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Originally published by Workers Wild West.
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
WORKERS WILD WEST – FREE NEWSPAPER FOR GREENFORD, PARK ROYAL, SOUTHALL, HEATHROW – Issue no.8
Download, print, read and spread the PDF version: www8
NOBODY’S GONNA SAVE US, SO LET’S LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER!
PAGE 2: Give us our money! Update on Solidarity Network cases
PAGE 4: Work reports from London Linen and Skinny Bakery
PAGE 6: This mess we’re in – Part 3: Crisis
PAGE 8: From the night shift at Bakkavor
PAGE 10: Rebel City: News from LondonTown
PAGE 12: NotTesco finest: what it’s like to work at the Greenford warehouse
PAGE 13: Updates on Amey, Wealmoor, Adelie
PAGE 15: System Article – Polish translation
WHO ARE WE?
We are a group of workers in west London, supporting each other with problems at work, job centres and landlords.There are no leaders in this network – we are independent and there is no money involved. Some of us are also in a grassroots union. Drop us a line if you want to meet up, get involved with the newspaper or need support!
We meet regularly in Southall, Greenford and Park Royal where you can pop by to discuss a work or housing problem and we can try and figure out a way to proceed together.The idea is to build a local network of support and solidarity – we are not experts or a charity – but we can work together to try and sort out our own problems. Call us on 07544 338993.
http://www.workerswildwest.wordpress.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
*** GIVE US OUR MONEY!! SOLIDARITY NETWORK UPDATE
A solidarity network is where you can come to get help if you have a problem at work or with your landlord. We are not ‘lawyers’ – just workers who know their rights and local people who think we should support each other. Without solidarity and friendship working class life is hell. If we help you, it would be great if you could help others in future. Only together can we stop people who try and take advantage of us.
Recently, this has what has been going on…
Balwinder is originally from Punjab, he came to the UK in the mid-2000s. At first he worked without documents, but he now has the right to live and work in the UK. Most recently he worked as a truck driver for a small logistics company in the Slough area. He contacted us because he had £630 in outstanding wages. We also found out that many of the drivers are on fake self-employment contracts. We sent a few letters from the IWW union to which we belong and managed to get Balwinder the whole £630 he was owed. We then asked for his payslips. When the boss could not give them to us, he agreed to pay another £330 ‘tax return’ instead. We pushed for more and finally got another £90 for a disputed overtime payment. All in all, this took a couple of months, but it was worth it for Balwinder. Maybe this boss will think twice before he steals more employees wages! Or maybe he will continue unless more employees start making some noise…
Suki contacted us with a similar story: he worked as a truck driver, again as fake self-employed. He was driving a company truck, servicing company clients, working under company management supervision and orders.To us, this means he is an employee! He wanted to leave the job and gave one week notice. Management asked him to give one month notice. He refused and a few days later got into a dispute with the manager, who sacked him on the spot. We sent some IWW union letters and the company finally paid £600 for failing to give him a week’s notice – something they didn’t legally have to do. Most often, the law is not on our side but that does not mean we cannot get what is rightfully ours. It is a question of power and whether we choose to exercise ours.
Fake contracts are everywhere. When Ravi came to see us, he told us he had never received any holiday pay even though he had worked at the same place as a loader for almost a year. Ravi could speak only very little English and was unsure of what he was actually entitled to. We looked at his contract. It said he is employed 32 hours a week, paid at £12,500 annually, but he often works more than 50 hours, which means that in reality, he is paid below the minimum wage. His payslips were irregular and no tax was deducted, which looked pretty fishy to us. It looks like the company hasn’t registered the employment. Given his low level of English we were cautious not to do anything that might cause him to get sacked. So we decided that he should wait until he got another job before we did anything. When he left the job a couple of months later, we contacted the boss with our concerns. The boss was not happy and went round to Ravi’s house with a couple of ‘friends’ to threaten Ravi and his family. He called the police and now we are trying and get the money back through a tribunal. Seeing as this workplace is a chronic offender, we will try getting in touch with people still working there.
Then we met Robbie, a worker from Poland, employed as a truck driver by a different company. He had left the job and the company withheld his wages, saying that they had paid a lot of money to his agency to transfer him into permanent ‘self-employment’. After a letter we sent that denounced their self-employment as fake they paid him the outstanding £360.
