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From: The Socialist issue 1047, 19 June 2019: Trade union action can end low pay

Search site for keywords: Low pay - Union - Trade union - Pay - Workers - NSSN - Shop Stewards - London - Zero-hour contracts - Usdaw - National Shop Stewards Network - Low-paid - living wage - Minimum wage

Trade union action can end low pay

Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party

Cleaners on the London Overground strike against low pay on 5 April, photo London Socialist Party, photo London Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Ruth Byrne, catering worker

Five million workers in Britain (over one in six) are stuck in low-paid and insecure work.

Amy Murphy, president of the shop workers' union Usdaw, will be speaking at the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference on Saturday 6 July on how unions are campaigning for a living wage and guaranteed minimum hours.

Employers say it's all about flexibility - but who gains from it? They have a workforce on tap, but only pay for people to work when they want them.

Their workers on the other hand have to live in constant insecurity. Have you ever seen a contract that lets you pay less rent some months? Does anyone get discounts on food or travel when they get less hours? Does your mobile provider (essential for getting work for most workers on zero-hour contracts or in other precarious jobs) reduce your bill when you're short of cash?

Bills

Usdaw has found that three-quarters of low-paid workers rely on credit cards, overdrafts, borrowing from family or payday loans to pay essential bills.

Employers and agencies also use insecure work to instil fear and stop workers from standing up for themselves. When you know that refusing a work shift could mean you are never offered one again, it isn't easy to risk losing it. Never mind having a life or commitments outside working whatever hours your employer wants you to work. The same goes for mentioning unsafe working conditions or standing up to harassment.

But despite the obstacles, many workers are fighting back, and the NSSN conference is a fantastic place to hear and meet other people who are doing this. It brings together union shop stewards, rank-and-file trade unionists and campaigners to share ideas and build links between different workplaces. Whatever issues you are fighting on, it will inspire you.

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