TUC: coordinate action to fight for £15!

Oisin Duncan, Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs

The TUC has recently announced their ‘fight for £15 campaign’, in which they call for a “path” to a £15-an-hour minimum wage by 2030 or “as soon as possible”. 

YFJ supports the demand for a £15 minimum wage now: this was the main demand we brought to the TUC demo on 18 June; and previously we have been involved in campaigns for £15-an-hour like the McStrikes. 

The McStrikes showed that young workers in precarious jobs deserve better wages. As a bar worker myself, I have first-hand experience of the cost-of-living crisis. Running around a large venue, carrying barrels up and down stairs and dealing with drunk, potentially abusive customers is difficult enough, especially so when you can barely cover the rent and energy bill. 

Young workers are expected to constantly accept the bare minimum on offer. Youth Fight for Jobs is organising to change that, and our primary fight is for £15 an hour now. 

We welcome the TUC’s campaign, but we can’t afford to wait. The cost-of-living crisis is now. We need £15 an hour now.

And we have other questions. What is the TUC doing to build this campaign beyond petitions? 

This summer has shown that coordinated strike action is possible, most notably with Royal Mail and BT CWU members bringing 170,000 workers out of work on the same day, a historic occasion. 

This ongoing strike wave has shown the power of trade unions to a new generation, and mass coordinated action could hit bosses where it hurts most – in their profits – and force the Tories to concede reforms to the working class and youth.

For these reasons, we say that the TUC should take the lead in coordinating strike action, to back up the demand for £15/hr. 

For our part, young workers can put pressure on the TUC by getting active in our unions, as well as joining the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby when the TUC Congress reconvenes later in the autumn. 

Coordinated mass action could also raise other demands, like abolishing youth rates (which the TUC ‘fight for £15’ campaign does mention, but without fully explaining) as young workers struggle with the cost of living. 

On top of the demands for wage increases and reforms, a combative union movement led by the TUC could push Truss’s government into repealing the anti-democratic Trade Union Laws. If Truss truly wants to attack the unions, she must meet the full force of the labour movement fighting for a better deal for the workers and young people. Youth Fight for Jobs will back that fight to the hilt.

Youth Fight for Jobs says:

  • TUC: coordinate the strikes to lead a real mass movement for £15/hr!
  • Young people: join and get involved in your trade union! For democratic, fighting youth sections in every trade union that can put pressure on union leaders. Start by joining the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of the TUC Congress this autumn.
  • £15/hr can only be the start. We need trade union-led struggle to abolish youth rates, scrap zero-hour contracts, and to fight for a mass programme of socially useful and environmentally friendly job creation. Make the 1% pay!
  • Fight for socialist change to provide young people with a decent future on a permanent basis. For democratic public ownership of major public industry and the banks.

Hospitality workers – join a union and fight the bosses for a decent future!

For years, hospitality staff have been overworked, mistreated and underpaid. Now the bosses are using Covid lockdowns as an excuse to attack our already poor conditions.

The cost of living is soaring, and at the same time workers in the trade unions have shown that organising and striking gets results and victories from the bosses. In Unite the Union alone, workers won £25 million worth of pay rises in just 100 days at the end of last year.

The current surge in industrial action has introduced the potential power of the trade unions to a new generation. Strike action by the likes of rail workers, train drivers, refuse workers and BT staff have shown that when workers stop, so does society; they have highlighted where power really lies – in the organised working class.

The hospitality sector has the youngest workforce out of any industry. Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) wants to help bring this new generation of workers into the trade unions as part of the fight for decent jobs and pay for all.

YFJ members in hospitality have proudly fought to boost unionisation within our hyper-precarious sector. We have been involved in setting up the Hospitality Combine in Unite, and our members previously participated in the Fast Food Rights campaign organised by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).

Elsewhere, we have seen young hospitality workers taking historic strike action (and winning!) over unfair tipping policies in chains such as TGI Fridays and Pizza Express.

In Brighton, strike action at just two Wetherspoon’s led to a national pay increase for nightshift workers, as well as the scrapping of discriminatory youth rates. And we have also seen success with Unite’s Get ME Home Safely campaign, with North Ayrshire and Newcastle councils so far forced to pledge to take up the campaign’s demands for night-time workers’ safety.

Hospitality workers are on the move. But we need to demand and fight for more. For a start, workers need to afford to live. That’s why YFJ demands a £15-an-hour minimum wage now, with no exemptions. We reject the industry standard of using tips to ‘top up’ low pay – essentially a way for the bosses to increase their profits by having their workers’ wages subsidised through the already squeezed incomes of ordinary customers. Tips should be a bonus on top of a guaranteed living wage, not a fill-in.

