Suki Sangha for >ZERO at 20th June Demo

Here's the text from young trade unionist, Suki Sangha's speech at the STUC's Anti Austerity Rally in Glasgow on the 20th of June

"The threat of eviction, the bullying bosses and the fear which consumes your life:This is the reality of millions of young people across the UK on zero hours contracts, buckling under the pressure of daily life

There are thousands of people, who without the collective solidarity of our trade union movement have no capacity to fight back against their draconian bosses. 

We need to send a message that we are on the side of the unorganised, the precarious and the young, because Scotland’s young workers are BETTER than zero:

• Better than the zero-hours contracts which fills their lives and futures with uncertainty

• Better than the zero hours contracts which treat them as “a staffing resource” rather than people

•Better than the zero pay they'll often receive when being asked or told to work extra hours at the drop of a hat.

Zero hours contracts have nothing to do with flexibility and everything to do with exploiting workers.   

Let me introduce you to some multi millionaire bosses who are dancing on the misery of thousands of workers and who should rightly feel our wrath today:

A few streets away from here there's a shop called BetFred, a company owned by billionaire Fred Done. Fred Done pays his staff a minimum wage to work 12 hour shifts. This very man then offers his staff high- interest loans at 40% APR. So, not only are you struggling on a pitiful salary but you're only choice is a loan plunging you into further debt which he deducts from your wages.

And in the other direction Stefan King, owner of the G1 Group who pays his staff a minimum wage. Not satisfied with paying his staff a disgraceful salary he then tells them to pay for their uniforms. We need to be relentless in our pursuit to expose these bad bosses and this movement needs to stand with workers in these precarious workplaces.

Young people are not commodities. A zero hours contract is not a simple HR issue. It is to be told that one day you are good enough to work, and the next day to be left on the shelf; redundant at 18 years old. 

I want you to think back to the days of the dockers, when young men would fight it out on the docks to be chosen for a day's work. Think back to how bad things were then!

There are obvious parallels between the treatment of dockers then and the young workers of today. Where huge corporations like McDonalds Topshop and Sports Direct think it's acceptable to text their employees at 6am to come into work at 9am only to be told to go home because there is no work. Almost a million workers are trapped in zero hours contracts, with zero rights. 

The question is: what are WE going to do about it?

Young workers are better than the zero concern given to them by their employers. When bar workers are forced to walk home at 2 o'clock in the morning because they cannot afford two hours wages on a taxi.  

Better than zero is a statement of intent.  Better than zero means zero tolerance towards insecure and precarious work. It says that young workers should not be expected to tolerate these abuses.  How warped an economy which dictates that the women who care for our sick, our elderly, our children are worth a zero hours contract and chronic low pay? 

How warped an economy which dictates that being under 18 means less of an hourly rate?

How dare this government and employers tell a young mother working in the care sector that her labour is worth less, that her rights are more easily abused and that her child’s hunger is less of a priority than the child of a colleague five years older? 

It is time to say: no more exploitation and abuse. Let's do everything in our power to give workers a way to fight back. 

‘Better than zero’ recognises that the worst of the exploitation takes place in non-unionised workplaces - care, fast food, pub and club chains, contract cleaning and some parts of retail.  

We have more call centre workers in Glasgow than we ever had shipyard workers - these workers need to be given the confidence and belief that organising in a trade union is going to make them stronger. Only by being a trade union member in an organised workplace can our rights be protected.  For too long the trade union movement has been perceived as irrelevant to the newest generation of young workers. This is because as a movement we have been too slow to embrace the new social movements which brought thousands onto the streets.  

If we are serious about ensuring the future of our movement we must be candid enough to admit the culture shift which is needed.  Irrespective of our individual views on the referendum, the politicisation of a new generation of young people over the past three years’, has been inspirational. 

A new generation which opposes austerity, which opposes Trident and the exploitation of our natural resources for private gain, a generation taking the lead in social movement campaigning. 

There is a whole generation who need a way to fight back at their employer. To challenge exploitation and to take power back for themselves.

We should be inspired by the events taking place across the Atlantic. In the United States fast food workers have been taking strike action against bullying bosses and poverty pay. 

In Seattle, low paid workers have won one of the highest minimum wages in the world: 15 dollars an hour. 

They did this, in part by organising collective action in their workplaces to put pressure on bosses including walking out on strike. We need that spirit on our streets and in our workplaces. 

I'll finish on this message to every bad boss, in every building, to every bully- we are organising against you and we will come after you."