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3 December 2014

A day in the life of a zero-hour contract worker

Demeaning rules and poverty pay

Ophelia, Young worker

I worked on a zero-hour contract at a bar in a major airport. It reminded me of my early school days. Collecting a green pass, the badge of responsibility at work, took about three months. Until that time you're stuck on a yellow pass. This meant you had to be escorted everywhere, including the bathroom. I broke this demeaning rule on my second shift.

I finished my first shift at 6pm. I then discovered that I'd been put on the rota to start at 4am the next day. With my alarm set for 2am, I managed about an hour's sleep. We were promised at least one break every four hours.

I was set to work - an endless cycle of collecting glasses, loading the dishwashers, sweeping and mopping. The bar was very busy.

I was working with Jimmy who had been there for 20 years and yet still earned the minimum wage, just like me. Despite the metal plate in his leg, he had the extra task of waiting on tables.

Three hours in, I asked the 'team leader' - sat in his office looking at spreadsheets - if I could have a drink (we were meant to ask permission). He told me I could only have one once the floor was clean. An entirely clean floor is one of the bar's official targets - one we couldn't possibly achieve with the bar so busy.

Every half hour, trolleys packed with glasses and coffee cups had to be wheeled through the bar and cleaned. The dishwashers never worked well, so when the cups came out dirty I was told to dip them in a bucket of bleach and wash them off by hand.

Six hours into this constant monotony, I was told I could go on my break once I'd finished mopping. I broke down in tears and rushed to the bathroom. When I returned to the bar I was ordered never to leave unescorted again.

Sick of your boss? Enough is enough!

■ Give us proper contracts, guaranteed hours and full employment rights

■ 10 an hour minimum wage now!

■ Decent tea and lunch breaks

■ Stop the bosses' fire-at-will attitude

■ We won't be used as cheap or free labour

■ We have the right to get organised at work

■ Scrap anti-trade union laws

■ Build democratic campaigning trade unions

■ No to benefit cuts

Join Youth Fight for Jobs:

►Text JOIN plus name and postcode to 07749379010



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