September Campaign Update

Eighth demonstration a great success

New media coverage

£180 in donations since August

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On 27th August we held the first in another series of demonstrations, in response to management breaking their word to negotiate over the summer. We were very pleased to see a large turnout of demonstrators outside Friends House. In particular, we really appreciate the solidarity shown to us by our fellow workers from the IWGB, the United Voices of the World, UNISON and UCU, whose members came to support our action. Please contact us if you are interested in taking a solidarity motion to your union branch.

The response from passers by was also fantastic. Everyone we talked to was supportive and many potential Friends House customers decided to take their business elsewhere, shocked at what had happened. Some people even went in to Friends House to explain to staff and customers why they weren’t going to shop there!

You can read more about the demonstration in the Camden New Journal.

Lastly, we’re overjoyed that since relaunching the campaign we’ve had £180 in contributions to the campaign fund, along with more signatures on the petition. Thank you to everyone who has donated and signed!

We will be released the details of our next action soon; until then, keep signing and sharing!

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Eighth Demonstration: 27th August

On 3rd August we broke the news that Friends House management have broken their commitment to negotiate. Despite agreeing to talks about all three of our cases, managers are instead now insisting on excluding a specific one of us, in what is clearly an attempt to divide-and-rule.

Join us on 27th August to say that management’s decision to sack three trade unionists on zero-hours contracts was unacceptable and that their divide-and-rule tactics will not be tolerated!

WHERE: Friends House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ

WHEN: 12noon to 3pm, Thursday 27th August

Facebook event here.

Please sign our petition here and, if you can, donate to our campaign here. This campaign has been long, and so has placed heavy burdens on the three workers and the IWW. Furthermore, we are pursuing the last formal avenue available to us: an employment tribunal, which will take place in the next couple of months. Since changes to the law by the last government, tribunals are (deliberately) very expensive; and Friends House management retain the services of expensive professional lawyers. If you have the funds to donate to our crowdfunding campaign, this will help us afford the material and legal costs of our fight for justice. All donations, small or large, are hugely appreciated.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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Campaign relaunches as management break promise to negotiate

Petition passes 1,000 signatures

More actions to come

Employment tribunal in the pipeline

After a quiet few months, our campaign is back. Why the period of silence? At the end of April we called off a large action planned for Britain Yearly Meeting (the annual conference of British Quakers), which happened to coincide with International Workers’ Day. We did this because, at the last minute, we received written confirmation that, while they still refused to negotiate with the IWW, Friends House management were willing to negotiate with Unite on all three of the sacked workers’ cases. Acting in good faith, and hoping for a resolution to over half a year of torment, we suspended our actions while negotiations were going on.

But management did not keep their word. After a few fruitless meetings with Unite they revealed their real position: despite their written commitment, managers admitted that they would not negotiate on all of cases, insisting instead on excluding a specific one of us.

Management have released a tendentious statement saying that they ‘engaged in an active process with Unite’ and that Unite ‘does not intend to pursue this matter further.’ What they fail to explain is that negotiations have failed because they broke their commitment and refused to negotiate over one of our cases, in what is clearly an attempt to divide-and-rule us.

So it’s time to put on the pressure again. We have been greatly encouraged by the fact that since our last action we passed the 1,000-signature mark on our petition. And we’ve received more kind messages of support, some of which we have now published on here.

We still believe we lost our jobs unjustly, so intend to continue pursuing reinstatement, lost wages, and compensation for material hardship and mental and physical ill-health caused by the decisions of the Friends House Hospitality Company.

We are pursuing the formal avenue of an employment tribunal, which will take place in the next couple of months. Since changes to the law by the last government, tribunals are (deliberately) very expensive; and Friends House management retain the services of expensive professional lawyers. If you have the funds to donate to our crowdfunding campaign, this will help us afford the material and legal costs of our fight for justice.

Until then we will be continuing our campaign of direct action. If you want to help us in the meantime, you can:

  • keep signing and sharing the petition, and
  • most importantly, keep an eye on this blog for announcements regarding actions, and then come along!

Thanks to everyone for your support so far.

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Messages of Support (3)

Since our last update in April we’ve reached 1,000 signatures to our petition, through which we’ve received many kind messages of support. Presented below are some of these messages we’ve received since we published a selections in February and April.

Ewan Brady, Stirling

As a life-long Quaker, I find this news appalling. The managerialism displayed at Friends House here runs contrary to the ethics we, as Quakers, are meant to embody.

Chris Litchfield, Washington DC

In the US, Quakers are a leading force for social justice, and often actively support IWW organizing… it would be a shame for our British counterparts to fall short of that standard.

Nick Tischler, Cambridge

As a Friend, I am “disappointed” to hear of this affair. Even more so to hear about intimidatory disciplinary procedures. Perhaps you should hold a Meeting for Clearness to discern a better course of action.

Charles Pottins, Ruislip

As one of many visitors to Friends House over the years, and user of the restaurant, I expect the ethical values to include decent treatment of staff.

Paul Howell, London

Friends House has moved too far away from its Quaker values in the pursuit of profit. Reinstate your ethical values.

Wendy Scott, Philadelphia

Keep the workers and stop sacking. Member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Friends General Conference.