Then, Ash, a night-shift cleaner at a local bus garage, contacted us. He has worked there 11 years. Four years ago the contract was taken over by Leadac. Recently Leadac lost the contract to another company. In preparation, over the last year management has been targeting and bullying workers. Ash was shifted from his depot to a different bus garage without notice and received three disciplinary letters this year to try and intimidate him. Ash told us that the depot manager was racist and that he said in front of people that he wants to get rid of everyone, basically replacing the black workers for Polish ones. We sent some letters but didn’t get anywhere. So then we went with Ash to the bus garage and spoke to the manager directly. There was an argument but after one week he was taken back to work without any investigation – he received full wages for the time off. We were going to look into issuing a collective grievance against the depot manager but shortly after being reinstated, Ash decided to leave the job.
Next, we were contacted by two courier drivers who work for MPH England Ltd. in Kent, as self- employed courier drivers at a local Amazon parcel distribution centre.The workers hire the cars from the agency and only work for Amazon. They often work seven days a week – the agency puts them on different names in order to avoid infringement of driving regulations.The agency tried to withhold three weeks wages in one case and £560 for alleged damages in the other case. We send letters from the IWW pointing out the illegal nature of such wage cuts and threatened to complain to Amazon about the agency and their practices. They paid immediately. So what can we learn from all this? Well, bosses are not all-powerful. If we fight back, we can win back our money and some dignity.
Loads of companies are doing dodgy tax stuff and we can use this in our favour. People from the same background as us might give us work if our English is not so good, but they also exploit the situation and can try and rip us off. When this happens, we should not be afraid to speak out. Bosses are bosses – no matter if they come from the same country or village back home!
For our help, we ask that people try and help others in future. Balwinder and Suki were very happy that we managed to get their money back and in return they have helped us translate our flyers into Punjabi and have stuck them up in local temples. Plus they came with us when we went to a local sandwich factory to help talk to workers in their own own language about joining a union. We hope that by people getting involved and this network expanding, we can all start taking some power back!
IF YOU HAVE A SIMILAR PROBLEM DROP INTO ONE OF OUR WEEKLY MEETINGS.
We meet on Mondays, 5-6pm at the following places:
First Monday of the month: McDonalds, Greenford Retail Park, UB6 0UW
Third Monday of the month: Asda, Park Royal, NW10 7LW
Fourth Monday of the month: Poornima Cafe, Southall, UB1 1RT
Or call us on: 07544 338993
*** DIRTY LAUNDRY AND SLIM SWEETS – MY SUMMER AT LONDON LINEN AND SKINNY BAKERY
A friend of ours summarised his experiences about working at two west London workplaces as a temporary worker…
*** THE CITY’S DIRTY SHEETS…
I worked in an industrial laundry called London Caterer Linen in Southall.The company employs several hundred people, including the delivery drivers. While workers are paid barely more than the minimum wage, they clean the spunky sheets, dirty tablecloths and sweaty towels of some seriously rich people and corporations: the Royal Palace in Windsor, Harrods, the Sun News, the FinancialTimes and hotels like the Holiday Inn, Marriott, and Sheraton. They even had a special order for the Royal Wedding in May 2018.The company delivers linen to various locations in the south of England.
All workers are of foreign background, some from Eastern Europe and some from South Asia.There are slightly more women than men. I saw only one white English lady who was the head manager of the warehouse. There are some pretty big washing machines around, plus pressing and ironing and folding machines. I worked in the loading area with three other guys on my shift – two of them ‘team-leaders’. We had to unload vehicles and separate different types of linen like bed linen, towels, aprons into different coloured bags. After sorting them we had to put them in different cages.The work is quite simple, and not too hard when you unload: there is a little ramp where drivers throw the bags, which we had to scan and place in a cage. Loading the vans is much harder as you can’t use the ramp. Some of the bags are 30kg plus and you have to throw them into the vans – there is not enough staff and time to do it otherwise. Also some of the pre-sorting is done twice, the work organisation isn’t that good.
You have to stay till the job is done, which means that you nearly always work at least one hour overtime till midnight. The guys I worked with were cool, but the staff shortage stressed them out. One guy shifted to the transport department to become a driver – the drivers’ wage is £11.60, compared to £8.60 for a loading team leader. Only disadvantage is that they often have to work overtime due to traffic. And the van car park is way too small, which makes parking a nightmare.The other team leader just disappeared one day, he was pissed off that we had to stay till 1am for three days in a row. Without him we didn’t know how to sort the bags properly, it was all chaos. So they asked the former team leader to stay longer after he finished his driver’s shift – this meant he got up at 4:30am, drove till 5pm and then worked with us in the loading department till 1am! It was clear that he wouldn’t do this for long.They approached me and asked me if I want to become team-leader, but I thought “F**k that, I don’t kill myself for 60p more”. Instead I decided to change jobs, I’d had enough of throwing cotton bales…
*** HAVE YOUR CAKE AND BEAT IT…
I thought I would try something sweeter, so I shifted job to a small bakery in Park Royal, specialising in low carb, low sugar cakes and cookies. That’s why it’s called Skinny Bakery, as if there wasn’t enough body shaming go- ing on already. The bakery doesn’t have its own shops. The company sells the cakes nationwide, mainly through the internet. We had regular orders for the Wholefoods chain owned by Amazon, but there are only five shops in London, I think. You can even order the cakes through Amazon.The cakes are collected and delivered by DHL each the morn- ing and UK Mail collects for Wholefoods once a week.
