workers' rights

Problems at work - No. 8: Minimum Wage, Maximum Hours

The announcement that the minimum wage is set to rise to £4.85 next predictably had union leaders, desperate for a reason to stick with Labour, claiming that in the fight against poverty the Govemment really is making a difference. They are deluding themselves; the minimum wage is not about ending poverty, it is set so low it merely legaises poverty wages. Labour see a  low wage economy, in which the working class remain powerless, as the essential ingredient of a 'successful' 'free market' economy. Labour's inspiration is not justice or equality, but the USA, where the minimum wage has been in force for years and has done nothing to prevent the growth in poverty and obscene inequalities.

Problems at work - No. 10: Unpaid overtime

As unpaid overtime 'tops £23bn mark', what can we do to tackle it?

Did you know that February 25th 2005 was the day the TUC said that people who do unpaid overtime will stop working for free and start to get paid? No? Well, that's because it didn't happen. On that day, dubbed “Work Your Proper Hours Day”, the TUC urged people who do unpaid overtime to take a proper dinner break and arrive and leave work on time. They claimed that this would remind Britain's employers just how much they depend on the good will and voluntary extra work of their staff. Didn't work though, did it?

Know your rights: Working Time Directive

The Working Time Directive limits the hours you work to an average of 48 over a 17-week period. However, many employers make workers sign an ‘opt-out’ that means they can be expected to work more than 48 hours a week.

What most bosses don’t tell you is that if you’ve signed this opt out, you can tell your employer that you want to opt back in. All you need to do is put it in writing. It will take effect in 7 days time unless a different period is specified in the original opt-out, up to a maximum of three months.

The employer has no right to sack you or take any disciplinary action for exercising this, or any other rights. If they do, going to an Employment Tribunal might force them to pay modest compensation.

Know your rights: Maternity Leave

A woman can take 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and and additional 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. The first 2 weeks maternity leave is compulsory, 4 weeks if the woman works in a factory.

At least 15 weeks before the child is expected (the qualifying week), a pregnant worker must tell her employer that she is pregnant, when the baby is due and when she intends to start her maternity leave. This can be changed, for example if the baby comes early. The employer must reply in writing setting out her expected date of return. If they don’t, she cannot be prevented from returning early and is protected from losing out if she returns later.

All pregnant workers are entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal care. A woman is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) if she has:

Victory at IKEA

The IKEA store in the city of Brescia sacked 7 store employees in September 2008 refusing to renew their contract with them. The company believed that employees should pay for the crisis. These people had worked at
IKEA for many years, working up to 200 hours per month for as little as 1000 Euros. So the workers decided to protest against this sacking and engaged in picketing at the IKEA store. They have were an established group of workers Senzatemponedenaro and were willing to fight a stubborn struggle. They also joined the USI, the Italian section of the International Workers Association. They conducted continous weekend pickets at IKEA with many people deciding to boycott the store.

Transnational Companies Cave Into Wages Demands Following Picket

Another victory for Brighton Hospitality Workers and for direct action! In February, two members of Brighton Hospitality Workers (BHW) brought unpaid holiday entitlement issues to the group, incurred while both had worked at the Brighton premisis of a transnational hotel chain. The hotel's housekeeping staff were contracted to work there by the UK operation of an international recruitment exploiter with a reputation for withholding pay, particularly after contracts had been terminated. One worker was owed £286 in holiday pay for leave she was prevented from taking, despite repeated requests to her manager, as well as 2 days' outstanding sick pay. The second worker was owed £180 in holiday pay, also for leave she was prevented from taking, again despite repeated requests – in December her boss told her she 'had lost' her right to take paid leave.

Brighton Hospitality Workers: growing and getting results!

After several months of organising, Brighton Hospitality Workers are beginning to deliver the goods. Three members recently approached us with issues concerning unpaid wages and holiday entitlement from former employers, all with employment agencies and on zero-hours contracts. Demand letters were sent and within 48 hours one worker had wages paid in full, amounting to £264. However, the bosses were dragging their heels over paying holiday entitlement for untaken leave and another demand letter was sent, again resulting in payment of £95. Another worker’s demand letter resulted in payment of £358 in owed wages, although this should have been £385 and we’re not giving up on this. The third worker, who was with the same scumbag agency, is still owed £176 in unpaid holiday entitlement after the demand letter was ignored.

Brighton Hospitality Workers meeting

Encouraged by the positive response to our recent publicity campaign, Brighton Hospitality Workers are holding our first open meeting. This will be an opportunity for workers to meet, share experiences and discuss how we can collectively tackle issues in the workplace, no matter how seemingly minor. We’ll be promoting the benefits of workers’ self-organisation in a sector where lack of employment rights and exploitation are commonplace. Towards mutual support and solidarity - all welcome!

Monday 2nd December, 6-8 pm at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton BN2 4JA (near to St. Peter’s Church & opposite Co-Op supermarket).