Local Labour MPs Jonathan Ashworth and Keith Vaz have both suggested that Claudio Ranieri should receive an honorary knighthood if Leicester City win the Premier League title (April 17, Leicester Mercury). This is well and good, but it is important to recognise that while Ranieri has a three-year contract to manage our club, most the employees working behind the scenes at City games have no contractual rights at all — as these low-waged workers have what are referred to as zero-hours contracts.
This exploitation of workers is clearly unfair and wrong, so I hope that when The Foxes do win the Premier League that our local MPs and councillors will demand that all the hard-working staff in our city’s club should be entitled to reasonable contracts of employment. That is not too much to ask is it?
Just last week, the Bakers Union, in conjunction with Youth Fight for Jobs, organised a protest in the city centre in front of McDonald’s to demand an end to the use of zero-hour contracts. This demonstration was part of an international day of action with similar protests in 300 cities around the world, and, as it turns out, actually succeeded in forcing McDonald’s to offer contractual fair contracts to their workforce — with new contracts offering workers either 4, 16 or 30 hours of guaranteed work each week.
Part of last week’s protest in Leicester also called attention to the use of zero-hour contracts at Leicester City Football Club, with one campaigner, dressed as a fox, busily dishing out leaflets to passers-by alongside a bearded Ronald McDonald impersonator.
Although not well known, Compass Group PLC is the multinational corporation that profits from the exploitation of most of the Leicester City’s workforce. Last year they posted operating profits of £1.3 billion, up by £51 million on the previous year. But Compass employees between the ages of 18 to 20 have no contractual rights and earn just £5.30 per hour. Compass ‘staff’ lucky enough to be over 25 year of age earn the mandatory new living wage of £7.20 per hour, which is still a lot less than a real living wage which would be nearer to £10 per hour.
Board members of Compass Group have a long commitment to exploiting workers, and one such fatcat individual, Susan Murray, is also a director of Two Sisters Food Group – a business that is regularly in the news for attacking the pay and conditions of their factory workers.
Only a few years ago in 2012, Two Sisters’ viciously slashed redundancy payments at their factory in South Wigston and then tossed hundreds of workers aside when they closed the factory in their relentless search for easy profits.
More recently, just this week in fact, Two Sisters have been busy slashing premium pay for unsocial working hours at their Pennine Foods site in Sheffield (“Labour peer’s £3bn food firm 2 Sisters faces industrial action after unions claim it is clawing back benefits of Living Wage,” April 16, Mail on Sunday).
Although all of Compass’s directors are greedy profiteers, the individual presiding over Compass’ board room, Paul Walsh, is gainfully employed as a board member of HSBC Bank, which was recently fined £1.2 billion for having links with “drug kingpins and rogue nations” in a 2012 Mexican money-laundering scandal. Moreover:
“HSBC has emerged as a key Mossack client in the [Panama] papers, which are the biggest leak in history. They show that the bank and its affiliates used the law firm to set up 2,300 shell companies on behalf of clients.” (April 15, Daily Mail)
Of course Leicester City is far from alone in exploiting workers, and it is sadly quite the norm in the Premier League.
For example, prior to acting as the chairman of Compass Group (between 2006 and 2014), businessman Sir Roy Gardner was the chairman of Manchester United Football Club. While during his time at the head of Compass, Sir Roy oversaw the tragic financial debacle that engulfed Plymouth Argyle.
As is so often the case, it seems to be high wages and profits for the few, and low wages and high ticket prices for the rest of us!
That is why it would be nice gesture if Leicester’s elected politicians could align themselves in defence of workers rights, and support ongoing efforts to not only unionise all the workers currently being exploited by the Compass Group on behalf of The Foxes, but to also use Leicester’s spectacular success as a means of forcing the club to change using a subcontractor who is willing to give their employees proper part-time contracts, instead of the zero-hours rubbish that is presently on offer.