All workers are hired directly, though the pay is skinny, too – the bare minimum. There are only three production workers (one of them is the production manager).There is only one big mixing machine, the rest of the equipment is pretty basic. Stuff is baked from scratch – the owner has a patent on the recipes.Then there is one office worker and two guys picking and packing. Sometimes the owner comes in and works in the office. She is the only English person, the working folks were from Roma- nia, Somalia, Poland, Portugal.
The job was good at first. Us two people in packing kept busy, but didn’t get too stressed. Once we finished packing we helped in production, so there was always something to do. After the second week I had some feed- back, which was a bit strange: I was asked if I could do the packing work on my own and if I was comfortable with working with my col- league. I said that I enjoyed working with my colleague. I said that it was too early to tell if the job could be done by one person alone. I figured that they hired two people to see who would be able to work faster. After a few weeks the pressure increased and the production manager told us to hurry up in order to help in production earlier. The owner threatened both of us in packing with terminating the contract, and while she wanted us to work faster she also complained about mistakes in the processing of orders. I think the latter was an excuse to justify all that pressure…
I told my colleague that we have to keep calm and try not fall into the trap of competition and that we should avoid unnecessary confrontation. This is really difficult when management basically tells you to compete for your job with your fellow worker. We continued working and being friendly with each other in this bad atmosphere for some more weeks. I then messed up my lower back when lifting a big flour sack – I crawled home, saw my GP and he confirmed that I should rest for two weeks. As you can imagine, this work accident decided my fate at Skinflint Bakery and I moved onto new pastures…
THE LADY OF LADY MARGARET ROAD
A friend of ours lived on Lady Margaret Road in Southall for the last 17 years. She sent us a poem…
The lady of Lady Margaret Road
Sits on a bench next to the bus stop,
Opposite the Pizza Place where
Sai Baba resides.
The lady of Lady Margaret Road
Believes in herself and people
Come to her to find out what’s going on
On the Road called Lady Margaret.
The lady of Lady Margaret Road
Is a chain smoker
Someone who prays at the bench.
The lady knows her road,
The local shopkeepers, the restaurants.
And the local takeaways is where
You find the lady of Lady Margaret Road.
The people passing by stop to chat
To this lady of Lady Margaret Road.
They say they feel safe seeing
Her sitting at the bench and they
Feel at peace.
The lady of Lady Margaret Road gets laughed at
By the alcoholics and gamblers of local bookies.
But the lady of Lady Margaret Road knows that one day
They might have a stroke or may have serious
Health problems, too, so she lets them laugh at her.
There is one in particular
Who works for Morrison
Who laughs at this lady of
Lady Margaret Road, because he always
Sees her sitting on the bench
Day and night.
She thinks to herself that one day,
Mate, you will be sitting at this same bench
Like me, and there will be people
Like you laughing at you.
The lady of Lady Margaret Road
Smells the smell of drugs
That are rife on Lady Margaret Road.
Kids selling to grown men,
Their fix for a tenner.
This lady of Lady Margaret Road
Watches the street come to life from
Morning to night.
The lady of Lady Margaret Road
Has a vision,
What can I tell you about the
Lady of Lady Margaret Road,
Except that she brings a smile to my face And a few kind words
To help me on my way
The lady of Lady Margaret Road.
*** THIS MESS WE’RE IN, AND IS THERE A WAY OUT?! – PART 3: CRISIS
In the first part of this series we talked about the origins of the current system.The fact that our lives are based on working for wages, the fact that we can only get stuff for money, the fact that companies exist for profit and the existence of powerful nation states – is all fairly new.This whole system started to develop as a result of peasants’ and poor peoples’ struggles against the personal oppression and exploitation by land- owning lords.
In the second part we saw that the current system is still based on the exploitation of those who produce most of the stuff and do most of the care work on this planet. We keep this world alive, but we have little say in how we are doing this.
