“We know that claps don’t pay the bills and actually a minimum basic hourly rate of £15 per hour, decent sick pay paid at 100% of wages and a ban on zero hours contracts would be much more meaningful.”
Sarah Wooley is the General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). Check out her contribution to the Arise Festival Rally: “Fight the Tories – for Socialism, not Barbarism” below.
Never has there been a more critical time for us to come together and fight back collectively as a Labour Movement.
Bakers Food and Allied Worker Union members like many others have worked throughout the pandemic, in our case keeping the nation fed through the worst 18 months we have experienced.
Whilst it was great that they were recognised as the key workers we have always known them to be. They have gone out day after to day to produce the food that has kept supermarket shelves filled, even when they haven’t been in a position in some cases to feed themselves and their families, this hasn’t really made them feel like key workers.
I’m sure you can remember back when the public were encouraged to clap for our fantastic NHS staff and other key workers, it was lovely for them to be appreciated, however we know that claps don’t pay the bills and actually a minimum basic hourly rate of £15 per hour, decent sick pay paid at 100% of wages and a ban on zero hours contracts would be much more meaningful.
In reality being encouraged to go out and clap on a Thursday evening was nothing more than a distraction technique, to divert the public’s attention away from the many failings of the Tories through the pandemic, and bar a few exceptions, some on the platform today, it was also a distraction from the lack of challenge and accountability from the Labour Party Leadership too.
It really says it all when Marcus Rashford and the trade unions have forced more u-turns through this than the opposition.
Now furlough is coming to an end, alongside the removal of the £20 universal credit uplift. Added to that, the Tories’ latest “great ideas” of increasing national insurance and suspending the pensions triple lock. It just proves for those who didn’t already know… and let’s be clear there’s a lot of the public that still see the Tories as the party that looks after them, it proves that they are only interested in their rich Donors, their families and the 1%, and are intent on creating more division in our communities.
The key workers they have spent months thanking with empty words are the very people that will be repeatedly hit with these changes and will be plunged further into poverty as a result. This is at a time when foodbank use is at its recorded-highest and rising, and one in which those producing, selling and delivering food cannot feed themselves and their families. It’s shameful that this government openly demonstrates its contempt for our class over and over again, and instead of focusing on challenging them, the Party designed to represent the working class is too busy infighting and expelling people.
This has got to change, we have to come together again as the Labour movement, to hold the Tories to account, working across trade unions, supporting each other to tackle the likes of Amazon, McDonalds and all the other shameful exploitative employers that put profit before people. Joining campaigns like Ian Byrnes’ “Right to Food”; Richard Burgons improvements to sick pay; Barry Gardiners “End Fire and rehire;” or by supporting Olivia Blakes 10 minute Bill designed to get abuse towards customer-facing workers an offence; and the many other fantastic initiatives our socialist Labour Party MPs are working on designed to make our working lives and communities better.
If you are watching in this and aren’t in a trade union, join one. Organise your workplace and your community because collectively we have the power to force change. The Tories know this and that is why they continue to try and divide our communities and try to strangle the trade unions. We are the 99%, not Boris and his chums, and when we stand together and fight back collectively we are a force to be reckoned with.
Lets work together across the many sectors we represent to grow our movement, to empower people, to improve the lives of our members and those working in our industries. Change the rhetoric around jobs that have historically been seen as low skilled and therefore should be low paid, because those are the jobs that have gotten us through the pandemic and those doing them deserve to be paid a minimum of £15 per hour. They deserve proper contracts not irregular zero hours ones that can be used to exploit and bully them. They deserve decent sick pay, they deserve not to be bullied and harassed at work by managers, they deserve to be respected at work by the public. They shouldn’t be subjected to cruel fire and rehire tactics and they deserve access to decent nutritious healthy food.
This only happens when we stand together collectively and demand better.
Sarah Wooley, BFAWU General Secretary.