Sunday, 12 June 2016

Workers being charged for PPE, "short shifting" and the rise of exploitation

The Clipper warehouse uses an Agency for the hiring and firing of warehouse operatives.

On day one, you *have* to pay £2 for your Hi-Viz.  But really you are only renting if for the time you are there.  Yes, you have to give it back to the Agency on your last day!   Employers are legally required to provide all PPE.  Unfortunately, this unlawful practice has become widespread, as employment agencies have realised this is something they can get away with.

Lots of dodgy Agency practices are going on, and who can stop them without a workplace union onsite?  We are even seeing workers being charged an an admin fee for getting paid.

The Amazon warehouse in Rugely does this thing called "Short Shifting".  That's when they text you to say what time they want you the following day.  So the worker sorts out child care / transport etc and turns up for work at the correct time.  Then they are told they are not needed, and are sent home without pay.  The worker is out of pocket for having turned up for work as requested. Workers who fail to turn up when asked are likely not to be asked back again.

Sickeningly, I am aware of a warehouse involving managers promising young women extensions to temporary contracts in return for sexual favours.  It was the warehouse HR manager who told me about that in confidence on the day of her resignation.  Her efforts to make management behave more reputably had not worked well.

Thanks to Unite, the shameful goings on at the Sports Direct warehouse have been well documented. But Sports Direct is not a one-off, far from it.

Wherever there is unchecked power, there is abuse.  And there is widespread abuse in non-union warehouses across the UK.

"Sack that fat b*****d by lunchtime, I don't like the way he walks", said the warehouse manager to the Team Leader.  The TL rang me in confidence - crying - unable to continue in this environment as what he was asked to do each day was sickening him.

There are quite a number of efficient warehouses, where workers at least have stable shifts.  But many are chaotic, with workers forever getting messed about.

It's the norm in unionised workplaces for reasonable notice of forced changes to your shift pattern. Between 14 and 28 days notice is typical.  But for workers in a non-union warehouse, notice may well be less than 24 hours. Obviously, this places terrible pressure upon families.

The employer has three choices.  They use an agency, or they follow the growing hoards of employers employing over 800,000 people on miserable zero hour contracts.

The third choice is to directly employ the workers on a proper contract, and treat them properly. Evidence of this option is becoming difficult to find.

Unions are doing what they can to show that things will get much worse if the UK leaves the EU.  If only the public understood how bad things are already are...

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