Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/777/17309
Unionise to fight zero-hour contracts!
A KFC worker
I started working for the fast food restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken nine months ago. I had left my job in a supermarket, where I was a workplace rep, to find a full-time job, not being able to get by on 16 hours a week and with no chance of finding a full-time contract there.
Eventually I found this job at KFC. At KFC a full-time contract is supposed to mean 20 hours a week minimum, which isn't great by any stretch but it was more than I was getting at the supermarket.
For a time there was not much to complain about, I was averaging 20 to 40 hours a week. If anything my complaint would have been about the irregular hours but, on a mere £6.19 an hour, at least I was earning just about enough to get by.
Everything changed when the store began to get less busy. Suddenly full-time workers found ourselves given 16 hours some weeks, and some were getting one shift a week or none! Some part-time workers were not even getting their contracted four hours a week.
I decided to challenge my manager on this issue. I knew full well that I had no back up - KFC is a non-unionised company, and unfortunately we aren't yet at the stage of some American fast food workers who have been taking strike action for a $15 an hour living wage and the right to unionise.
I received a mouthful of abuse from my manager and was told that if I had read my contract properly I would have noticed the fine print which allows the company to adjust its workers' hours to business needs.
This is a way for KFC to use zero-hour contracts while putting their hands on their hearts and saying they don't.
Perhaps the most explicit confession came from another manager when I asked what was the difference between a full-time contract and a part-time contract if workers aren't guaranteed the minimum hours stated. The manager replied that there is no difference and "it's just a way in which they can use and abuse you"!
What is needed in KFC and similar companies to defend workers and ensure real contracts with guaranteed hours, is a major campaign of unionisation.
We need to build a fighting union that will campaign for solid contracts and a living wage of £10 an hour, using methods of industrial action if necessary.
Strong workplace organisation would also be the best way to tackle unfair dismissals, bullying and harassment in the workplace.
Are we sick of our boss? You better believe it!
Feature: Nothing new at Sports Direct
In The Socialist 28 August 2013:
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