Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/829/19510
Young workers say: decent jobs now
- (without the small print!)
Youth Fight for Jobs
Millions of workers are 'on the breadline'. That was the damming picture painted in a recent episode of the BBC documentary series Panorama. The programme gave us the story of Jason - a fast food worker on a zero-hour contract and minimum wage. He is one of the 'hard working people' politicians all claim to be on the side of. But like millions more, he regularly goes more than a day without eating. For fear of losing his job, he wouldn't reveal the name of the company who pay his pathetic wages.
Conference season has given the main parties an opportunity to outline their answers to the growing nightmare of poverty pay. The Tories have a clear response. Millionaires' chancellor George Osborne is sure of the medicine people like Jason require. If re-elected they will tighten the screws - scrapping Jobseeker's Allowance for 18 to 21 year olds after six months unemployed and replacing it with a work-for-your benefits scheme.
This, they apparently believe, will encourage the 'feckless' to work their way out of poverty. For the Tories, the blame for hardship lies squarely with those suffering it. Companies like McDonalds, whose pressed workers are run ragged for pennies, deserve a pat on the back and a tax cut. It's only fair.
Labour, on the other hand, is keen to present a kindlier face. Their pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour will have been welcomed by the many people hoping a Labour government might bring a little relief. But the small print (not until 2020) quickly puts an end to any such hopes.
Their piecemeal response to the spread of zero-hour contracts has drawn an equally muted response. And when you combine these with their pledge to keep the Tories' cap on working age benefits, it's clear whose side Miliband is really on.
For workers on zero-hour contracts and the minimum wage the only real option they have is to struggle. Fast Food Rights, the campaign initiated by the bakers' union BFAWU and supported by Youth Fight for Jobs, is organising to unionise workers in this dire situation and to help lead a battle for an end to poverty and insecurity.
Unlike Osborne and Miliband we're clear on where the blame lies: with the bosses who make mega-profits from super-exploitation and the politicians who back them up.
Our campaign is boldly demanding a minimum wage of £10 an hour with no exemptions. It's not a goal we'd like to see reached only in 2020 - ending mass poverty can't wait. From the start, we've been clear that, far from being about 'flexibility' for employees, zero-hour contracts are about giving maximum power for the bosses. That's why we're adamant that these should be banned. All workers deserve a basic sense of security.
Our next major action is taking place on 21 November when a private members' bill, arguing to scrap zero-hour contracts, will be heard in parliament. Fast Food Rights will be outside protesting, demanding the MPs who supposedly represent us take a stand.
We are inviting all trade unionists and supporters of the campaign to join us for this lobby. This is about what kind of future young people have waiting for us. Let's fight to make it a better one than that outlined by Cameron, Miliband and co.
Protest: Scrap zero-hour contracts!
Horse Guards Parade, Westminster
In The Socialist 15 October 2014:
£££ Britain needs a pay rise
Fight the cuts!
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