Category: Workers’ Rights

Greedy Greek Demo

There was a well attended demonstration outside the Greedy Greek cafe tonight on Sharrowvale Road Sheffield.

grredy greekThere to support Tomasz Freimorgen who was sacked for standing up to bullying non-paying boss Dennis Mouzakis. Tomasz’s union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organised the demonstration and demands:

Pay workers for all the hours they work
Show respect to workers. No more bullying and insults
Reinstate Tomasz with backdated pay

Dennis responded to the demo by turning up the cheesy Greek muzak to earsplitting levels. This, combined with our loud chanting “Greedy Greek pay your workers!”, not surprisingly put off most potential customers looking for a quiet relaxing meal. At one point he forced workers to dance arm-in-arm in the rain to Zorba the Greek. Even the police told him to turn the muzak down.

Dennis is well known for his disrespect towards workers, making them work “trial” 20 hour periods without pay, being physically aggressive and paying less than the minimum wage if he thinks his workers’ English isn’t up to scratch. This demonstration sends a message to Dennis and other bosses like him: we’re watching you and we demand respect!

grredy greek 2

Sheffield Unite Community fight against Workfare

We kept up the pressure on Savers with today’s demo outside their shop on Haymarket.

The manager got very defensive when questioned about the shop’s exploitation of young people, refusing to answer questions but threatening to have us “moved on”. We moved nowhere, stood outside the shop and gave out leaflets to passers by and shoppers who were – without exception today – sympathetic. Some people had experienced workfare schemes themselves and were pleased that we were making the issue a public one. One workfare veteran talked about her experience of the Youth Training Scheme in the 1980’s – workfare isn’t a new idea.

As we were about to leave a group of young lads, on their way to the football, came up and asked us what we were doing and what “workfare” was. Eyes wide in disbelief they watched as we explained. “Working for nothing? That’s rubbish” was their verdict and they were keen to have their photo taken with our banner: the anti-workfare team.

Workfare was wrong in the 1980’s, it’s wrong now and it looks like today’s children might just refuse to be tomorrow’s workfare slaves.

Employment rights? Next offer next to nothing!

Lifting the lid on high street giant Next and how they use minimum hours contracts to exploit their staff


Although zero hours contracts are very much in the news at the moment, another type of contract that we have heard less about that is just as exploitative, is the minimum hours contract. Typically although these consist of contracted hours below 12 hours per week, the employee often finds that they will be put under pressure to work hours far in excess of those stated by their contracts, but with no improvement in conditions such as holiday pay or time off.

One well known employer that often takes full advantage of minimum hours contracts is the high street clothing giant Next, who have a tarnished track record when it comes to working conditions and employee relations.

The Chief Executive of Next plc is Tory Lord Simon Wolfson, married to Eleanor Shawcross, George Osborne’s economic adviser. Wolfson sold £3.8m of his £45m of shares in Next in 2012 to pay for their lavish wedding and new home.

A backer of David Cameron’s leadership campaign with links to the Tory think-tank Policy Exchange, between 2006 to 2012 Wolfson donated £418,350.00 (1) to the Conservative party and is said to have secured considerable influence over George Osbourne and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF), which calls for a radical overhaul of planning rules, including the abolition of the Green Belt (2). It is not unusual for corporate backers, who make large donations to be placed in positions of exercising influence over Tory policy.

Wolfson made headlines earlier this year when he waived his £4m share bonus in order to share it amongst Next’s 20,000 staff that had worked in the company since April 2011. This amounted to an average of about £200 each, he also raised the wages of sales and stock room assistants by 37p per hour. However, despite this he still collected a £4.6m pay package (3). Considering that he earns 459 times more than one of his employees, you may think it was about time he gave something back.

Although Wolfson attracted praise for waiving his bonus, back on the shop floor things are very different. Staff dissatisfaction means that turn-over tends to be high, leaving many stores short staffed. Employees on eight hour contracts are regularly pressured to work far in excess of twenty hours per week.

Although at face value extra hours may appear to be a good thing, an increase in entitlement to employee benefits such as holiday pay, sick pay and regular working patterns are not forthcoming. Rather than offer existing employees better contracts, it seems endemic across the Next empire that stores are discouraged from this in favour of bullying staff to do extra hours or taking on more staff on short hours or temporary contracts, in the knowledge that there is a plentiful supply of people desperate for work.

