Support for the Wetherspoon workers on strike, from a former kitchen assistant

Support for the Wetherspoon workers on strike, from a former kitchen assistant

We received the following article from a trade unionist and former Wetherspoon employee in Coventry.

As a former employee of Wetherspoon who worked in the kitchens, I completely support the strike by the staff at The Bright Helm and The Post & Telegraph in Brighton. The staff deserve a decent living wage, and union recognition to fight the exploitation they routinely face at work.

Let’s talk about the wages first of all.

Tim Martin, chairman and founder of Wetherspoon, was a vocal opponent of the Tories’ paltry “National Living Wage” and any minimum wage increases beyond that. He claimed such increases in wages for his staff would force pubs to close.

His estimated worth is £448 million, and in 2017 Wetherspoon pulled in a net worth of over £56 million. Meanwhile his staff are frequently in debt, sometimes with half their income going on rent alone.

Students working at the pubs grab all the hours they can get in between lectures, losing vital study time so they can balance their income alongside the failed student loan system.

Non-students tend to work over 40 hours a week so they can make a reasonable living off of their wages. I witnessed one kitchen assistant break down into tears after finding out her boyfriend had lost his job. She would have to work all the hours she could to make up the difference, and she was already doing over 40 hours a week. To add to the hurt, for the next hour after hearing this news she was the only person working in the kitchen – so all work was on her.

A real living wage of £10 an hour would end the suffering of poverty and debt of a large number of Wetherspoon’s 37,000 employees. With the huge wealth of Wetherspoon and its top bosses, it can easily afford a pay increase.

Now there’s the huge range of issues of working conditions.

I’ve never known a Wetherspoon kitchen that was ever well-staffed.

The workers are almost constantly under stress, and the emotional toll becomes clear after a couple of months working there.

Staff are angry at each other, every lunch and dinner shift involves shouting and swearing and frustration.

At the busiest times and on closing shifts, staff can be discouraged from taking the breaks they have a legal right to, because there are not enough staff to manage the kitchen.

Everyone gets burns. Its a fact of working in the Wetherspoon kitchen. At lunch and dinner you’re too busy to pick up protective equipment – if the kitchen has any – to move hot food out of the microwaves, to take care when handling the deep fryers or managing the large grills.

Officially there is a myriad of rules in place to prevent workplace injuries, and to deal with and report any injuries that may occur. The reality is with short-staffing the kitchen cannot manage its demand of completing all meals within 10 minutes if 1 or as few as 3 staff at lunchtime has to take a short break to deal with a burn for 5 minutes, and certainly not when only one person is left in the kitchen. It just doesn’t happen.

In short, reaching targets while under-staffed and boosting the huge profits of the business becomes far more important that the well-being of the staff.

Trade unions are necessary in a workplace like Wetherspoon to properly represent workers and provide a strong collective voice for their demands. Wetherspoon workers do not want to be short-staffed continuously, they do not want to suffer burns and other injuries, they want their right to take breaks respected, and they want a workplace free of stress in which they can work professionally and be proud of what they do.

The upcoming strikes are a small but fantastic sign of the growing organisation of young workers in precarious employment where it has been so difficult to effectively organise before, and where such grotesque exploitation as described above has been rampant. Just after the strike ballots at Wetherspoon were announced, 18-20 year old pay rates were abolished and an annual pay award was brought forward from April 2019 to November 2018. That is the result of only two pubs out of nearly 1,000 pubs and hotels under the Wetherspoon chain taking action. This clearly demonstrates the power that workers have when they come together and organise to make demands. If you fight, you can win!

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Students and workers unite for huge protest at Warwick Uni

Students and workers unite for huge protest at Warwick Uni

Students and staff marching at Warwick

On the 5th day of the UCU strikes, students and University staff organised a massive demonstration in Warwick University today. Despite the cold and snow, there was a great turnout to the demonstration that followed the picket lines, which well over 100 people attended. After chanting and listening to UCU members, a huge contingent of students and staff marched around the University campus, showing their determination in fighting against the pension cuts.

This vibrant and energetic march ended outside the University House. Jane Nellist, NUT executive member for the West Midlands and a Socialist Party member, delivered a brilliant and inspirational speech to the students and lecturers at the of the demonstration, bringing solidarity from trade unions. She rightly pointed out the importance of uniting all forces of society against cuts and austerity policies imposed by the Tories and the fat-cats. Undoubtedly, the neoliberal agenda of the Tories is attacking every aspect of life, including universities and public services.

 

Jane Nellist speaking at the protest

Yesterday there was news that UCU and Universities UK (UUK) have agreed to attempt arbitration through the industrial conciliation service Acas. The upcoming days will show us what will come out of these discussions. At the time being, however, picket lines are planned for next week commencing the 5th of March. But in any case, students and University staff have proved today their determination to fight back against any cuts imposed by the government, and have shown the fact that working people will win if they are all united.

Dave Nellist speaks at Birmingham bin workers picket line – join the protest this Sunday!

Dave Nellist speaks at Birmingham bin workers picket line – join the protest this Sunday!

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Bin workers attending the National Shop Stewards Network conference

Former Coventry Militant Labour MP Dave Nellist recently spoke on the picket line of the Birmingham bin workers dispute, which has resumed after the Labour council reneged on a deal they had agreed with the union. Watch the video below:

Workers have been issued with redundancy notices after the council withdrew an offer which meant there would be no redundancies. Other workers also face a £4000 a year pay cut.

There is a rally to support the bin workers being held in Birmingham on Sunday 17th September at 11am outside the council officers. Please come along to show solidarity with the workers in this dispute!

