Yours for a Socialist Republic of Scotland.
As a lifelong trade unionist & socialist to boot, I find some flaws in the GMB’s stance regarding the current situation within ASDA changes to employees T&C’s.
Maybe this is a personal rant, But I’d like to look at it objectively. Where do I start? Maybe at the beginning is always a good place, Even when I trained as a Chef in the day in the late 80s, I took out a trade union membership, It was never going to help me within the catering Industry as regulation was as scant as a chef’s apron. But none the less the other benefits which ran alongside it such as legal help & motor Insurance (being a Mod I had a scooter) It was later in life that I changed my career & moved into Safeway when it was still owned by the Americans. Once it was bought over by the Argyll group, many changes were tried to be implemented by the head office which was in the South East of England without the general knowledge of the communities in which the stores were located.
These changes were painful to say the least. As a ‘Night crew foreman,’ refilling the grocery at night was the best way of getting a shop ready for business as well as cleaning it. They cut night shifts in their shops (less than 20,000sq feet) in order to do away with paying the night rate & also double time for Saturday into Sunday shifts. This meant all grocery refill had to take place during the day, when production went down largely due to customers getting in the way & not being able to whizz around on pallet trucks (No regard for H&S). Basically they saved 10 wages over 7 days times 364 days a year and employed kids who were in their 5th/6th year at school. These kids were given often one shift a week, But then pressured to do more at weekends often at the detriment to their studies. As a rep it was often difficult to recruit these kids to the union as they had no concept of T&Cs & were blinded by their wages at the end of the week,With one eye on the weekend of course.
The bigger sized stores survived this cull, but with the compromise that staff had to be ‘upskilled with no raise’ to accommodate the demands of the business. They then implemented these changes across the board by paying off all department heads & made them reapply for the same jobs under a different title. Many chose redundancy and the loss of experience possibly lead to Safeway’s downfall.
Later in life I worked as check-in agent/dispatcher at Glasgow Airport. After gaining some skills I soon found myself at the sharp end of the business dealing with passengers & aircraft alike (aircraft never questioned you’re parentage). I found myself again in a similar situation as I had been in Safeway, although the handling agents I worked for hated unions with a vengeance. My own situation was questioned as I was going through a messy separation which was exacerbated by my daughter’s needs as she is disabled & I am my elder brother’s carer. Basically I found it incredibly difficult to carry out my duties due to the various family issues as well as the airport really is a 24hr operation the same as a supermarket.
Now the point is (finally I hear you say) I had to leave my employment as when I presented my case to the GMB re employers unwillingness to consider flexi-working to reflect my social issues, I was only one person, Not a whole store of 250 workers. Despite being the union rep, They basically said that I had to sort out my own priorities that suited my own mental health which was to me a union activist over 40 years was a complete cop out. I finally fell out & left the GMB over their ‘fever pitch attitude’ over GCC equal pay issue which they dodged over a 30 year period. I’m now quite happy back in USDAW. Again the point I’m making is the GMB are up against it with this issue as it is a priority of this Government to erode employment law within the UK quicker than ‘shit through a goose.’
As long as Labour remain toothless Blairities & squabble between themselves as they jockey for position, they will never understand what was started over 30 years ago by Safeway in their ‘restructure programme’ & this will soon get worse if the Tories are ever allowed to enter into a TTIP arrangement with Trump which will only erode workers rights even further.
Article: Asda forced worker choose stop caring for disabled son or lose job (GMB UNION WEBSITE)
(Chris McCusker is VC Convener SNP Socialists and Membership Secretary SNP Trade Union Group).