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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TUC to march for a ‘New Deal’ – is it enough?

TUC to march for a ‘New Deal’ – is it enough?

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Saturday 12th May will see tens of thousands of trade unionists and their families take to the streets of central London as part of the TUC organised march,called under the banner of ‘A new deal for working people.’ The Socialist Party is supporting this demonstration – as we point out in the current edition of The Socialist newspaper (which will be available on the march) we believe this demonstration should be a launch pad for coordinated industrial action on pay and against the Tory austerity agenda.

As the following comments from a UNISON shop steward in Coventry point out, we think that the movement needs to go far beyond what the official TUC material puts forward in order to beat back austerity. If you agree with the comments please get in touch, and help us build support for the policies and programme needed for real socialist change.


Comments from a UNISON activist in Coventry, speaking in a personal capacity

The demonstration takes place at a time when the Tory government is in crisis. Torn by splits over Brexit, May lurches from one problem to another – from the NHS to the disgraceful treatment of the Windrush generation. This march could be an ideal springboard to energise the movement in order to step up the fight against the Tories with the clear aim of evicting the government as soon as possible. It is therefore potentially a wasted opportunity that the publicity for the demonstration has not been linked clearly to this aim – in The Socialist this week we propose that the trade union movement must mobilise behind the banner of ‘May out! Tories out! General election now!’

The TUC have called the demonstration under the campaign banner of ‘A new deal for working people’ which is explained in an 8 page document on the TUC website.

The document calls for fair pay, the chance to learn in the workplace, an end to zero hour contracts and many other laudable aims. Unfortunately it has scant detail about how these issues will be won other than to say what the TUC would like to see from politicians and employers. There is no mention of co-ordinated industrial action to win a ‘new deal’, which the TUC could play a key role in organising.

It is worth adding that the TUC has helped, with the right wing leaders of the larger trade unions, to squander a major opportunity in 2011 with the pensions dispute to bring down the coalition government. Meanwhile my own union UNISON has accepted a below inflation pay deal (ie a pay cut) in local government and is battling to get workers in the NHS to accept a poor deal. The National Shop Stewards Network will be holding a major conference on 7th July to discuss how we can build a genuine fightback against austerity and the important role unions can play in this.

Like other TUC material, where there is talk of wanting a ‘fairer’ economy, there is no mention about either the root cause of the problems facing working class people, or what will be required for real improvements in our lives.

The key question is the economy. What type of economy do we need that will put working class people before the profits of the few. The TUC document does not mention this at all. We think that we need to build a movement that can break with the capitalist system. It is impossible to have a ‘fair’ economy under capitalism, where the profits and the interests of a tiny minority will always come first.

Socialists fight for every single improvement we can get under capitalism – higher wages, improving of terms and conditions, decent pensions to name but a few. Stronger, more militant trade unions will be a vital part of this fight.  At the same time under the present system any advances we make will always be of a temporary nature as the capitalists attempt to claw back the gains that our movement makes. That’s why we need to fight for a society that will genuinely be ‘for the many, not the few’; a socialist society that brings in to public ownership the banks, financial institutions and industry under democratic workers control, so we can plan the economy for human need, not private profit.

Lets use this demo as a springboard to get the Tories out, and fight for the only ‘deal’ that can bring real change – socialism.

If you agree, please get in touch!

 

 

 

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!

Support the junior doctors! New strikes announced

Support the junior doctors! New strikes announced

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Picket line at Walsgrave

The union representing junior doctors has just announced a new plan of industrial action. The British Medical Association (BMA) will go on strike against the imposition of the new contract initially for 5 days, beginning on Monday 12th September to Friday 16th September between 8am and 5pm.

The Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition fully supports the junior doctors in their campaign to defend their terms and conditions and the NHS itself.

It is now a critical task that they receive the maximum support of the entire trade union movement. The TUC will hold it’s annual conference in Brighton and it needs to be turned in to a council of war with the aim of building co-ordinated industrial action linking up the many different disputes in the public and private sector to defeat the capitalist austerity agenda of the Tories.

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) will be holding a public rally at TUC conference where the speakers will include Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Ronnie Draper of the BFAWU and many more and will be discussing how we build support for the junior doctors and the opposition to the Tories.