Over Christmas I worked gruelling hours in the retail sector, sometimes up to seven hours without any breaks. I did not dare refuse or complain as I was on a four-hour contract and I knew that I’d be put at the bottom of the list if a shift came up at short notice.
Despite my constant availability and inconsistency of hours – some weeks working only eight hours, others up to 36 – I was still paid little enough to be eligible to continue receiving a top up from Universal Credit throughout the months leading up to Christmas.
I often have to work from morning to late afternoon with no break.Lunch is completely out of the question and so I constantly feel tired. Yet I always seem to feel on edge when I’m not working. I feel like my life revolves around waiting for the phone to ring for my next shift or worrying when I don’t get the call about how I’m going to make my rent or feed myself.
I’m angry and my co-workers, while sharing my anger, are completely demoralised and have no confidence in organising.
I’ve decided to do something with my anger and am attending my first Usdaw (retail union) branch meeting next week. I hope to find other people who face the same situation because I know that if I dare organise anything on my own I’ll suddenly find myself on my contracted four hours and no more.
I hope that with others in my union facing similar disgraceful circumstances, we can start organising in each other’s workplaces so that we’re not victimised at work for daring to make a stand.
We desperately need an end to zero-hour and low-hour contracts unless specifically requested by the workers; an end to poverty wages, and the introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage now, as a step towards a real living wage.
Youth fight for Jobs supports and campaigns for these demands and I am sure other members of my union will be as keen to organise and fight on these issues because these insecure jobs are completely unsustainable and need to be stopped.