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From The Socialist newspaper, 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

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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.

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  • 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 3 December 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

The bitter pill of cuts

Osborne's solution deficit

NHS: the money's running out

Tower Hamlets: Government attacks local democracy

Terrorism Bill: May continues job started by Blair

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

World health crises show: Capitalism kills!


Socialist Party workplace news

Care UK: Inspirational struggle for all trade unionists

Hull city council: a tale of two surveys

College UCU strikes against imposed new contracts

Lambeth College strike dates named

Northern line RMT stoppage over sacking

Trelleborg engineering pay victory

Reports from the NSSN bulletin


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Angry New Era tenants take protest to Cameron

Sixth form students grill Grayling

Stop academies in Lewisham

Crown drops charges against protest pensioners

No justice, no peace: protest stops London streets

Neighbours defend disabled man from eviction


Socialist Party appeal

Help us fund historic election challenge

More socialists needed!


Reader's comment

Zero-hour contracts: Demeaning rules and poverty pay


 

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