In this part we will discuss that a system based on exploitation is not only unfair, but is also very unstable, irrational and prone to crisis. In the past, crises often happened because of natural reasons (bad harvests etc.) that meant not enough was produced. Now, crisis mainly happens because too much is produced that cannot be sold or does not generate profits.
Situations of crisis increase the competition amongst nation states for markets and amongst workers who compete for jobs. In the 20th century this increase in competition due to crisis triggered two World Wars killing 120 million people. And since the 2008 crisis, we have seen an increase in national tension (Brexit and anti-immigrant views etc.) and trade wars (US/China trading tariffs etc.).
As workers who don’t want to compete or fight with other working class people we want to understand roughly how these situations of crisis happen.
FUNDAMENTAL REASONS FOR MODERN CRISIS
Situations of crisis in the current system happen regularly. In general, they are not the result of natural disasters or human error or accidents. Unlike in earlier systems they are also not just outcomes of war – ironically wars are often attempts to solve the crisis.The main reasons why modern crises happen is because of the divisions in this society.The system we now live in is built on these divisions.These are:
In this system production does not take place to produce something in particular, but to make money by selling the product.The thing or service produced is just the means to make money.To every thing or service there is a price attached that can go up and down.The important question is not if things or services are useful or needed, but if they can be sold at a profitable price.
2. Producers/Means of production and products
Why does money become all important and seem to ‘make the world go round?’This happens only in a situation where the majority of people have no option but to sell their time and energy for money (wages). Like any other commodity, our time and energy has a price tag attached to it. And like any other price, our wages go up and down. We need the wages in order to be able to buy the products that we (as a class of people) actually make. We ourselves are also not interested in what we produce, but how much we are paid in wages. Money symbolises that those who produce don’t own what they produce. So money in itself is not the problem, but the fact that we as producers have no say about how production is organised and what for.
3. Political power/masses of workers
The majority of people spend their lives working and are not able to decide how their jobs are organised.This also means that they have little to no say in how society is run in general.The state is a power separate from us and it also wants to keep things this way.To keep a potentially powerful mass of people separate from power needs divide and rule. Some people are given jobs to guard, control or administer things – which gives them a feeling of power. In the long run this means that the state bureaucracy grows and sucks up more and more of societies wealth and resources.
The division between things and their price, between producers and control of production, and between the masses of working people and the state all lead to different forms of crisis.
Companies invest in products or sectors where they expect high profits. Once production is running they churn out as many products as possible.This frequently results in over-production, which means that products cannot be sold and their prices can drop under a profitable level.This is why we see wheat being burnt or milk being chucked into the gutter to keep prices up – while hunger still affects millions of poor working class people across the globe.
To increase profits (and to be able to compete on the market) companies have to increase productivity and lower wages. ‘Produce more with less workers’ means that people become unemployed and have little income to spend.The problem is that many products are consumed by working class people, who now cannot afford to buy things anymore.The system shoots itself in the foot. After the 2008 crisis we saw homelessness in Spain or the US increasing rapidly, while thousands of new apartments remain empty because of lack of buyers.
FALLING PROFIT RATES
While the first two forms of crisis are more of a regular up and down of the system, the main problem in the long run is falling profit rates. In order to increase productivity (and keep workers under control) companies invest more and more of their money into machinery and technology. This cuts into their profits – which then forces them to churn out more with less people. If a company only makes 2 instead of 4 percent profits, they will try to double the mass of profits by expanding production.This results in the creation of huge companies, from General Motors to Amazon.
THE FALLING PROFIT RATES LEAD TO FINANCIAL SPECULATION
If profits are falling in production companies try to find other places where they can invest their money. From the 1980s onwards General Motors made more money from their banking branch than from manufacturing cars.They used the pension funds to create ‘financial assets’ to speculate on the stock-market.The big financial bubbles that emerged since then (dot.com bubble, housing mortgage bubble) are expressions of the fact that profits in production have dropped since the 1970s.These bubbles expand to huge dimensions and if they burst like in 1929 or 2008 they drag the whole economy down.
ROLE OF THE STATE: DEBTS AND BUREAUCRACY
The state tries to counteract these ups and downs and instabilities of the markets and the falling rates of profit. The main way the state does this is by pumping money into the economy in the form of credit, hoping that profits will be better again in the future, so that the debt can be paid back. Consumer debt or state treasury bonds are supposed to oil the machine and keep it running. Since the 1970s state and general debts have been increasing rapidly. If all this fails the state tries to ‘run the economy’ itself, by taking over industries through nationalisation.This happened in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and in western economies in the 1950s.The Labour Party now are calling for the re-nationalisation of certain industries. Given the internal tendencies of state bureaucracy (expansion of the apparatus to keep workers under control, corruption etc.) this can only postpone the crisis.
