'I was desperate for work, desperate to find a stable career and trade I could rely on': the CJ Barbers worker tells his story

I am writing this to dispel a great deal of misinformation spread about me and my public campaign against CJ Barbers. I am the worker who was exploited by CJ Barbers and I understand why local businesses are coming out in support of their neighbours. I believe this comes from a positive place but I think you should know my side of the story before you come to any conclusions.

'I train people for free because that's how it works': CJ Barbers owner Cyrus Shabani admits to not paying worker

'I train people for free because that's how it works': CJ Barbers owner Cyrus Shabani admits to not paying worker

In this video, the owner of CJ Barbers, Cyrus Shabani, admits to not paying a worker who worked for him for two months, claiming 'that's how it works'. As we have pointed out to CJ Barbers multiple times, that is not how it works. This worker's employment did not meet the standards of an apprenticeship (for which he still should have been paid), so he is owed at least the national minimum wage for the two month's work he has done. That's what we are demanding, and that's what we will continue to fight for until CJ Barbers pay up.

More info on this dispute:

CJ Barbers Dispute: Business Threatens to Blacklist SolFed Member

As our dispute with CJ Barbers, which owes one of our members two months in unpaid wages, continues, and the owners still refuse to negotiate (we emailed them on May 4th, offering negotiations: they didn't reply), the son of one of the owners is publicly saying that they intend to illegally send images and personal details of the worker to “every business in Brighton”.

Kevin Karam, the son of Hamid Karam, has made multiple long and rambling posts about us on Facebook, calling SolFed a “gang”, making wildly contradictory statements about the worker’s status at CJ Barbers, referring to SolFed in general as a “bunch of benefit losers”, etc. It's nothing particularly remarkable - the usual smear campaigns that bosses and their friends try when they are backed into a corner.

Education Workers

Working conditions in educational institutions are becoming more and more difficult. This is often linked to managers making cuts, establishing austerity measures, or asking all workers to do more for less.  We currently organise as a network of workers at University of Brighton, and have links to other educational institutions.

We aim to organise to improve these conditions on a day-to-day basis, trying to fight winnable disputes for caretakers, cleaners and hourly-paid lecturers alike. To resist the ways that these institutions are attacking the working conditions of all staff means working together, not establishing boundaries between academic and non-academic staff.

Eastbourne tenant wins back £100 by challenging deposit deductions

A tenant in Eastbourne has won back £100 by challenging deductions to his deposit. The tenant’s landlord was attempting to make various deductions for replacement items that had been subject to fair wear and tear.

The tenant contacted Brighton SolFed for advice on what he could do in this situation, given that he had already moved out and was unable to gather his own evidence. After some brief discussion about the different ways that deposit theft can be challenged – such as by checking whether your landlord has correctly protected the deposit, and challenging your landlord to produce invoices for items that they allege needed replacing – the tenant opened correspondence with the landlord about the deductions. The landlord immediately agreed to return £100, which the tenant was happy to accept.

No Work Without Pay: Boycott CJ Barbers!

Brighton SolFed has started a public campaign against CJ Barbers, who owe one of our members over two months in unpaid wages. The worker was employed as an "apprentice" for no wages, with the promise of paid work after two months. Unfortunately, this kind of practice is common in the barbering industry in Brighton, so the worker decided to go along with it. After the two months were up, CJ Barbers paid him...£50 a week, for full time work! The worker left two weeks later.

During this so-called “apprenticeship” the worker was given no contract, no opportunity to work towards any qualification, and worked full time hours. This therefore does not meet the legal requirement of an  apprenticeship, which is why we are demanding that CJ Barbers pays our member the full legal minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension contributions for the hours he worked, which total £2821.63.

Worker Fights Back Against Wage Theft

A worker organising with Brighton Solidarity Federation has won a dispute with their seafront employer, the Harbour Hotel. The worker was employed over the Christmas period in the kitchen of the hotel. In the space of one month, the worker was not paid for 3 days worked, did not receive a contracted gratuities (tips and a bonus) payment and did not receive any holidays. These totaled up to over £1000 - quite an amount for just over a month's work.

Wage theft in the hospitality sector in Brighton is rife, and missing holiday entitlement is particularly common. Holiday entitlement starts accruing from the moment you start work and there are useful calculators online that can work out if you are owed any: https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement.

