Workers Wild West

Archive of Workers Wild West, a newspaper written by, and mainly for, West London warehouse workers for the purposes of propaganda, inquiry and mutual support.


Comrades, sisters and brothers,

We want to present the first issue of our local newspaper and invite you to collaborate with us in future. Our starting point is that in these desperate and hopeful times political collectives should try to experiment in how to bring three elements of revolutionary activity closer together:

– PROPAGANDA: Presenting a political position within the local working class which denounces capitalism as an exploitative and crisis-ridden system that increasingly steers towards war and which only the global proletariat can oppose

– INQUIRY: Explaining this position in close relation to workers’ actual experiences on the shop-floor and in the area, through collective inquiry and circulation of information regarding the strength and weaknesses of self-organised activities against the bosses – we will largely have to deal with the divisions within the working class

– MUTUAL SUPPORT: Proposing and supporting the establishment of workers’ groups at work and local practical solidarity networks of mutual support against bosses, state agents, landlords etc.

During the last year we’ve made friends and experiences in the local warehouse districts of West-London

– see

This year we want to start publishing and circulating 2,000 copies of a local newspaper, mainly in front of warehouses, food processing plants, local hospitals and job centres. The local workers are predominantly from Eastern Europe and South Asia. We hope that the monthly distribution of the newspaper will help in setting up an information and solidarity network, including through social events such as film screenings etc.

[ h4]How can we collaborate?[ /h4]

We are eager to exchange experiences with individuals and collectives which engage in similar activities of regular political propaganda and analysis of the difficulties of workers’ self-organisation.

We need information about struggles abroad, with a focus on warehouse and logistics work. If you have any first- or second-hand reports concerning this sector, please write to us (in any of the languages into which we have translated this letter).

We will try to document the process of making the newspaper and throw our trials-and-errors back into the debate.

Keep in touch – Love and Rage from West-London

Workers wild west #1

Workers’ Paper for West-London – March 2015


[1] Unofficial overtime strike at Wincanton/Waitrose
[2] Working as a transport clerk at the Primrose office
[3] We’ll Work No More – Workers’ Report from Wealmoor Warehouse in Greenford
[4] Around the world, a working class in struggle – Few examples from January 2015
[5] Workers’ stories
[6] Seeing past the luxury label: Fashion warehouses Part I: From Greenford to Gurgaon
[7] Do you need support? Do you want to support others? – Why we need workers’ solidarity networks in Greenford
[8] Cleaners and porters at Ealing Hospital strike against the minimum wage
[9] What is this paper about?!

[1] Unofficial overtime strike at Wincanton/Waitrose

Rockware Avenue, Greenford UB6 0AA.
Workers: around 80
Pay: minimum wage for agency and people on new permanent contracts. People on old permanent contracts get higher amount up to £9.16/hr.

There is a Wincanton warehouse near Greenford tube station. Wincanton is the second biggest logistics company in the UK. The whole warehouse complex provides logistic services for companies like Waitrose, H&M, Neal’s Yard and Nike.
In the Waitrose part of the warehouse there are about 30 workers working on one shift. They are mainly operators of LLOPs trucks who pick wine cases into cages, which are then loaded into the trucks and transported to the next warehouse and then to Waitrose shops. The work in the warehouse is monotonous and exhausting. Workers pick heavy cases and are forced to achieve high pick rates (about 7.5 tons per shift). Half of the staff are agency workers and half are permanent. Temps earn minimum wage (£6.31 p/h now £6.50) as a base and time and a half for overtime (£9.16 p/h). But in spring 2014 Wincanton management cut the overtime bonus – we were now supposed to work overtime for the minimum wage. 

In May, some agency workers were called to the agency office where they were asked to sign an agreement for the cut. The cut was supposed to come into effect the next Monday. Workers were surprised and disorientated, especially since most of them didn’t have English as a first language and so didn’t know exactly what documents they were signing. The majority signed them but started to regret it when they realised what they’d done.

The next morning, friends of some workers distributed a leaflet explaining they shouldn’t sign the agreement. The agency workers who hadn’t signed it yet decided to go to the agency office together and inform the manager that they wouldn’t be signing. In response the managers threatened them, saying that as “expensive” workers they wouldn’t be given the possibility to work overtime. After that, some of them signed, but this meeting – as well as the announcement not to work overtime anymore – made an impact on Wincanton management. A few hours later all agency workers got a text saying that the cut would be postponed for a month.

In mid-June, Wincanton cut the overtime bonus for agency workers. After that most of the agency workers jointly stopped working overtime, even though it was a very busy time. The company got into trouble and tried to break this informal overtime strike in several ways:
1. They offered a dozens permanent contracts to the agency workers, who took them.
2. They started to offer more overtime to permanent staff. Since they get extra money for their overtime, they didn’t show solidarity with the temps and agreed to work the overtime, effectively as ‘scabs’.
3. Wincanton signed a contract with a new job agency. This brought in new agency workers who did not know about the informal strike.
4. Some of the agency workers quit the job in reaction to worsening conditions. After a few weeks the situation returned to normal (this was also connected with lower volumes at that time).

We decided to meet in a nearby park to talk about what to do. Around ten people came. Some people talked about immediate strike. On one hand this is good and it shows that people don’t want to accept everything, on the other hand we were not really able to discuss things step by step: if just the temps go on strike, what would the permanents do? What would management do? Are there other forms of putting pressure on the company, for example working slow? We have to learn to discuss these things when we meet together, otherwise we get trapped between “Immediate strike now” and ” Nothing can be done.”

United we stand, divided we fall

In the time of the overtime strike, workers didn’t manage to break the division between temporary and permanent staff who get better wages and a higher bonus for overtime. When agency workers jointly stopped working overtime, Wincanton used permanent staff as scabs, which saved the company from serious trouble.

Lack of solidarity between temporary and permanent workers hit both groups, since the existence of lower-paid temporary workers puts pressure on the permanent workers. This situation will cause worsening work conditions for all staff. For example: more agency workers means less overtime work for permanent workers; it limits permanent workers’ wage demands; and lets the company make even bigger profits on the backs of low-paid temporary workers.

But this is not the end of the story. A month after the agency workers lost the overtime bonus, they decided to work only 4 days out of 5. This was a reaction to the worsening conditions of work. While this decision was taken individually, the fact that so many people did it, says something about the common way in which people saw their situation. As Christmas came and things got busy, this refusal of work was a big problem for management, who then decided to offer a £25 bonus if we came in for 5 days. This was a wage increase of 10%. At the same time management brought the old overtime bonus back.

Workers did not see this as the management’s defensive reaction to their absences and working slow. Instead, workers thought the wage increase was because things were busier before christmas. But if the workers had always worked fast and come in for five days, management would not have had to offer such wage incentives. Workers’ actions resulted in more than the official demands of the trade union! A union that prefers to “fight” for better wages by discussing in the offices with management without any results!

[2] Working as a transport clerk at the Primrose office

Wincanton multi-user site, Rockware Avenue, Greenford UB6 0A
Workers: 5
Pay: £6.50/hr up to £7.70/hr

In March – April 2014 I worked as a Templine temp in the Primrose warehouse office run by Wincanton. The Primrose website says that they do everything ‘in-house’ but that’s a bloody lie. They have to lie in order to get state funding as a ‘family start-up company’.

Four of us Templine workers received online-orders from Primrose (garden furniture, BBQ sets, etc. all made in China), we had to print the orders for the nearby warehouse. There, ten guys would pick and load the stuff, heavy bamboo fencing and all. We also had to fill in the transport delivery forms (TNT, Tufnells, DPD) on their websites. If you are not very familiar with these forms (or pissed off with your boss, like us!) it is very easy to make expensive mistakes. Ticking the wrong ‘express delivery’ box…which unfortunately cost the company £780 instead of £30 to send the £70 BBQ set to Munich for the following morning!

In spring-time there are a lot of orders – up to 900 a day – so we often worked 12-13 hour shifts, typing away names and addresses for hours non-stop. You basically go nuts, cursing the country-folks and their bad taste for water-fountains; in the shape of Buddha, looking more like obese Teletubbies run-over by our delivery truck. Anyway, they also wanted us to manage the complicated Primrose stock-database (Manhattan software), respond to emails sent by Primrose managers and other tasks that normally only supervisors would do. Two of us refused to do this work because it was stressful. You were held responsible for stuff which you were not actually paid for – we were paid only £7.70 p/h.

At the time we were still paid the overtime bonus and we worked a lot of overtime. An average of 65 hours a week overtime on a zero-hours contract – what a joke! Then they announced that the overtime bonus would be scrapped. None of us signed the new contract, which pissed them off. We also agreed amongst ourselves that we wouldn’t work any more overtime – no Sunday shifts, and we would not do extra tasks apart from data entry if they actually cut the bonus. Managers came in and talked about “mutiny” saying whoever would not work on the complex Primrose database would be sacked. They also said that we would have to continue working long hours according to work volume, but that two of us will have to go by the end of the week – the number of orders had come down a bit.

The four of us wrote and signed a letter to management saying that we would work only eight hours a day, on flexible shifts, with alternating Sundays, so that none of us would have to go – even if order numbers had come down. We tried hard to be constructive! In the meantime they had brought in a permanent worker from a different office, who was supposed to learn our job. It was clear that this guy was used as a back-up, so that in case of trouble the office would at least have one loyal employee. We did not know what to do. Management refused our proposal and sacked one of us and hired a new temp person. One of the managers was ‘helping out’ during that time. Two weeks later they sacked another one of us. The remaining two were sacked a week later. They managed to run the office with the loyal permanent, the new temp and the manager, plus a new temp they hired shortly after. Even worse: we heard that after they kicked us out they paid the temp office staff £6.50 instead of £7.70… So what did we learn?

The four of us thought that somehow we could avoid a direct conflict. We thought that the fact that it takes about a week to learn how to operate all the data-tasks would give us some leverage. Should we have refused to collaborate with the permanent worker they brought in? Should we have gone on strike right early on, when it was not that easy to replace us bit by bit? We should definitely have tried more to build a common front with the nearby warehouse guys, whose overtime bonus was also cut. That’s not an easy task, but by waiting and avoiding a conflict, we all got screwed in the end.