ROLE OF THE STATE: WAR
If the nation states cannot create more profitable conditions generally, they try to save their economy at the expense of others. We see trade wars and protectionism as a consequence of the 1929 and 2008 crisis. In 1929 we also saw that states invest more and more money into the military, also to boost the local industries. Since then, three factors have pushed the system into global war: the competition between nation states; the attempt to present an external enemy to angry (unemployed) workers at home; and the tendency of the system to want to destroy the unprofitable masses of idle factories and unemployed people in order to ‘start fresh’.
CRISIS: A THREAT TO HUMANS AND THE PLANET
If the billions of people who produce this world have no say in how production is organised and if the so called rulers are also not able to run their own system, we can see blatant conflicts:
• The tendency to increase production and churn out more and more product kills nature. Nature is plundered for cheap resources and polluted to the point of no return. Climate crisis is an expression of this and the fact that those ‘in power’ can do nothing about it.
• Technology that could make life easier for everyone is mainly used to get rid of people to save wages.This increases unemployment, which in turn lowers wages. There is more poverty, despite abundance and more productive machines. If the gap between rich and poor increases, more and more social product is invested to protect the rich.
• Excluded from control and political power, millions of people don’t care about ‘politics’. Elections and politicians are a joke.The problem is that no alternative seems to be in sight, which means that pessimism and depression are the most widespread illnesses amongst the working class. What is the sense of life in a world of shit jobs and competition? What is friendship without having time? Where is the possibility to live in free community with other people?
This system is out of control. We can’t let our lives be ruled by the ups and downs of markets and by a small ruling class that only pretends to be in control. With the global crisis deepening the only way they can pretend to be in control is through divide and rule and an increase of violence.
With modern means of communication we have the chance to decide together what we need and how we produce it.The current system excludes the knowledge and creativity of billions by trapping us in shit jobs – once we get rid of the current system of profits and crisis we can rebuild the world based on conscious decisions: what are our resources, what do we need to produce; what is the best way to do it, not just for us now, but also for nature and future generations etc.. We will have more time and joy of being and deciding together.
In the next part we will look at alternatives.
*** CHILLERS, BULLIES AND FATSOLVE DIARY OF A NIGHT-SHIFT CLEANER AT BAKKAVOR, PARK ROYAL
Over the last few years we’ve spoke to many night- shift cleaners from local food processing plants.Young guys having a spliff after the shift, telling us that using the chemicals for cleaning in confined spaces make you think of Syria or other gas attacks. Women workers have less time, as they hurry to get the kids ready for school. From workers at Adelie sandwich plant to LSG Sky Chef airline caterer to Bakkavor ready-meal factory – they all tell us that the time given for cleaning is not enough and that despite their knowledge and responsibility they are paid the lowest possible wage. We spoke to one cleaner working night-shift at the Bakkavor food factory in Park Royal to get the lowdown…
At the Cumberland site of the Bakkavor factory in Park Royal, where they make houmous and ready meals, the whole production area has to be cleaned thoroughly before the day shift starts. The main cleaning work gets done between 1am and 6am. We are usually around 20 temp workers, mostly men, and maybe five permanent. Most of us are from Sri Lanka, Goa, Romania, Somalia. In total there are only three women on night-shift.
We work from 11pm to 7am. We have a break between 1:30am and 2:00am but no second break till 6:30am. We have to wait till 7am to clock or sign out. As this half-hour is not paid (our second break is unpaid), we are all annoyed that we have to stay. It’s hard for your body and for your mind to work nights. I always wake up very anxious. Even if I have had plenty of sleep, it always feels like it is not enough. The night is falling, I have to eat dinner quickly and take the bus at 10:15pm to go to the factory. I have a constant feeling of unreality. It is exactly the jetlag feeling – except it is permanent. Other bad effects of this job are most probably due to the use of chemicals: frequent nose bleeding, red and burning cheeks for hours after the end of the shift…
I asked a few of my colleagues why they work nights. Juggling with childcare seems to be a common reason for accepting those conditions. You can look after your kid during the day or be home in time to take them to school in the morning.
The shop floor
I remember on the first day, before going to the shop floor, I had to do some chemicals training.The presentation lasted about half-an-hour. But when I went to the shop floor, I had a hard time connecting what he had said to what we were actually doing. Nobody explained anything to me down there, and I had to try and figure out everything by myself.
