Problems at work No.5: 1st steps - Organising at Work What's the point in organising, what rights have we got?

Workers' rights are indeed in a sorry state, but this only underlines the need to organise on the job, in our own workplaces. What rights we do have, mainly in the area of health and safety, aren't properly enforced, so it's clear that the state has little interest in our welfare over and above the level necessary to keep the economy's cogs turning. Many situations at work fall outside the law and so it is down to workers themselves to ‘negotiate'. Often, this is done only in staff meetings where the agenda is controlled by the bosses, or where workers can only voice concerns individually. Clearly this is far from ideal. The employer retains absolute control as no effective threat is posed. Only by organising can workers force their boss to sit up and pay attention.

But how can we organise? There isn't a union in my workplace.

Problems at work - No.6: Legal update

In August, new European regulations came into force to clarify and strengthen the Working Time Regulations (WTR). These introduced limits on working hours for the first time in the UK.

The WTR gave most UK workers seven basic rights, including rights to paid holidays and a ceiling on the maximum average working week. But the initial legislation allowed some temporary exemptions where employers in certain sectors argued that they needed time to comply with the law. It has also left an opt-out clause that gives workers the .choice. to work longer hours.

The basic rights and protections that the Regulations provide are:

Problems at work: No. 7: Women's work - next year's news

The government is set to introduce yet more measures aimed at “empowering” women – which actually means in this case, forcing them to take low paid jobs.

From October 2005, lone parents on income support with children over 14 years old will be forced to attend “work-focused” interviews every 3 months. This is a blatant attempt by Labour to intimidate single parents into pointless shitty jobs. Alongside this, the government also announced that lone parents will have to complete a “compulsory action plan”, part of which will include applying for any jobs on offer. These draconian measures are designed in the longer term to force single parents to take on any “suitable job” or lose their benefit.