Socialist Worker

Ivy House pub workers stage unofficial strike over zero hours contracts

by Nick Clark
Issue No. 2624

On strike at the Ivy House pub in Southwark

On strike at the Ivy House pub in Southwark (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Workers at a south London pub are on their second day of a wildcat strike in a battle over zero hours contracts.

Members of the Bfawu union at the Ivy House pub in Southwark began the unofficial strike on Sunday morning. They are demanding an end to zero hours contracts, the reinstatement of four workers and recognition of their union.

Their action has already forced bosses to back down over all three demands—but strikers won’t go back until they’re happy with the bosses’ offer.

They decided to strike after four workers were told without explanation that they would get no more hours. They were also told they were barred from the pub. Some had worked at the pub for two years. None were told why they had effectively been sacked.

Bfawu members agreed to walk out the following Sunday—one of the pub’s busiest days. By the end of Sunday strikers had made bosses agree to reinstate the four, commit to ending zero hours contracts and recognise Bfawu.

Workers had previously sent a request for union recognition to the pub’s management committee, but received no response.

Strikers are now considering the terms and were set to deliver their response to bosses as Socialist Worker went to press.

One of the four told Socialist Worker on Sunday, “Everyone who has come here today has been incredible. There’s been so much support from local people and the union.”

The action comes as workers at two Wetherspoon pubs in Brighton are set to strike on Thursday for £10 an hour and recognition of Bfawu. They will be joined by workers at branches of McDonald’s and TGI Fridays restaurants in London.

Workers at the Ivy House had considered striking on the same day, but decided to go earlier to avoid losing momentum.

Solidarity with the four was key to the strikers’ success. Kitchen staff agreed to join strikers on the picket line—and the action shut the pub for the whole of Sunday.

Strikers are demanding an end to zero hours contracts and the reinstatement of sacked workers

Strikers are demanding an end to zero hours contracts, union recognition and the reinstatement of sacked workers (Pic: Guy Smallman)


One striker told Socialist Worker they were worried the action might cost them their job. But they said, “If this had happened to me I would want people to stand by me.

“I’ve been really surprised. We’ve had people who’ve been working here less than a month who said they’re willing to lose their jobs for people they’ve barely just met.”

They added, “You need to have security. You need to know if you’re living pay cheque to pay cheque, that you can pay your next month’s rent. Those four people suddenly can’t—that gives me no confidence in my own situation.

“That’s why the rest of us are willing to lose our jobs rather than work in an environment where there’s no financial stability.”

Supported

Passers-by, local residents and people arriving at the pub for Sunday lunch all supported the strikers.

The pub boasts of being London’s “first cooperatively owned pub”. It is run by a management committee but owned by some 371 community shareholders, most of them ordinary people from the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Many of those who stopped to support the strike were shareholders—and most were outraged to discover the pub used zero hours contracts. As word spread, other shareholders came to stand with the strikers and harangue the committee members.

Strikers were in and out of talks with committee members all day. They never agreed to anything without first pausing talks to debate and vote on what to do next in street meetings outside the pub.

Supporters outside boosted them with chants and music.

At the end of the day visibly shaken committee members finally agreed to put an offer in writing.

It says they “have always recognised unions,” and that “in principle we are committed to migrating all ‘zero hours’ workers to fixed hours contracts”.

It also said, “The four members of staff who had their hours reduced to zero will be reinstated.”

Strikers asked to take the offer to their union and decided to stay out on strike until it is settled. But management then reacted angrily and demanded one of the strikers hand over his keys to the pub.

When he refused, one committee member called the police—but the cops said it was a civil matter.

Committee members also appeared on the picket line on Monday morning to shout at strikers.

Workers’ bold action has brought them close to victory—and staying out on strike could see them win.

Donate to the strike fund at https://www.gofundme.com/savetheivyhousestaff?member=843818. Follow the strikers on Twitter at @ivyhouseunion

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