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Arrest on London picket line

A barrister has spoken of his outrage after being hand-cuffed by police on a picket line in London. He was Franck Magennis of Garden Court Chambers, who is seconded to the UVW (United Voices of the World) union as the head of the legal department.

This was day one of a two-day strike by contract security staff at St George’s University of London, which contracts out security to Bidvest Noonan.

The union said that Met Police officers issued workers and union officials with a letter from the university saying that the picket needed to take place outside of NHS property. Police officers then warned all workers and union officials that they would be arrested if they failed to leave the property within five minutes.

Franck Magennis said: “If my false imprisonment goes unchallenged, that would allow the Metropolitan Police to criminalise what is lawful civil activity, and would have a chilling effect on workers’ ability to stand up to bosses and exercise their civil liberties. Anyone concerned with a worker’s right to take industrial action, and with a citizen’s right not to be arbitrarily arrested, should be seriously concerned about the way the police have acted today. Workers should be allowed to go on strike without being threatened with arrest.”

More strikes are planned later in the month, and next month. St George’s said that it acknowledged the right of striking workers to picket, but added that the union had been advised that picketing was required to take place outside the boundaries of the site as the NHS Trust is the University’s landlord.

One of the complaints of striking staff is their pay and conditions compared with in-house staff. The university said that in 2016 it reviewed bringing its outsourced facility services in-house. The Strategy, Planning and Resourcing Committee, the university’s most senior executive committee at the time, carefully considered, and concluded that St George’s did not have the capacity and capability to bring its security in-house.

The January 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine features other strike and industrial action at the University of London (page 21). King’s College London in August took its cleaning and security staff back in-house.

Background

St George’s is based in a hospital (St George’s, Tooting, south London) and is the only UK uni so based. The Channel 4 television series 24 hours in A&E is filmed there.


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