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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 June 2014

A day in the life of a supermarket worker

Tesco worker

I work for Tesco in a busy city centre shop. Sales figures in my shop are high, but morale is low. Like all retail workers, we are underpaid (basic rate 7.28 an hour and an 'offer' of a pay freeze this year), overworked and undervalued.

Tesco does not currently use zero-hour contracts, but that does not stop crafty managers from hiring lots of young staff members on four or five hour contracts.

When the payroll budget is high, managers will bully, coerce and pressure staff into working overtime shifts everyday. I have personally been phoned up at 5am by managers who have tried to bully me into working on my days off.

When the payroll budget runs out, staff are once again back to working four or five hours a week. How are the young people who work for Tesco meant to build a life in such insecure and unpredictable conditions? How are the older workers meant to maintain mortgages or support their families?

When the shop first opened in 2012, my manager told me that there were over 800 applications for 20 vacancies. We are all made to feel so grateful for these jobs so that we don't complain or cause trouble. Even the Usdaw union reps in many stores are afraid to stand up to management.

People who can't manage the workload often leave and are hardly ever replaced, which has left our store extremely understaffed. This is dangerous, given that in the UK a shop worker is verbally or physically abused every minute of the working day.

In my shop, we have been told by senior management that we cannot afford to employ another guard to work mornings despite consistently have to deal with drunk and abusive customers entering the shop when we open first thing. It is clear to see that Tesco cares more about profit than the safety of the hardworking staff.


I am an Usdaw shop steward for my shop, and I know that the union has a 'partnership agreement' with Tesco. What this means in reality is that Usdaw get to come into stores to recruit members, while putting up with or turning a blind eye to decisions that Tesco makes that will negatively affect staff.

Usdaw is one of the largest trade unions in Britain, and it is strongest in Tesco. We need a fighting union that will do more to hold Tesco to account and to force them to pay decent wages and make sure staffing levels are appropriate. We need to campaign to end underemployment and to stop management from getting away with bullying staff.

We retail workers are many, but we don't yet realise the power that we have.

A young McDonald's worker on a zero-hour contract received this email from his boss:

"Sickness, no shows, absent days are becoming far too much of a store culture for my liking. I have had enough of it and it must end now. Anyone averaging more than 1 day a month absent or sick will be going down to one 4hr shift a week."

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 25 June 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

10 July: All out to end poverty pay

Western hypocrisy as Iraq disintegrates

Blame the profit system not its victims!

NHS: The world's best - but for how long?

Miliband - the emperor with no clothes

Poverty Britain

Them & Us

Socialist Party review

Thomas Piketty: The new Marx?

International socialist news and analysis

Hong Kong: Pro-Beijing newspaper attacks socialists

Israel: Nationalist thugs assault CWI members

Socialist Party workplace news

How can Unite lead fight against cuts?

Reinstate Bryan Kennedy!

Unison conference: members call for united action

GMB members question Labour link

Safety Glass strikers demonstrate their strength

National Museum Wales strike

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

People's Assembly demo shows anti-austerity anger

South Yorkshire 'Freedom Riders' attacked by police

Fighting for young people in Blackwall and Cubitt Town

Victory! York socialists win university letting agency

Tottenham: Stop fascist attacks

Winning recruits for socialism

Tax dodgers feel the heat

Readers' comments

Supermarket price wars

A day in the life of a supermarket worker

Socialist history

When Thatcher unleashed her attack dogs


Gerry Conlon: Fighter against state injustice


Home   |   The Socialist 25 June 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

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Related links:


triangleWorkers need a 'new deal' - at least 12 an hour now!

triangleUsdaw shop workers' union activists meet via Zoom

triangleSupermarkets are ruled by profit - unions should control supply limits

triangleIncompetent bosses use tech to bully us

triangleWhat strategy can end the retail jobs massacre?


triangleSainsbury's strikers win

triangleUsdaw ADM 2019

triangleSupermarket giants merger: protect jobs and fight price hikes

triangleChanges threaten thousands of jobs


triangleCovid pandemic and Northern Ireland - workers must resist the bosses' offensive

triangleFantastic virtual NSSN conference: "Fight for our lives and livelihoods''

triangleUCU: election victory for combative rank and file


triangleSunday trading: Government blinks first

triangleDebenham's protests: Workers must not pay price of Covid-19


triangleLeeds City Council in danger of bankruptcy

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