[3] We’ll Work No More – Workers’ Report from Wealmoor Warehouse in Greenford

Wealmoor, Unit 5, Auriol Drive, Greenford
Workers: 200
Pay: £6.50/hr

Wealmoor became infamous at the end of 2007, when a fire broke out at their Atherstone warehouse. Three firefighters died during the operation. It turned out that Wealmoor had failed to install fire-sprinklers.

In the Greenford warehouse there are about 400 workers, unloading fruit and veg from trucks and aeroplane containers arriving from Heathrow and packaging them for supermarkets. Most of us are forced to work long hours from 7am till 9pm – with Wealmoor paying only £6.50 an hour. This is no life. In the run up to Christmas they asked us to work seven days a week. Wealmoor exploits the bad situation in our home-countries by making us work for peanuts.

The job interview was the usual nonsense:

Wealmoor HR: Why do you think you are suitable for the job?

Poor applicant: Errr, I like physical exercise and I feel passionate about, errr, vegetables, you know…

Wealmoor HR: All we do is about delivering excellent customer service. When have you delivered a service before?

Poor Applicant: Errr… (Fuck, I guess she doesn’t want to hear about my community service.) Err… Well, one day there was this old lady standing…

Wealmoor HR: …Yes, the one with the heavy shopping bags, isn’t it? Well, done. Next question: You know that we pay £6.50 and that we ask people to work 12 hours, sometimes more. -do you think this will be a problem for you?

Poor applicant: No, no, working longer hours sounds great, especially, errr, when you want to save some money. Do you pay any overtime bonus?

Wealmoor HR: No. We apply the same basic rate to overtime, night-shifts and weekends.

Poor applicant: Hm, yes, keeping it basic, I guess, errr, making it simple. That’s good. (What c*nts!) What about forklift driving?

Wealmoor HR: As I said, we pay £6.50 for all…

Poor applicant: Oh… O-kay…equal pay, I get it. Kind of fair… (Kind of!)

Wealmoor HR: So I assume you are still interested. Could you start tonight then?

Poor applicant: Meaning, errr, tonight?! (Maybe I can get another two hours sleep before the shift. What the f…) Cool, yes, I have nothing else on…

Wealmoor HR: Fine. And don’t forget your hair-net!

Before you start work in the warehouse you get a one hour unpaid ‘induction’ – consisting of a talk about work-discipline. The actual health and safety induction is little more than a walk around the warehouse and being told to wash your hands before entering the warehouse. The entire ‘health and safety’ induction takes less than ten minutes.

You have to clock in every time you enter and leave the warehouse – to take your break or to go to the toilet. If you are 1 minute late or exceed your official break-time they deduct 15 minutes pay from your wages.

There are four conveyor ‘lines’ for sorting and quality checking of loose vegetables. Mainly women work on the ‘lines’, standing upright for fourteen hours. The intake department unloads the trucks. The aeroplane containers are very low, with the boxes inside weighing up to 30 kilos – it is back-breaking (and I’ve hated baby-corn ever since!). There is a station with a ‘vacuum-crane’, which operator uses to lift 30 kilo boxes onto pallets. People work around and under that crane – boxes could rip easily. There is little space, forklifts drive fast, big containers are pushed around. Some time ago an older worker broke his leg in an accident. He got no compensation.

Our wage is low, but Wealmoor could afford to pay us more money. The fruit and veg we pack for Asda, Tesco and Waitrose makes good money for these big supermarket chains and for Wealmoor. The question is how to make them give us more. They need us – hundreds of supermarkets in London can only sell snap-peas or mangos because of our work.

We struggle and we are not alone. Wealmoor writes a lot about how nice they are to the local producers, local communities and to workers on the company-owned plantations in Africa, Asia and South America. However, independent reports reveal poor conditions for workers and small producers – no surprise! The Centre from Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) produced a report on working conditions at Wealmoor mango supplier Sunshine in Peru:

“At the Sunshine packing factory in the peak period of January and February the labourers work every day of the week with an average of 14 hours a day. Their day starts at 6.00 at the factory and last until 21.00. In this peak period often when there is a large shipment workers have to stay in the factory until all the mangos for the shipment have been processed. Workers get only three months temporary contracts, although they work longer. In this way workers don’t get health insurance and other benefits they would be entitled to. The small producers of the mangos are also ripped off: on average they get 0.13 per cent of the supermarket price of a mango.”

But workers in Peru are fighting back – under harsher conditions than here in the UK. 1,800 Camposol asparagus workers organised a strike in October 2010. They were being paid for 8 hours work, even though they were working for 12 hours. They reach out a hand to us here…

Some people at the warehouse talk about forming a union. But we don’t discuss what that means. If a strike here in Greenford seems difficult, there are other things we can do: if Wealmoor does not pay us more and reduce the working-time we could work slower or not so carefully so that the quality of the orders suffers. We can do this together without a major visible action and without anyone having to play the hero. We just have to start talking and coordinating amongst ourselves.

Get in touch at

[4] Around the world, a working class in struggle – Few examples from January 2015

— Brazil: 20,000 striking Volkswagen and other automobile workers blocked highways in protest against redundancies. 800 sacked workers have now been reinstated
— Greece: Print and book workers went on strike and demonstrated against the introduction of Sunday work by the government
— Nigeria: Oil workers unions called for a nation-wide strike against compulsory deduction from workers’ salaries, casualisation and contract staffing
— China: 2,500 workers at Lide Shoe factory went on strike around chrismas and got better holiday pay and transport subsidies as a result
— Poland: More than 1,000 miners stopped work in twelve mines by staying underground while others blockaded railways in protest against mine closures. The government have now said they will keep the four mines planned for closure open for the time being
— Israel: After Pri Hagalil canned food company announced to close its factory 220 workers locked the gate of the plant and erected a protest tent outside. The regional labour court reacted by telling management to re-open the plant and to pay outstanding wages
— Iraq: Thousands of workers from state-owned companies took to the streets across the country demanding to be paid after going three months without wages
— USA: 2,600 hospital workers in California strike against cuts to their health insurance and pension
— Germany: Temporary workers at Amazon warehouses protested against their dismissal after the Christmas period, while permanent workers at several warehouses were on strike for better conditions
— Romania: After big demonstrations of public sector workers for higher wages in October 2014, now Dacia car workers voted to strike, demanding a 15% pay rise
— Tanzania: 1,500 railway workers who transport copper ore from one of the world’s largest mining areas to the port town Darussalam stopped work after not having received wages for the last four months
— Peru: Mass demonstrations with several thousand participants against the introduction of a ‘youth labour law’, which cuts bonuses and paid holiday for workers between 18 and 24 years of age
— Cambodia: 1,000 garment workers at CS Gold Way factory ended their strike after two days after management promises a wage increase
— India: Unions called off a strike of 500,000 mining workers against privatisation after two days
— Egypt: Despite the dictatorship there were around 100 different workers’ strikes and protests happening in December 2014 alone; In January, 7,000 textile mill workers struck against the cuts of subsidies for small cotton farmers and for the replacement of their management
— Italy: Around 300 women, men and children occupy a large administration building in Bologna’s town centre; many of the occupiers had been homeless, while the building had been empty for 12 years
— Iran: Around 20,000 workers at the Khodro car plant in Tehran went on strike and won a 7-8% wage increase plus $500 in cash every three months, in addition to extra breaks during the night shift.

Keep yourself updated:

[5] Workers’ stories

Bart (shop assistant):

“When I found a job I did my best. I thought that I will be promoted quickly, I will start to earn more money, my situation will improve. When I was told to carry heavy things, I tried to do it as quick as possible, so that managers were satisfied with me. It annoyed me that the other employees worked much more slowly, I thought they were stupid and lazy. I worked like a dog and I was the best worker but the pay rise was not coming. Instead, one day at work I got whiplash. I realised that it was rather me who was so stupid as to destroy my health for a couple of pounds per hour. Btw…I have never got any wage rise or promotion.”

Amina (warehouse operative):

“One day I got a call from the job agency that I worked for. They asked me to come to work despite my holiday. I replied, I could not get there because the bus drivers were on strike that day. The woman from the agency then asked how far I lived from work.
“5 miles”, I replied.
She said, “Great! So get dressed and come to work on foot!“
She could not say anything more brazen, so I told her she was being unscrupulous and that she should order me a nice taxi! Every time they demand something from us we must demand something from them.”

Maria (warehouse operative):

“The most busy time in my workplace is in the summer. When others go for BBQs in the park, we work hard in the chill until late evenings. When we work, we do not have time and energy for anything else, no private life. When I complain about it, people tell me that I can always change a job. Of course I can! As long as there are better jobs to change to, people will do this. But what if the jobs and conditions are bad in general and there is nowhere better to run to? Then we will have to confront the situation where we are and try and improve things.”

Thomas (driver):

“I work in a warehouse for minimum wage. I often hear from my colleagues that if we are employed by the agency, we can’t earn more. However, in some companies, there is no significant difference in pay between agency and permanent workers. And it is still profitable to keep them! Our agency also used to paid more, but no one resisted the cuts. So they cut everything they could from our wage. But what if the job agencies would actually stop to exist? Well, if they disappear the work that must be done will still be there. But surely the conditions might not be as bad..?”

[6] Seeing past the luxury label: Fashion warehouses Part I: From Greenford to Gurgaon

Jack Wills (formerly at) Unit 4, Ockham Drive Greenford, UB6 0FD
Workers: 80
Pay: Minimum wage (Formerly £6.31)

In 2013, Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Bangladesh, collapsed and killed over 1000 people. It made the headlines. The newspapers said the workers were helpless victims at the mercy of big multinational companies and their profits. But workers in Bangladesh are not just victims! In Bangladesh, their struggles, strikes and riots have led to them getting a 40% rise on the minimum wage. There is not so much in the news about that! The media wants us to pity these poor garment workers but instead we can respect them as struggling workers who have something to teach us. After all, our situation, working in fashion warehouses in West London is not too far from theirs.

They produce the clothes that are sent to warehouses here like the one I used to work for, Jack Wills. It’s an expensive fashion company whose clothes I can’t afford. Their slogan, ‘Fabulously British’ is a joke – there is nothing very British about the clothes being made by garment workers from different countries, nor the people from different countries who work in the Greenford warehouse.

