The new National Living Wage falls well short of a real living wage, and in many instances this so-called pay rise has been carried out at the same time as greedy companies have cut premium pay for working unsocial shifts and eliminated paid breaks. This is why the Bakers Union refers to the new living wage as the gimmick wage.
Companies like Samworth Brothers were offered a delicious tax incentive from the government –- a 2% reduction in the corporation tax — so they could afford to increase their hourly rates without cutting premium pay. But by sleight of hand, combined with continuing intimidation of their workforce, Samworth bosses decided to plump with the financial option that provided them with the most profits and the lowest labour costs.
If the management at Samworth Brothers had simply consulted their workers about their plans to increase hourly rates in-line with the planned rises in the living wage and not slashed premium pay, their workers would of course have been happy with their fair treatment. Instead the workers are unhappy and the bosses have had to coerce their employees into accepting their new poor deal.
When management recently wrote to their employees they took the time to thank the members of their phoney “Staff Consultation Committees” “for their extremely hard work” during management changes to staff terms and conditions. Needless to say, if Samworth bosses had offered a genuine improvement in terms and conditions, then it is clear that management would not have felt the need to thank any staff committees for their hard work in persuading other staff members to accept their selfish proposals.
Samworth management also boast to their staff about “investing a further £5 million per year” for the next three years into their “pay bill”. What they neglect to mention is that this so-called investment only represents Samworth’s commitment to paying the government’s rising living wage, so should hardly be considered an investment. A real investment in the pay bill would involve keeping the premium system in place while raising the pay of their staff in line with the legal requirements of the rising living wage – that is after all what the government is giving them a tax break for.
Finally management acknowledge in their letter to staff that “This has been a very complex process…” This is a key admission as the process was only complex because Samworth’s secretive management and their so-called “Staff Consultation Committees” deliberately sought to make the process confusing in an attempt to pull the wool over their workers’ eyes.
This complex process involved the bullying of staff and the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against workers who bravely spoke out in defence of their colleagues’ workplace rights. Ultimately such manufactured complexities resulted in the bullying Samworth managers conspiring to sack shop floor team leader and union activist, Kumaran Bose, in a vain attempt to scare other workers away from demanding their democratic right to be represented by a trade union in their workplace.
Normal workers call such actions bullying, but Samworth management refer to this process as a “competitive” strategy that “enhances job security” which enables workers to “achieve an enhanced way forward.”
Furthermore, given that the entire consultation process was triggered by a government program that was meant to increase, not decrease the pay of workers, it is extremely telling that in their letter to staff, Samworth bosses felt obliged to promise that “additional payments” have now been put in place “to ensure that nobody will see their contracted pay go backwards.” Well aren’t they the model employers!
Join the protest outside the headquarters of Samworth Brothers on Sunday 26th June, 12.30pm, Chetwode House, Melton Mowbray LE13 1GA