Coventry commemorates International Workers’ Memorial Day

Coventry commemorates International Workers’ Memorial Day

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Trade unionists from across Coventry came together for International Workers’ Memorial Day 

Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day, and an event was held in Coventry to remember those that have died through work related issues, all those that suffer through a lack of appropriate health and safety regulation and increases in workplace stress.

Each year thousands of workers are killed, fall sick or are injured in the workplace. This is linked to increasingly exploitative employment practices such as zero hour contracts and attacks on holiday entitlement and sick pay.

One of the themes this year was the growing ‘Gig economy’ with more workers being employed through companies like Uber and Deliveroo. Joel, a campaigner with Youth Fight for Jobs highlighted this very point, explaining that unless the economy and society are re-organised on socialist lines to put people before profit, things are very bleak for young people under the capitalist system.

Two speakers from Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre told the audience about the problems being faced by workers from abroad. Organising these workers in to trade unions will be a key task for the movement, to ensure everyone has a decent wage and to stop employers and their ‘race to the bottom’.

Other speakers included the Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Skipper, who thanked Coventry TUC for organising the event, Sarah Feeney from UNISON, Stephen Cowden from UCU, JP Rosser from PCS, and Alan Lewis and John Swift from UNITE.

In closing the meeting, Jane Nellist President of Coventry TUC urged those gathered to pledge to “remember the dead and fight for the living”. A key part of that will be building stronger and more militant trade unions, linked to a socialist programme to end the capitalist system that puts profit before the lives and wellbeing of workers and their families.

Coventry TUC have organised a May Day Rally for Saturday 29th April, 11am in Broadgate. One of the main speakers will be John McInally, vice-president of PCS.

Coventry celebrates May Day

Coventry celebrates May Day

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, addresses Coventry rally

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, addresses Coventry rally

A lively rally was held in Coventry city centre earlier today to mark May Day – International Workers’ Day. The gathering, which was entitled ‘Shout out against austerity’ and linked the battle against the cuts with the fight to defeat racism, gained support from many unions and organisations in the city. It also attracted attention from Coventry shoppers who stopped to listen to the many excellent speeches.

Emma from the junior doctors

Emma from the junior doctors

Speakers included Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Emma from the junior doctors, Sarah Smith from Save Coventry Libraries, David Kersey from UNISON, Kris O’Sullivan from Youth Fight for Jobs and suspended Labour Party member Darrall Cozens speaking for Momentum.

Kris addressing the crowd

Kris addressing the crowd

Young worker and student Kris O’Sullivan, in bringing solidarity from Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Students, outlined how workers and students need to unite against the attacks, whether it be around wages, housing or jobs, in a common fightback.

Coventry against Racism and Fascism

Coventry against Racism and Fascism

A major protest against the plans of the English Defence League to march in Coventry on Saturday 21st May is planned and speakers urged maximum attendance at this event, to show opposition to those that seek to divide working class people.

Jane Nellist, secretary of Coventry TUC with Sarah Smith

Jane Nellist, secretary of Coventry TUC with Sarah Smith

Many speakers made the link between the cuts taking place in our city with the need to fight not only austerity, but the capitalist system that breeds unemployment, racism, homelessness, environmental destruction and an uncertain future for working class people. May Day gives us an opportunity to redouble our efforts to fight for a socialist future across the planet. Socialist Party members gave out hundreds of leaflets advertising the election campaign of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and sold 40 copies of the May Day special issue of our weekly newspaper, The Socialist.

 

 

Zero-hour contracts and hand to mouth misery

Zero-hour contracts and hand to mouth misery

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Scrap Zero Hour Contracts!

We carry below an article by a young worker based in Coventry regarding his experiences in precarious jobs on low pay. The article was originally printed in The Socialist, the weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party. To subscribe to The Socialist, click here

By Dan Smart

Life on low pay and precarious contracts is a hand-to-mouth existence. You are forced to live from week to week with little ability to plan for the future.

When you aren’t told the hours you will be working that week until the day before, it can feel like walking a tightrope. It might be 60 hours, or just six.

Questions are always on your mind – will the rent get paid this month? Will I be able to afford to pay the bills and do the food shop?

Not being able to plan in advance also makes having a social life difficult. Living for the moment becomes a necessity.

The sort of job I previously saw as a temporary interlude, before moving onto something more secure and rewarding, has become the long-term prospect. As bosses look for more ways of cutting costs and maximising profits, workers’ pay and conditions are driven into the dirt. The options are becoming more limited, with insecure and zero-hour contracts becoming the norm.

