Workers deserve better!

I spent the whole of last week working in Sheffield, my home city. UNISON and the American trade union SEIU are working together to target three multi-nationals who operate in both countries, namely: Compass (British), Sodexho (French) and Aramark (American). Around 50 of us were trained on Monday and Tuesday and put the training into practice Wednesday to Friday, talking with 453 school kitchen assistants, cooks and dinner ladies. It was an exhausting week, but thoroughly rewarding. The methods being taught are truly socialist and appeal to the core of my political beliefs.

I think many of you would not be shocked to discover the stories of these people, all women in a sector renowned for their professionalism and care in our schools. However, you may be surprised by the way Compass considers our mothers, grandmothers, friends and relatives as a number on a balance sheet. I don't know about you, but I remember how kind my dinner ladies were in all of the schools I grew-up in. It is with this in mind and after talking to these wonderful women, that I am angry and fired-up to get a better deal for them. Why? One lady met a colleague of mine, Ryan, and told him that she has three jobs and no social life, in-fact working in the school kitchen is her only way to socialise in her entire life - good eh Compass? A second lady took fifteen minutes out of work to comfort a small seven year old boy who had behavioural difficulties that no-one could understand. After speaking with him, he opened up to her and broke down crying...crying not because he was being bullied, or was left last to be picked for the football team, but because he had seen his father hanging dead from the garage roof. Compass, after hearing the story decided to give the worker a verbal warning for mis-use of company time.

These stories are just two of many. It is not just Compass either, but Sodexho and Aramark who are equally as concerned about profit and not in the human stories.

So what now? Well Sheffield City Council in their Lib Dem no-wisdom, are not interested in enforcing their own code of practice on two-tier workforces and exploitation of workers in outsourced contracts like the Compass catering contract. So, we are asking a team of these women to come together to demand better conditions for themselves and to target councillors, Compass managers and the schools for a better deal - more on this in later posts.

1 comment:

Jon Rogers said...

Thanks for this post Paul - it is good to see some positive news about the "Three Companies" project, about which the Union has been somewhat less than forthcoming before now!

Of course we also have to face up to the fact that it has been under the past twelve years of our Government that the legislative framework governing local government and employment has remained so favourable to the profiteers who make money out of paying poverty wages to those who deliver vital services.

Let's hope our Party changes course sufficiently to regain the confidence of our supporters and avert the disaster of a Tory Government.