Workers in (supply-)chains: From Delhi…

Garment workers in other countries and fashion warehouse workers in England are linked by a supply-chain: I pack and pick the clothes they make. Also, we face similar conditions: We get paid the lowest wages the company can get away with paying. We are mainly agency workers, on temporary contracts, we can be fired or our shifts cancelled at any time and with no warning. We don’t get sick pay. We get verbally abused by managers. We get victimised by management if we try and organise ourselves against them. This stands for all workers who do the ‘dirty work’ in the ‘fashion business’, whether we live in London, Dhaka or Delhi.

One of the suppliers of Jack Wills was a company called Modelama in Gurgaon, India. There have been many reports from Modelama featured in a workers’ newspaper in Delhi (Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar). These reports talk about long hours: women work from 9am-10pm, men work from 9am-2 or 5am. People work up to 300 hours a month overtime but only get paid for 150 hours at single rate. Workers who complain get fired. In 2011, a worker got electrocuted by some faulty wiring and died. Before management could come to ‘wash away’ the evidence, workers stopped working and attacked the factory, throwing stones and breaking windows. There were also peaceful sit-ins outside the gates but they were forcefully removed. They were joined by other workers in nearby factories, all angry at the way management had caused this man’s death and didn’t care; about the low pay, the single overtime, the non-payment of back wages, the no-offs strictness, the continued and regular harassment in the form of abuse, the strong surveillance in the form of fingerprint/biometric entry and the CCTV cameras at every nook and line with the suspicion of workers-as-thieves…sound familiar?

Once, when I was working at Jack Wills, we got a shipment of shirts from Modelama. But there were ‘quality issues’ and they had to be sent back. It caused big problems for the managers at the warehouse in Greenford, messing up their schedules and ‘smooth operations’. When this happened, the workers on the other side of the globe became visible. How could we turn this into a more direct connection, so that on both sides of the world, we can bring together our struggles against high pressure, bad pay and bad conditions?

…to Greenford

Jack Wills has shops all over the world. Their distribution centre was in Greenford until a few months ago. Now it’s in Sheffield, outsourced to LF Logistics, a massive fashion logistics company. The clothes came from all over the world: garment factories in India, China, Portugal, Lithuania etc. They were sorted and picked and sent out again to the stores and for mail order deliveries. Despite the inflated prices they sell their clothes for, the agency AND most of the permanent staff worked at minimum wage.

There was bullying at Jack Wills. The supervisors shouted and screamed at us and constantly monitored our performance. They had to do this because they knew the work and pay was so shit, we would not bother much otherwise. This was obvious on the occasional weekend we would have to work, there was usually no direct supervisor so people played the music loud, joked around and hardly worked. One guy used to do dirty dancing with the broom!

The hire-and-fire attitude made people scared and competitive with each other. If you didn’t get the targets, you didn’t stick around long.

My job was shelving: I had to put each item of clothing that was returned into the correct box. A scanner told me where to go. The target was to shelve 100 items an hour, but this was reduced to 70 because so many people made mistakes (put the item into the wrong box). Even 70 items was a difficult target to meet. We often had to shelve single items, racing up and down stairs, often with heavy trolleys, up and down the many aisles, and it was very hot. Our hands became dry and cracked because of handling all the clothes that had chemicals on them.

Workers of the world, compete?!

The majority of the workforce was young and from Poland. There was a division between them and the other groups of workers, from India, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania. People would sit separately in their language groups during the break. Because communication was difficult and the target pressure created so much competition, finding moments where we could help each other and ease the individual pressure was extremely hard.

When did we get the chance? In our department, one day the pressure boiled over and a fight broke out because of ‘nationalistic favouritism’ – ‘Hungarians’ vs. ‘Polish’. The people from Poland scanning the items were giving the ‘good stock’ to the ‘Polish’ shelvers. The guys from Hungary got pissed off. I tried to use this chance to try and implement a new system where we shared the stock more equally amongst us (normally we had to fight to get the good stuff to shelve e.g. jewellery was good because you could shelve 50 items in 10 minutes but people sometimes resorted to ‘hiding’ stock from each other). Everyone agreed, but it didn’t last long: the mistrust of one worker and her idea that she would leave the job soon anyway meant the plan broke down.

The supervisor also then intervened (when one of the women from Hungary was accused of pushing a trolley into someone’s legs!). It was a confusing speech, basically because on the one hand she was saying teamwork was important (and that we shouldn’t be physically hurting each other, which was not a good example of ‘teamwork!’) but on the other hand, too much teamwork was bad, because she had to keep us feeling competitive against each other and working individually because that was how they kept everyone working like dogs. She even said how much fun it was when she was a picker, hiding stock from other pickers and screwing her workmates over! (I think to stay in this job, you had to somehow start enjoying this competition as it was something to keep you ‘motivated’). This ‘team-speech’ showed the middle-managers were happy if we are divided; but they also have to make sure things run smoothly. This tension was a fine line they had to tread.

There seemed to be a bit more co-operation amongst the permanent workers. They normally worked for free on days where there was a sample sale at the warehouse – if they were allowed to have two free sacks of clothes that they could choose before people arrived. When this rule was changed (they had to fill their sacks at the end of the sale), they refused to work. The company had to use agency staff instead. So the next time, the original rule was reinstated.

The fact that permanent staff could do this was good, but could agency staff have done it? We tried to address all temp workers with a leaflet, saying that we should stop competing, but by that time things were difficult because of the announcement that the warehouse was closing, and people had started looking for other jobs.

Some workers were being sent to a flower warehouse in Colindale or to a chocolate factory in Park Royal. Even though people move jobs a lot around here, some of us keep in touch with each other, filling each other in about our new jobs and finding out that some of us had not been paid our holiday pay from the temp agency. We finally did manage to come together against the agency to get our money…(see next article on Solidarity Networks).

[7] Do you need support? Do you want to support others? – Why we need workers’ solidarity networks in Greenford

Most of the temp agencies at one time or another have tried to screw us over. They don’t pay what they or the law says they should, they refuse our holiday requests and cancel our shifts. We may feel defenceless against their crap but if we decided to do something together with more people, we can put pressure on them.
This is what we mean by ‘solidarity network’: when something bad happens there is a group of people to call on to come and support you. Whether this is going to the temp agency, job centre or dodgy immigration legal advisor, or if you’re fighting an eviction if you’re being thrown out of your home. Last year in London, people from the local community managed to stop some evictions by blocking the doorways to the bailiffs.

Here is what we can achieve if we stick together:
In August 2014, a group of four of us who were employed through the ASAP agency in Greenford and used to work at the same warehouse, took action together to get the holiday pay we were entitled to. We were able to contact each other and find out we were all in a similar situation because we had exchanged phone numbers when we had left the warehouse. It was a good job we did!
We were owed money ranging from £70-150. Our individual attempts to get our money ended up going nowhere. We tried calling the office, we went individually and spoke to them face-to-face – we even phoned their head office. They never called us back. The agency always came up with different excuses as to why they were not paying: “We’ve sent your P45 now, it’s too late to get your holiday pay”, or “You needed to have given us one weeks notice before you left the agency so we don’t have to pay your holiday pay” etc. Every time a different person and a different story. It became clear to us that they were systematically avoiding paying people their outstanding wages once they had left.

They think they can do whatever they want?! They can think again…

Our individual efforts had failed, so we decided to go together and not leave until they had paid us! We didn’t need a solicitor or help from a union: we just went to the office together; three of us agency workers plus five of our friends. We had made a leaflet to give to people who were registering with the agency and gave them out in the reception area. It told them what had happened to us and, if the same thing happened to them, they should call us. We had also made some banners to show that we were serious and things could escalate if we didn’t get what we wanted. We made quite an strong impact when we all filed into the small office together…
And guess what? We got our money within 15 minutes! This was surprisingly easy for the manager to do considering that they hadn’t managed to sort this out in the last 6 weeks!

One of the workers owed money who couldn’t come to the action spoke to them on the phone later that day. The agency had said to us that he had already been paid. But he hadn’t. So when he spoke to them on the phone, he said that if they did not pay, we would all come back again together. And they instantly paid him! Actually, £40 more than he was expecting! So he left with £190. He had given up hope of getting this money back. But when we joined forces we won!

If you are having similar problems here are some actions you can take:
1. Go to the agency as a group. Whether you go with other workers and/or friends. You are more of a threat when they see a few of you and they cannot get rid of you so easily.
2. Prepare what you are going to say together beforehand. Think of what things the agency could say to fob you off and how you can counteract it.
3. At the start make your demands clearly and calmly but firmly. Say you will not leave the office until you get what you want.
4. Make some banners, talk to other workers. Show them that you mean business and can disrupt their work if they don’t do what you want!
Join now!
Get in touch if you want to join a solidarity network in this area! We want to collect a list of email addresses and/or phone numbers so that we can message each other for support and action. Drop us a line at

[8] Cleaners and porters at Ealing Hospital strike against the minimum wage

Working full-time is no longer a guarantee that you can pay the rent, the bills and feed yourself, let alone have a decent quality of life. Most people going to food banks actually work in low-paid jobs. Most of them need benefits. We sometimes read about campaigns by charities or politicians for the London Living Wage (£9.15/hour) or a higher minimum wage. But the problem with these campaigns is that they appeal to the very same government that is making cuts and promoting a low-waged economy. And when workers actually struggle for higher wages, the campaigners and politicians are suddenly less vocal in their support. This was the case with the 150 Medirest workers at Ealing Hospital in February 2014.

As members of the GMB union, workers went on two 48-hour and one 7-day strike for higher wages. The length of this strike was unusual, showing that the workers were willing to fight hard and lose a lot of income for what they felt they deserved. Many of them had been working at the hospital for ten or fifteen years and were still on minimum wage, even though Medirest workers doing exactly the same jobs at other London hospitals were getting over £9.

People who are seen as weak and therefore are supposed to do the dirty work for peanuts show that they have the power to do something and to refuse the minimum wage. Women, especially migrant women – including outsourced cleaners, housekeeping, canteen staff and porters – were very clearly denouncing the minimum wage, in slogans and on placards. This shows that even workers who might be considered ‘weak’ have the power to do something. This could and should have caught on, especially when so many workers nearby tolerate similar pay and conditions. So why didn’t it?

Some missed chances

Firstly, Medirest workers employed at other London hospitals were brought in to cover the work of the striking workers (‘scabs’). There was talk that these workers were getting paid £18 an hour – but we asked them and they said they were getting normal wages, only their taxi to the hospital was being paid for. A central part of the union’s strategy of putting pressure on the management was the increased costs of hiring scabs. But this was probably not too much of an added cost in the end.

