Socialist Worker

Don’t let them take away our right to demonstrate

Issue No. 1923a

BOSSES AT Canary Wharf in east London, where many multinational companies have their headquarters, have used a court injunction to prevent a demonstration in support of low paid cleaners.

The workers are locked in a battle for a living wage. The TGWU union, which represents many of the cleaners, had planned to hold a march on Canary Wharf as part of the ESF.

Following the injunction, anti-capitalist group Globalise Resistance have pledged to march today to defend freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate.

Chris Nineham from Globalise Resistance spoke to Socialist Worker:

“This wasn’t justice. This was one long discussion between a rich judge and a rich barrister about how to gag the protest on his clients’ land.

“As well as serving an injunction on me and the TGWU union, which had initially supported the march, they also served an injuction on persons unknown—on anyone who wanted to come.

“The court is also a theatre of intimidation. They made it quietly clear that if you didn’t keep to the injunction you would end up with fines and costs of tens of thousands of pounds, or worse.

“They tried to make me jump through hoops and repudiate any protest. But we challenged all the arguments one by one.

“It was a terrible shame that the TGWU didn’t even show up in court. Our movement has a duty to show that we will not be gagged by the corporations.”

Radical film director Ken Loach has agreed to speak at today’s protest.

Last night at the ESF he organised a special screening of his film Bread and Roses in support of the cleaners. His film tells the story of low paid janitors in Los Angeles.

Loach told Socialist Worker, “It’s important for people to get a decent living for a full week’s work, not poverty wages. This sort of campaign brings together three very important strands—firstly the issue of low pay, secondly the exploitation of immigrants, and thirdly the irresponsibility and greed of the big corporations.”

The film director is a supporter of the Respect coalition, which has challenged Labour in recent elections. Loach says, “When I go to the demo in support of the clearners I’ll be a bit cheeky.

“I’ll say the best way to campaign is to join Respect, because Respect want to address all these issues.”

Paul Laverty, who wrote Bread and Roses, joined Loach for the screening. Laverty says, “The Canary Wharf campaign is very similar to the Justice for Janitors campaign covered in Bread and Roses.

“The workers there were facing very low wages with no sick pay, pensions or paid holidays, and a lot of the workers were illegal immigrants at the time. But they still fought for their rights.

“The SEIU union, which represented the workers, were very creative in their response to the corporations when they were served with injunctions.”

According to Kevin Doyle, executive vice-president of the SEIU in New York, many of the companies at Canary Wharf are “the same companies we deal with every day in New York”.

He told Socialist Worker, “These companies should be held accountable in the US for what they do over here.”

Protest to defend freedom of speech and the right to march, today at 4.30pm, Marsh Wall, on the corner of Mastmaker Road (access from Canary Wharf tube). Some activists will be gathering at Euston station at 3pm to travel to the protest together.

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Thu 14 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1923a
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