Echoing Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East, most workers employed by Samworth Brothers have “grave concerns” that they will “significantly disadvantaged” by proposed changes to their terms and conditions (“Keith Vaz meets Samworth boss to express ‘grave concerns’” February 27, Leicester Mercury).
More than a hundred workers gathered at a vibrant public meeting on Friday night (on Belgrave Road) to learn more about how their joining the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union will enable them to fight for decent, just and fair treatment at work.
This, most recent public forum, followed an initial union meeting held two weeks earlier that had been attended by over 300 workers; and another packed-meeting that was held in Melton Mowbray last weekend.
Workers in all three instances were adamant that their bosses should be forced to recognise a union in their workplace; and employees, who in many cases stood to “lose thousands of pounds in wages,” eagerly took away union membership forms for themselves and their co-workers.
A number of speakers addressed Friday’s meeting including a local representative of the National Shop Stewards Network, who offered “solidarity from shop stewards up and down the country who want to support you in your efforts to unionise your workplaces and fight off the massively unfair changes to pay proposed by Samworth Brothers. Your fight is our fight, and we will stand with you.”
One Samworth worker put it simply: it is “us on the shopfloor working hard for Samworth Brothers and we are not happy about the cuts.”
The highlight of the latest meeting however was a speech delivered by a local doctor, who brought a message of support from members of the British Medical Association who have been forced into taking industrial action against the government.
The doctor, Jeanna Strutinsky-Mason, pointed out that “alot of our contract issues are very similar to your own issues.” In both instances, management say they are offering a better deal for workers, and in both instances the workers disagree.
Dr Strutinsky-Mason made it clear that in order to win in the fight for justice, all workers need “to stand together,” and she suggested that in Leicester, “joint demonstrations” might be organised in the future between doctors and Samworth employees.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on February 28.
One angry worker at Friday’s meeting (February 26) asked the pertinent question: “Why is Mr Vaz not here? People want solidarity and support!”
It turns out that Keith Vaz had been invited to the meeting some two weeks earlier, but chose to send his apologies for the second time running. This is despite the fact that he holds a weekly surgery session in Leicester every Friday night.
As the worker from the audience put it: “He is always busy when we need his help.”