Secondly, management could keep the strike ‘at arm’s length’ by not allowing the picket too near the hospital and cause too much disruption. Also, the workers weren’t allowed inside the hospital to talk to nurses, patients or perhaps more importantly, the other Medirest workers who were covering their work while they were on strike. We suggested that during their strike, workers visit other Medirest workers at other hospitals to ask them to stop covering their shifts at Ealing Hospital. We managed to use our contacts at Homerton Hospital to distribute a leaflet there asking people not to ‘scab’, which we think did stop the company using people from there. But this was not taken up very much and would have needed to have been done across many more Medirest hospitals in the surrounding areas. While the union could have contacted workers in these hospitals, they also did not do this.

What other chances were missed? Workers also didn’t make use of the fact that the Compass Group, (the massive company that owns Medirest), caters for prestigious venues and high-profile events. They could have had a ‘flying picket’ to demonstrate at these places e.g. Wembley Stadium, the Natural History Museum, V&A Museum and Madame Tussauds etc. It would have been a real embarrassment for the company and they would have been under more pressure to give into the workers’ demands.

Overall, we think the workers gave too much responsibility to the union. This meant they didn’t make the necessary effort to speak to other workers and co-ordinate their own struggle together, which would have made their position much stronger. There are many other workers in the area who face similar conditions, even if they don’t work for the same company or in hospitals.

Paper-tigers or wildcats?

What about union recognition? While workers we spoke to were supportive of the GMB union and their rep, they also said that the process of getting union recognition and going through all the formal procedures to have a legal strike had taken over a year. For many temp workers who only stay for a few months in a job, this effort would be pointless. The sense of security that a legal strike gives sounds good but in the end a hard struggle that did not really reach out to the other workers, or disrupt this multinational company’s other clients and operations, only led to a minor victory: £1 more an hour and 2 days’ more annual paid holiday.

The collectivity of the workers was apparent to anyone who saw them on the picket line. They were loud and inspired: when the manager came out, they weren’t scared to shout at him and tell him what they really thought! They bought food, whistles and flags and got lots of support from passers-by and the bus drivers. We don’t doubt their commitment and courage. But it was difficult to get an ‘assembly’ type of dynamic going, where people could discuss together what we could all do to win. People let worker leaders and the union rep answer questions for visiting supporters, but they could have answered the questions themselves. This is something to think about for the future…

Unless this dynamic is changed during the struggle, things will stay the same. The only way to take on the bosses and win is to take the struggle into our own hands! We have to self-organise. The first steps are to figure out how we can hit the company hardest and how we can involve as many other workers as possible.

[9] What is this paper about?!

We live and work in Greenford and Park Royal in London. We think that workers wherever they come from are screwed over and should fight back together. We think we have to figure out how we can run this world without bosses, bankers, politicians and mind-numbing, boring jobs in the future. Simple as that. In the meantime we will circulate this newspaper in local warehouse and industrial areas or other working-class places on a regular basis.

Things are bad enough!

Surviving on a £6,7,8,9 an hour job… no time for nothing… either the manager, the loan company or the job centre on your back… news about benefit cuts, bedroom tax and war crimes… looking for ‘reduced-items’ at Tesco’s… going back to Poland, or to India, or to live with mum and dad in Essex…? arrgh! People in the street look tired and ugly… I look tired and ugly… …the eight flat-mates are queuing in front of the single loo again… the five richest families in the UK own more than the poorest 20% of the population… …they sell out the NHS… they blame the migrants… I would stand up to management, but my work-mate would not… my work-mate thinks the same…

Dog eat dog?

Things are in a bad way, and with the crisis and austerity and all, they won’t get better. The bosses and politicians know it, too. That’s why they want us – the poor, the workers – to fight amongst ourselves, rather than them – the rich, the corporations and their state. Local poor against migrants, workers in the east of the country against those in the west, the ‘unbelievers’ against the ‘Islamists’, blablahblah. A pretty obvious strategy. In this system, where everyone has to compete with everyone else over jobs, it would be easy to put our faith in leaders who say they will defend us against the other poor people, who might come from other places, who look different, speak different. Basically other poor people to point the finger at and blame for the crisis and misery. This won’t solve the problem. We have to fight against a system that puts us in competition with each other, otherwise there will be bloodshed and the rich and middle-men will make good money off it – it wouldn’t be the first time…

Fight the power?

But ‘we’ make the world go round, don’t we?! Who builds the houses, picks the fruit, cares for the ill?! Who ships and picks the stuff passing through the West-London warehouses, the stuff which makes up 60% of what London eats day-by-day? The rich make money off our backs and if money and their law was not between us and the stuff that we produce, we would not be in the deep sh*t that we are in. But who is ‘we’? Do we know the guys who produce the ready-meals that we pick in our warehouse? Do we know the workers in the shops that the ready-meals get sent to?! We hardly know the truck drivers of our own warehouse. As soon as we want to fight for better conditions we will face the harsh reality that we have to get to know the workers around us – the workers we depend on in order to do our work and the workers who the bosses might potentially use to replace us once we start trouble. Only in this process will we discover our common power to change things!

Spread the word!

This newspaper is a means for us to exchange our experiences, about conditions at work, small things and big, hidden and open forms of struggle against crap-pay, too much work and being squeezed by landlords and middle-men. Here and in the rest of the world. We have to learn from other workers, from our defeats. No one else will do it for us. We are fed up hearing or saying: “Nothing can be done”, because a lot is being done, the question is: “What works, what doesn’t? What can we do today, with two, three work-mates around us, what can we do tomorrow? How to struggle as temps on zero-hour contracts?”

Support each other!

The newspaper is not (just) about words. We need a local network of workers who support each other: if someone doesn’t get their wages or has trouble with the job centre; if some of us are kicked out; if people need someone to leaflet their workplace or want creative ideas to undermine the management. For the struggle to survive and beyond. Do you need support? – Get in touch! And keep in touch – because others will need your support, too…

Contact us!

– to share your experience of your workplace (anonymously of course!)
– to write about a conflict at work and what the workers did in response – if it made a difference, or not
– if you need support for an action you want to do e.g. getting outstanding wages from the temp agency or distributing a leaflet outside your workplace
– if you like the newspaper and want to get involved!

Email us at:
Find our website with resources you could use here:

Other websites we find useful:

wild_west2.pdf4.04 MB

Workers wild west #2

Workers’ Paper for West-London – April/May 2015


A society driven by ‘profits’ where the gap between rich and poor keeps widening is unstable. Since 2008 we have lived in a state of worldwide crisis: after bank bailouts and cuts to spending, unemployment has risen, people have to move to find work and more people are competing for fewer jobs. But we have also seen an increase in struggles against the welfare cuts of the state, against corrupt governments and attacks on wages and conditions – all over the globe. So the rulers have to come up with a strategy to push through their cuts and at the same time deal with our anger and discontent. It is therefore no coincidence that in this situation we are witnessing the re-emergence of nationalism: to divide-and-rule, politicians of most parties blame the ‘immigrants’ for the miserable situation. But at the same time they say that they will squeeze ‘their local workers’ even harder: labour laws are getting worse, they want to make it even harder to go on strike, low-paid work is becoming the norm with no real national minimum wage increases on the horizon. In some countries, like Ukraine, the new nationalism creates war.

Nationalism also plays a role where we work – in warehouses or other jobs around West-London. Many of us were not born in the UK and we speak different languages. On the job some of us might feel closer to our ‘English’, ‘Polish’ or ‘Indian’ manager, than to the ‘foreign’ person who works next to them – sometimes we hope that by sticking to ‘our’ manager we will get an advantage over other workers. BUT companies are able to use divisions and stereotypes to make us compete against each other and ultimately make more profits for themselves. We need to keep our eyes on our real enemies…


Working class people – us – turn towards the nation (state) mainly to protect our jobs. But we have to question why there are ‘jobs’ and ‘a limited number of jobs’ in the first place. ‘Jobs’ are created by those with money and resources, only if the jobs create more money for them. They and their market decide what jobs we do – and most of these jobs only relate to money-making: advertising, financial services, securing the wealth of the rich. If all just worked to produce what we needed to live (housing, nice clothes, good food, funny little gadgets), then we could just share out the work equally. If we didn’t have to sell our time and energy to them for money, a lot of ‘unemployment’ would actually be a good thing. Why? Because it would mean fewer people are necessary to produce what we need: everyone could work less and we’d have more time to do other things that make us happy. But at the moment we just look and compete for jobs, because we need money, and they create jobs only if they can make more money off us. Down with their jobs, down with their unemployment!


At the moment though, we unfortunately live in a world where we can’t escape the realities of ‘money’, unemployment and ‘crappy jobs’. Although workers produce everything, we have nothing, we have no say. Unemployment is created by the fact that as soon as the bosses are able to increase productivity, for example with the use of new machines, they will try and cut jobs – for the sake of making more profit. Under these conditions technological progress, which could make life and work easier, causes more poverty. We have to compete with the machines we’ve made for the bosses… and we lose – redundant workers get fired, more workers enter the labour-market. The competition increases as does the pressure on wages. The bosses keep the threat of unemployment hanging over our heads to keep us obedient and divided. It does not need any migrant workers for this to happen – it is the normal functioning of the system. Closing our borders would not help: in the 1930s there were millions of unemployed in the UK – were there any Indians or Romanians around??


Workers can’t stick to their roots. We have to take a job where we can find it. When the steel industry in the North-West England closed down because they weren’t making profits, people had to move to London to find work. When construction jobs paid more in Germany in the 1990s, thousands of UK workers went there. We had no say when unemployment in Poland increased by 20 – 30% in the 1990s and we had to leave. We didn’t start the war in Syria, Ukraine, Somalia and we didn’t want to fight for the warmongers who started the conflict. We had to leave. We are all migrants somehow and as long as we are just a mass of individuals, the bosses will try to make us compete with each other.


The state makes sure that workers and the unemployed keep competing, rather than turning against the bosses. This happens in all kinds of ways, depending on the ups and downs of the market: The state introduces lower minimum wages or apprentice-schemes for the young. Unemployed workers are forced to work ‘for their benefits’ and kept schtum by ‘benefit-scrounger’ propaganda. When workers are needed the state puts pressure on women to look for jobs, if not, they are supposed to stay at home and be a “good housewife’. If additional cheap labour is required the state shows its multicultural side and encourages workers from other countries to come. At the same time the states puts extra-pressure on them by changing EU-migrant benefit laws or by raids on ‘illegal migrants’ – in order to force them to accept shit wages and to shut up. This is the way hierarchies between different group of workers are created. In the end this puts more pressure on everybody.


