On Saturday 19th May Holland and Barrett once again felt the heat in Brighton and Hove as the Solidarity Federation staged a further picket just a week after the last one.

This time we used the opportunity of our monthly tenants’ and workers’ rights stall to target the health food chain in George Street, Hove.  The stall ran from 10 until 2 and opened up a number of conversations with passers by who are having difficulties at work or with their landlords.  We handed out copies of Stuff Your Boss and our new Stuff Your Landlord leaflets giving basic workplace and housing rights and made contact with people who we will be meeting up with to discuss direct action strategies that can get their situations resolved.

The picket itself started at 11 further up the road, turning away a lot of customers before it livened up with the second performance of Brighton Solidarity Federation’s Industrial Grievance Band.  With help from some of our London comrades we belted out such classics as Solidarity Forever, There is Power in a Union and the Spanish CNT anthem A Las Barricadas (To the Barricades).  Not only did we manage to hurt Holland and Barrett’s bottom line, but we had a thoroughly enjoyable time doing it -  as well as entertaining a somewhat surprised public.

As ever with these pickets the manager was upset by our presence and its effect on sales, so she wheeled out a young member of staff who had been on a work placement and got a job through it.  This was, she felt, a justification for Holland and Barrett’s continued participation in the scheme.

What this fails to recognise is that if the job is there at the end, there is no reason why the company cannot go through a regular recruitment process to offer it to someone unemployed and pay them from day one.  Not only does the scheme provide an extended interview process for the company where they can decide whose face fits, but it also gives them extra free labour into the bargain.

It soon became obvious why this particular worker was chosen over others as she started to express the view that Jobseekers Allowance and the minimum wage are too much and that she would work for less.  It sort of made the point for us that the whole reason for the various Workfare schemes is to drive down wages and conditions for existing workers.  The message had quite clearly got through to this worker: the fewer demands you make for a fair wage, the more likely Holland and Barrett will take you on.

Brighton Solidarity Federation will continue the campaign against this attack on all of us (working and unemployed) through further pickets and also by supporting the anti-workfare conference on Saturday 26th May.

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This article was published on 23 May 2012 by the SolFed group in Brighton. Other recent articles:

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