We call for democratically elected workplace committees to decide the distribution of tips, as well as rotas. These committees could also be in charge of workplace safety. Just as the recent heat wave has highlighted, the safety of hospitality workers – who were made to come to work in dangerous heat – is always put on the back burner to increase profits.

Likewise, instances of sexual harassment – a sector-wide scourge as highlighted in the Unite #NotOnTheMenu campaign – are too often brushed aside by unaccountable managements in the name of sales and brand reputability. We support the demand for zero-tolerance sexual harassment policies and training, overseen by elected workplace reps, in addition to free transport for all workers coming to and from work.

YFJ also fights for the scrapping of zero-hour contracts, which give the bosses flexibility while we get instability – in our incomes and living patterns. Instead, workers need guaranteed hours and guaranteed pay.

And how can we win all this? First, we have to organise in our workplaces and fight to recruit every hospitality worker to their union, so that we can launch a mass movement to:

  • End low pay. For trade union struggle for a £15/hr minimum wage. Abolish youth rates!
  • End job insecurity and underemployment. Scrap zero-hour contracts!
  • Establish democratically elected workplace committees to oversee tips, rotas, and workplace safety!
  • Provide free transport for workers coming to and from work!
  • Make the 1% pay for the cost of living crisis – for democratic public ownership of major industries so they can be run in the interests of the 99%, not the bosses!

We think the above demands can help inspire a new layer of young hospitality workers to join their union, to bolster the new wave of working-class struggle that is opening up in our sector, in Britain, and across the world.

We also know that under capitalism, low pay, job precarity and workplace harassment will always be on the cards for hospitality workers, as they are for all workers everywhere. That’s why YFJ campaigns not just for union-led struggle to improve our living standards in the here-and-now, but for the complete socialist transformation of society.

If you want to help YFJ hospitality members in our fight to unionise our sector and win a decent future for ourselves and all workers, then get in touch!

Young hospitality workers fighting back

Young workers fighting back at the Youth Fight For Jobs march in Cardiff last October

Elected officer in Unite Bar and Restaurant Workers (personal capacity)

Before the pandemic, workers in the hospitality sector were already facing huge problems. We are one of the most overworked, mistreated and underpaid set of workers. Now, following lockdowns, the sector is facing one of the worst recruitment crises.

The Office for National Statistics reported that between November 2021 and January 2022, empty roles in the sector were at a high of 178,300. This is an increase of 84,000 on that period in the previous year, and a 13.6% increase from the previous quarter.

And it’s only getting worse. I’ve experienced it in my own pub, where we can find staff but we always seem to be one member short. On the one hand, this presents a real problem as the staff that are already overworked will be made to fill the gaps. However, if we are able to organise, it puts us in a very strong position to win demands off the bosses.

This is happening, although still in an embryonic stage. Hospitality workers like myself are organising. The national Unite leaders in our sector are regularly coming together to map priorities for the industry and what is needed to achieve real change. For instance, in London bars and restaurants we’ve highlighted the success of coffee-shop organising in the US, and are looking to replicate that here.

Similar to the industry itself, the activists and lay officials are mostly young workers. Like me, they have only known rampant neo-liberalism – privatisation and deregulation – and extreme austerity, and have been looking for an alternative.

Under the Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, many saw avenues a fightback and got involved in the union to change our industry. Even though Corbyn was defeated in the Labour Party, this mood hasn’t dissipated. Young workers involved in struggle haven’t gone anywhere and Unite Hospitality is a great example of that. We are young workers who see real change is needed for us to live our lives.

That change includes an end to zero hours, £15-an-hour minimum wage without exemptions, safe travel, proper training, consultation on rotas, trade union recognition, and fair tipping policies! But most of all we need socialism!

Hospitality workers fight exploitation here and in US

Ferdy Lyons, Chair of Unite LE1646 bar and restaurant workers, and Youth Fight for Jobs steering committee

On 9 March, hospitality workers in the Unite trade union held a day of action in London highlighting their poor treatment.

It kicked off with a demo outside the newly opened Abandon Ship Bar in Covent Garden.

This was to bring attention to how  the parent company, MacMerry, has mistreated  staff in its Scottish bars. Those workers have raised a collective grievance against the employer, which has lead to one union member being suspended and unceremoniously escorted from one of the bars while on shift.

