• Come to the 2019 NSSN conference
Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party

Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Ruth Byrne, catering worker

Five million workers in Britain (over one in six) are stuck in low-paid and insecure work.

Amy Murphy, president of the shop workers’ union Usdaw, will be speaking at the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference on Saturday 6 July on how unions are campaigning for a living wage and guaranteed minimum hours.

Employers say it’s all about flexibility – but who gains from it? They have a workforce on tap, but only pay for people to work when they want them.

Their workers on the other hand have to live in constant insecurity. Have you ever seen a contract that lets you pay less rent some months? Does anyone get discounts on food or travel when they get less hours? Does your mobile provider (essential for getting work for most workers on zero-hour contracts or in other precarious jobs) reduce your bill when you’re short of cash?


Usdaw has found that three-quarters of low-paid workers rely on credit cards, overdrafts, borrowing from family or payday loans to pay essential bills.

Employers and agencies also use insecure work to instil fear and stop workers from standing up for themselves. When you know that refusing a work shift could mean you are never offered one again, it isn’t easy to risk losing it. Never mind having a life or commitments outside working whatever hours your employer wants you to work. The same goes for mentioning unsafe working conditions or standing up to harassment.

But despite the obstacles, many workers are fighting back, and the NSSN conference is a fantastic place to hear and meet other people who are doing this. It brings together union shop stewards, rank-and-file trade unionists and campaigners to share ideas and build links between different workplaces. Whatever issues you are fighting on, it will inspire you.

The Socialist Party fights for

  • A minimum wage of £10 an hour with no exemptions, and £15 an hour in London
  • Scrapping zero-hour contracts, and guaranteeing full-time hours and permanent jobs for all who want them
  • A maximum 35-hour working week with no loss of pay

NSSN conference

  • All welcome: Saturday 6 July, 11am – 4.30pm
  • Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
  • £6 registration – pay on the day, or make a cheque out to National Shop Stewards Network and post to NSSN, PO Box 54498, London E10 9DE
  • Register in advance by emailing [email protected]
  • shopstewards.net