The Socialist 20 September 2002 |
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Fighting Low Pay And Casualisation
Stoke Socialist Party's campaign
STOKE-ON-Trent Socialist Party are campaigning against low pay and casualisation, Stoke-on-Trent having a very high number of recruitment agencies.
The agencies take advantage of the collapse of jobs in the pottery and other industries and the history of low pay in the area. Firms use the agencies because they see workers in the same light as a shelf full of widgets, to be used and cast off as required.
We are calling for recruitment agencies to be brought under public control, so workers will have proper health and safety training, a decent wage, job security and the right to join a trade union.
Simon Jones' case is at the forefront of our campaign. Simon was killed on 24 April 1998, aged 24. He was sent by a recruitment agency to Shoreham docks, operated by Euromin. On his first day at work, he was almost decapitated by a crane.
Simon had no health and safety training or protection necessary for the work he was doing. Neither the manager of Euromin nor the recruitment agency - Personnel Selection - were held accountable for his death. Euromin and its general manager, James Martell, were subsequently acquitted on manslaughter charges.
With information from the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign we have held stalls around the city, collecting signatures and building support, whilst exposing workers' exploitation by recruitment agencies.
Our success can be measured by our high paper sales (100+ over two issues), over £70 donated to the Fighting Fund since we started and two new members who joined after our public meeting, where we showed the Simon Jones video.
Almost everyone who comes to the stall has a story to tell about what it's like getting work through recruitment agencies (see right).
The campaign is now moving forward in two directions - we are planning to focus on local businesses for the exploitation of workers, most of whom are temporary.
Secondly the imminent election of a mayor of Stoke-onTrent. No candidates have yet put forward any proposals to tackle poor housing, low pay and unemployment, all of which are rife in the area.
The British National Party are standing a candidate, Steve Batkin. Batkin masquerades as a caring voice for the working class, using asylum seekers as a scapegoat for social ills.
Along with local organisations such as North Staffs Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and local trade unions, we are planning stalls, leafleting and a mass rally against the BNP.
For more information about the Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, see: www.simonjones.com or Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, PO Box 2600, Brighton BN2 2DX or by phone at 01273 685913
Working In The Pie Factory
AGENCY WORK is often low-paid, with long hours and they put you on jobs nobody likes to do. Most of the full-time workers don't like agency workers, because they see you as a threat to their jobs and the bosses use this to drive down their wages.
The food industry uses a lot of casual workers. When you arrive at the factories you are herded in like cattle, then they check you off and tell you where you are working and what line you are working on.
Even if you have no experience or training, they put you on the job, expecting you to be able to do it. The bosses want the production lines to run non-stop. If the production breaks down, they all start shouting.
I worked for a well-known bakery in Stoke-on-Trent, Wrights Pies. They have won awards but behind the scenes, it's a different story. I worked for there for 18 months.
I'm diabetic, one day I became ill while I was working on the sausage roll line. I'd been on the line since 6am, the line was moving very fast and I started to feel sick and dizzy.
I was completely drained of energy and feeling ready to pass out. But when I asked the production manager if he could get somebody to take me off the line, so I can go home to go and see my GP, he told me there was nobody and I would have to work until 10am.
When he allowed me to go home, I went to my doctor, who put me on the sick for a month. That was not the first time it happened. The other time, the manager told me to go and eat some chocolate but that time I just walked out of the factory.
There was no union in the place, so they took advantage.
They made workers work until all production was finished. Even if the machines break down you had to stay behind.
You started at 6am and you could be still there at 6pm or even later and they would expect you to been in at 6am the next morning. If you went home earlier, even if you'd done your time, they would sack you.
It got that bad for me that I went on the sick and never went back.
So the next time you buy a Wrights Pie, just think what the workers went through to make it.
All the bosses are interested in is making big profits and getting those awards on their walls.
The Socialist Party calls for:
- The unions to take immediate action to implement their current minimum wage demands, as a step towards the European decency threshold of approximately £8 an hour, with no exemptions.
- A minimum income of £320 a week and for an annual increase in the minimum wage, linked to average earnings.
- Employment agencies to be brought under public control, with full trade union involvement in health and safety provision and training. For the introduction of trade-union controlled roving safety inspectors with the right to stop dangerous jobs.
- Employment protection rights for all workers from the first day of employment.
- Where deaths and injuries at work occur, the company directors should be held individually responsible and liable to prosecution.