This was followed by a great show of internationalism, with a joint meeting between Unite Hospitality  and Unite Here (US hospitality union) regarding organising across borders in global hotel chains, and the exchange of organising tactics.

With the delegation sent by Unite Here, we then rallied outside the Chiltern Firehouse, whose owner sacked all the staff at Chateau Marmont, his US hotel in Los Angeles, at the start of the pandemic, and then refused to rehire them once the hotel reopened, even though they were legally obliged to do so.

Unsurprisingly, most of the workers not recalled were Unite Here members and activists.

Hospitality workers are one of the most exploited workforces, and at the rate Unite Hospitality is growing, it’s clear we’ve had enough and want to fight back and make a change.

We need a £15-an-hour minimum wage, an end to zero-hour contracts, safe journeys home, fair tips and equal pay for young workers!

Reinstate Usdaw rep Max! Join the week of action

Youth Fight for Jobs supporting the #ReinstateMax campaign outside Tesco in Wakefield

Max McGee, an Usdaw representative and branch secretary at one of Tesco’s distribution depots, is seeking reinstatement after being systematically victimised for standing up for his members. He was given a final written warning on trumped-up charges for which he successfully won a harassment grievance against his line manager. Yet the ruling was upheld regardless.

He was then fired after assisting a pregnant co-worker change a forklift battery, which led to him being electrocuted by faulty equipment. He was brought up on charges of falsifying his injury. But when Tesco was challenged with the first-aider’s report, it simply modified the charge and sacked him for exaggerating his injuries.

The past victories of Usdaw in the depot include a pushback on unsafe business practices, of which this rep played an active role in organising, alongside building a mass grievance in relation to Covid safety and performance, as well as encouraging workers to cite Section 44 to combat these attacks through the union.

The timing of Max’s sacking was not insignificant as it was during an industrial ballot on pay and conditions across a number of Tesco warehouses. Despite Max’s victimisation and sacking, the depot voted overwhelmingly for strike action. This forced Tesco to come back with an improved offer on pay and terms, which members voted to accept.

With Usdaw’s support, Max has exhausted all appeals and is preparing to go to an employment tribunal to overturn the outrageous decision to sack him. The Reinstate Max campaign is keeping up the pressure on Tesco. We can increase Max’s chances of getting some measure of justice whilst making it clear that trade union victimisation will not be tolerated.

Maurice Cooper, York Youth Fight for Jobs, former Tesco worker and Usdaw member said “The firing of Max McGee is a blatant attempt by Tesco management to suppress militant trade unionism at a time when warehouse members were balloting for strike action to keep up with rising inflation. This year Tesco have announced thousands of jobs cuts across stores. We don’t believe it is a coincidence that an Usdaw branch secretary was sacked ahead of disputes between the company and its workforce.

“We in Youth Fight for Jobs campaign fully support the demands that Tesco re-instates Max McGee and furthermore that Tesco improve the conditions of their workers (many of whom are young people such as Max) including decent pay, decent working conditions and for the protection of their rights as members of a trade union. We also call on all Tesco workers of all ages to join USDAW, it is the only way we can fight and win. Solidarity.”

  • Organise a protest outside a Tesco store or depot during the 12-18 March week of action and invite Max to speak at your meeting. You can contact Max and send messages of solidarity, as well as order leaflets and posters, at reinstate.max.mcgee@gmail.com
  • Can you help support the #Reinstate Max campaign by donating or getting your union branch to donate at gofundme.com/f/reinstate-max-usdaw-rep-socialist

Hundreds march with Youth Fight for Jobs on October 9th – a thank you to all our supporters

Marches in Bristol, Southampton, Cardiff, Leeds and Birmingham

Thank you to all our supporters for Youth Fight for Jobs’ national day of action on Saturday 9th October. With your support, Youth Fight for Jobs organised marches and protests for young people’s futures in 15 towns and cities across the UK.

While young and working class people have suffered over the course of the pandemic, the billionaires in Britain have increased their wealth be a fifth. Now, Boris Johnson is promising a high-wage, high-skill economy – but we know we’ll only get that through collective workers’ action.

Youth Fight for Jobs took to the streets to demand that instead, big business is made to pay for the crisis. We marched and protested for a £15 an hour living wage, an end to zero hours contracts, for real training and apprenticeship schemes for young people and a mass programme of socially useful and environmentally sustainable job creation. In some areas, we organised flying pickets of businesses notorious for their low wages, poor working conditions and use of zero hours contracts. We are proud to say that we were joined on the day by young workers, students and trade unionists.

Below are a few reports of the day from our supporters on the ground locally.