One employee from a store in Humberside said, “you will be given a tiny contract usually 4-12 hours. However they will expect you to work 20-30 hours a week, so that when it comes time for you to take your holidays, you will only be paid for your small contracted hours.”

Another employee from store in South Yorkshire said, “I don’t mind the extra work, but I would rather have a proper contract for those hours. Often I will be pressured into working on days that I have said I am unavailable. It is difficult to plan anything.”

A stock room assistant said, “I have a four hour contract over one day but management always rota me for other delivery days and expect me to work it regardless. Breaks are very rare, I have worked seven, eight, nine and even ten hour shifts with no break what so ever.”

A bullying culture amongst management seems to be universal across the chain, “any punishment is recorded with your name written on a very large staff canteen notice board. They change your shifts but notifying you only when it suits them, this has lead to problems as people have turned up on the wrong days and times.

“The most unforgivable of all their actions was when they refused my request for leave when my 80 year old mum was taken seriously ill to hospital,” explained one employee from Peterborough.

Employee after employee has criticised the management for bullying, intimidation, lack of organisation, not providing proper training and prying into employee’s personal lives.

Attempting to avoid paying employees for overtime is another problem, as an ex-employee from Gloucester explains, “I usually found myself finishing 30-45 minutes past my contracted finishing time and on many occasions, they tried not to pay me for this.”

In 2008 trainee manager Sarah Tanner was sacked by Next in Swansea when she revealed that she was pregnant (4). Sarah said: “When I told the store manager I was pregnant, her first words were, ‘well, you won’t be entitled to maternity pay, you haven’t been with us long enough.’

“I checked with human resources and found I was entitled to maternity pay after all.”

A week later, after five days off with a serious bout of morning sickness, her boss told her she could not have sick pay because she had not been sent home from work. Within three weeks of that, she was sacked.

Ten days after her dismissal, she miscarried and lost her baby. The resulting tribunal upheld Sarah’s claim that she suffered sex discrimination and was unlawfully dismissed. Her £19,044 compensation award included £12,500 for emotional distress.

Earlier this year, GMB members toured Next stores around the country to present store managers with an ‘ASBO’, accusing the company of failing to make work pay for Next workers (5).

The protesters called for an increase in the working hours offered to its employees and for the introduction of a £7.65 ‘living’ wage.

Mick Rix, GMB national officer for retail staff said, “GMB will present an ASBO to Next as an employer that does not face up to its social responsibilities.”

Unite Community urges all of those that work at stores like Next to get organised, get protection and join a trade union. We also call upon any future Labour government to ban these exploitative contracts and ensure that employees are treated with respect and dignity by employers such as Next.

(1) click here

(2) click here

(3) click here

(4) click here

(5) click here

Yorkshire Ambulance Service Strike

Resolute in patient safety fight, intimidation will not stop ambulance members’ resolve
Mark Metcalf, Thursday, September 4th, 2014


Eighteen months since first taking strike action and Unite members Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) are refusing to be intimidated by management in a battle over patient safety, union de-recognition and pay and conditions.

YAS are making cuts of £46m over five years. Facing £300 a month pay cuts, trained support technicians who work with paramedics are being replaced with emergency care assistants (ECA) with just six weeks training. With patient care seriously compromised, Unite members took strike action in April 2013.

Management reacted by re-employing previously fired employees, permitting the use of private ambulances with less qualified staff and de-recognising Unite despite the union putting forward a well-researched alternative financial plan.

As predicted, working conditions and patient safety, which go hand-in-hand, have deteriorated since last year. Paramedics and technicians are regularly working in excess of 13-hour shifts without even having time for a meal break.

“We are all exhausted. Last month I missed 20 meal breaks. Frequently I finish work an hour later than scheduled. Working with unqualified staff makes your job more difficult as you are not only working with the patient but their relatives in some very stressful situations,” explained paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, Unite YAS branch secretary.

No-one is blaming the ECAs for the current situation. Technician Les Muir, Unite rep at Willerby ambulance depot, is concerned that “Eighteen year olds with no life experience are facing some horrendous situations that may later come back to haunt them.

“The fact they are being employed on emergencies – increasingly on their own without a lead technician – is scary.”

