8-14 July was a week of action for Youth Fight for Jobs’ new Sick Of Your Boss initiative which aims to organise young workers to fight back against underemployment. Here is a sample of what took place around the country. See youthfightofrjobs.com for more.
Young workers, students and unemployed people joined the week of action in Wales, which focused on zero-hour contracts, one of the worst examples of the bosses’ bullying and exploitative practices.
A public meeting was also held during the week where union activists and young workers interested in the campaign shared horror stories of their workplaces and strategies for getting organised and fighting back.
The meeting and the campaign raised many issues from workfare to proper tea and lunch breaks and Youth Fight for Jobs Wales has a major role to play in organising working class young people to fight against all attacks.
Campaigners heard shocking stories during the week including one worker on a zero-hour contract who had to survive on just £20 the previous week. A KFC worker complained about "a culture of sexism and sexual harassment from the bosses".
We point out that the bosses need us but we don’t need them – there was big support for this idea.
An organised workplace can win massive concessions from companies and Youth Fight for Jobs will fight shoulder to shoulder with those who are sick of their boss.
In London the week of action has been a great success, trade union branches from around the city have signed up to support the campaign. Two successful meetings have been held, one about American fast food workers and how they organised, and one about the garment factory disaster in Bangladesh which discussed the role local trade unionists can play in supporting strikes and workers’ organisations in Bangladesh.
But the best thing about this week has been the number of campaigners who have joined the leafleting teams going around the city.
On a protest in Leytonstone, east London we met a young guy doing work experience at Primark who was keen to get involved, in Tottenham it was security guards and employees at Homebase who wanted to know what to do next, in Footlocker in Westfield the staff talked about holding a protest there.
Now to keep up the momentum campaigners are organising to go to every shopping centre in London over the summer to talk to staff about the campaign.
On 8 July, Lincoln Youth Fight for Jobs held a rally at Primark on Lincoln high street as part of the Sick Of Your Boss week of action.
We spoke to passers-by and workers in Primark, with many of them sympathising with our demands and providing first hand evidence of the gross exploitation that Primark exercises on a day-to-day basis.
One worker said he feels too intimidated to ask for his legally entitled break - he works an eleven hour shift nonstop. He fears that if he fights back, fights for decent, legal working conditions, he will be given no hours of work and risks not paying his rent. It is shocking to hear that in this country, the seventh richest in the world, young workers feel disempowered at the hands of large capitalist corporations like Primark.
While handing out flyers near the entrance, the Primark management sent security to ask us to move. But we refused, because we know that it is our democratic right to raise these issues. This also showed the degree to which management fears workers waking up to their harsh reality and getting active.
And that is why Sick Of Your Boss is so important.
That brilliant moment, when a young worker realises what's happening, and commits to fight back, is what makes this campaign so important.
Coventry and Warwickshire
Coventry Youth Fight for Jobs gave out thousands of leaflets at the Godiva festival, attended by about 150,000 people. Three people came to their first public meeting about day-to-day issues in the workplace and workers fighting back internationally. We also did some leafleting of staff in shops in Coventry, Nuneaton and Kenilworth.
Tottenham, north London
On the Friday of the week of action, another Youth Fight for Jobs activist and I went to Tottenham Hale retail park to give leaflets to all the staff working in the shops. I hadn't done this type of leafleting before and was quite nervous as I didn't know the reactions we'd get. I was worried that all the workers in the retail park would love their boss. I was dreadfully wrong in this assumption. Many people we gave the leaflets to wanted to stop work for a few minutes and talk about the campaign. We were asked what unions are and how they can help in the workplace, and many listed their complaints about their employers - bullying, messed about with hours and even unfair dismissal were all on the list. We finished the whole retail park in an hour and had made some very good progress on getting people interested in the campaign.
Turkish music, political speeches and incandescent heat - Day-Mer's (Turkish and Kurdish community organisation with strong links to Youth Fight for Jobs) 24th Culture and Arts Festival on Sunday 7 July pulled no punches. The Sick of Your Boss initiative had a great day out, with a campaign stall next to the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and a stack of literature.
But for many young workers, this was no day off, as one angry young maths graduate explained. His job? Handing out pens and pamphlets for a local optician.
PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh gave a great speech from the stage.
And the kebabs were first-class.
Having leafleted the workers at, and been thrown out of, the Nottingham Primark on Monday we staged a small protest outside on Saturday the 13th of July, handing out leaflets and selling papers to passers-by. Despite the small size of our protests we had 3 managers staring at us from the entrance throughout our activity, and even called the police, who talked to us briefly and left, partially as they agreed with us. Several people signed up for further activity with us, which we will be following up. Our activity should begin to increase over the coming weeks.