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From The Socialist newspaper, 7 January 2009

No festive joy for shop workers

CHRISTMAS IS finally staggering to a close at the lingerie company I work for. After 23 December, I was able to take four days off for Christmas. To be allowed this luxury I worked almost continuously for the previous six weeks, between 8.5 and 10 hours a day, having taken only one day off.

We were informed that on the first two work days after Christmas (Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 December), we would be required to work 12 hour shifts, to make up for lost time. For all staff, including Christmas temps, this is technically overtime, although the consequence of refusal would be a straight dismissal for temps.

For permanent staff the punishment for refusing to do overtime is consignment to making boxes for a couple of days, general harassment and threats of disciplinary action.

Of course, Christmas is the busiest time for retail workers and no unskilled worker will complain about the offer of overtime during the period when extra money is most needed.

What we have every right to complain about, however, is being bullied into doing overtime, being bullied and threatened into working harder than is reasonable (or even, in some cases, than is humanly possible); being forced to work in near freezing temperatures because the company is too cheap to heat the warehouse (despite grossing over 500,000 a week, for six weeks); for the temps having to accept the poverty wage of between 5.50 and 6.00 an hour, depending on their agency and being made to feel ashamed of the human weakness of illness. Sick days are not paid, nor are breaks.

What the workers at this workplace need is a trade union, and that is exactly what Socialist Party members who work there are building. We are aiming to achieve the 51% membership (out of 30 permanent staff) that is required to force the company to recognise Usdaw as our union. Having built a core of five activists we feel ready to begin a more general recruitment policy in order to get recognition before the end of the January sales.

The majority of the young workers are angry, and starting to realise what a life of unskilled work will mean. The older workers are starting to see that this company has no great intention to look after them.


We are recruiting union members with the following programme:

We are confident that in the first quarter of 2009 we will achieve recognition. Workers are sick and tired of accepting poverty wages to line pockets of certain rich 'Dragons'. We will continue to build the union, and with it the Socialist Party.

A retail worker
  • As Woolworth's finally closes its doors this week with the loss of 27,000 jobs, it's reported that retailer Marks and Spencer is to axe 1,000 jobs.
  • Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

    In The Socialist 7 January 2009:

    Stop the Slaughter in Gaza

    Thousands protest against the Israeli onslaught

    Socialist Party Marxist analysis

    2009 - putting socialism back on the agenda

    Socialist Party youth and students

    Youth fight for jobs

    Socialist Party campaigns

    The great rail fares rip-off

    Madoff with the money!

    No festive joy for shop workers

    Labour ministers' unsocial fund

    Plutocrats lose

    Make the poor pay

    Celebrity Big Brother

    Tommy Sheridan in Celebrity Big Brother

    International socialist news and analysis

    USA: Chicago factory workers occupation wins concessions

    Socialist Party workplace news

    For a fighting Usdaw leadership

    South Wales: Workers vow to fight job losses

    BT: reluctant vote for pension cuts

    No redundancies at GSK!

    Salford council: Equal pay, not pay cuts!

    Environment and socialism

    No to the toxic incinerator!


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