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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Scrap Zero Hour Contracts - demand respect in the workplace




Today workers walked out in #StrikeAction at Hovis Premier Foods, in Wigan.

The issue of #ZeroHour contracts and the use of agency workers is one that is taking up a considerable amount of column space in both local and national newspapers at the moment. Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union - BFAWU highlighted this exploitation back in 2011 during a dispute with a well known supplier of cake products.



The current dispute with Hovis is one which has the potential to shape all future employment. It's about the casualisation of the food industry and a race to the bottom. Unlike other disputes over workers pay and conditions, this is a fight for the right of future workers to be given a contract of employment on the same terms and conditions of those they will work alongside. It’s a fight to ensure that the local residents continue to have credible job opportunities and perhaps more importantly, that future generations in the community have the same opportunities to gain secure, well paid employment.

This fight is about protecting the ability to have a contract of employment between employer and employee, so that future employees can help the wider economy with their purchasing power & their disposable income. Agency workers and those employed on zero hour contracts struggle to get rented property due to the precariousness nature of their employment. They are also vulnerable to exploitation and in most cases, dependent on the state to top up, their already low incomes. It should never be the responsibility of the state to pick up the bill for employers who can afford to pay directors and managers wages and bonuses of lottery-sized proportions.

The workers at Hovis in Wigan like many across the country have seen their workmates dismissed and cheaper labour installed in their place, yet the company still ends up having to make more redundancies and still loses business. It's easy to cut jobs and replace them with cheap labour, but it would appear the problem is poor management of the company.

The trade union BFAWU has tried to reach several agreements with the company, that they simply won’t honour. They held joint discussions with Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service #ACAS and yet the company still failed to bring forward any credible proposals. In fact, they withdrew planned proposals due to ACAS’ involvement.

It's crucial that we fight for the workers of today & tomorrow. It’s essential that those leaving school are presented with the opportunity to realise their aspirations of a decent life. It is vital that industries in Britain doesn’t fall into a void of low skills, low pay and vulnerable workers. That road can only lead to disaster; one which Britain would never recover.

Unfortunately, the last time the BFAWU tackled zero hour contracts, they remained a lone voice. With honourable exceptions, the media, local politicians and the general public alike decided to remain impassive and apathetic. Since then, the use of zero-hour contracts has reached almost epidemic proportions and it has been estimated that over a million UK workers are now employed on them.

"Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants supports workers who are striking & their trade union for defending ordinary workers demanding respect in the workplace. Sadly, it's only a matter of time before before other organisations decide to jump on this particularly unpleasant bandwagon. We must unite & eradicate this injustice - Scrap #ZeroHour Contracts - demand respect in the workplace". 


It's worth pointing out that staff at the Hovis (Premier Foods) bakery in Wigan had already reduced their hours and subsequently, their pay in a bid to reduce the need for redundancies. This 'blackmail control mentality' of workers has got to stop.

Even though, after long and protracted discussions with the Union, the company still decided to proceed with job losses. Once the redundancies had been made, the company decided to renege on long standing recognition agreements and make up the ensuing staff shortfall with agency labour, with many being utilised on an ‘as and when’ basis, in other words; #ZeroHourContracts.

Since then, the union has attempted to resolve the situation with the company, but to no avail. Ultimately, the Union took the painful decision to ballot its members at the Wigan site in order to seek a mandate for industrial action.

The result was overwhelmingly in favour of strike action against the company on the following dates:

6.00am on August 28th 2013 until 6.00am on September 4th 2013

6.00am on September 11th 2013 until 6.00am on September 18th 2013

6.00am on September 25th 2013 until 6.00am on October 2nd 2013

The DEMAND ..... THE withdrawal of agency labour from the site.

The workers have no desire to lose pay. However, the current situation is unacceptable and are determined not to allow the company to set precedents, undermine current terms and conditions, create a two tier workforce and leave a poor legacy for subsequent generations of people who may be employed at Hovis in the future.

We therefore ask group members to contact Premier Foods Consumer Relations - parent company of HOVIS bakery on freephone 0800 0327111 & demand the scraping of #ZeroHourContracts - Premier Foods' Head Office 01727 815850 let them know you are a member of 'Respect For the Unemployed & Benefit Claimants'




Group members can send MESSAGES of support to 'Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union - BFAWU' Ronnie Draper, General Secretary - ronnie.draper@bfawu.org & Ian Hodson, National President - ian.hodson@bfawu.org  


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