It is getting harder to survive. This and the current re-emergence of divide-and-rule-strategies, such as anti-Eastern European or anti-Muslim propaganda, pushes us deeper into our various communities. We need the community for survival, for finding a flat or a job. At the same time, the richer members of the community make nice profits off their ‘fellow countrywomen and men’. They do this by: exploiting our cheap labour such as the Polish construction gangs or as Indian restaurant workers; by taking middle-men money (visa agents, landlords); or by getting our votes as community representatives. The middle-men of our communities love to remind us that ‘we are from the same background’, they love patriotism, because this is the main basis for their business. For us, in the long run ‘the community’ will turn into a ghetto: the fear to leave it and hostilities from other workers keeps us in high levels of exploitation.


Nationalism is a sign of fear: “Poor people from different places and languages can’t fight together. The bosses are powerful. Better stick to those in power who at least speak the same language and promise us things”. We can understand this fear, but we fear workers turning on each other even more.

We can see what is happening in Ukraine. In the East of the country, workers in the steel and mining regions fear that once Ukraine will join the EU they will lose their jobs. This is why some of them might support the ‘separatists’, who talk bullshit about ‘Russian’ identity and who are supported by the regime in Russia. In the West of the country, unemployed workers with a better education hope that once Ukraine joins the EU they will have access to better jobs. This is why some of them might support the Ukrainian nationalists, who talk bullshit about ‘Ukrainian’ identities and who are supported by the US and the EU-regime. Although most workers try to stay out of this conflict, hundreds of them have been killed and the rise in military spending in Ukraine (over £200 million a month) means a rapid increase in poverty for ordinary people meaning good business for the national and international middle-men. The regimes in Russia and EU are themselves in crisis. Discontent amongst their local populations is rising and they can use the conflict in Ukraine to point at an external enemy. Historically, global crisis and World War went hand in hand.


We are confronted with a possibility: workers everywhere around the globe have to fight under increasingly similar conditions; companies and industries are global; and workers move around and learn different ways to struggle. So far the bosses and the state have used migration in order to play us off against each other, on the company level and beyond. If we look closer at some of the successful struggles of workers in history, we can see that workers who managed to use their various experiences of having lived and fought in different countries can be stronger. Workers worldwide know enough about how to do agriculture, produce garments, build houses, take care of each other – this means we can get rid of the middle-men, the bosses and the politicians, who profit from us and who would rather tip the world into another ‘Great War’ than to admit that their system is bankrupt.

Down with their system – we have the power to create something better!


Where: Auriol Drive, Greenford
Workers: 400 incl. around 100 drivers and 40 Sainsbury’s IT contract workers
Pay: : £6.70 for temps, (£7.70 after 6pm), £9.15 for permanents

There would be a lot of stories to tell from Sainsbury’s distribution centre. About testicles turning into icicles in the ‘Freezer’ department (-27 degrees). About the never-ending sickening loop of Capital and Heart radio in the ‘Chill’ (zero degrees). Pump-truck races and bullying shop-floor managers, who look and behave like constipated gnomes. About friendships and drug tests.

In this article though, we want to tell you about the attempted slow-down strike by the temp-workers, which took place in February 2015.

**Firstly, we have to look at the general situation of the temp workers. This shows that it’s not easy to build strong connections between us – something we’ll need if we want to organise to improve our conditions. Not easy – but not impossible!**

The distribution centre

The distribution centre supplies groceries to about 180 Sainsbury’s convenience stores, mainly around North and South-London but also as far away as Portsmouth and Southampton. Deliveries come in from the suppliers – vegetables, sandwiches, meat etc. These pallets are broken down, people then pick orders by putting a certain number of items into ‘cages’. These cages are then loaded onto trucks and sent to the various stores. In ‘Ambient’ people use electrical vehicles (LLOPs), but in the ‘Chill’ and ‘Produce’ people pull pallets around with pump-trucks. Some pallets can be as heavy as a small car.

Zero-hours and the cancellation of shifts

Of the 60 – 100 workers picking in the ‘Chill’, more than half of them are employed by the agency Templine. Male temp workers stay on average for three months, female workers longer. As a temp you don’t get guaranteed hours, they might give you five or six days on a rota, but cancel your shift two hours before you are supposed to start work. This happens frequently. Templine gets the orders the evening before and a confirmation in the morning. According to this ‘volume’ that needs to be picked, they supply a certain number of workers. If the volume is high, they ask people to work overtime or seven days a week. If it is low, people might get only one or two shifts per week.

Templine hires an oversupply of people. Why is this? Firstly, it means they don’t have to guarantee hours, so there are no big costs in hiring people. More importantly though, it enables Templine/Wincanton/Sainsbury’s to use the cancellation of shifts as a way to put pressure on people to work faster. If your productivity is low, you are more likely to get cancelled.

The productivity rate

How do they measure your productivity? We get a combination of a wrist-digital-watch and a scanner, which you put on your finger to scan items and labels for the shop cages. The wrist-watch tells you how many items to pick for which shop and it tells Wincanton exactly how many items you’ve picked per hour. The productivity calculation is arbitrary – it does not take into account the weight of things and it gives you a higher percentage for picking single items.
Your productivity rate is shoved in your face in various ways throughout the day. There are computer screens in the warehouse which display your individual ‘CPM-rate’. Agency office guys walk through the warehouse and tell you your CPM. In the briefing-room (where we gather before the shift) they put a daily update of individuals’ CPM on the board and last, but not fucking least, they send you a text message in the morning before work, telling you that you either performed well or badly the day before. If your CPM-rate is too low for a period of time you are ordered to attend a ‘meeting’, basically a bollocking. In this sense they have created a classic rat-race: people are afraid to drop down on the CPM-list and get cancelled, BUT by everyone working faster they need less people per shift and can cancel more shifts. This is one of the reasons people are scared and feel competitive with each other. The permanent Wincanton workers have less stress because their shifts can’t be cancelled (they are guaranteed at least 40 hours a week).

The carrot of a permanent job

Another way to make people work faster and to ‘compete’ is the carrot of a permanent job. People work fast if they think they have a chance. But the hiring process is even more arbitrary than the CPM-rate. Some guys have been working fast for two years, applied four times, but never got hired. Other people got a permanent job after three months. No surprise that people come up with all kinds of ‘theories’: “the Polish get a permanent job, because lots of the shop-floor managers are Polish”, “they don’t like Romanians”, “if your skin is brown, you don’t stand a chance”. Management plays with these ‘theories’, they like to see warehouse workers from, for example, Poland, feeling closer to the shop floor manager from Poland, than to their workmate from Somalia.

The (language) divisions

This leads us to another problem which stands in the way of organising: the problem of (language) groups. Obviously, a big mix of people work in the warehouse. E.g. older men from Iraq, young women from Romania or Poland (for some of whom is not only their first job in the UK but their first job at all). The atmosphere was not bad between us pickers, but certain people ‘stick to themselves’, mostly because their English is pretty bad so communication with others is difficult; some also mistrust others based on stereotypes and racist assumptions. This makes it difficult to discuss our conditions and to discuss what we can do to improve them.

The union

There is a union inside the warehouse, Unite, but it is targeted towards permanent workers, not temp workers. In a situation where many temp workers leave after a few months, there seemed little point in joining the union, also because they have never been approached with something like a medium-term plan to do something about their conditions.

**Secondly, we have to analyse what people have already tried to do to put presuure on the company. This also means asking ourselves if the temps alone, without the support of the permanents and/or drivers, would be able to do something successfully**


It is clear that the temps all had similar problems and so the demand of “four guaranteed shifts per week and £9.15 per hour” was a good starting-point. As agency workers who can get their shifts cancelled and generally have a more precarious work life e.g. no sick pay, we think they should be compensated for this through a higher hourly rate. This was generally historically the case with agency workers in many sectors. But what do you do with such a demand? You have to enforce it. But how?


It is not easy to discuss in bigger groups at work. Managers watch you. People are stressing. You don’t all get your break-time together. So there were smaller meetings with five, ten, fifteen people after work. But even meeting after work, around 8pm, is difficult, because people (who come out at slightly different times depending on how quick you manage to escape!) are tired.

First leaflet

At this point it helped that friends of workers distributed a first leaflet, basically spreading the news of the demand and discussing the idea of a collective ‘slow-down’ to put pressure on management. In hindsight we are not sure whether this was productive, because it warned management that something was brewing. But it did generate discussions amongst us inside the warehouse.

Collecting signatures

Some people suggested collecting signatures for a petition to Templine. We took a list with the names of all Templine colleagues and decided who we could ask first. We thought that once we had twenty ‘safe’ candidates and their signatures on paper, others who might otherwise hesitate might sign, too. While some people were scared to sign, thinking they might be cancelled, it was not difficult to collect 30 signatures. But then people started raising concerns: if a majority of temps attempted to do something, they could easily sack 20 of us, ask the permanents to work overtime and hire new people. While the idea was that everyone should take responsibility for getting signatures, in reality it was only a small handful of us. That was another reason we decided to stop with the letter for the time being.

Protest of temps at Wincanton in Swindon

In the meantime we heard of protests by temp workers employed at the Marks & Spencer warehouse run by Wincanton in Swindon. Workers there were asking for equal pay, they had staged protests in front of M&S stores. Better than nothing, but not enough to make Wincanton or M&S move. We distributed some news articles about their protest inside our warehouse to show people that other temp workers in exactly our situation were doing stuff.

Second leaflet, for the permanents

At this point friends distributed another leaflet, this time mainly targeting the permanents and drivers. They distributed it holding a banner saying “Wincanton pay us more!” The leaflet said that we, the temps, will need the support of the permanents – and that at the same time the permanents have an interest in the temps getting better conditions, so that management cannot put more pressure on them: “Look at these temps, they work harder than you, for the minimum wage”. Some drivers liked the leaflets and sent us solidarity emails – which was great, but not enough to build anything more than moral support.


