The Independent Workers Union (IWGB) which represents cleaners in John Lewis stores in London will step up its campaign for the London Living Wage in the run up to Christmas. This will include a new protests and industrial action.
The next stage of the campaign commenced with a protest at The Guardian to raise awareness of the vindictive actions of the John Lewis management in sacking a union activist and ‘partner’ (John Lewis worker) at the Westfield Stratford store.
Raph Ashley, a union activist, was sacked by John Lewis on 24 March 2013, after he gave an interview to The Guardian during a strike by cleaners at the Oxford Street store in August 2012.
The window dressing: John Lewis management claim that Raph Ashley made a racist remark – astoundingly this amounted to stating in the canteen that there should be more black and minority ethnic workers employed by John Lewis. In addition he suffered retaliation after exposing the fabrication of temperature records on a fridge storing foodstuffs. Something subsequently admitted to be true!
The reality is he was targeted by John Lewis management because of his trade union activities. On 11 August 2012 the Personnel Manager at John Lewis Stratford investigating The Guardian interview stated that the “Public Relations team had been left with a lot of clearing up to do…”. This was part of a concerted effort to remove Raph Ashley had already been told by management he was not allowed to talk about wages or ask people to join a trade union.
Many ‘partners’ employed directly by John Lewis have expressed sympathy for the cleaners who are paid poverty wages. Raph Ashley is the only ‘partner’ to openly state his support for the cleaners cause. It is no coincidence he was then sacked.
Sadly so far The Guardian has failed to rise to the defence of those who in good faith gave an interview. Freedom of speech cannot be sustained when those who engage with a free press are penalised for doing so. Justice demands that The Guardian to address the actions of John Lewis.