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Issue 79:

January 2019

the bulletin of
theActivist members in

JOHN LEWIS WORKERS COUNT


THE COST OF THE RETAIL CRISIS
A John Lewis worker

A
s a John Lewis retail worker I was
gutted to hear that for the first
time in 66 years the John Lewis
leadership might suspend the
annual staff bonus.
What is even worse is that they admitted
they could afford to pay a modest bonus but
may choose not to due to “unusual economic
circumstances”. Brexit and the crisis on the
high street were both blamed.
But many of the low-paid staff at John
Lewis (and Waitrose which is also part of the

photo EG Focus/CC
partnership) cannot afford not to receive a
bonus! Especially since the bonus last year
was cut for the fifth year in a row and was only
5% of a worker’s annual salary.
This is not very much when you consider that
non-management workers start on salaries
that are well below the £10 an hour that both
the Socialist Party and Usdaw demand should of the past. They were scrapped for all new
be the absolute minimum for all workers. workers several years ago. John Hannett- comitted
John Lewis’s ‘employee-owned’ partnership It’s a very uncertain time for retail workers Blairite?
model means the company is viewed by some right now and it feels like almost every week The Activist congratulates John
as a fantastic place to work. another high street retailer is in trouble. The Hannett who is spending his
However, this is at odds with how many staff most recent is M&S, which has announced a retirement from being Usdaw
feel. Morale is low and we are expected to offer further 17 store closures, putting 1,045 jobs general secretary by
the same high level of service with less and at risk. getting elected to
less staff. The Socialist Party argues that these failing the strategy board of
Although management likes to emphasise that retailers should not be allowed to sack workers worker-bashing, Blairite-
we are all ‘co-owners’, employee concerns are and should instead be brought into public supporting organisation
usually downplayed or ignored. There is no union ownership. Progress!
recognition which makes it harder to organise Trade unions need to reach out to retail
with colleagues to fight for improvements. workers in unorganised workplaces who would
The company has its own ‘democracy be receptive to campaigns such as Usdaw’s
structures’, which many workers do engage ‘Time for Better Pay’ which not only demands JOIN THE SOCIALISTS
with to try and get their voice heard. a £10-an-hour minimum wage but also an
However, many quickly get disillusioned with end to zero-hour contracts, which many retail Text JOIN with your name & postcode to
them as, without the right to strike or collective workers are currently on. This campaign must 07761 818206
bargaining that trade unions bring, it means that, be backed up with a willingness to organise e: join@socialistparty.org.uk
in reality, these structures don’t have any teeth. serious action. t: 020 8988 8777 t: @socialist _party
In many ways, working at John Lewis feels All I want is to be able to do my job
like working for any other retailer. Premium effectively, with the right resources, and be
f: Socialist Party
pay for Sundays and bank holidays are things paid fairly for it.

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theActivist the bulletin of members in

