Pub workers must organise or every round will be on us
The scandal of Scottish pub giant G1 Group paying under the minimum wage is no surprise. I used to work there, and saw them hammering staff for years.
It was meant to be a stopgap. But working long hours on varying shifts left little room to get out of the industry.
It took six months for my wage to go up to £6.50 an hour, where it stayed for three years.
The company sees staff as dispensable, just as Karl Marx described the bosses using a “reserve army of labour”.
One of my roles involved travelling around Scotland. I tried to use this to build a union branch.
At one venue staff were expected to work 7.30am to 1am during the opening week.
Some have breaks too short to eat during shifts of over nine hours. They work zero-hour contracts.
Or if they’re lucky a 15-hour contract, with the “opportunity” to work over 40 hours.
Workers are charged for their uniforms and training. But it wasn’t easy to convince people they deserved better.
G1’s method is to overhire staff then get rid of the “lazy” ones. Workers who complain are given less hours until they leave.
By the end I had become a troublesome employee—the best title I had at the company. They accused two of us of theft.
It took four weeks until I had a union representative in place, and then a 3-hour meeting where their argument was demolished.
They dropped the disciplinary and said I could return to work.
But my colleague who wasn’t in the union was sacked and given no reference. He was 22 and had worked there since he was 16.
On average, each of Scotland’s 202,700 bar and restaurant workers generate £14,230 gross profit.
If they organise in unions they can deliver a severe blow to the greedy, exploitative bosses.
Rory Anderson, Glasgow
I grew up in care, now I’m locked in detention
I’ve been in an immigration detention centre for almost 18 months.
I came to Britain aged nine to live with my sister, but was taken into care at 12. I grew up here. Britain made me who I am.
My whole family are British citizens, and I could’ve been one too. But my social worker never applied for me, and I was too young to understand how important it would be.
I know that I am British. I committed a crime, but I was a ten year old with a bullet wound on my shoulder. I’ve seen things no child should see.
Growing up in care was very difficult. Now I’m here and no one wants to help.
I must sit in detention pressured into smoking the herbal incense they call “spice”, which staff say they can’t do anything about because it’s not illegal.
This can’t be fair. What can I do—I don’t even speak the Somali language. How am I to survive?
A current detainee, By email
Our demonstration makes a difference
The Stand Up to Racism demonstration in London on 21 March was really inspiring. It brought together different groups that are fighting back.
I came down from Harlow on a coach, which was nearly full.
There were LGBT and migrant rights groups, and it was diverse with people from different backgrounds.
It was important to make a stand against racism. It has not gone away.
I work in mental health. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people are disproportionately sectioned.
The rise of the racist Ukip party also concerns me a lot because they’re making it acceptable to be racist.
We’ve got to take action, and we need power in numbers.
In Harlow we’re going to continue campaigning. We’re out every Saturday leafleting against Ukip’s racism.
The death of a tyrant
Last week saw the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew, the repressive and corrupt leader of Singapore. He won’t be mourned by any who believe in democracy and social justice.
Lee came to power by courting the British. He was an “anti-communist” alternative when the left was very influential.
He used non-communist socialist organisations to win his first election, then turned on them and repressed the entire left.
Elections were a sham.Lee used the corrupt courts to ban opposition politicians from running for office. He detained activists without trial and tortured his opponents.
Despite boasting of very tough anti-corruption laws, Singaporean politicians voted themselves huge salaries. Their cronies and relatives gained wealth and influence from managing state enterprises or controlling those which were later privatised.
Singapore was a firm supporter of Burma’s junta.
Lee and his cronies justified their repressive regime by claiming that it conformed to “Asian values” and not “Western” democracy. This has been the excuse of tyrants in many Asian countries.
Singapore is a very unequal society. Many workers are excluded from the much publicised housing and social benefits system for citizens.
The law punishes people for chewing gum, oral sex or not flushing the toilet. People are regularly flogged for petty crimes.
That is Lee’s legacy.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Oxford
Vile Clarkson was no joke
It’s shocking that over a million people signed a petition to reinstate ex-TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson. He was sacked by the BBC for assaulting a colleague.
His sacking is a good step. But why had the BBC kept him on for so long despite his repeated racist remarks?
Some say it’s “banter” or “just a laugh”. But as a rich white male, Clarkson isn’t on the receiving end of the ideologies he represents.
Blythe Taylor, West London
Don’t collude with racists
Ex-Tory candidate Afzal Amin’s collusion with the Nazi EDL shows how cynically politicians use racism.
The majority of people oppose racism.
Mass movements have stopped EDL marches. I was one of 10,000 who marched against racism in London last month.
Most people know you don’t accommodate to racism, or “negotiate” with those who peddle it.
Sasha Simic, East London
Royal road to baffling Ukip
Tory, Ukip and EDL racists also tend to be royalists.
It blows their brains when I remind them that Prince Philip is a first generation immigrant and the next king will be second generation.
The royals only took the surname Windsor 100 years ago. The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was embarrassing when going to war with Germany.
Gareth Hopcyn, Stockport
Trolls defend colonialism
I’m disappointed and outraged by the arrogance and ignorance of British people who write comments on YouTube videos about the Falkland Islands.
Many are evidently still very proud of British colonialism. I see in the articles you publish a totally different attitude.
But I wonder if the majority of British people are more like those YouTubers or like you.
Juan Curiuni, By email