I have experienced many jobs working under these conditions. At Tesco’s cafe, I was told I would get no more hours for a fortnight and that I could expect a call to let me know when I would be working again.

The call never came, and it turned out I had unofficially been sacked. The contract made it impossible for me to dispute the decision, and made it more convenient and less embarrassing for management.

The working atmosphere is often very competitive. Even for such low-paid work, we are required to battle fiercely for shifts.

This is highly beneficial to employers, as it makes people work harder and keep their heads down. It makes unionisation particularly difficult, as workers struggle to hold on to the little they have, not wanting to take any risks. With these divide and rule tactics, workers compete with their colleagues rather than organising collectively.

Exhausting

You often end up with the contradictory situation of some scraping by on barely any hours, while others work an exhausting amount. I have known workers to take 17 hour shifts (these were split shifts, which nevertheless have the added annoyance of leaving you waiting around for hours unpaid).

And at an agency I was with, they ask people to meet at 4.30am, to travel for hours unpaid, and work a 12 hour shift. Then do the same again the next day!

There are numerous other examples of poor working conditions I have witnessed. Friends turning up for shifts in the morning just to be sent home. Managers refusing to use people’s names, instead referring to them as ‘agency one’ and so on. And impossible targets resulting in an incredibly high turnover of staff.

Many young workers’ expectations of the working environment are far too low. We need to start getting organised now to demand decent pay, at least £10 an hour, and a quality standard of living.

The struggles in the US for $15 an hour and the fast food workers strikes are fantastic examples of how we can get organised, struggle and win!


The Socialist Party calls for:

  • A minimum wage of £10 an hour as a step towards a real living wage
  • No exemptions – a living wage for all, regardless of age
  • For an annual increase in the minimum wage linked to the real cost of living
  • End the pay freeze now
  • End zero-hour contracts and all forced under-employment
  • Investment in a massive programme to create socially useful jobs
  • All workers, including part-timers, temps, casual and migrant workers to have trade union rates of pay, employment protection, and sickness and holiday rights from day one of employment

 

Why we’re protesting against austerity

Why we’re protesting against austerity

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We asked some of the people supporting the anti-austerity protest in Coventry on Wednesday 27th at 5pm in Broadgate why they believe it is important to take part. The protest has been initiated by Youth Fight for Jobs and has the backing of Coventry TUC, Coventry Unison, and Coventry Peoples Assembly.

Here’s what they said.

Non Frenguelli, an 18 year old school student 

Non Frenguelli

Non Frenguelli

“I’m protesting, not only because of the Tories’ previous privatisations of vital services such as the Post Office and the outsourcing of disability benefits to ATOS whose “fitness-for-work” assessment has wreaked havoc for hundreds of disabled people, but also because of the recent announcement to sell £780million of the NHS to 11 private firms. From recent privatisations of the NHS we have seen that it is inefficient and provides poor treatment for patients, further privatisation will be a disaster for the public. Cameron has promised the world’s first seven day healthcare service but that’s an absolute joke if his current plans for mass privatisation go ahead unhindered. My friends and I will be at the protest to show our anger at the government’s austerity plans and to show solidarity to those who are suffering under his regime.”

Sarah Smith, campaigner against library closures

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith

“I’m protesting because Coventry Council wants to close Tile Hill library, Sure Start centre and youth centre, which will rip the heart out of this community. Every library outside the City Centre is threatened with closure – we shouldn’t let them close any!”

Nicky Downes, local teacher and TUSC candidate

Nicky Downes

Nicky Downes

“I will be standing alongside young people and students at the protest on Wednesday in defence of education and city services. This government is blaming teachers and schools through unnecessary testing, slashing budgets and enforcing privatisation through academisation. It is doing nothing to improve the life chances of young people or to end child poverty. We did not vote them in and we will fight back against all cuts to jobs and services.”

Aidan O’Toole, a Coventry Uni student

Aidan protesting at Cov Uni

Aidan protesting at Cov Uni

“I’m supporting the protest because young people didn’t cause this crisis, but we’re paying for it. We’ve had tuition fees trebled, EMA taken away and housing benefit for young people slashed. Most of us can’t get jobs, and the jobs we can get are mostly low paid and on zero-hour contracts. Young people didn’t vote for Cameron’s austerity – but teenagers who can’t even vote are going to suffer because of him.”

The protest is on Wednesday May 27th at 5pm in Broadgate. Please join us and build the fightback against austerity!

We encourage people to attend the massive anti austerity demonstration in London on 20th June organised by the People’s Assembly. There will be transport from Coventry, get in touch to find out more.

To put an end to austerity we will need to build a socialist movement to end capitalism. To help us and to get involved, click here