Bank Holidays - Who are they for? Irish Tesco strike in


those Hogmanay Hangovers?
defence of union
New Year’s Day - a day to accommodate holiday. Something which, if not managed
correctly, might mean they themselves
Good Friday and Easter Monday - a have to work, when they could be Irish Tesco workers took strike action in December
festival and holiday celebrating the spending time with their own family. against the effective derecognition of their trade union
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus? Bosses and shareholders can be seen Mandate. Workers in Sligo took four days of strike
May Day (International Workers Day) at their most grasping and some store action and were joined by Tesco workers in Carrick-on-
- a day to show solidarity with past and managers at their most deceitful when Shannon on 22 December.
current struggles of workers, throughout it comes to Boxing Day. Christmas, even 70 workers joined the first day of the strike in Sligo, a
the world. From 1890 it has been for non-believers, is a festive, social time process that evolved from a collective grievance lodged
associated with the struggle to secure the of year that most workers look forward in April 2017. After Tesco management repeatedly
right to an eight hour working day. to spending with their families. Usdaw ignored this, eventually Mandate balloted workers with
Boxing Day - Traditionally, it was a day are part of a campaign to force the large 97% voting for strike action on an 85% turnout!
when employers distributed money, food, retailers to close on Boxing Day. I believe This dispute, like the previous strike wave in Tesco in
cloth (material) or other valuable goods to it would only take one of the “big four” 2017, is a resounding rejection of the idea that retail
their employees. retailers to have the courage to admit workers will not respond to calls for strike action.
These are only brief statements as to the that, after the pre-Christmas spree, Clearly workers in Sligo have shown their
origins of these particular public holidays. spending in food retail stores declines, determination not to be walked over by management.
In England and Wales, there are eight such probably until the New Year. They should The Activist sends its full support to Tesco workers
holidays identified in the calendar. then have the courage to close on Boxing taking strike action in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon.
You might say that these definitions Day and the others would follow suit. This follows the strike in over 20 Tesco stores in 2017
answer the “what they are for” and not the Alternatively, as most large food retailers over changes to contracts for longer standing workers
“who”; and you would be right. The truth is, have trade union agreements that do not who had contracts stretching back to companies which
increasingly, over the last forty years Bank recognise collective bargaining, Usdaw had been taken over by Tesco. At the time, Socialist
Holidays are being seen by unscrupulous should encourage its members, nationally, Party members spoke to a Tesco worker about the
bosses, not as commemorative holidays to exercise their right, this year, to opt out lengths which Tesco management have been prepared
but as retail opportunities. Directors of working on all Bank Holidays, including to go to to break the union.
and shareholders of the “big four” food Boxing Day 2019. This, even if the result “There was massive scaremongering by
retailers, in the UK, look forward to these was the closure of only some stores, management that particularly affected the younger
long weekend breaks whilst their workers would see shoppers plan their spending to newer members of staff. They were being told that their
are exploited, deceived and even bullied accommodate the extra days holiday and fixed term contracts would not be renewed if they went
into working, with threats such as “we have retailers would see little, if any, effect on out on strike.
to meet the needs of the business” and their turnover. In the meantime, it is likely “As well there was an element of division introduced
“if we gave you all the day off we’d have to to be a long campaign that will require by management where they hinted that newer staff
close” and finally, “if we didn’t open we’d legislation to be put in place, defining would get more hours if the company succeeded
lose business and you could lose your job”. which retailers are to be covered with their in altering the terms of the pre-1996 staff. Various
What about the “needs of the employees”? size/turnover/sector likely to be factors. freebees have been lavished on those working through
It might surprise you to know that, Also, it is our duty, as Trade Unionists, the strike such as reduced prices on stock and free
most large retailers have a policy on to make sure that all workers are made lunches.
Bank Holiday working which stipulates it aware of their rights on Bank Holiday “The massive costs the company are prepared to
is voluntary. Workers are entitled to “opt and Sunday working. As Trade Union incur - loss of business of up to 90% in the stores
out” of working on these days, without loss Representatives, we can be guilty of where there are pickets coupled with the full page
of earnings. Holiday entitlement either naivety in believing that policy and/ ads they are taking out in the newspapers - should
includes the eight Bank Holidays, or is in or legislation is fully explained at an tell us that this is not just about the marginally better
addition to your annual holiday entitlement. employee’s induction; that the handbook conditions of 250 staff out of 14,000.
In practice, as with the legislation or website fully explains workers’ rights; “Clearly it is about breaking the union in Tesco in
on Sunday working and your right that workers’ can be held responsible for order to prepare for further more significant attacks
to opt out of that, Store Supervisors researching such information. on pay and conditions down the road. Tesco aim to
through Store Managers and even onto Bosses must respect workers’ rights in double their annual profits in Ireland and they see
Regional Managers, will apply pressure this and all areas of legislation and their the driving down of pay and conditions as the most
on employees and deceive them into managers’ should follow the policy as laid straightforward way of achieving that.
believing their jobs are at risk, rather down by the company. We as local Trade “The support from the wider public has been great.
than make them fully aware of policy Union Representatives are ideally placed Likewise messages of support from Tesco workers in
and legislation. Managers also fear that, to identify the deceit and bullying that other countries. We know in the UK they have got away
if workers were informed, they would goes on in our store(s). We must provide with the attacks on conditions that they are trying to
exercise their right and this would result our members with the information they impose here but Mandate has come out fighting more
in the additional task of covering for need. This is the only way to protect them so that the union that represents Tesco workers in
those workers who took their rightful from exploitation and bullying. Britain.”

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