Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 10th October 2018

Last week, TGI Fridays, McDonald’s, Wetherspoons, Deliveroo and UberEats workers joined coordinated action against the low pay and poor working conditions rife in the fast food sector.

No one wants strikes, least of all employees living a hand-to-mouth existence and who sacrifice pay in the process, but the only reason any of us have paid holiday, sick leave, maternity leave, reasonable working hours and a two-day weekend is past generations of trade unionists fought for us to have them. Action is necessary if things are going to improve.

All-too-often these jobs are seen as being short-term and consequently the conditions aren’t given the attention they deserve. Yet, workers are gradually find themselves occupying these–and similar–positions for much longer, with the precariousness of their employment taking a toll and regardless, everyone deserve’s a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.

While the recent announcement that restaurants will be banned from keeping tips–not yet in law–is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The employees on strike last week work for companies with huge revenues, yet for their workers, low pay and poor conditions are the norm. Their call for an hourly wage of £10 and union recognition is far from unreasonable.

Jobs across all sectors are becoming increasingly fragile as companies seek to squeeze more out of their workforce for less, with many trying to re-define their workers as self-employed in order to off-load their employment obligations, meanwhile corporate profitability keeps going up. The changes now taking place to our economy are fundamentally changing the nature of work for the worse and will, in time, affect everyone if we do nothing to stop them.

This strike is part of the attempt to rollback the ‘Gig Economy’ and it’s important that we support it, but more is needed. Labour will not only bring into effect a real Living Wage and new legal protection for those in work, but a direct input into how the businesses they are helping to build is run, ensuring workers can future-proof their jobs against the changes to come.

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