The Socialist 17 October 2007 |
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National Shop Stewards Network:
Young workers and students need to get involved
"I work in the Pensions Department but I'll never receive one when I'm older" and "Treat us like the rest, temps have feelings too. We deserve respect" were just a couple of comments posted on a giant fluorescent PCS (Public and Commercial Services union) banner in November last year.
Tracy Edwards PCS national young members organiser, personal capacity
Pinned on a wall outside a cafeteria in a workplace in Glasgow, the banner was used as a way to speak to agency workers. They could participate in shaming their employer in a very visible way whilst also protecting themselves against being singled out by the company.
This 'agency worker day' was organised by the PCS full-time organiser and it gave a real boost to the mood of the workers. We were visible in the workplace and the message conveyed was that we wanted to hear about the experiences of mainly young, exploited workers.
Since then, some gains have been made by the local branch – 30 agency workers have been given 'temporary contracts' for 53 weeks but around 150 are still working for an employment agency.
A mate of mine who worked there was sacked a couple of months ago. He had worked as a temp for the company for two years on £6.00 an hour! Two human resources managers 'informed' him on the Thursday that the company 'did not need his services any more' and not to come in on Monday!
They did have the decency to apologise for something though – they would have sacked him earlier that week but they couldn't find a room!
Being treated like this is becoming the norm for young workers. The trade union movement has not caught up to speed with the increasing levels of exploitation happening every day in workplaces across the whole of the UK.
Sometimes, they simply don't know how to respond to this – do you lobby the Labour Party again on agency workers' rights and hope for the best?
But there is hope. Young workers and students are the key to shifting these unfair working practices and fighting effectively for what is rightfully ours – a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.
Through the National Shop Stewards' Network (NSSN), we can effectively build our confidence, gaining useful experience of other struggles and build links with other grassroots rank and file trade unionists on how we can smash the current anti-trade union laws.
We can begin to form the new generation of young activists who will go back into the workplace and transform the local union branch into an effective campaigning force.
If you are a young trade union activist, get involved in the NSSN and invite speakers along to your next union meeting. If you are already involved in the Network, ask your trade union branch to affiliate.
If you are a young worker or student, find out more, come along to our events and find out for yourself how we can all effectively join the fight back.
Because, as one famous socialist once said "He who has the youth, has the future" (Lenin).
National Shop Stewards' Network meetings
London & South East
Sunday 21 October 1-4pm
ULU, Malet Street near Euston station
Speakers include Brian Caton (POA), Rob Kelsall (GMB), Paul Jackson (RMT).
Sunday 28 October 12noon-4pm
Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff
email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
West & East Midlands
Saturday 24 November
Saturday 1 December 11am-5pm
Quality Central Hotel, Hope Street, Glasgow
Speakers include Bob Crow (RMT) and Janice Godrich (PCS)