Grigorii Medvedev, Brighton

Used to visit there on lunchtimes, won’t go there again until this shameful situation is resolved.

Andrew McDonald, London

I’m appalled that Quakers could exploit people in this way and then sack them. This brings shame on the name of the Quakers.

Robert Lawrence, Shrewsbury

As an Ackworth Old Scholar, I am shocked at the treatment of these workers. Re-instate them and take the Moral path once more.

Alan Hampson, Manchester

The Friends have always been a beacon of ethical and responsible business practice – if the managers involved cannot act accordingly, then it is they who should be sacked.

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April Campaign Update

450+ new petition signatures in 3 weeks

New messages of support published online

Will management come to the negotiating table?

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In late March we held our seventh protest outside Friends House – this time to coincide with the This Changes Everything conference. We received huge support from the organisers and attendees on the day, and have been buoyed by the massive response in the three weeks since: more than 450 new signatures to our petition, doubling our signatures to over 900! We’re hoping to get to 1,000 by the start of May – if you haven’t signed yet, you still can here.

Many have also chosen to add a message of support to their signature. Last week we published a selection of our favourite new messages online – you can read them here. And details of our campaign have now been translated and published on the German-speaking IWW website – some great international solidarity!

The groundswell of support is having an effect: while management still refuse to negotiate with the IWW, discussions are taking place with the recognised Unite the Union branch, of which all three zero-hours workers were members when they were sacked, and still are. We hope that these discussions will lead to a satisfactory settlement in line with the workers’ demands.

On 20th April we wrote to Friends House management giving them until 29th April to commit in writing to negotiations in good faith about the grievances of all three of the sacked zero-hours workers. If we can get to 1,000 signatures on our petition by then, it will really put the reputational pressure on management. Please sign and share the petition with your networks and friends.

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Messages of Support (2)

Since our last action outside This Changes Everything on 28th March we’ve had hundreds more signatures to our petition, bringing us to a total of 749. Presented below are some messages of support we’ve received since we published a selection in February.

Alastair McIver, UK

I’m quite distressed to hear that my fellow Quakers are behaving in this way. I urge you to ask yourselves whether this is consistent with our core beliefs and values.

Marc Hewitson, Sutton

I am a Quaker and am disgusted with the behaviour of Friends House in the name of Quakers.

Eleanor Lamb, London

The society of friends has been important in my life, I attended meetings for four years every week, have stayed in quaker hostels and attended the summer school in Geneva. To me this seems at odds with quaker principles. Please reinstate the sacked workers!

Gill Kafash, London

I’m shocked by this behaviour of Friends House. I thought Quakers were one of the few organisations which try to live according to their ethics.

Russ McPherson, Teddington

I have direct, first-hand experience of the indignity and uncertainty of zero hours contracts, and their use by ostensibly ethical employers. I therefore hope that the Quakers negotiate more secure terms of employment for ALL the sacked Friends House employees.

Ruby Cox, Worthing

I’m a Quaker and a trade unionist and this is utterly shameful.

Heather Kennedy, London

It’s very worrying that an organisation that’s supposed to stand for social justice can treat people in this way. As a long standing supporter of the Quakers I hope these staff are reinstated as soon as possible. I’ll certainly be supporting any campaigning that happens until they are.

Robyn Fell, Darlington

I expect better from Friends with whom I’ve been associated all my adult life.

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March Campaign Update

Next action at national climate conference, 28th March

Management refuse to negotiate with IWW

Coverage of campaign in mainstream media & Quaker press

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The campaign for reinstatement of the three sacked zero-hours hospitality workers at Friends House continues to gather pace. Since our last update in February, we have received hundreds of signatures on our online petition and several hundreds of pounds in donations; we held another well-attended demonstration, our sixth, on 26th February; and the campaign has been covered in the Independent, the I, The Friend, The Young Quaker, and the Industrial Worker (see here). We also published online a selection of the many kind messages of support we have received from Quakers around the world (see here).

Meanwhile, at the beginning of February, the IWW referred the dispute to ACAS to engage in their Early Conciliation process. Friends House senior management, for their part, have made no attempt to meet with the IWW through ACAS to resolve the dispute, and the conciliation period has now come to an end. With management refusing to negotiate, the next step is an Employment Tribunal, a very costly process; donations, no matter how small, will be appreciated (see here).

Most importantly, on Saturday 28th March, the London IWW will be outside Friends House once again: this time to coincide with This Changes Everything, a participatory gathering featuring Naomi Klein, aimed at linking economic inequality with the climate crisis: “Our economic system puts profits before people”. It is clear that Friends House are quite willing to use their well-known ‘ethical credentials’ to generate a profit. That the hosts of this conference about global injustice themselves perpetuate the same inequalities and oppressive behaviours in their own business is a fact that we believe the attendees of This Changes Everything need to know. We will therefore be present outside the building before and during the event.

We ask you to join us, and invite colleagues and friends:

Where: Friends House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ

When: 8.45-9.45am and 12.30-2.00pm, Saturday 28th March

Facebook event here.

To be clear, we are not targeting the conference itself. Our aim is to inform, discuss, and shine a spotlight on the behaviour of this ‘ethical employer’. We hope you can join us! If you can’t this time, there’s many other ways you can support our campaign (see here).

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