Solidarity Unionism: Mutual Aid & Class Solidarity
Following the latest lockdown, I began a new job in a local cafe. At the beginning there was nothing out of the ordinary - rota supplied too late, holidays not granted without a fight, the manager laying claim to staff tips - hospitality as usual.
However there was a growing discontent amongst the workers. I was the new start, and hadn’t received my contract after nine weeks working. I soon discovered that fellow workers who had been there two years where in the same position.
This seemed the best place to begin agitating in the workplace. I went along to the IWW Ireland, Labour Rights Clinic, and explained the conditions in my workplace.
The Clinic allowed me a chance to listen to more experienced FWs and get advice from reps. I was able to take that knowledge learnt and begin speaking to my colleagues in work and sow the seeds of organised discontent.
The contract was an obvious rallying point - everyone knew we should have one and anyone who had asked in the past never saw it materialise. I was assigned a rep and spoke over the phone about the situation in depth, and planned some next steps.
As the weeks went by I was able to chat to colleagues away from management’s ears and within a matter of weeks we approached management collectively to request a copy of our contracts. The manager initially snapped and told us we couldn’t as, ‘no contract exists yet’.
When pressed further, we were told it would, ‘arrive when it arrived’ but regardless, two days later we all received our contracts, after months, and years of their absence. In addition to this, all those employed by this business, in their other cafes also received their contracts.
This first victory has changed the tone of our workplace entirely.
Fellow workers have started to chat together about what else we could deal with this in the same manner – from holidays to sick pay.
There is an understanding that we – the workers in our cafe – secured contracts for the workers in all cafes owned by this business. Who knows what will come next, but the seeds of our collective strength have been sown.