My five weeks working as a slave for Tesco
I worked as a slave at Tesco for five weeks for no money, and I couldn’t get out of it—because I’m unemployed.
I was working as a slave. It was a 35-hour week with a Tuesday and Sunday off each week. All we did was stack shelves. We asked what else we could do, but there was nothing. We weren’t allowed on the tills as we would need a Criminal Records Bureau check.
My previous job had been working in a fast food restaurant as an assistant manager for three years. I left when I decided I needed a break and a change of scenery.
I’d saved up some money so I didn’t have to go on benefits—but then I ran out and still hadn’t found a job. I don’t enjoy signing on and I expect many others feel the same.
I’d been on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for about three months when I was told about the “work experience”, as they called it. They told me it would look good on my CV and that there was a good chance of getting a job at the end of it.
They made it sound like a really positive experience, so I said I’d do it. But they hadn’t mentioned that I wouldn’t actually get anything extra for it. I was told that if I didn’t take part it would count as me not holding up my end of my claim. There was no way out once I’d signed up.
On the first day of my induction I was told there were no jobs. I realised that doing this was not going to benefit me in any way.
But I couldn’t get out of it unless I had a medical reason, got a job in the meantime or wanted my JSA stopped entirely.
I managed to get a part-time job, starting a week or so after my workfare placement had finished. I asked at the Jobcentre if I still had to do the placement. They said yes, despite knowing we were doing nothing but stacking shelves and that there were no jobs for us there.
I hated my experience at Tesco. The staff seemed generally thankful we were there. But in a few cases they would stand and watch us while having nothing to do themselves. We were referred to as “the kids” rather than being treated as equal workers. We were talked down to.
I think it’s a joke that people are being made to do this. They hook you in with the idea that you might actually benefit. But it’s just an excuse to get extra workers for free.
Mat Ward, Boston, Lincolnshire
Blatter row shows our strength
English football’s excellent response to Sepp Blatter’s comments on racism is testimony to all those fighting against racism on and off the football pitch.
Blatter is president of Fifa, football’s global governing body. He said players should shake hands to deal with racist abuse.
The Professional Football Association, high profile footballers and managers have all called for Blatter’s resignation.
It is no accident that condemnation of Blatter has been strong in England.
Anti-racists have campaigned to ensure anti-racism is high on the agenda in football for years.
Every time a football fan holds up an anti-racist banner or challenges a racist remark it gives other anti‑racists confidence.
It shows those who think racism is acceptable, or think those who complain about it are “crybabies”, that they aren’t welcome in football—or anywhere else.
Saira Weiner, Manchester
When I first began watching Arsenal in the 1980s, black players such as Paul Davis were routinely abused by the club’s own so-called supporters.
Grassroots initiatives such as “Kick It Out” mean racism is now much less prevalent.
The legacy of that work is one reason why the English Defence League has struggled to gain a foothold in football stadiums.
This progress is not matched on the pitch, in the dugouts or in the corridors of power.
The decision to allow John Terry to continue captaining the England team when he is facing serious allegations of racial abuse is outrageous.
In many workplaces someone facing such an accusation would be suspended while the matter was investigated.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s intervention was similarly disgraceful. If the allegations against Terry are proved, he and dinosaurs like Blatter should be given their marching orders for good.
Brian Richardson, East London
The Occupy movement is radicalising millions
When I first heard about the occupations across the US I was cynical about the idea of American protests.
Then I went to them—and finally I felt proud to live in this country.
This movement represents people who are no longer willing to keep a dead system alive.
The occupations are not “enlightened” or “emancipated”. There is a concentration of social ills within these sites.
Homeless, drug addicted and mentally ill people have come to live at them because they can eat and sleep there without cops harassing them.
The media and city officials have condemned occupations as “unsafe”. But the occupation movement has given more security to these people than the city has.
The police brutality made me realise how powerful we have become and how scared the powers-that-be are.
