8.80.

The cleaners are currently sub-contracted (to a firm called Integrated Cleaning Management), but despite previous pressure from the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) and other activists, the John Lewis Partners continue to resist the suggestion that the cleaners should be treated like other John Lewis workers and benefit from the partnership scheme, which the public widely recognises as an ethical bonus to shopping at the chain.

While the stunt (part of Mark Thomas’ 100 acts of minor dissent’) was being carried out this afternoon, other activists were staging a protest outside the Oxford Street flagship John Lewis store, handing out leaflets to shoppers to spread the word about the store’s intransigence and poor treatment of workers. They also staged an invasion of the shop (caught on camera by the excellent Peter Marshall)