3 years on from the J1O strike

3 years on from the J10 strike

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Ginger Jentzen address the rally

Today marks 3 years since public sector workers in Coventry and across the country took action against pay cuts, attacks on pensions and in defence of public services. It gave a glimpse of the power of workers from different unions striking together. Here in Coventry the strike was very well supported, with workers being given a boost by Socialist Alternative member Ginger Jentzen who was visiting from the United States. Ginger spoke at a 500 strong rally in Broadgate Square bringing solidarity from American workers and Socialist Alternative in the US.  To see pictures and reports of the picket lines, read our article here.

With the focus being brought back on to public sector pay, trade union members and activists needs to discuss the lessons of previous pay campaigns in order to make sure this time we win a decent pay rise as well as getting rid of the Tories. We encourage readers of this site to have a look at the article by Socialist Party trade union organiser Rob Williams who discusses how we can take the movement forward.

Want to help break the pay cap and get the Tories out? Fill in the form below!

 

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

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DWP workers take strike action in Coventry

By a Jobcentre worker and PCS union member

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has disgracefully announced that almost 1 in 10 Jobcentres nationally will be closed. Along with this, two other Jobcentres that were originally meant to stay open are also now due to close.

Of the original 78 Jobcentres earmarked for closure, only 6 will stay open, and 11 of the 80 planned to ‘co-locate’ have been spared – although this is only due to the lack of space in council buildings!

One of the Jobcentres which will close by the end of March next year is Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre – with a government proposal/consultation response stating that it is reasonable for claimants to travel further on public to ‘sign on’, despite the threat of a sanction for missing or being late to an appointment!

The u-turn on the closure of some of the Jobcentres, such as Glasgow Castlemilk, is an example of the potential for victory that can come from a co-ordinated campaign involving trade unions, claimants, and other groups such as DPAC. This mass action is needed across the board to prevent the closure of any more Jobcentres – which will see hundreds of job losses and have a damaging impact on the most vulnerable in society.

Workers at Sheffield Eastern Avenue Jobcentre had a week-long walkout in June, and will be going out on strike between 17-21 July.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“It is utterly disgraceful that DWP is pressing ahead with these closures.

“This Tory government is abandoning unemployed, sick and disabled people, making it harder for them to access the services they need, and putting jobcentre jobs at risk. We will continue to oppose these plans in every way we can.”

The Socialist Party says:

• Oppose all closures! For a mass campaign involving unions, claimants and other groups to end this attack on workers and claimants alike!

Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Coventry postal worker responds to closure of Royal Mail pension scheme

Striking postal workers in Coventry

Royal Mail have announced plans to close the current Defined Benefit pension scheme in March 2018. The following response was written by a postal worker and Communication Workers Union (CWU) member in Coventry.

Their plan is to put members into an inferior alternative, with no certainty of what members would earn – workers could lose up to a third of their future pensions.
The consultation with the CWU and postal workers have been swept aside as Royal Mail seems determined to undermine terms and conditions, pay and pensions since privatisation in October 2013.

The CWU have rightly spoken out condemning the possible imposition of these pension changes without agreement, but words need to be turned into action very quickly or postal workers like me will stand to face a future of poverty in retirement.

Royal Mail claim they cannot afford to keep paying the current pension, even though it has found £650m to pay shareholders dividends over the last three years.

For workers like me, retirement is fast becoming an elusive dream as the Tory government move the retirement age higher and higher. What chance have I got to live out the rest of my years with some kind of comfort if the government and my employer ‘robs’ the very pension I have worked for?

Royal Mail have not listened to the thousands who voiced their concerns during the consultation and so the CWU need to gather the workforce behind an all-out battle to defend our rights for a decent pension.

It is pretty clear that Royal Mail have no intention of changing their objective of rewarding shareholders while punishing the workforce, so only a clear call to strike action is the only course of action that will get Royal Mail to change course.

Working class families have been paying the price since the banking crisis of 2007/08 and we are all living with the effects of cuts to services every day.

The need for co-ordinated action across all unions against the attack on our pensions and pay is stronger than ever – we have had enough of seeing the top 1% getting richer from hammering us into the ground.

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

Tile Hill Jobcentre facing closure

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Coventry PCS members in the DWP taking strike action

This article was sent to us by a local member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents DWP staff.

The DWP has revealed that Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre will be one of the many offices facing closure over the next few years.

This will place more pressure on claimants to travel further and at greater expense to “sign on” – and risk facing sanctions for being late or failing to turn up.

There is also the potential for hundreds of job losses across the country, with Tile Hill being just one of the sites earmarked for closure. Glasgow is facing the closure of 8 out of its 16 Jobcentres. The PCS union, representing civil servants and including staff who work in Jobcentres, has said it opposes all of the planned closures.. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said the union “will vigorously fight any attempt to force DWP workers out of their jobs”.

The potential for hundreds of job losses comes at a time when there are already drastic cuts being planned for the Civil Service Compensation Scheme – which for many will mean being made redundant on the cheap. The office closures must also been seen in the light of this governments continued attacks on the working class – the brutal cuts in welfare and to local services.

Sadly “The Job Shop” has also been threatened with closure. This is a “double whammy” for people who want to get back into work, as both the DWP and Coventry Council are closing services designed to help them find employment!

A strong campaign including claimants, Jobcentre workers and trade unions is needed to fight sanctions and cuts. The PCS has a proud record of campaigning against welfare cuts.

If we are to ultimately defeat cuts, we need to take on the system which demands them. Capitalism in crisis tries to boost its profits by slashing jobs and wages, and cutting big business tax bills. The alternative is to fight for a socialist society, run for the millions not the millionaires.