The typical liberal who may still have hopes in capitalism has joined in many conversations with radicals and broken many laws. Many entertain the prospect of squatting and mass civil disobedience.
City council members, clergy and typical civilians are shutting down bridges all over the world.
We now call each other brothers and sisters where before we were strangers.
Estefania Puerta, Oakland, California
Resistance after killings in Norway
Anti-racists are organising in Norway after the racist killings by Anders Breivik in July.
Earlier this month the Red Party, which includes the International Socialists, held a meeting in Oslo.
Many young people were in the audience.
People from several left wing political parties and organisations spoke.
They included the Labour Party’s youth organisation, the LO (TUC) in Oslo, Norway’s Anti-Racist Centre, the Palestine Refugee Camp, Red Youth and Blitz.
Weyman Bennett from Britain’s Unite Against Fascism spoke about the fight against the English Defence League and Breivik’s connection to it.
The meeting prepared for an anti-racist demonstration in Oslo on 30 November.
Called by the Norwegian LO, its slogan is “Say yes to diversity—no to racism!”
Mariette Lobo from the Red Party said, “Muslims in particular are portrayed as a social problem when the real problem is racism.”
Leader of the LO Oslo, Roy Pedersen, said that the LO’s initiative is the most important in many years.
Randi Færevik, Oslo, Norway
Democracy is really a sham
Italy and Greece have so-called technocrats as prime ministers.
They’re bankers—the claim they are not political is ridiculous—and they are unelected.
The ruling class wants unelected governments as they can drive through brutal austerity measures without worrying about being voted out.
And it’s doubly scary when I read in Socialist Worker that the Greek government contains open fascists (Socialist Worker, 19 November).
The corporate media will have you believe that we’ll always have democracy in the West.
But come recession, we’ll have to fight even for that.
Let’s stay out till we all win
I disagree with Sadie Robinson (Socialist Worker, 26 November).
She is right that unions must call more coordinated strikes after 30 November.
But alone, that falls short. The Tories will try to pit us against each other and settle with particular sections.
Union leaders will try to do the same.
We have to raise the slogan “All out, stay out” until we all win.
We need more cross-union meetings that demand our union leaders name the next day—and build independently of them.
Matt Hale, Manchester
Why are our fares so high?
We are writing to you to ask for your support in our campaign to lower the fares of train tickets for teenagers in London.
We believe that the jump between the tickets for people in the 11-15 compared to 16‑18 is far too high.
The cost of a Zones 1-6 travelcard for 11‑15 year olds is £2.75. This doubles to £5.50 in the 16-18 bracket—the same as the cost as an adult ticket.
We believe that there should be one single fare for teenagers.
Hamish McNeill, Don’t Mind The Gap
Striking can save services
The Daily Express last week said that strikes in hospitals would cancel thousands of operations on 30 November.
I must have missed the paper’s rant about how many operations the Tory cuts are cancelling.
Strikes might disrupt services for a day. But ultimately, strikes will be the best way to defend them.
Amanda Williams, Leicester
Watch out – Gove’s about!
Tory education secretary Michael Gove has told Downhills Primary School in Tottenham, north London, that he wants it to become an academy.
The staff and school governing body have voted against such a move.
Gove has said that if necessary the (elected) governors will be replaced.
The school has been told that if parents vote against the plans, they can be ignored.
Faced with such bullying, a campaign was launched at a 100‑strong meeting at the school.
Gove wants to privatise education. We should all oppose him.
Phil Brett, North London
Sick spin on council cuts
I thought Socialist Worker might like to know about a sick idea from Stockport council.
It has created a “budget simulator” to show people how hard it is for them to choose which of our services to cut.
They’re even taking it round schools to show young people that there is “no alternative” to making cuts.
You can see the simulator here: www.budgetsimulator.com/stockport
Other councils may have done this too.
We need to point out that there’s plenty of money to fund our services.
We should challenge the idea that cuts to them are inevitable.
Name withheld, Stockport