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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 January 2020

Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Tesco Dagenham distribution centre; One-day Usdaw strike over pay. , photo Richard Groves

Tesco Dagenham distribution centre; One-day Usdaw strike over pay. , photo Richard Groves   (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Aldred, secretary, Usdaw union Plymouth and District General Branch (personal capacity)

Boris Johnson has announced the minimum wage is going up. It's not by nearly enough. And at the same time, the Tories let bosses get away with paying hundreds of thousands of workers below the legal minimum!

Scandalously, nearly one in four workers on the misnamed National 'Living Wage' is underpaid, according to a report by the state's Low Pay Commission. To make matters worse, the figures show a year-on-year increase.

305,000 workers lost out in 2016; 339,000 were underpaid in 2017; and 369,000 were swindled in 2018. Retail, hospitality, cleaning, maintenance and childcare are the worst culprits.

The official figures - damning in their own right - only tell a partial tale. What they don't reflect is the something-for-nothing culture that bosses have come to expect.

Workers are pressured - and often outright bullied, particularly in zero-hour workplaces - into working unpaid overtime, as bosses squeeze every last ounce of profit out of us.

Working through breaks, starting work early to 'get ahead', or staying behind to 'finish up' - all while being off the clock - are illegal. Yet they're commonplace in many industries.

Moreover, in a bid to cut costs, many employers are laying off (or not replacing) staff - while expecting the remaining workforce to pick up the slack by working harder!

It is clear that this government of big business, intent on scrapping workers' rights, cannot be relied upon even to uphold its own laws on these matters. Some employers even create jobs to gain government tax incentives, then keep those workers in poverty with zero and low-hour contracts.

However, it doesn't have to be this way! By joining a union and getting organised in the workplace we can force the bosses back.

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), falls far short when she simply says more investment is needed to identify lawbreaking employers. The TUC could take a lead from French workers, and boost workers' confidence with a call to action on low pay and a national demonstration.

Underpaying workers is nothing short of theft. By getting organised in the workplace we can collectively enforce our rights and show the bosses we will not tolerate this injustice.

By having the confidence to make demands, backed by preparedness to demonstrate and strike for better conditions, we can make it clear to the bosses that it's only decent wages, not poverty pay, that will do!

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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In The Socialist 15 January 2020:


What we think

Labour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

Labour leadership race: Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer


News

Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Build for strikes to save NHS

No free ride for the airline bosses - nationalise Flybe now!

Them & Us


Workplace news

Hackney school bus workers win pay increase following strikes

PCS: Time to rebuild the left

Northern Ireland: Thousands of nurses continue to strike for better pay

Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark

London bus drivers ballot to strike

Union lawyer arrested on security guards' picket line


Campaigns

We need socialists in London's City Hall

Stop gentrification in Newham: "We are here, you have consulted us and we're not going anywhere!"

Massive Scottish independence demo marks new stage in struggle

Young people who voted for Corbyn's manifesto will now ask... How can we win those ideas?

London: Protesters return to oppose Middle East war

Cladding scandal: Government steps up defence of landlords

Nottingham: Youth protest against Barclays £64 million fossil-fuel investments

Socialist Party national committee meeting


International socialist news and analysis

Renewed protests shake Iranian leaders

France: Strike wave over pensions - Macron government in retreat


Readers' opinion

Sustainable food production and the need for socialism

TV Review: Apocalypse Cow

The Socialist Inbox


 

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