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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Union recognition battles

by New Worker correspondent

LAST FRIDAY shop-workers union USDAW protested at the Manchester AGM of the online cut-price fashion retailer Boohoo as part of their ongoing struggle to secure recognition and question the company’s ethical trading credentials.

The union claims that Boohoo is persistently blocking attempts by USDAW to speak to its workers, despite a recommendation from a parliamentary committee and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). In particular, Boohoo has instructed staff not to speak to the union and to bin its leaflets.

This campaign is annoying Boohoo because it has failed to be accepted into membership of the ETI, which claims to be an “alliance of companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe” — as if there was any such thing as ethical capitalism.

Mike Aylward, a Divisional Officer for the union, said: “The fact that the Ethical Trading Initiative has not yet been able to accept Boohoo into membership is a serious concern for the company, particularly in an industry where consumers are rightly giving ever more regard to ethical shopping. Ethical trading isn’t just about checking the terms and conditions of workers in the supply chain, as important as that is, it’s also about ensuring Boohoo’s directly employed staff are treated with dignity and respect.”

He went on to say: “We have received fantastic support from Boohoo employees, who are asking us to keep up the campaign for recognition, which directly contradicts the company’s claims that there is no interest from staff in joining a union. USDAW’s campaign continues until Boohoo listens to reason, listens to our members, listens to the cross-party committee of MPs and listens to the Ethical Trading Initiative.”

recent report

Even a recent report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability, said that Boohoo should recognise USDAW as the union for their staff.

One necessarily anonymous Boohoo worker explained how the company was responding to the union’s ongoing campaign for recognition: “I work for Boohoo and all staff were told that when leaving work at 6pm there would be union reps outside wanting to talk to us. We were then told that we should not speak to anyone and if given any leaflets we are to just put them in the bin. I thought you would like to know what it is they are up to, that no matter what they say to you they don’t want a union and will do whatever they can to stop it from happening, even make staff feel like they will lose their jobs over it. Please keep my name out of it, I am only telling you because what they are doing is wrong.”

Another union recognition case saw workers at DX Couriers on Park Industrial Park in Tipton, Birmingham hold a protest on Monday over the dismissal of one of their colleagues.

Their union, GMB. has been campaigning for union recognition and worker status for the misnamed ‘self-employed’ couriers.

In addition to the sacking, other workers have been targeted for lodging complaints against the company.

Ian Edwards, a GMB Organiser, said: “Couriers delivering for DX cannot be classed as anything other than employed when you look at the law. DX may not like giving workers the rights they’re legally entitled to, but they don’t get to pick and choose which laws they adhere to. And DX couriers, like everyone else, have a right to join a trade union for protection at work.

“For DX to dismiss someone for trying to exercise their legal rights is disgraceful” he said, before demanding their immediate reinstatement.