In 2018 Mencap, the learning disability charity with an unappealing name, took the government to court. Mencap wanted to challenge an earlier ruling on whether or not sleep shifts count as work, for the purposes of calculating the national minimum wage. They won their case and now, thanks to them, sleep shifts are no longer legally recognised as work. So if you sleep as part of your job, your boss doesn’t have to pay you for it.
In late October 2018, we organised with a student tenant who was being messed around with a disrepair issue by a well-known student lettings agency. We’d beaten this agency before via a direct-action campaign – this time all it took was the delivery of a demand letter to get this tenant compensation. Below, the tenants tells the story of the dispute.
One of our toilets was out of action for the best part of six months. If used, faeces would back up and overflow out of the toilet. This plumbing damage was caused by a fire that wasn’t disclosed to us. Although we had use of another toilet, the toilet that was overflowing was directly next door to the kitchen that meant alongside being inconvenienced, it was quite a disgusting and hazardous living situation prior to calling the plumbers to fix it.
Care workers employed by care provider Alternative Futures Group (AFG) have recently voted on industrial action in a Unison organised ballot over the long-running, sleep-in dispute. Ballots have now been counted, and 87.4% voted to strike on a 51.5% turnout.
Unison has also recently sent out consultative ballots to members of another large care provider, Lifeways Group. The long running exploitation and financial abuse of workers in the care sector by their employers is finally starting to get attention, and care workers are saying “enough is enough”.
The sleep-in dispute has been going on for some years and revolves around sleep-in shifts, where a care worker will stay overnight at work in a person’s home or in a care home, in case they are needed in the night. Typically, they will sleep in an office or spare room, and be available to work whenever called on.
It’s been a good week in our dispute with Fox & Sons. On Wednesday we picketed the business of a landlord who rents a property out through Fox & Sons; by Thursday she had dropped them as her letting agent. We’d written to this landlord one week previously, explaining Fox & Sons’ systematic mistreatment of their tenants, and demanded that she either drop them as her agency or speak to them and tell them to pay compensation to the tenants involved in our ongoing dispute with them. This landlord chose to do neither, so we staged a picket outside her business on Wednesday 6th February, informing passers by about her association with Fox & Sons.
Last Saturday, the Solidarity Federation organised its first women oriented workplace organiser training course. The training is based on the SolFed’s general workplace organiser training course, but adapted to concentrate on the issues and problems faced by women in the workplace.
The training focuses on direct action, rather than offering a legalistic approach to workplace organising, the aim being to set out how women can come together and organise their own action to improve their lives. Particular attention is paid in the course to the impact the women's role within the home has on their working lives, an area largely ignored by the traditional unions.
We recently had another success against more shoddy employment practice. A well renowned central Brighton pub had not paid one of its workers any holiday entitlement and not provided payslips that matched the working hours completed. Unfortunately for them, their worker is a friend of Brighton SolFed and knew they were being stitched up.
Management were initially dismissive. They did think they might owe the worker an extra days pay, but we reminded them it was quite considerably higher. After a detailed demand letter was sent, the establishment paid their dues within the deadline. However, we still await the missing paperwork, so watch this space.
As our public campaign against Fox & Sons continues, and as they continue to refuse to compensate the six tenants they left homeless due to persistent failures of communication and procedure, we have been contacted by another tenant describing their experience of attempting to rent through the agency.
Patrick, a tenant we have been organising with for the past year, is facing homelessness after disgraceful treatment by Brighton Council, who have systematically failed to carry out their most basic duties, leaving Patrick with no protection against eviction by his landlord. For details of the history of this case see here: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/the-arrogance-continues-and-so...
On Saturday 19th January Manchester SolFed organised our fourth picket in support of six Brighton tenants. We picketed the Skipton Building society branch on Market Street in the centre of Manchester. Brighton SolFed’s public campaign against Fox & Sons has now been extended to their parent company, Skipton Building Society. With Fox & Sons still refusing to compensate the six tenants whose tenancy they cancelled five days after it was supposed to start, leaving them with nowhere to live, Brighton SF contacted David Cutter, the chief executive of Skipton, and Gary Morton of their lettings branch Connells, to demand that they resolve the issue. Both Mr Cutter and Mr Morton refused to do so, meaning that Brighton SF on Saturday 19th January extended the campaign to pickets of Skipton branches across the country.
Brighton SolFed’s public campaign against Fox & Sons has now been extended to their parent company, Skipton Building Society. With Fox & Sons still refusing to compensate the six tenants whose tenancy they cancelled five days after it was supposed to start, leaving them with nowhere to live, we contacted David Cutter, the chief executive of Skipton, and Gary Morton of their lettings branch Connells, to demand that they resolve the issue. Both Mr Cutter and Mr Morton refused to do so, meaning that we are today (Saturday 19th January) extending our campaign to pickets of Skipton branches across the country. This follows an initial picket of Skipton by Manchester SolFed last Saturday 12th January.