We had heard about strikes of warehouse workers in Italy. These strikes were started by a minority of workers, a bit like in our situation, but supporters of these workers helped them by blockading the gates of the warehouse. 200 guys in front of the gates and the trucks would have to stay put. The other ‘more scared’ workers then find the courage to join in. Most of these supporters are other warehouse workers, but also some students or people from left-wing social centres. We will need this kind of support in the future and to that end, we are trying to build a solidarity network in West- London. In the meantime, we can concentrate on finding ways to build our strength with our workmates inside the warehouses.

Reading out our demands

We had another bigger meeting and decided to read out our demands during one of the briefings where everyone gathers before the shift starts. This is when managers tell the temps and permanents that they have to work harder and focus on good stacking. Two people volunteered to read it out and we knew that this would put them at risk. But we thought it would be better to read this out rather than giving an individually-signed letter. Everyone stayed in the briefing room while the two read out the demand, and most people later on thought it was positive and started to discuss more – but again, only in small and separate groups.

Reactions of Templine management

Templine reacted by sending a higher manager from Birmingham and over the following week they called all of the 70 or so workers for individual ‘conversations’ into the office. They talked the usual bullshit: “we would like to pay you more, but Wincanton won’t and actually, if
we did pay you £9, there would be so many applications, all “inexperienced” young people or people who just arrived in the UK (people like you!), wouldn’t stand a chance; so we’re actually doing you a favour!” They even said this to people who had been working there for over a year! But at least it showed that they took the situation seriously and wanted to know whether we would back up our demands with actions.

Reactions of permanent colleagues

What was the reaction of the permanent Wincanton workers? When people heard that we had read out our demands most of them said: “Yes, you poor guys, they should pay you better. Good luck.” So yes, most people were somehow supportive, but only individually. On the whole, the permanent Wincanton workers are more scared. Either the new permanents are on a strict 3-month probation that they want to pass. Or they feel they have more to lose if Sainsbury’s cancels Wincanton’s contract – a regular threat by management to keep us working fast. At any rate it would be difficult for permanent staff to find another ‘low-skilled’ job for £9 an hour. The threat of losing the Sainsbury’s contract does not work on the temps really, why should it? We could either get re-hired as temps to the replacement company, or we could be hired directly by Sainsbury’s like our colleagues at the Tesco warehouse next door, where they don’t have agencies.

A bit clueless

So Templine/Wincanton now knew about our demands, but it was clear from the start that they wouldn’t do anything. For several weeks we discussed what to do. The problem was, that the discussions happened one-to-one and the barriers between the three, four main language groups were not broken down. So it always needed three, four people to go from one person to the other, within their groups. The idea of a slow-down was discussed. One day, everyone was supposed to work 70% or so, which would delay things by an hour or so.

**The third lesson – we have to learn from our mistakes**

The slow-down

The idea of a slow-down had been circulating for a couple of weeks. We decided to do it one Sunday because Sunday is the most busy day during the week. On that day, a group of ten or so people started to work slow. The word spread that the slow-down was happening, but again, the action was mainly co-ordinated through the same three, four people. About three quarters of the temps worked slow, the average productivity dropped by around 20 per cent. The atmosphere was good! After four hours a small prick from the temp-office started to run up and down the warehouse telling people: “What the fuck are you doing? I had to go to a meeting with Wincanton. If I’ll be fucked, you’ll be fucked, too”. At the same time Wincanton asked the permanent staff to work overtime, which means 12-hours in zero degrees. Most of them did, which was very unfortunate, because after the shift, although productivity was still down by 20 per cent, we didn’t finish any later than usual. ‘Finishing and sending the trucks out on time’ is of major importance for Wincanton. Nevertheless, many people thought it was a good action and that we should repeat it… …but then came the backlash.

A dozen snitches

It was clear to Templine that they had to do something, otherwise there would be trouble from Wincanton and Sainsbury’s. Afterwards we found out that one temp worker had approached Templine that Sunday to snitch about what was going on and in the following week two workers got suspended and accused of “inciting fellow workers to lower their productivity”. Managers called temp workers to individual investigation interviews. They asked people who was behind the slow-down and to help them, showed them photos of people. Most people kept schtum, but a dozen people snitched. We have to be careful with the term ‘snitch’: some of them are indeed spine-less or manipulative cunts who betray their fellow work-/class-/prison-mates in order to get better treatment from management. But others are just frightened rabbits staring into the bosses’ headlights. For whatever reason, some people talked and that was, at least for the moment, the end of the slow-down idea.

That’ll learn ya!

What can we learn from this story?

a) Don’t let three, four people do the job of coordinating the action. Even if they keep a low profile, after a while people will identify the action with them and then they are in the line of fire. Keep it more dispersed and ask everyone to get involved, to talk to other people. Build all kinds of communication channels: at work, outside of work. That’s easier said then done, though!

b) Take your time. Also that is easier said than done, given that people usually only stay for three, four months, because they think they can find something better. This system puts us in a rat-race. It takes time to build trust and friendships, but with such a turnover of people, we have to make the effort and sometimes take a risk. But let’s be honest: we don’t have much to lose anyway! – Although we know that some of us have more to lose than others: more difficulties to find another job or to get unemployment benefits. We have to take that into account and support each other.

c) We are not sure whether the distribution of the leaflets was a clever idea, because it warned management that something was going on. At the same time it was necessary in order to reach people like drivers or guys on other shifts, in other departments. It was also useful to create uncertainty in the minds of management: they might be more careful before sacking people immediately if they are not sure whether 100 supporters and media could turn up.

d) Get support, but don’t rely solely on it! It would be good to have a network of 200 – 300 supporters, workers at other places, students etc., here in West-London, who could help out blockading, or at least threatening to blockade the warehouse. This won’t solve our problem and in the long run we might face some legal trouble, but it would help in the early days of trying to improve our life at work. If you agree, drop us an email, and we’ll add you to our solidarity network.

e) Don’t lose your sense of humour, don’t let them get you down!


In 2014 I was unemployed for a month or two, so I had to sign on at Ealing job centre. The guys working there were friendly and didn’t put too much pressure on me to apply for jobs that didn’t exist. I thought I might as well use the time in-between jobs to learn something useful, so I asked them whether they could put me on a fork-lift driving course.

I went for an ‘assessment day’ to an office building in Park Royal, on Coronation Road near Middlesex hospital. There were already 20 other guys waiting, all men, as if you’d need balls to drive a forklift! Anyway, the person from the private training company CSM, which gets job centre contracts (, explained to us what the course would look like:

“The course will take two weeks. The job centre actually does not finance any forklift driving courses, they pay CSM for teaching you how to apply for jobs: write good CVs, smarten up, conduct good job interviews and so on. We, CSM, will get paid for two weeks job training and out of that money we pay for the actual two days forklift training, which will take place at the end of the two weeks. Today I want to check your maths and writing skills…”

Most of the guys thought that this was a big waste of time, especially after a rather humiliating three-hour test of our spelling and counting. But by that time we were already trapped: the guy told us that from today onwards we would have to attend all of the 10 training days, otherwise the job centre would sanction us and stop paying our benefits. But in the end…

…due to the spending cuts, the job centre scrapped the whole course! So because they had no money for this private company to teach us bullshit during a blown-up two-week course, we wouldn’t even get the chance to learn something useful. This might actually have increased our ‘employability’ – or however they call our ability to step on the heads of other poor ‘job-seekers’ on the market. It’s all pretty absurd…

This story did not end too badly considering that, at the same time, the government is trying everything it can to cut peoples’ benefits. They use companies like Atos (now Maximus) to get people off disability allowance; hundreds of thousands of people are sanctioned arbitrarily when on JSA; there is a battle to get through to the tax office to claim working tax credits; bedroom tax evictions are soaring; and people who have been living and working in the UK for years (or even have been born here but went abroad for 3 or 4 months) now have to do habitual residence tests again.

Below you can find a list of links in case you need advice. Get in touch if you have trouble with the state machinery, we will try to support each other!

Information about what you can do against sanctions:

General advice and help for claimants in London:

Another useful site and an invite to a UK wide claimants meeting on 30th May in London:

Basic info about your rights in Polish, Hungarian, Spanish:


We probably all know about the changes happening at Royal Mail – a process of privatisation that means postmen and women have had their pay cut and their workload increased. The workers have, so far, not been able to stop this. We think that they won’t now be able to without co-ordinating their struggle with more people, in particular the temporary workers and workers from other private postal companies such as TNT, DHL or UK Mail, who are getting bigger and bigger.

The following reports from friends are an invitation to exchange our experiences. Send us your thoughts!

Short Report from Greenford

“I worked as a casual at Greenford sorting office for 4 weeks in December 2014. We had one day paid training, then worked six days a week. They paid us £7 per hour. Nearly all of the 110 or so people on our shift were casuals, 70% of us women. None of us was taken on as a regular worker after Christmas – although they said that people could sign up with the temp agency, Angard, which offers irregular shifts at minimum wage. There were also some agency workers from Manpower, some of them drove forklifts. No idea whether they stayed on after Christmas or whether they were also kicked out again. We sorted small parcels into cages and pushed cages to the loading area. Some of us did inventory work. Nearly 90% of the parcels were Amazon orders. So I think the fact that Amazon have announced they want to use their own system for parcel deliveries in the future will have a big impact on the workers at Royal Mail.”

Letter from Mount Pleasant

‘I have worked as a casual postal sorter at Mount Pleasant for several years now. I’ve previously worked at the old sorting office in Whitechapel Road and the big modern Bromley-by-Bow mail centre (which has now shut – as has the Nine Elms sorting office, Rathbone Place and a few others in London). The hourly pay is still £6.80 per hour, it has been stuck at this rate for the last four years. When I was doing the same work in 2007 at Bromley-by-Bow I was being paid £7.40 per hour, the pay crashed after that. Meanwhile what several permanent workers at Mount Pleasant have told me is how, with overtime and weekend rates and extra hours their take home pay at the end of the week was higher in absolute terms (never mind inflation) in the 1990s than it is now!

“Natural biological wastage”, if you can call it that, has been a significant factor in how Royal Mail has restructured and downsized the workforce at Mount Pleasant. Many of the permanent staff have simply been allowed to get older without many new people getting recruited into permanent positions to replace them. Many accept early retirement or voluntary redundancy. In fact while I was there in December 2014 there was a little party for 40 permanent staff who had just accepted early retirement.

