Claire Laker-Mansfield, Youth Fight for Jobs
On 25-26 January, activists from the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) met for their first young members’ conference in Blackpool.
Several workers from Wigan’s Hovis Factory attended, fresh from a victorious struggle to prevent the use of zero-hour contracts. This victory served as an inspiring backdrop to the event.
A sense of confidence that if you put up a fight, you can win, was present, and the lessons and experiences of the Hovis struggle informed much of the discussion.
BFAWU has now taken the initiative ‘Fast Food Rights’ campaign. This was publicly launched at the conference with BFAWU working alongside a coalition of campaigns and supportive organisations, including Youth Fight for Jobs.
The campaign’s aim is to help unionise the largely unorganised workers in this industry, and build the fight to end the super-exploitation that takes place in it.
Many of the activists at the conference worked in Greggs, so had lots of first-hand experience of organising in a fast food environment.
The demands for secure contracts and a living wage of at least £10 an hour (with no youth exemptions) were drawn out as particularly important for mobilising young workers.
In the US, the campaign for $15 an hour minimum wage, which began with fast food workers, has been a big part of the huge political shifts that have taken place, shown most clearly by the election of a socialist city councillor, Kshama Sawant, in Seattle last November.
Youth Fight for Jobs was invited to the conference to speak from the platform. Recently, through our initiative ‘Are you Sick of Your Boss?’, we have been campaigning on issues like zero-hour contracts and a living wage, and have been able involve a number of young workers.
We feel confident that ‘Fast Food Rights’ will give renewed potential for organising young workers into trade unions and taking up the fight for decent conditions.
The campaign starts on 15 February with a national day of action targeting Burger King, Costa and McDonalds.
In London, a protest and leafleting session will take place, starting at 1pm along Oxford Street. Join us and get involved!