It’s a real mess when we arrive on the shop floor. There is food everywhere: on the floor, on the walls, on the tables, on (and not only in!) the bins, etc. Usually we clean two chillers every night, while production is still running. First, we have to push out all the really heavy trolleys. Then we rinse the whole area, floor and walls, with hot water. At the same time one of us has to scrub the walls with a chemical called ‘Fatsolve’. It is back-breaking work.
I am sometimes sent to clean the changing rooms. We spend hours cleaning the rubber shoes and wellies, the soles of which are full of houmous, mash, butter, meat, etc. – with a little brush and mostly cold water… Cleaning the shoes sucks! And it can damage your health. A colleague got an infection – actually some sort of fungus. She had to take a strong six weeks treatment, with bad effects on the liver. Her nails were all yellow and brittle. When she told the manager about the infection, he said it was her fault, because she did not wear gloves. She did actually wear gloves, but their standard gloves are bad quality and easily get torn, which is what had happened to her. And as it’s always a struggle to get a pair of gloves, and they make you feel guilty if you ask for a new pair, you end up trying to use them for as long as possible, even when they have tears and you should actually change them. The good thing about working in the changing rooms though is that it is silent – the factory floor is really noisy. You can also have short conversations with production workers (till 1am) or with hygiene colleagues going to break. But then managers also want to talk to you, which can be unpleasant. Some are sleazy.
If you don’t clean the changing rooms, you are sent to clean the production area. Then the really hard work begins. Cleaning all the assembly lines with soapy solution takes hours, and you’ve got to be quick. Sometimes I also clean the sealing machines. The belts and rollers can be very dirty, as food gets trapped in the rollers and there are something like twenty rollers in a single machine. The rollers are not easy to access either, as they are partly covered by the belts. To clean them, you’ve got to open a metal lid and plunge your head inside, while holding the hose – then pull the belts while spraying water. The lids should stay up when you open them (with a magnet), but half of them don’t and you’ve got to hold them with your shoulder while sticking your head inside.
Around 6am, the manager comes down for an inspection. Everybody is afraid of him. He is usually not aggressive, but always criticizes our work. The most critical part is cleaning the conveyor belts’ stainless steel rollers. I think the only reason is that this is where the test for bacteria is performed. The result of this test would be displayed as ‘pass’, ‘warning’, ‘fail’. You hardly ever see a ‘pass’ result. When we have a ‘fail’ result, we quickly sanitize the rollers again, but we do not perform the test again after sanitizing.
The time given per worker to clean the machines is way too little. But when you tell them, they don’t listen. I had a meeting with a manager once about this issue. He said there was plenty of time and showed me a colourful page with very detailed time studies of the job: every single operation had a time in minutes attached to it – which for him was proof that I should not have struggled to get everything done on time. But the reality is very different from the times studies. First of all, they do not include the intervals between operations (e.g. going to get the hose, connecting it to a leaking tap, dealing with the kinks in the hose that interrupt the water flow, etc.). Also, equipment is often missing and you’ve got to struggle to find it. Finally, the time studies might give the correct time for a very experienced worker (although I’m not even sure that those studies correspond to anything measured in reality), but they are certainly way off for a worker that has been assigned a new job without proper training.
This brings me to the subject of ‘training’. Well, despite the amount of paperwork apparently showing the opposite, there is no proper training. Once every two weeks or so, we are asked to stay in the laundry room at the beginning of the shift, and the manager gives us some ‘training’. This means he spends a maximum of five minutes telling us about the cleaning procedure for a piece of equipment most of us will never have seen (a machine, some pipes, etc.) and then makes sure we all sign the forms saying we’ve been trained to clean this piece of equipment. The form states that the training has been performed by the manager on the shop floor and lasted for half-an-hour – but it’s done in the laundry room, is purely verbal and lasts for five minutes. I refused to sign one at the beginning, as I did not even know what machine we were talking about!
We also had meetings to tell us how bad our work was. One day, at the beginning of our shift we were all told that we had failed an internal audit. Actually the manager said we failed all such audits in the previous months! He made comments about our work being so easy. He said: ‘it’s not rocket science, I don’t understand why it can’t be done properly’. He humiliated a few workers in front of the others, individually complaining about their work. Nobody would ever say anything during those meetings. When he said that we were lazy and he could see us wandering around from 5am on, I said it was not true, we worked hard but the time was short. He said everything had been timed and we should have plenty of time – if not, ‘your priorities are wrong’ (he likes this expression a lot, apparently he thinks it ends all discussions on that matter). While management can tick in their files that you have been trained to do all jobs, it is actually the colleagues who train you. But they are too busy, and often don’t speak proper English. So you only learn half of what you are supposed to learn, but you don’t want to blame the colleagues for it.
