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Workers unite to fight pay attack in Leicester
Alex Morgan, Leicester Socialist Party
Over 300 workers for 'food giant' Samworth Brothers packed a meeting in Leicester on 12 February over threats to their pay and to hear the response of food workers' union BFAWU. The company is one of the largest employers in the city, with 5,000 workers across nine sites.
Nationwide anger felt at the increasing normalisation of poverty pay has forced the government into introducing a 'living wage' of £7.20 an hour from April 2016. As it is, £7.20 an hour is still a long way off a decent standard of living.
However, the response of companies like Samworth Brothers is to take this wage increase back from workers by axing pay enhancements.
They want to scrap all overtime and unsocial hours' payments in return for a 2% pay rise. Staff have reportedly been told that they face dismissal if they do not agree to the new contracts.
The changes could see workers suffer net losses of thousands of pounds. As a result, around 300 Samworth workers joined BFAWU in a single week.
The meeting was mainly composed of workers who had not yet joined the union. While there were many questions about what could be done to fight the changes, the overriding feeling from those present was anger at the cynical actions by their employer.
Among the speakers were BFAWU general secretary Ronnie Draper and former Leicester Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) councillor Wayne Naylor.
The example was given of the unionised Samworth Brothers site in Manchester where workers have fought off similar attacks. The call from Leicester workers was for an organised fightback against the proposals.
A long standing Samworth worker, who had been campaigning for unionisation for years, made an impassioned plea for unity and received a great response. Afterwards, queues of workers jostled to take union join forms for themselves and their colleagues.
The local Socialist Party and TUSC branches already work closely with BFAWU, supporting its campaigns for the living wage and against zero-hour contracts. We are continuing to offer solidarity and help in organising their campaign against this blatant assault on the pay of low-waged workers.
Ultimately this struggle must also be linked to the need for a real living wage of £10 an hour and the fighting unionisation of workplaces that is necessary to achieve this.
In The Socialist 24 February 2016:
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