Bristol

YFJ day of action, Bristol, 9.10.21

There was a constant stream of people passing by our demo, and it was motivating to see many people stop to talk to us about their frustration with the situation and their desire to find a solution. We had a great turnout from the trade union councils from Gloucester and Bristol.

One 17-year-old worker we spoke to explained the struggles she has experienced while working in retail – not knowing her hours from one week to the next, being made to work while she was ill, and a manager who refused to give her a copy of her contract.

This demo was just the beginning. Young people are becoming more and more disillusioned with capitalism. Now is our best opportunity to spread our message, and fight for socialism.

Glasgow

Glasgow hosted Scotland’s first Youth Fight for Jobs protest of the relaunched campaign. Our city will also soon host COP26.

Fiona Brittle, a member of civil service union PCS, said: “It’s so important for young workers and socialists to mobilise ahead of COP26, to demand significant and meaningful action from the Scottish government to tackle the climate emergency and create secure, well-paid green jobs for a just transition away from the fossil fuel economy.”

“The ruling class have demonstrated for years that they not only don’t care about how climate change, created by their capitalist machinations, threatens the working class, they actively benefit from the opportunity to exploit and squeeze us as a result of climate hardship.

“We need a systemic overhaul to fight the ecological crisis, ensure decent jobs and fair wages for workers, and start to repair the massive harm caused by austerity. And that overhaul must come from workers in solidarity with each other, unionised and organised.”

Leeds

Leeds

One student said: “We’re made to chase league tables, get the top grades, get a degree, and a masters, then end up in Pret on £8 an hour”

Another attendee said: “These jobs require emotional labour, as someone who struggles to even look people in the eye, what can I do?”.

After marching through the city centre, general secretary of the bakers’ union BFAWU, Sarah Woolley, ended the protest with a rousing call to take the fight to the Tories.

Swansea

Youth Fight for Jobs worked alongside the local trade union council in order to provide a sound system, which allowed young people to speak freely about their experiences. Elliot Vaughan, a recent graduated, spoke about the pressure placed on young people to go to university in order to get a job.

A representative from the CWU said how excited he was by young people standing up for their rights and for a better future, and called for solidarity between young people and workers. A breakout meeting followed the protest, and the discussion continued.

March for jobs and a future for young people on October 9th!

If you’re a young person or trade unionist, and you want to get involved or support any of these marches in your local area, visit youthfightforjobs.com/get-involved

  • Birmingham: Victoria Square 1pm (West Mids regional demo)
  • Leeds: Millenium Square, 12pm (Yorkshire regional demo)
  • London: Assemble outside Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), 1pm
  • Liverpool: Top of Church Street (by Bold Street), 12pm
  • Leicester: Meet at the Clocktower, 2pm
  • Glasgow: Skills Development Scotland, Monteith House, George Square, 1pm
  • North East Midlands, Mansfield: Westgate (near Market Place), NG18 1JA, 1pm
  • Bristol: Outside McDonald’s, 101/105 the Horsefair, BS1 3JR, 1pm
  • Plymouth: Meet at the Sundial Fountain, 1pm
  • Cardiff: Outside the Capitol Centre, Queen Street, 12pm
  • Swansea: Castle Square, 2pm
  • Brighton: Meet at the middle circle of the Level, 1pm
  • Southampton: The Bargate, 1pm
  • Reading: Assemble at Reading Council Offices, RG1 2LU, 1pm
  • Portsmouth: Guildhall Square, 12pm

Workers at Pret beat back attacks on wages – protest with Youth Fight for Jobs on October 9th

Joe Waters, Gloucestershire USDAW

Photo by Hakan Dohlstrom, Creative Commons

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

March for jobs on October 9th

Fight for a future for young people!

 

Swansea Youth Fight for Jobs campaigners, 31st July 2021

The Youth Fight for Jobs ten point programme:

  1. Collective struggle for the right to a decent job for all
  2. For a mass trade union led fightback against the jobs slaughter, fire and re-hire and all the bosses’ attacks on workers
  3. No to mass youth unemployment – for a mass programme of socially useful and environmentally friendly job creation
  4. End low pay. For trade union struggle for a £12 an hour minimum wage as a step towards a real living wage of £15 an hour. Abolish youth rates.
  5. Scrap zero hour contracts. End job insecurity 
  6. No to bogus training schemes. For real training and apprenticeship schemes, under the democratic oversight of the trade unions, with a guaranteed job at the end for all. Abolish apprenticeship rates – for a living wage and grant for all trainees and apprentices.
  7. Wherever job losses are threatened, open company accounts to democratic trade union inspection to show where the money has gone
  8. Trade union rights at work from day one
  9. For a mass programme of council house building and rent controls
  10. Make the 1% pay for the crisis – for democratic public ownership of major industry and the banks to provide us with a future

A major crisis is unravelling in front of young people in Britain today. Our futures – starting with our jobs – are being sacrificed by big business and the pro-capitalist politicians and parties to protect the profits of the super-rich 1%. 

