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'The needs of the business' is a phrase most retail staff will be familiar with. Does it mean the need to have a happy, healthy workforce? Does it mean the need to provide decent wages and sustainable contracts? Does it mean the need to ensure workers can enjoy a sensible work/life balance? Not for a second!
Anybody in retail who hears these foreboding words knows that change is coming and it's not going to be pretty. The needs of the business mean cutbacks, worsening of conditions and the threat of redundancy - all to satisfy the need of the bosses to keep the profits rolling in as we're turfed out onto the street.
The British Retail Consortium reports 72,000 jobs lost in the sector in the last year alone. But this only paints a partial picture when factoring in the diminishing hours of those on zero and low-hour contracts. Is it any wonder then that shop workers have had enough?
Tesco announced 9,000 job cuts as recently as January but the bloodletting continues. The axe is now wielded for another 4,500 jobs with more 'flexibility' being demanded of the workers who survive the chop.
Similarly, Asda is using the threat of dismissal to sign its staff up to 'contract 6', scrapping time off on bank holidays and slashing night shift rates, all while demanding workers be completely flexible. We are expected to be completely flexible at the expense of our lives and families for jobs that may not exist in a year or two!
It is for this reason that myself and many other workers will be joining the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton on 8 September. We are sick and tired of the needs of the business when it is these same businesses that disregard the needs of the workers.
We need coordinated strike action to make it clear to bosses that poverty wages, low hours and threats of dismissal will not be tolerated. We need the TUC to take up the NSSN's call for mass action to force a general election to get rid of the Tories, the discredited party of Boris and the bosses.
My family and I, like so many countless others, can no longer afford the needs of the business. Already we have seen Sainsbury's workers take strike action over changes to sick pay, and now Wilko workers look poised to follow as the bosses feel that weekends for workers are a luxury that can no longer be afforded.
With the misery that austerity has inflicted, the TUC needs to bring together the growing mood for localised strike action and push for more generalised struggle to end austerity and bring down this government.
And the unions must fight to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour, to scrap zero and low-hour contracts and fight for a government that puts the needs of the millions ahead of the greed of a few billionaire shareholders.
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Fast Food Rights (22)
Low pay (225)
Minimum wage (312)
living wage (75)
£10 now (1)
Article dated 14 August 2019
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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