Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/690/12989
Anti-union, low paying, bullying bosses
The reality of casualised work for young people
A young fast food worker, Coventry
In Coventry the job market for young people is dire, with nearly 3,000 of us out of work. Even those young people who are 'fortunate' enough to get jobs end up working in dead-end jobs for low wages.
My first job, when I was 15, was chipping potatoes in my local chippy. I got paid a tenner a day - when a day was often over six hours - and the working conditions were terrible (and of course I was employed illegally - I had strict instructions on where to hide if the 'inspectors' came).
Fast food chain
My current job is a slight step up in the world, however - I work for a famous fast food chain restaurant. Despite its regular occurrence in lists of 'great jobs', it's awful.
People work shifts of up to 15 hours, with a one hour break, and often won't move from their station for the whole shift. Sometimes this means people will be working by an extremely hot grill for 10 hours at a time.
Unsurprisingly, people have passed out from heat exhaustion before - the management response is to walk them to the crew room while the rest of us carry on working!
We're constantly told to work faster, and given scripts that we have to use to talk to customers. Yet at the same time we're told to smile and not talk like robots.
Whenever sales go down, management cuts 'labour figures', meaning we all get less hours and we're expected to work even harder when we are in.
We're not a unionised workplace, as the company is notoriously anti-union.
In America and Canada they have closed down restaurants where staff joined unions, and in France they framed a union organiser for armed robbery, after bullying him for months. They refuse to deal with unions, saying they "prefer to deal with staff on an individual basis".
This is a classic management tactic - individuals can be picked on, but you can't pick on an entire workplace. Also, as staff turnover is so high - a lot of people hate it so much they leave very quickly - people don't see the point of joining a union.
Like in most workplaces, some managers are fine - but some are bullies who victimise crew members, particularly women.
Due to the lack of union representation it is near impossible to do anything about these bullies - management is a 'boys' club', where if complaints are made they close ranks to protect each other.
Health and safety
There are loads of accidents that are never reported, as despite the company rule that all accidents should be written down, managers see accident reports as a waste of time.
This means that despite the regular injuries crew incur, safety measures are never brought in to prevent them happening again.
Finally, the worst aspect of the job - the money. I'm on £4.93 an hour - and that's after a pay rise! The promised two pay reviews a year never materialise - I've been there over three years and I've had one. Pay rises are as low as 3% - on my wage, that amounts to just 14p extra an hour.
That's why I support the Jarrow March for Jobs - because despite being lucky enough to have a job, young people deserve better than this.
We deserve to get a decent wage, to work in decent conditions, and to have the right to union recognition - and if they won't give us those things, we're not afraid to fight for them.
So Cameron - come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!
In The Socialist 19 October 2011:
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