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From: The Socialist issue 1052, 14 August 2019: Boot out Boris And all the Tory toffs - fight for socialist policies for the 99% not the 0.1%

Search site for keywords: Retail - Workers - NSSN - TUC - Tesco - National Shop Stewards Network - Minimum wage

Fight back against the retail bosses!

Tesco Dagenham distribution centre; One-day Usdaw strike over pay. , photo Richard Groves

Tesco Dagenham distribution centre; One-day Usdaw strike over pay. , photo Richard Groves   (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Aldred, Usdaw shop workers' union branch secretary (personal capacity)

'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?

Job losses

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.

Coordinated strikes

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.

NSSN 2019 TUC lobby

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.

We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to click here to donate to our Fighting Fund.

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Article dated 14 August 2019

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