With management having refused to engage in positive talks, YAS Unite members have continued their battle to maintain a top quality service by taking regular days of action over the last 18 months.

The latest was two six-hour walkouts on August 29 and September 2. Prior to the action staff were told they would be banned from overtime shifts if they participated and also have had double-time payments withheld from work already completed.

“They are trying to intimidate people,” said clinical supervisor Martin Dobson, the Unite rep at the Wakefield ambulance depot.

“And if they keep their promise it will make it doubly difficult for the trust to meet the eight minute response time for the most serious, life threatening calls especially as much of the service now depends on overtime work.

Over 30 per cent of seriously ill and injured people are currently failing to obtain 999 help within eight minutes across Yorkshire.

Despite the threats, a large majority of YAS Unite members were on strike on September 2, joining the battle to preserve an essential top quality service.

“You have to stand up for what you know is right,” said Debbie Wilkinson. “Management should admit their proposed redesign of the ambulance service has failed and come back round the table and negotiate properly.”

Save Our Nurseries

Unite Community Members From Leeds Today helped the Campaign by leafleting the Nurseries See below how to support the Campaign

Senior managers at Leeds City College are proposing to close three nurseries. They are at the St Bartholomew’s Centre, Armley, the Brudenell Centre, Hyde Park, and the Thomas Danby Nursery, Sheepscar. The closures would lead to the loss of at least 36 jobs. These are skilled members of staff who have dedicated much of their lives to the care of children. This would mean the end of all Leeds City College nursery provision.

The main reason given for the closure of these nurseries is financial. The nurseries appear to be losing about £80,000 per year. However, Leeds City College has an annual income of nearly £90m. Principal & Chief Executive, Peter Roberts, now earns £185k so with the associated on-costs that would be enough to cover the supposed nursery losses over the last three years. Instead of working with the trade unions to secure the future of these nurseries, senior managers have been in discussion with private childcare providers about our nurseries. (Why are they sniffing about unless the nurseries can be profitable ?)

Many students depend on these nurseries. They have a right to high quality and accessible childcare, which provides good value for money. However, most private nurseries employ staff that aren’t as well qualified, are less convenient for many students and charge a higher fee. The limited funding for childcare places, for students on low incomes, goes further with our nurseries. Moreover, staff at private nurseries are usually less well paid, as well as employed on worse terms and conditions. These staff have a right to good jobs. These are jobs that could be filled by Leeds City College childcare students in the future.

There is a shortage of childcare places across Leeds. The staff want to keep their jobs. The Leeds City College nurseries are viable. All we are asking is for College management to work with us so that we can prove to them that this is the case. All we are asking for is a reprieve of ONE YEAR so that the staff can demonstrate that the nurseries are a viable proposition.

Fast Food Rights for Workers

SATURDAY 15th FEBRUARY – 12pm -1pm
The Bakers Union (BFAWU). Unite Community Sheffield and Unite the Resistance have teamed up to support workers in the fast food industry.

Recent announcements from these hugely profitable companies regarding their use of unpaid labour and abundant use of zero hours contracts seem to have gone largely unnoticed in the mainstream media.

It would appear that forcing workers into poverty and having them rely on benefits to pay for basics such as rent and food is quite acceptable in David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ Britain.

Well it isn’t.

Saturday the 15th of February: We will hold a flying picket of the worst culprits in Sheffield and call on all trade unionists and members of the community to show support and join us.

Our demands are simple.
1. Proper contracts of employment for employees. security in work.
2. A decent wage that means no longer will employees need to claim benefits.
3. The scrapping of unpaid work like the use of workfare.

We will meet at the bottom of Fargate. Sheffield. S1 1QF to walk the short distance to our first target.

For more information, please message or email

Yorkshire ambulance staff to strike over ‘10 hour shifts without meal break’


Yorkshire ambulance staff have voted to take strike action over changes in shift patterns which could mean paramedics going more than 10 hours without a meal break and staff being forced to work 12 hour shifts.

The staff, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted overwhelmingly for a 24 hour strike which will commence at 00:01 hours on Saturday 1 February 2014.

Unites members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust will strike again for four hours between 15.00 and 19.00 on Monday 3 February over the imminent introduction of new elongated shift patterns.

The members voted by a margin of 76 per cent for strike action. (more…)