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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.

Union

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."

Sick of your boss campaign

Join Youth Fight for Jobs

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►A 10 an hour minimum wage

►Proper contracts with guaranteed hours

►Trade union rights for all

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In The Socialist 25 June 2014:


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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


Obituary

Gerry Conlon: Fighter against state injustice


 

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Related links:

Tesco:

triangleFight back against the retail bosses!

triangleAngry Usdaw members strike at Sainsbury's distribution centre over sick pay cut

triangleUsdaw union conference demands action on pay, jobs and the right

triangleUsdaw ADM 2019

triangleChanges threaten thousands of jobs

Supermarket:

triangleSupermarket giants merger: protect jobs and fight price hikes

triangleSolid strike at Tesco Dagenham distribution centre forces pay talks

triangleReject the mega-supermarket merger: nationalise to save jobs

triangleSainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for 10 with no strings!

Union:

triangleWorkers reject 'Martini' contract

triangleFar right seen off at Oxford Circus

triangleBradford: All-out action to defeat backdoor NHS privatisation

Usdaw:

triangleSainsbury's distribution workers' second 24-hour strike against cuts to sick pay

triangleTrade union action can end low pay

Budget:

triangleCouncil seeks to take budget deficit out on school staff and pupils

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