The hard conditions (heavy and dirty job, working nights, harassment) bring a certain level of solidarity between us. Despite the tensions I have described most co-workers are friendly and willing to give good advice. There clearly is a bond created by the fact of being stuck together in hell! Despite the necessary knowledge – how to dis-assemble machines for cleaning, the various chemicals to use when and where, the exact order of the procedure – we are paid the ‘unskilled’ pay grade. There is a lot of discontent about this amongst the cleaners. It would be very easy to organise a work to rule – once every worker actually knew what the rules are! Refuse to train new people if it is not in your contract. Don’t use other working material and tools that are not prescribed
for the job – often the correct material is missing. Stick to the exact procedure and hygiene standards, even if time is running out. The problem is that if we stick to this, they will pick out cleaners one by one – or sack some (temp) workers for this or that reason in order to spread fear. We have to be prepared for that and respond together.
*** REBEL CITY NEWS AND VIEWS FROM LONDON TOWN
News about working class people struggling against bad conditions and government cuts often don’t make it into the big media and even more rarely arrive here on the fringes of the city. Below some news against the ‘nothing can be done’ attitude!
EVICTION RESISTANCE IN SOUTHALL
A group of local people, together with the London Renters Union postponed an eviction of a tenant on Lady Margaret Road at the end of August 2018. The tenant had been living in the house for 11 years and due to circumstances beyond their control (they split up with their partner, their housing benefit was cut), they were now being thrown out by the landlord.The landlord had tried to force the tenant out by not fixing the toilet or doing any repairs for a long time.The first step to evicting someone is using a bailiff through the County Court.They do not have police powers so it is usually pretty easy to stop an eviction at this stage. They drove up, saw us all outside, and drove away! The tenant had to move out eventually but they had more time to prepare and find somewhere else to live.
PARENTS, SCHOOL WORKERS AND STUDENTS FIGHT AGAINST ACADEMY SCHOOL
June 2018: Workers and students at John Roan School in Greenwich formed ‘John Roan Resist’ to fight an order to change their school into an academy. Working and learning conditions at academies tend to be worse.Teachers already took strike action and students and parents protested at the council.
MIGRANT CLEANERS STRIKE ON THREE SITES SIMULTANEOUSLY
August 2018: Migrant workers cleaning at Kensington and Chelsea Council and for the Ministry of Justice went on joint strike for £10.20 an hour.The cleaners are organised with the independent union United Voices of the World (UVW). Cleaners who are organised with UVW at the Daily Mail offices, LSE university and Sotheby’s retail store already managed to get sick pay and £10.20 per hour through taking action. At Goldsmiths University cleaners managed to force the university to employ them directly, instead of using an subcontractor. Most of the cleaners are from South America, they have similar problems to many migrant workers in Greenford area.
CLEAN AIR FOR SOUTHALL AND HAYES
Residents of Southall and Hayes are being badly affected by the redevelopment of the old gasworks site (Southall Waterside) where 6000 new homes are being planned. Locals have had to put up with offensive smells for over a year.They have learned that it contains carcinogenic benzene, as well as asbestos, arsenic and cynaide from the soil.There is now a campaign to to stop Berkeley Homes from developing on the site. If you want to get involved check out the ‘Clean Air for Southall and Hayes’ facebook page.
HUNDREDS OF UBEREATS COURIERS GO ON WILDCAT STRIKE
September 2018: After UberEats announced a 40% pay cut (from £4.62 to under £3 per delivery) hundreds of couriers all over London went on a wildcat strike. A mass meeting of couriers encircled the UberEats headquarter and put forward their demands to management. Management reacted by promising a transition payment until 4th of November, to soften the wage drop.The couriers knew that they had to get organised against further attacks: with the help of the independent union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) couriers organised a further strike on 4th of October, this time in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol and Cardiff. Where couriers organised local pickets in front of restaurants their strike was effective.
RECYCLING WORKERS IN EAST LONDON TAKE ACTION AGAINST UNSAFE WORKING CONDITIONS
March/April 2018: Workers from Peru who are employed at Orion recycling company in east London went on a wildcat strike to demand protective gear for their dangerous work and better wages.They were supported by the small UVW union and their bosses promised to improve working conditions immediately.