The coronavirus pandemic has already been hard for young people. Retail, accommodation and food services are the biggest sectors employing young people and they’ve have seen the biggest job cuts. So young people have suffered the brunt of job losses over the course of the pandemic, with two thirds of all overall redundancies hitting under 25s. 

We also face growing job insecurity, an explosion of unaffordable housing, the burden of student debt, many of us face discrimination and the environmental catastrophe threatens our future.

That’s why on Saturday 9th October, Youth Fight for Jobs across the country is organising youth marches for jobs to demand that we are not made to pay for this crisis.

The ending of the furlough scheme in October will mark a new phase of suffering as the bosses, after receiving millions of pounds in furlough money from the Tories, will move to slash our jobs.

Over the course of the pandemic, in Britain the billionaires have increased their overall wealth by a fifth. We say that they should be made to pay for this crisis, not young people and the working class. 

But in order to make them pay, we have to build a mass collective movement to fight for what we, the majority, need. The right to a decent job is essential if we’re to have a future. But under capitalism, where profit comes before all else, no such right can be guaranteed – it has to be fought for. 

We say the kind of struggle we need is a trade union led struggle. With over 6 million members, organised in workplaces across the country, the trade unions are potentially the most powerful weapons in building a mass collective struggle against the attacks of the bosses and the Tories. The potential for collective action has been proved by the many victories striking workers have chalked up in 2021. 

That’s why we campaign for the leaders of our trade unions to throw the full weight of the trade union movement behind the fight against the jobs slaughter, to help organise young workers, and to lead the fightback for decent jobs for all.

But we don’t just need to build a struggle against job cuts, we need to build a mass movement for what young people need for an independent life and decent future. 

That’s why Youth Fight for Jobs fights for a mass programme of government investment into socially useful job creation, under the democratic oversight of the trade union movement, funded by taking the wealth from the super-rich 1%, including through nationalisation of industry and the banks.

But capitalism is a system in which the economy and society is organised to maximise the profits of a tiny handful at the top of society, ahead of the social needs and wants of the majority. 

That’s why we fight not just for a trade union-led struggle against the jobs slaughter, but for a socialist society based on meeting the needs of all. 

Youth Fight for Jobs is back!

March and protest with us on 9 October

Reece Wilson, PCS union

Young workers and students are organising Youth Fight for Jobs in preparation for a day of action on 9 October. The Youth Fight for Jobs campaign is needed now more than ever.

The furlough scheme is set to end in September, and scores of young people are set to be cast out into the world of unemployment, at worst, and low-paid precarious jobs, at best.

The government’s plan for youth jobs is shipping young people into minimum wage, part-time, six-month contracts. We must fight for a better future.

Youth Fight for Jobs was founded in 2009 in similar circumstances. The consequences of the 2007-08 financial crash were borne on the shoulders of the working class – especially its young members. Since then, 13 years of austerity have left young workers in poverty and uncertainty.

Degrees and apprenticeships that were meant to bring young people success and security have left them penniless, in debt, or both. At the opposite pole, the 2,365 billionaires in the world increased their wealth to almost $13 trillion – a 54% increase.

Both the government and the Labour Party have shown that they do not care about the working class, and only care about the rich.

Some recent workers’ struggles have been victorious – the Royal London Hospital strike and that of the Thurrock bin workers. But things will get worse if we let the bosses keep pushing against us.

Youth Fight for Jobs will be marching in cities and towns on 9 October for a future for young people, with well-paid secure socially useful jobs that benefit everyone, not just the bank accounts of the bosses.

So join us. From school students to the unemployed to young workers – this is your future. Help us organise the fightback.

Youth Fight for Jobs says the trade unions should fight:

  • Against all job cuts – Open the finance books and nationalise firms to save jobs
  • For real training and apprenticeship schemes for young people – For a decent job at the end of training
  • For the right to a job for all – End low pay, and fight for government investment in socially useful job creation. Share out the work with no loss of pay
  • To make the 1% pay – Take the monopolies and banks into democratic public ownership to provide every young and working-class person with a future