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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Pay battles

by New Worker correspondent

ESSENTIAL supplies of Brussels sprouts, port, cranberry sauce and Stilton in and around London could be at risk as a result of a planned Christmas strike. Twelve drivers, employed by Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd at Sainsbury’s Waltham Abbey distribution centre, have voted unanimously for strike action in protest at being paid £12,000 less per year than those directly employed by Sainsbury’s. As a result, deliveries to about 100 Sainsbury’s stores in London and the south east will be severely affected during the six days of strikes before and after Christmas.

The driver’s union, Unite, said that Sharper & Guy had point blank refused to discuss the pay claim for 2020 and parity pay.

Regional officer Paul Travers thundered: “What we have here is one of the most flagrant cases of pay parity injustice that I have been involved with, as our members are getting paid £12,000-a-year less than their counterparts employed directly by Sainsbury’s doing the same job at the Waltham Abbey depot.

“You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that 12 times £12,000 is nearly £150,000-a-year and that someone is benefiting from that figure – and it is definitely not our members.

“Ironically, Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd has pay parity with Sainsbury’s drivers for all the agency drivers it employs at this depot which just adds insult to injury for our 12 members who are being treated appallingly.”

The union’s national officer for road transport and logistics, Matt Draper, added: “This dispute further puts the spotlight on Sainsbury’s desire to pursue its misguided ‘race to the bottom’ strategy.” He also pointed out: “We have opposed the introduction of these lower paid ‘new generation’ contracts within Sainsbury’s. The way these drivers at Waltham Abbey are being contemptuously treated shows Sainsbury’s is implicated at arm’s length in the actions Zero Hours–Zero Benefits of Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd.

“Sainsbury’s needs to remember a ‘key worker’ is not just for the present COVID-19 emergency, but for the long-term as a contented workforce improves productivity.”

Aerospace workers at parts firm SPS Technologies Leicester plant are also up in arms over attempts to cut their pay by as much as £3,000 per year. This blow comes after about 200 staff were made redundant in the summer. Now the remaining 280 face drastic reductions to overtime pay, sick pay, paid breaks, shift premiums, and other terms and conditions.

Lakhy Mahal, Unite’s East Midland’s Regional Industrial Officer, said: “Not content with firing nearly half of its loyal workforce in the middle of a pandemic when they could have been furloughed, SPS is now attempting to make deplorable attacks on the pay and conditions of those who remain.

“SPS is using the pandemic as an excuse to fire and rehire staff on vastly inferior contracts and wages. These opportunistic changes will have [a] hugely negative impact on our members’ financial security. Anger is at such a high level that a strike ballot has been called, which could result in SPS’s operations grinding to a halt.”

The threatened wage cuts “are so severe that some workers fear they will not be able to keep up with their mortgages or pay their bills. Despite working hard in a full-time job, staff are concerned they will have to rely on payday loans, get an evening job or even leave to find new work. The situation is destroying any remaining trust the workforce had in their employer.”