*** NOT TESCO FINEST WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WORK AT THE TESCO WAREHOUSE IN GREENFORD
We have been distributing WorkersWildWest to supermarket delivery workers at ASDA and Ocado in Park Royal and Tesco in Greenford for some time. Their work is usually invisible, customers click on some icons on the internet and as if through magic their shopping appears on their door step or on their kitchen table. Behind all this is a lot of hard and badly paid work. We spoke to some Tesco workers – there are more than 1,300 of them at Greenford warehouse, around 500 of them drivers.
The working-times are tough, some shifts start 2am or 3am. We pick shopping items for around 3,000 customers every day. Most guys are on part-time contracts, so hours are not guaranteed, but management wants people to stay longer if needed. Folks have to pick items using a ‘pick-stick’, which tells them the location. The target is around 190 items per hour, which can be hard.You can see on the stick if you are on target or not, if not you will be called in. In the summer the warehouse is very hot, people faint. Wages are pretty low, around £8.60 – Wincanton/Sainsbury workers next door get £10 for the same type of job. They also cut the Sunday bonus from 1.5 to 1.25 recently.
The shopping trays that are loaded into the vans can get pretty heavy.Tesco guidelines say around 13/14 kg per tray, but there are often heavier trays. The vans are high, so you have to load over-head. People get back and shoulder problems, plus there is the pollution from the vans in the yard.A bigger group of loaders signed a petition against heavy trays and demanded scales for the loading bay. Management listens for a while, but you still get overweight trays. Management also asks loaders to work as drivers when needed, but give little back in return.
Vans carry up to 850kg shopping, 10 to 14 deliveries in four hours. Management has introduced a new program called Bumblebee, that calculates how many deliveries can be made per hour. This increased the deliveries. Especially in central London it can be near to impossible to make more than two, three deliveries per hour. This forces you to work overtime or to bring shopping back, if you run out of time. If you bring shopping back management looks at your GPS data and might call you in. There are a lot of accidents, mainly when carrying the trays to the customer’s kitchen. A lot of staircases and hallways are narrow and dark. Delivery drivers from other companies don’t deliver into the kitchen or on the fourth floor with no lift. And they get paid better. Tesco are on £9.30 something, most other drivers at different companies get at least £10.
A lot of new drivers don’t stay longer than three, four months. Instead of paying drivers more, Tesco spends thousands of pounds training people (for one week) who leave shortly after. But drivers have potential power, by just sticking to company, health and safety and traffic rules. If drivers would only carry one tray a time, do all van checks required, park the van only where they are allowed to park etc. work would slow down andTesco would probably listen more carefully to what drivers are unhappy with.
We spoke to Ocado workers who are better paid, but who often have even more deliveries. Ocado gives them a company phone, which sounds good, but they have to use it to print their own manifest and they have to call customers themselves. There is less management at Ocado in Park Royal, drivers have to do these extra tasks. All supermarket delivery workers in London should coordinate a campaign for £13 an hour minimum – a big, but not impossible mission. There are unions at both Ocado (Unite) andTesco (USDAW), but their hands are tied to the company – workers themselves would have to force them to do things.
*** LOCAL COMPANY UPDATES: ADELIE, AMEY & WEALMOOR
ADELIE SOUTHALL: DON’T MISS OUT ON BREAKS!
There are ongoing problems at the sandwich factory near Iron Bridge in Southall. Forklift drivers complained about unsafe working conditions, like scratched windshields on the forklifts. Workers lose out on break-time because of the time it takes to take off the protective gear and gloves and waiting in queues to leave the production area. There were many complaints about this and it seems that management paid compensation to the dayshift – but not to the night-shift and agency workers.
AMEY GREENFORD: TOO MUCH PRESSURE!
A decision has been made to take refuse collection and street cleansing back in- house to the council.This isn’t planned until spring/summer 2019. But it seems that workers still won’t be entited to the London Living Wage, as other Ealing Council employees are. In the meantime Amey are squeezing people where they can. Workers complain of a lot of trouble with correct payment of overtime. On the refuse trucks you used to do your rounds with your team. Recently management started to take people out of their teams when their work is done and shift them to other teams for extra-work.
UNION RECOGNISED AT WEALMOOR, ATHERSTONE
We tried to support workers at the Wealmoor warehouse in Greenford by getting organised with the independent union IWW. We did not get much response, workers seemed scared. Now we got the news that the union BFAWU forced management in Atherstone to recognise the union. Out of 300 workers 110 became union members and a petition proved that 254 supported the union. Management tried to sabotage the legal recognition process by pointing out that the 430 workers in Greenford were not members of the union. We don’t know if the BFAWU union will do good work, but we see it as a sign that workers are fed up with accepting the bad pay and conditions at Wealmoor. We are still there to support you guys in Greenford – get in touch!
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