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26 October 2015
Morrisons workers deserve fair pay and conditions
Below, a Morrisons Usdaw union rep gives their personal take on the current pay offer which Usdaw is recommending.
Socialist Party members in Usdaw believe that Morrisons workers should reject this pay offer and demand that the union negotiating committee fights to retain premium payments.
Given that companies are due to be forced by the government's new 'living wage' to pay £7.20 an hour to over 25s (rising to £9) it is entirely possible that over the next few years pay could again be restrained like over the past period with the pay rate hovering slightly above the minimum wage once more.
Usdaw should actively support and campaign for the TUC's demand of a minimum wage for all of £10 an hour.
Retail has historically been low paid. So on the surface Usdaw negotiating Morrisons staff a wage increase from the basic rate of £6.83 to the dizzying heights of £8.20, taking them over the so-called living wage, seems like more than a fair deal.
That is the coverage that is in the media. The reality is a double edged sword. The new wage deal sees the end of the company's Sunday premium currently paid at time and a half, ironic when Usdaw the 'Campaigning Union', that organises predominately in the retail sector, is fighting the government's propositions to deregulate Sunday trading.
In trading away the Sunday premium, is Morrisons preparing for it to become a normal working day or accepting it already is one?
The Sunday premium isn't where it ends either. Overtime, and late and early premiums are being scrapped. Forklift drivers and cafe cooks will see their supplements disappear. People who started with the company after December 2013 will only receive service rewards at five year intervals.
Finally, paid breaks will disappear taking the working week down to 36.5 hours (39 hours minus paid breaks).
The concern of many rank and file Usdaw reps within Morrisons (who don't negotiate pay, apart from a select committee who sit with the National Officer) is that terms and conditions are being traded away for a higher rate of pay, and given the government's attack on working tax credits and benefit cuts, are members realistically going to be any better off? Many Usdaw members in Morrisons are part-time student workers, and some only work a Sunday.
Of course for some people who don't work late, early, or on Sundays it's understandable why they might be excited about the offer. But how long before they are expected to work late, early and on Sundays?
Usdaw however is recommending that members accept the company's offer. Many members are asking why. Surely a trade union fights to strengthen its members terms and conditions?
It's not difficult to understand members' or even non-members' apathy towards the union when you look deeply into what is being offered, and a perceived lack of any sort of a challenge from Usdaw officials. They just seem concerned with recruiting new members.
Usdaw needs to remind itself that recruitment is only a part of organising, and it is unlikely to recruit new members or organise the ones it has if it keeps trading away terms and conditions without so much as a fight.
Who's next: Tesco, Sainsbury's? Where's the next new member coming from? Because the old question is more than likely: 'What is the union going to do for me?' And with deals like this even the most dedicated reps and trade unionists are struggling to answer that one.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 26 October 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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