Thousands of the poorest people in Britain are facing debt and misery as they pay the price for the collapse of two companies recently.
Low paid workers at the Kwik Save supermarket chain worked for six weeks without any pay after being told by the company that it was the only chance to keep the business afloat.
They were devastated to hear last week that the company had collapsed and around 1,100 workers would face the sack.
Fran Wright worked for Kwik Save for more than seven years. She is a single parent and had to borrow money from a friend to pay her rent.
“I’ve had no money for food or anything,” she said. Like the many others who have been left in serious debt with no job, she is very angry at the way Kwik Save has treated them. “It’s disgusting,” she said.
Meanwhile the collapse of money transfer company First Solution has left thousands of people facing a combined loss running into several million pounds. This was money that they had paid to send to family and friends in Bangladesh.
The company, based in east London, has gone into receivership and is currently being investigated by the police. The people who have lost money are some of the poorest in Britain, and they were sending money to some of the poorest people in the world.
Ahmed is one of those who lost hundreds of pounds. He told Socialist Worker, “I’m working very hard to earn money to send back home. I get up at 5am every day and work very long hours in a factory. It’s a very hard life.
“I heard last week that they closed the business. I was very shocked – I went to the office, but the office was closed. We want to get our money back. I lost £550 that I was sending to my mother and my sister in Bangladesh.
“I am telling everyone to come and fight for our money back. I want the British prime minister to help us. This is a crime. Gordon Brown has to take action, otherwise people will do this again.”
Over 500 people held an angry rally in Altab Ali Park in east London last Saturday. The First Solution Creditors’ Group called the rally to demand that action is taken over the loss.
Azmal Hussain, chair of the creditors’ group, told Socialist Worker, “People were trying to send money for doctors, for operations, for children. Now some people in Bangladesh and Britain will have to borrow money instead.
“People will die in Bangladesh because they can’t afford medicines or because they are waiting to pay for an operation.”
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, is taking up the case on behalf of many of his constituents.
He has moved an early day motion in parliament calling for better regulation of the money transfer industry.
He told the rally, “Thousands of people have been robbed of their hard earned money – the sweat of their brow.”
George met with a treasury minister on Tuesday. He said, “I am demanding that this government – which has money to burn when it comes to destroying other people’s countries around the world – puts together a rescue package.
“If a finance company in the City of London went bust, the treasury and the Bank of England would step in.
“We will not accept that if you are rich then you are protected but if you are poor and living in the East End of London you can have your money taken from you in this way.”
The Kwik Save and First Solution cases show the reality of Brown’s Britain as the market is allowed to destroy ordinary people’s lives.
It’s a very different story for the rich and the property speculators who will benefit from the collapse of Kwik Save as its stores are sold off.
The property firm selling the stores is already boasting they are “attracting lots of interest”. A deal has been done with multi-millionaire Brendan Murtagh who has bought up 56 of the stores.
The real losers are the hundreds of workers – many of them women with young children – who face unpaid bills, debts and unemployment.
Kwik Save worker Gemma Bishop said, “We all have bills and direct debits to pay.
“Some of us have children and babies to feed and provide for. It took me three years to find this employment and looks like I’m back to square one again.”
She said that staff had not been asked to work for nothing – they had been told to. “It’s so wrong and so unfair,” she said.
Pressure must be stepped up on the government to act to stop some of the poorest people in Britain from suffering at the hands of the market.
Go to » www.respectcoalition.org/?ite=1487 for more information about the First Solution campaign