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Workers Rights


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From: The Socialist issue 358, 7 August 2004: Wealth Gap Widens Under Blair

Search site for keywords: Workers Rights

'We Need Workers' Rights'

THE COMPANY that I work for is, by all accounts, a reputable place to work. The job is in retail but pays a decent wage (for shop work), offers a reasonable discount rate and in the main it is a pleasant environment to work in, (other than when the air conditioning breaks down and you feel like a hot dog trapped in a car with no windows open).

Kate, shopworker

So when I am standing at a till point with a sale sticker in one hand and a price list in the other, it appears to me that this is quite normal behaviour for mid-July in a shop; 'Sale Time', my managers squeal at us all so enthusiastically it's a little bit scary.

However what does not seem so normal is that it is 1.30 in the morning, I've been at work since 6pm, had a twenty minute break where a packet of crisps and an orange juice was the most they could offer. But I am told to rest assured because a taxi home is being paid for!

If this was my last shift at work and I wasn't expecting any sort of reference from management, what I would have screamed out was: "How can you expect us to work like this? It's half one in the morning, we've only had a twenty minute break, we're tired and hungry and we're still not getting paid any more than our normal hourly rate?"

But then I look around and realise that the manager who is so adamant that we'll get the shop finished and 'we' are going to make so much money doesn't have much say in the matter herself. She has to be back in work at seven the same morning to show the area manager around the shop.

Some say we don't need unions because we have statutory laws to make sure we're working in the right conditions, but who's enforcing these laws at half one in the morning?

We are all (managers included) just the workers at the bottom of the chain, making thousands of pounds each day for the big guys at the top and no matter how hard I work and regardless of the amount of rude inconsiderate customers I continue to smile at I still get paid 6.66 on hour.

But what makes this whole affair even more sickening is that I know we're not the only ones, because as I travel through Oxford Street in my company paid taxi at 1.45am the street is like a ghost town apart from all the workers in the shops; STILL preparing for 'sale'.

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Article dated 7 August 2004

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Thurrock council workers striking against pay cuts, photo by Dave Murray

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