Tenant Successfully Fights £200 Deposit Theft

Brighton Solidarity Federation recently assisted a tenant whose letting agent, Ashton Burkinshaw, were attempting to make unreasonable deductions from their deposit. We were contacted by the tenant after their letting agent tried to deduct nearly £200 for unnecessary (maybe never done) work. We advised the tenant what their rights were and helped them use one of our template letters to send to their agent. The agent could not provide an invoice for the work and had to back down.

Every person who has rented a home has experienced their letting agent trying to steal part or all of their deposit. There are many ways to fight back and sometimes the most effective one is also the simplest.

Brighton SolFed Campaign Against the Sidewinder Concludes with Management Quitting the Pub

Brighton SolFed recently entered into a public dispute with the Sidewinder to get them to pay compensation for the unfair dismissal of one of their workers. The worker was dismissed for calling in sick once after having worked at the pub for about nine months.

 

The pressure on the Sidewinder has been rising steadily over the passed few weeks as the frequency of our pickets increased. With result! Although the Sidewinder still refuses to pay compensation, they did pay up the unpaid holiday pay, and the management has let us know they have handed in their notice.

 

Organising with Brighton SolFed

Brighton SolFed's statement on solidarity in the struggle

This information has been put together for groups who may be interested in affiliating to or organising with us. We regularly work with other groups. However, before formally working together, we actively check how safely a group organises and their connections to known-abusers, as a pre-condition.

Inclusion
SolFed welcomes working class people of all education backgrounds, genders, sexuality, ethnicity, race, immigration status and those with all forms of accessibility needs*; (other than people barred by our constitution).

G4Lets: one group of tenants reclaim £1000 stolen from their deposit, whilst another receives a rent reduction for poor quality accommodation

Since September 2018, we have been organising with two different groups of tenants – one who had their deposit stolen by G4Lets, and one living in accommodation in a serious state of disrepair. We’re pleased to report that both of these situations concluded well, with the first group of tenants receiving £1000 back from their stolen deposit, and the second group receiving a rent reduction for the poor quality of their accommodation, and with the works being carried out. Below is the story of these two disputes, particularly how they relate to our previous disputes with G4Lets and the tactics we used in these two most recent disputes.

Fox & Sons dispute concludes with second landlord quitting the agency

We have concluded our dispute with Fox & Sons after a second landlord quit the agency following a short direct action campaign against their business. This follows another landlord who quit the agency in February after a similar campaign. Our campaign against Fox & Sons has been ongoing for four and a half months, and the loss of these landlords – from whom Fox & Sons would have taken 16% of the rent for a full management service, on top of all the fees they charge – coupled to the damage to their business caused by the campaign, is likely to have cost them thousands of pounds.

Brighton Solfed Starts Campaign Against The Sidewinder Pub

Brighton Solidarity Federation has opened a public campaign against The Sidewinder on Upper St James in Kemp Town. We were approached by a worker who was immediately dismissed just for calling in sick for one shift. The worker was also owed unpaid holiday entitlement.


We wrote to The Sidewinder asking that they pay compensation for unfair dismissal and fork out the owed holiday pay.  They have now paid the holiday pay, but have refused demands for compensation, accusing us of blackmail. Clearly, The Sidewinder thinks that not providing employees with contracts, holiday pay, failing to follow grievence procedures and dismissing workers for being ill is acceptable.

Demand letter delivery wins dispute with student lettings agency

In late October 2018, we organised with a student tenant who was being messed around with a disrepair issue by a well-known student lettings agency. We’d beaten this agency before via a direct-action campaign – this time all it took was the delivery of a demand letter to get this tenant compensation. Below, the tenants tells the story of the dispute.

One of our toilets was out of action for the best part of six months. If used, faeces would back up and overflow out of the toilet. This plumbing damage was caused by a fire that wasn’t disclosed to us. Although we had use of another toilet, the toilet that was overflowing was directly next door to the kitchen that meant alongside being inconvenienced, it was quite a disgusting and hazardous living situation prior to calling the plumbers to fix it.

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We are an anarcho-syndicalist union based in Brighton. We have ongoing campaigns in Hospitality and in Health & social care, but we aim to organise with workers of all industries and none. We also have a very active housing union.

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