I was working on the evening shift (“lates”), which used to be a classic 8-hour shift. There used to be more than one break and part of the break was paid. Little by little the shift has been reorganised, so now there is only one break, the main meal break, which is only half an hour and unpaid. The whole shift is now from 2:30pm to 10pm, most resting and idle time has been eliminated from the work process – depending on when you get your break you might work 4 and a half hours at a stretch – packet sorting, moving containers and trolleys, bagging – continuously standing. But it was noticeable that chairs had reappeared for those wanting/needing to sit while working at the manual letter sort-frames. The chairs had been missing for a couple of years. No significant time was given at the end of the shift to go and collect your bag/coat and sign out, so it would often be way past after 10pm before us temps would get to leave the building.

In recent years the length of the Christmas temp work has gotten shorter. You used to be able to work from late November all the way up to xmas and then do extra clear-up work that could keep you going until January. This has shrunk to 3 and half weeks or less in December and nothing more.

There is a big mix of many different groups in terms of race and culture at Mount Pleasant, at shop-floor level it is majority non-white and quite international. There’s a large female workforce, as well. Many fellow workers there I’ve spoken to, both temps and permanent are quite radically conscious of their own situation, both in immediate workplace exploitation terms and in wider political terms, and people express anger and discontent. But at the same time people are aware of the balance of forces stacked against them, and I think many are wary of the danger of allowing themselves to be provoked into an ill-judged and self-defeating action. Despite the big changes to Mount Pleasant it still also functions as a sort of social hub where lots of people from across London network and keep in touch with each other.’

The Angard temp workers conflict in 2011

It was in November/December of 2011, when I worked at Mount Pleasant that Royal Mail made the ugly decision to experiment with ‘outsourcing’ the recruiting and employing of the seasonal temps (during the xmas period) to a spurious web-based ghost agency, “Angard Staffing”. This is really a detached deniable business of some of the Royal Mail higher managers. The idea being, we guess, was to treat us all just like agency temps. “Casual flexible resource” being the technical term they were using. This allows the managers directly in control of you in the office to try and wash their hands of any responsibility regarding issues with your pay, tax, documentation etc. Previously you could at least get the managers to let you go upstairs to the “Book Room” to try and sort out those kind of problems. In the Book Room there was usually somebody in front of you to deal with. But with the ghost agency they could fob you off and leave you in the lurch, with just an email address and phone number, neither of which would ever get answered. Their official postal address was miles away in Northampton.

It soon became clear Angard were a complete bureaucratic mess. Some people were sent to the wrong offices to start work. Many of the 18,000 or so temps across the country didn’t get any pay or corrupt wage slips for over three weeks! There were angry spontaneous stoppages of work by large groups of temps. Middle-managers were forced by us to come down to the floor to speak to us. This happened in many other offices across the country, particularly in the Midlands and the North. The dispute continued on and off for several days and there was support and sympathy from many permanent staff – rather than coldness and hostility the ‘casuals’ used to sometimes get in earlier years. Some of the drivers also brought us news of trouble and stoppages at the other offices. Some of the younger temps, refusing any of the managers’ instructions and threats, were visibly still ‘buzzing’ from the atmosphere of the urban riots in August. The trouble at Royal Mail was given a brief mention in some of the national newspapers.

Royal Mail managers ended up having to pay emergency pay cheques in advance of our proper wages, for those who needed them, out of their own funds, to calm the majority of people down. These emergency cheques had to be cashed in the nearby post office, where people queued to get their money. Several post offices next to affected sorting offices temporarily ran out of cash – leading to more trouble. The manoeuvre of paying out the emergency advance money succeeded in diffusing and dispersing most of the anger. Some people, after accepting this money, went on holiday and never returned. Eventually we got our proper pay and documentation from Angard. Funnily enough, with the bureaucratic chaos, some people even ended up getting overpaid.

In a situation like this there were discussions about tactics, and some of us came to the conclusion that it might be a better tactic NOT to “walk out”, but to the contrary to insist on staying INSIDE the building and causing trouble inside the workplace. If we walked out they might just close the door behind us and leave us permanently in the cold with no pay and job. There was even a danger the agency could deny we had ever done any work as many of us hadn’t, up to the trouble breaking out, been given proper documentation confirming our employment.

In a sort of little victory, for the following year November/December 2012, Royal Mail UK scrapped the outsourcing of the recruitment and employment of the majority of the seasonal temps, and the main casual recruitment operation was brought back in-house direct with Royal Mail.”


In the last issue, we suggested starting up a West-London solidarity network so that when we need help, others can support our actions. Against landlords that rip us off or temp agencies that steal more of our wages and screw us over. Below is another story of how a solidarity network might be able to help us in our daily fights.

A work friend of mine, a woman from Punjab who hopes to renew her visa to stay in the UK, gave £10,000 to a ‘visa advisor’, Mr Patel, in Southall. His company, Aaryas Careers Ltd. offered to give her IT training at his (apparently Home Office registered) company that would sponsor her visa application. She only got 2 weeks training, and then was given fake documents to apply for a visa.

This is a common story. These kind of ‘legal advisors’ take advantage of people who are desperate to stay in the UK and have an insecure immigration status. They know that the people are too scared to report fraud to the police because they might then be deported.

But my friend did decide to fight back after Mr Patel refused to refund her money. First he agreed to give her a cheque for £10,000. But then straightaway he called the bank and said his chequebook had been stolen so when she went to cash the cheque, the bank thought she was committing fraud and froze her bank account!

So a few of us went with her to the office to put some pressure on him. He was not in the office (although his car was outside) and he left his two young receptionists there to deal with his disgruntled customers: us, as well as two other groups of people who were also asking for their money back. One group came all the way from Southampton, and had paid this guy £25,000! The other man who was also there to get back his money started filming the receptionists and taking photos of the ‘diplomas’ and accreditation certificates on the wall. The receptionists got nervous and called the police (who never came). Mr Patel just left them there to cop the flak…

We went back the next day. Even though he tried to intimidate us by asking us for our IDs and addresses (which we refused to give him) and shouting, he was definitely nervous and worried. He wanted to talk to my friend and her husband alone and he agreed to pay another instalment of £2000, which he did. We have given him a deadline to pay back the rest, if he doesn’t do it, we will go back, hopefully with more people. We will continue to escalate our actions until we get back all the money…

The visa-agent was able to rip people off because he himself was well established and could appeal to poorer and more desperate people that are ‘from the same community, speaking the same language’. Therefore we question this idea of ‘community’. The ‘community’ covers up the differences we know exist between us, most importantly between those who are able to make money and those who get ripped off. To fight the exploiters we have to build communities based on an international working class solidarity, not the colour of our skin, religion, caste and cultural practices.

With the state, police and Home Office all on the same side, the only thing we can do is apply pressure ourselves to get the money back.

If you are in a similar position here are some things we tried and thought of doing:

1. Go with a larger group of people to the office and kick up a fuss.
2. Talk to others inside and outside the office who are thinking about using the services of the immigration advisor and tell them about your bad experiences.
3. Get you and all your friends to bombard the office with emails and phone calls.
4. Find out what other companies the office works with e.g. which English language college they send people who want a student visa or the company they send people who want a work visa. Say you will visit them and kick up a fuss there. It is good to try and embarrass them publicly.
5. Same goes for any clubs or groups they belong to as part of their public reputation and image.

If you want to join the Solidarity Network – if you need help and support or want to help and support others, get in touch!

We’ve heard of the Occupy movement, thousands of people around the world taking over public space to highlight the fact that the system is not working. While these spectacles are largely over, the tactic of ‘occupying’ has lived on. In London at the moment, different groups of people are occupying universities, housing estates, workplaces and shopping centres to disrupt the day-to-day machinery that tries to enslave us and take back what is ours…

First off, there’s the FightForTheAylesbury campaign, which started on January 31st 2015. At the end of the March for Homes, a housing demonstration in central London, a group of about 150 people went off the general route and took over a block of flats on the Aylesbury Estate that is now almost totally empty. Southwark Council is trying to force all residents out of their homes so they can sell off the land to developers who will build new flats for the rich instead. A common story across London. A barbed-wire fence that the council built around the whole estate was torn down by protestors, but afterwards, the remaining squatters were evicted.

Another housing occupation is happening at Sweets Way Estate in Barnet. Residents who have been in this area for decades are being forced out, aided by council policy to force up rents. Activists and residents have re-opened 4 of the houses, which are all in very good living condition.

Students are also in the middle of occupations. At the London School of Economics, students are demanding that the university stops running as a business for profit which stamps on the interests of workers and students. Students have united with cleaners, catering staff, security staff, and porters to demand an end to zero hours contracts, proper remuneration for overtime, and free education.

At the University of London Senate House Library, a group of women also occupied on 8th March, demanding free education. They wrote: “On International Women’s Day we should not just celebrate our long past victories but fight for more. We know this will not be won in the boardroom, it will be won on the streets and in occupations.”

In January 2015, Angry Language Brigade occupied their workplace after they were fired without proper pay or notice. Teachers from the Leicester Square School of English, some of whom were on illegal self-employed contracts, quickly decided to occupy. But the place had already been gutted. They met others who had been left high and dry: a cleaner had not been paid for 3 months and several host families left unpaid for accommodation they had provided to students. So next, they targeted the owner’s other business interests as well as his reputation e.g. writing to the posh school where he was a governor. He had to resign. The battle and pickets continue…

Public spaces are also being reclaimed: In December 2014 hundreds of people went to a ‘die-in’ at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush. Organised by London Black Revolutionaries, this was in solidarity with protests in the US over the deaths of Eric Garner and other Black men murdered by the police. Business suffered and the police were called.

Occupying a space can often have more impact than standing outside: the business/university/council can’t just carry on as normal. The question now is, when do we occupy our warehouses??!


We live and work in Greenford and Park Royal. We think that workers, wherever they come from, are screwed over and should fight back together. We have to figure out how we can run this world without bosses, bankers, politicians and mind-numbing, boring jobs in the future.
This newspaper is a means for us to exchange our experiences about conditions at work. We have to learn from other workers. No one else will do it for us. We are fed up hearing or saying: “Nothing can be done”, because a lot IS being done, the question is: “What works, what doesn’t?”


The newspaper is not (just) about words. We need a local network of workers who support each other: if someone doesn’t get their wages or has trouble with the job centre; if some of us are kicked out; if people need someone to leaflet their workplace or want creative ideas to undermine the management. For the struggle to survive and beyond. Do you need support? – Get in touch! And keep in touch – because others will need your support, too!

