Joe Waters, Gloucestershire USDAW
Workers at coffee shop chain Pret-a-Manger have won a partial victory over attempts to undermine their pay and conditions after threatening to respond with strike action.
Under cover of “below pre-pandemic levels” of trade for the franchise, bosses had moved to suspend paid breaks for staff and also cut a performance linked bonus for staff from £1 an hour to 50p. Since the prospect of strikes was raised by Pret workers, the company has reversed its decision to cut the bonus pay, but have left in place the scrapping of paid breaks. This means a worker on an 8 hour shift will now see an effective pay cut of 6% (compared to 11% before the partial u-turn). The majority of workers at Pret earn the legal minimum wage of £8.91 an hour.
This attack on staff benefits comes as the coffee chain experiments with a subscription based model for selling coffee, which has put workers under extra strain to meet the increased demand.
The approach taken by Pret bosses, to roll back the conditions of their lowest paid employees in order to protect company profits, is not unique in the current period. Aside from direct attacks on workers through practices like ‘fire and rehire’ and cuts to employee benefits, reductions in staffing levels (or in the case of Pret, a new, subscription based, business model) place extra burdens on workers and effectively require each of them to do more work with no increase in remuneration.
It is in this context that Youth Fight for Jobs is campaigning for trade union action to secure a real future for young people in the workplace, who will bear the brunt of these attacks.
Firms who consider making job cuts should be made to open their books to trade union scrutiny, and nationalisation of companies in order to save jobs should be fought for by the trade union movement.
Training and apprenticeship schemes for young people and government investment in socially useful job creation, in order to guarantee the right to a decent job for all without loss of pay is also vital to building a future for young people and for society.
We also demand that monopolies and banks are taken into democratic public ownership in order to provide every young and working class person with a decent, socially useful and well-paying job. This burden should rightly fall on the 1%, who see it as their right to make big profits off of holding down the pay and conditions of workers. Youth Fight for Jobs will be organising a national day of action for October 9th in order to fight for this programme and demonstrate in practice