Workers across all industries are being exposed to precarious employment during the Covid-19 crisis, with many bosses showing their true colours and failing to support staff.
Agency workers are one group that are are really having to fight to survive. The law doesn’t offer agency workers the same protections as many other workers, and when the crisis hit, many temporary work assignments were cut or cancelled.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) assistant branch Secretary, and STUC Youth Committee member, John Carson, writes to celebrate the work of Postal Workers during this crisis, and to warn of the changes that are threatening the future of this great public service.
During this Covid-19 crisis, a great many of our Postal Workers have gone to many great lengths to serve their local communities: whether it is simply checking up on older and vulnerable residents, helping to deliver essential goods such as food and medicine, or playing a vital role in collecting the crucial Coronavirus test boxes: each act pays testimony to the great service that our Postal Workers provide; above and beyond their basic functions.
Every day, each member of our service takes their own share of risk to complete these duties and to serve the people of the United Kingdom. With concerns over PPE and social distancing still high on the agenda, it is only right, therefore, that here today we are all able to pay tribute to the men and women of the Postal service who are providing such vital services at this present time.
Already, the response of the general public has been absolutely overwhelming. Every message of support, every picture on a window, every wave from a doorstep is a massive boost and truly appreciated by all our members. It highlights more than ever the shared sense of solidarity and belonging that each of us enjoys in our communities, as well as highlighting the part we play in serving them. It is this social capital that is the true wealth and worth of the work Royal Mail does.
Sadly, not everything in the life of a postal worker is one of such happy and dedicated service. Since the privatisation of Royal Mail in 2013, many feel there has been a concerted effort by those in charge to undermine the service in order to prioritise financial profits. As a consequence, many workplace relations have become fraught, whilst morale in the company has plummeted due to a rigid managerial bureaucracy and top-level intransigence, which has replaced the virtues of collaboration and industrial progress. Only in December of last year it was announced that for the third time in two years, Royal Mail employees had voted to support strike action by huge margins – 94.5% approval on a 63.1% turnout – smashing the requirements of the 2016 anti-Trade Union legislation.
The following blog is written by Maria Feeney - Chair of STUC Youth Committee
As we mark this year’s International Worker’s Memorial Day(IWMD), we are reminded now more than ever the injustice faced by workers across the world whose workplaces lack the adequate health and safety standards in facing the COVID-19 crisis.
In the UK, more than 90 healthcare key workers have already sadly lost their lives in the last month due to COVID-19. This loss of life is even more appalling when healthcare workers have been crying out for necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that could have prevented these deaths.
The Royal College of Physicians reported only yesterday that NHS staff’s lives are still at risk.
Although our efforts to draw rainbows on our windows and stand outside our doors to clap for keyworkers can be seen as an act of solidarity, in reality our efforts are merely futile.
History has proven time and time again that the only way to fight back against exploitative workplaces is through Trade Union activism.
Those on the frontline are facing preventable risks, and in order to show real solidarity, we must hold the Government and companies who are running key work to account and demand PPE and adequate health and safety for our key workers.
Last week staff at Pure Spa & Beauty, an Edinburgh-based company with chains across the UK, were told by the CEO Becky Woodhouse to accept zero hour contracts or resign. The workers at the Silverburn branch refused to accept the ultimatum. Here is their account of what happened.
We are the workers at PURE Spa & Beauty in Silverburn. Last week PURE’s chief executive Becky Woodhouse issued an ultimatum to all staff across the UK in light of the coronavirus crisis, demanding that we either sign a zero hour contract or resign. We were unwilling to accept this false choice: by resigning we would be losing our claim to redundancy payment, and by going onto zero-hours contracts we would lose our claim to our existing hours and pay. The government had clearly issued a statement saying they would release news of support for businesses, and that workers should not be laid off during this interim period. We came together to demand clarity and support from PURE. Instead of this, the company replied with repeated deadlines for signing the zero hours contract, all of which passed without consequence. Defeating this ultimatum gave us strength to stick to our collective position.
When the government announced 80% wage support, we wrote to PURE asking that we be allowed a choice between remaining on our existing contracts and receiving full pay, or be offered redundancy. We have seen many examples of companies in the UK keeping their staff on full pay with government support, and want PURE to do the same – one of our members has worked for 8 years at PURE and many of us have families to support.
As workers who face a loss of pay due to COVID-19 here’s what we can still do
The collateral of COVID-19 falls heavy on workers. Employers are scaling down hours and operations and the government is urging people to work from home. But those who can’t work from home need an income, irrespective of the need to self-isolate. How can we get it?
This is becoming an unavoidable catastrophe for low-waged workers. Pubs and restaurants are grinding to a standstill. Hairdressing salons and high street stores are shutting shop.
We recently published the first of a series of advice on what to do if you are a precarious worker affected by the coronavirus.
The advice there was to speak to your colleagues, meet together, form your demand for decent sick pay, and take it to your boss with a plan of action if they refuse.
But things are moving fast, businesses are already closing their doors, and it may soon be impossible to meet your colleagues face-to-face and take action at work. So what now?