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From: The Socialist issue 1054, 4 September 2019: No ifs, no buts... Tories out now

Search site for keywords: Retail - Workers - Union - Pay - Zero-hour contracts - Minimum wage

Workplace victory emboldens retail workers to get organised

Usdaw members marching, photo by David Owens

Usdaw members marching, photo by David Owens   (Click to enlarge)

I work for a well-known high street retailer and recently one of my colleagues came to me, the unofficial union rep, because they were being conned out of 70 hours of holiday.

Without any justification the manager stopped anybody taking any holiday for the last two months of the financial year. When the worker requested pay in lieu of a holiday he was flat out refused and told he should have taken his holiday earlier.

Throughout the year this worker has slogged through many long shifts and picked up overtime to cover everyone else taking holidays but the manager made no allowance to ensure this worker got to use his holiday entitlement. What gratitude!

Working together we drafted a grievance to try and get back what was owed. Despite the manager outright lying that he had given the worker plenty of opportunity to take holiday the company disagreed and we managed to win more than 450 in holiday pay. For the company this would be a drop in the ocean but for this particular worker it has made the world of difference.

This isn't the first time that these kinds of dodgy practices have taken place but workers are getting wise to it and see the potential strength that unionising and workplace organisation can have. Off the back of this victory we organised a workplace meeting off site away from the ears of management.

Nearly all of those who have recently joined the union attended and were keen to both recruit and take up the union campaign for a 10 an hour minimum wage and an end to zero-hour contracts. Seeing that organising and collectively challenging the bosses can get results has meant that these union members have now been inspired to become union activists.

We will now be looking to build on our collective strength by recruiting more people from our workplace to the union. We're confident that we can try to push for a workplace agreement in the near future so that we can go beyond stopping management from pulling a fast one. We are in desperate need of 10 an hour and we want to see the end of zero and low-hour contracts. If organising has got us this far then management better be ready for the demands to come!

Adam Viteos

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Article dated 4 September 2019

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