Standing up to poverty , precarity & harassment

Young people today have grown up in a period when the trade union movement has been in retreat. It has been the unions’ decline from militancy to conservatism that has caused young people to no longer consider them vehicles for change and why they have been struggling to understand their relevance in a world of global social upheaval. This has meant that trade union membership has fallen to its lowest since 1995. But material conditions are driving small groups of young workers to organise and fight back.

Uniting for a better future

Emboldened by the #MeToo movement, McDonald’s workers staged a one-day strike in September at restaurants in 10 US cities to pressure management to take stronger steps against on-the-job sexual harassment. This was not just brave but historic, as never before has there been a multi-state strike over sexual harassment. Hundreds were involved in the organising committees for the strike, highlighting the new wave of militancy and the hands-on approach of this generation, who are only now entering into the unions, giving them a new lease of life and a new fighting spirit.

Mirroring this, precarious workers in Britain are also making history. UberEats workers took wildcat action in response to a change to their pay structure, with the slogan “No money, no food!” Further, on 4th October, workers at McDonald’s, TGI Fridays and Wetherspoon’s are taking part in coordinated strike action over demands for £10/hour, trade union recognition, secure contacts and courier rights. These young workers have expressed how angry they are with their conditions. Boni Adeliyi, TGI Fridays waitress, said: “We’re striking to show the strength we have when workers come together. The movement is growing, and change is coming!” McStriker Lauren McCourt said: “When we come together, hospitality workers have the power to transform our sector. The days of poverty pay, insecure contracts and lack of respect for workers are numbered.”

Local workers getting organised

Northern Ireland has not been forgotten in this rise in trade union consciousness. Hospitality workers have begun organising following the launch of the Unite Hospitality campaign. Boojum workers have already successfully forced a U-turn on how management were using tips to cover till shortages. Unite Hospitality NI have also been coordinating solidarity actions with those on strike globally. And, on 9th October, there will be an open meeting for hospitality workers in Belfast to get together and discuss what we can do to create a better future for ourselves here, with a McStriker and a TGI striker also flying over to speak!

We deserve no less than £10/hour. It is not acceptable that in hospitality you can work full-time and still be below the poverty line. We demand an end to zero-hour contracts, fair rotas, fair breaks and genuine sexual harassment policies in our workplaces.

by Amy Ferguson

To get involved in Unite Hospitality, contact Neil on 07941841092.