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Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 828, 8 October 2014: Striking to end low pay

Search site for keywords: Manufacturing - Union - Agency workers - Zero-hour contracts

Life on the factory floor:

Exhaustion from buzzer to buzzer

A factory worker

You wake up in the morning after a bad night's sleep: you were worrying about work.

You get to work and the first thing is the team brief. When the management say you are only working at '70% efficiency' you challenge them to point out who is slacking. You know they can't because everyone is at their work area from buzzer to buzzer.

You know that yesterday, the day before and today you have worked as hard as you can and you were tied to your work area for 12 hours. Your shift pattern is four 12-hour shifts then four days off. But you are exhausted by the end of your last shift and spend your first day off recovering.

You hear that one of your colleagues has had an accident and cut his hand open or twisted his back or trapped his finger in a machine - these are real and reoccurring accidents.

The next brief tells you that your colleague was to blame for his accident for not following the Standard Operating Procedure. But he was probably behind on his schedule so was rushing to make his time up.

Your work colleagues literally run around their work area trying to keep on schedule and as a union rep you speak to them about safety and the risk to themselves. Many of these guys are agency workers and feel that if they don't get the work done then tomorrow they will be up the road.

Team leaders bully and harass your colleagues every day but they deny it. You know that what drives the management is the quest for ever increasing profits despite having made record amounts in recent years.

If the union were prepared to organise action against the constant bullying or organise to end agency workers being used as second class workers this would receive support. An agency worker is earning much less than the full time worker standing next to him despite doing the same work.

The BFAWU bakers' union organised workers in Wigan. Strike action defeated zero-hour contracts and won permanent contracts for agency workers.

As a union rep these are the daily problems you face at work, but as a socialist you see the wider picture and that your colleagues will only take so much. Then the union will have no choice but to fight these issues or they will be pushed to one side and replaced by those who are willing to fight.

I work in large scale manufacturing but I am sure this could be similar for you and your workplace.







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