Other websites we find useful:


We try to distribute this paper once a month at following places – if you have other suggestions where we could hand it out, let us know.

– Greenford Auriol Drive (amongst others, Sainsbury’s and Tesco warehouses)

– Park Royal (Bakkavor, Greencore, Premier Park)

– Royal Mail DC (Greenford and Princess Royal)

– Greenford Retail Park

– Ealing and Southall Job Centre

– Greenford Bus Depot


– to share your experience of your workplace (anonymously of course!)
– to write about a conflict at work and what the workers did in response – if it made a difference, or not
– if you need support for an action you want to do e.g. getting outstanding wages from the temp agency or distributing a leaflet outside your workplace
– if you like the newspaper and want to get involved!

Email us at:
Find our website with resources you could use here:

www-ed2.pdf5.8 MB

Workers wild west #3



Things were pretty grim in 2015. The attacks in Paris, thousands of people drowning in the Mediterranean trying to reach safety from war and poverty, tension between NATO-states and Russia, police state measures in France and Belgium, more austerity announcements by the UK government… what to make of it all?

It’s not just about religion, and not only about oil

Ever since Britain and France were colonial powers, all big states and corporations have wanted a piece of the oil cake in the Middle East. Their political and military leaders were happy to kill thousands of civilians to get it. This is still true and can explain the Gulf wars in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since 2008 the economic system has gone into a deep crash. Movements in all countries started which questioned those in power – the 1%, governments and big business – and their blatant corruption. During 2010-11 people took over squares and public space in the USA, Spain, Tunis, Aleppo, Cairo, Istanbul. They said, “Enough is enough, we want a fairer society” and, “No to corruption and austerity!” All of these governments came down hard on the protestors. Tear gas and water cannon became a familiar sight on the news. Western and non-Western governments helped each other out: the US sent ship-loads of teargas to the Egyptian military to repress protestors in Tahrir Square and the UK government trained the police in Greece in how to control the people on the streets. State repression in Syria has now led to civil war. The fact that the movements ‘for a fairer society’ were beaten down opened up more space for the religious fundamentalists: if there is no future on earth, there must be in heaven. ISIS and other religious wannabe leaders want to isolate ‘Muslims’, by putting suicide belts on poor guys from the suburbs to blow up other poor ‘infidels’. They hope that islamophobic attacks will polarize society and push people further into their hands.

Their system is in crisis: war and ‘terror’ helps them maintain their power through fear

Since the global financial crisis in 2008 those in power have wanted to save their profit system at all costs. While pumping money into companies and banks, they have nothing to offer poor workers and the employed except wage freezes and cuts to social benefits. And this during a time where new technology and knowledge could provide a good life for everyone on this planet. They are facing increasing discontent ‘on the home front’. The only way to keep us loyal to their state is through fear and war. Both sides of the current ‘war’ – the Islamist leaders and the state leaders in France, Turkey and Britain etc. – want us to live in fear. State leaders in Europe try to use both the attacks like the ones in Paris and the ‘refugee crisis’ against us.

Don’t trust the powers!

When it comes to war and terrorist threats we can’t trust any nation state, religious or business leader, because they have all helped to create this mess! Some examples: the US-state supported the Taliban during the 1980s, and in fact the Bush and Bin Laden families were brokering business deals with each other just before Bin Laden was named global enemy number 1. And while Turkey’s elite is formally supposed to be fighting against ISIS, at the same time they’re making good money buying cheap oil from them. The British state and weapon industry sells missiles to the Saudi army,
while billionaires in Saudi Arabia back Islamist militias like ISIS. And like the Gulf wars in 1991 and 2003, the current attacks by the Russian and NATO army lay the groundwork for future terrorist attacks: Russian bombs slaughtered over 2,000 civilians during the last three months of 2015. So we won’t gather behind French state leaders and their flag – a flag under which thousands of people have been killed in attempts to oppress French colonies in Algeria and elsewhere…

A permanent state of emergency: not becoming paranoid, while they are out to get us!

After the Paris attacks the French and Belgian state has tried to enforce a state of emergency, which has meant banning people from gathering in public. Nevertheless, in Belgium planned strikes against austerity took place despite the state lockdown. And in France people continued to demonstrate for the rights of refugees and migrants and against the destruction of the environment. We can see how surveillance and other ‘anti-terror’ measures are slowly being extended to curb social discontent of the poor, be it in the form of widespread ‘blacklisting’ of ‘trouble-makers’ or small cases like the Lidl worker who got sacked after posting critical comments about Lidl on Facebook…

Using the ‘refugees’ to excuse the housing crisis, the NHS crisis, the low wages, the
floods in Cumbria…

‘Refugees’ are people who don’t want to fight and die – for Assad nor ISIS, or other power hungry warlords. Instead of becoming killers, getting killed or starving to death, they try to get away. In their shoes, we would try and do the same. This is why we should support them. The state tries to use them to create pressure on us: ”They’ll cost you money”, “They’ll work for peanuts”.
In Germany, in the shadow of the politicians’ ‘Welcome’ media show, the bosses association (led by the fraudster Vokswagen management) are demanding the lowering of the minimum wage to ‘finance’ the refugees. The ‘refugee crisis’ becomes a smoke screen behind which the state continues the attack on our work and living conditions: in the UK the plan is to extend housing and unemployment benefit restrictions from EU-migrants to UK-citizens under 25, while at the same time working tax credits are under attack…

Although it smells like old socks: Workers of the world unite!

We must refuse to help dig our own graves – they can get lost with their national and religious propaganda! We have to break down the barriers where we live and where we work. This starts on the job and wherever else poor people come together: a basic, daily solidarity between all those who have to sell their hands and minds for money and who struggle to survive. Let’s struggle for higher wages and freedom for all, instead of allowing bosses and the state to create an ‘illegal labour market’ for the new migrants (maintained through the occasional police raid)! We won’t accept their high-security minimum wage regime nor their zero-hours future! We can struggle for and create a better society without exploitation, stock market crashes and bomb scares! No to Sharia law! Racists get lost! No to a law-and- order police state!


During the course of a week I had three different day jobs: each one a different type of work, a different place, with different people. Many of us have to deal with this kind of job- hopping nowadays. We are thrown into new situations again and again and there is little time to get to know our co-workers. The agencies and companies can use this situation to squeeze us for low wages. While we might not give a damn about the job if it is for only one day, we still have to pretend to work hard to stay on the agency’s books for future work. Not knowing how much work we’ll get each week also means we often miss out on possible welfare benefits: who will sign on for 4 days if you have to fight for three weeks with the job centre to get it?!

In order to improve our conditions, we have to talk to each other. But this takes time and can be hard to do at work, especially when we are constantly changing jobs. So it’s important to link up after and between jobs: exchange phone numbers or email addresses, keep in touch, inform each other about conditions at other jobs and try to figure out how we can put pressure on the companies to get out of this rat-race!

If you want to link up and/ or tell other people about your experiences, drop us a mail:
*** Harrow Green – removing the Home Office

The ‘Olympia Staff’ temp agency in Ealing offers casual employment in warehouses, cleaning, restaurants etc. To get work you have to call up at 16:00 the day before to see if there’s anything for the next day. The agency has ‘clients’ all over London. My job involved being shipped all the way from Ealing Broadway in the west to Stratford in the east. I’d be working for a massive removal company called ‘Harrow Green’ who were hired to move an office – computers, furniture etc. to another block.
I left the agency at 05:00, just myself, the driver and another porter, and arrived at the company yard at around 06:15. We waited in the locker room for about an hour-and-a-half while more people filtered in, with most of the temps looking like zombies. In the waiting room people sat in their language groups, with the guys from Romania all huddled together (they tended to be a mix of young and old) and the native speakers sitting together (who were mostly younger). Then the foreman came in and started calling the first names. We then got mini-bussed to Fleet Street to move what ended up being a Home Office department to another building.

The job was done in teams of 20 shifting all this office stuff into the van. It took about 1.5 hrs to move all of it. Then we hopped in the minibus and drove to this other office we were moving the stuff to. We worked for about 4hrs straight transporting all these filing cabinets to the 5th floor and when we eventually finished at around 13:30 we had to hang around until 16:00 before the foreman signed off with the client and we could bugger off back home.

There were many instances of racism, both open and subtle, that I saw during the day. The dirty looks that the workmates from Romania got when speaking Romanian. The fact that it was assumed that the black guy smoked weed. The comment by the receptionist when she misunderstood the worker from Poland (‘speak proper English or get out the country’). Conversation between the workers would inevitably centre around how crap the job was, but their anger was often channelled away from
the bosses towards complaining about ‘lazy’ workmates who didn’t work as hard as them but still got paid the same. Who works hard and who doesn’t was often expressed in nationalist or racist stereotypes: ‘this group of people works hard, these guys don’t’ blah blah…Perhaps people felt more pressured because we were told that once we’d finished delivering the stuff for the client we could go home – which was obviously just a ploy to make us work faster. And a porter had apparently been told he would be made a permanent worker with a higher wage and overtime bonus – another fantasy carrot!

*** Wembley warehouse – picking toy dolls

Another job I had for the same agency, ‘Olympia Staff’ was in a toy warehouse in Wembley. It involved moving heaving stock around to try and make room for a delivery that was scheduled to arrive later that day. The workforce was majority Polish (all male) and the bosses were Indian. This caused some tensions as the day wore on and people became tired. The English guy I was working with muttered about how the Indians were always trying to squeeze every last drop out of you, which was true but applied equally to the cockney foreman supervising at Harrow Green.

*** Fulham football Stadium – cleaning up the mess

The third job that week was cleaning a football stadium after a match – picking up the rubbish, mopping the floor and cleaning the toilets. The work was through a massive outsourcing company ‘Cleanevent’, which provides cleaning for large events (football stadiums, concerts, etc). There were 20 cleaners thoroughly cleaning the stadium and all of them were 1st or 2nd generation migrants.
The job was organised in a very mechanical way. Each worker was given a specific task such as mopping the bathroom floor which they had to repeat over and over (there are 26 toilets). This made the work more efficient, but it also meant aching limbs and a danger of repetitive strain syndrome. A supervisor would frequently be watching over you to make sure the task was being done quickly enough. In spite of this, the workers were in good spirits, which made the job bearable. In particular, four older female workers took their time chatting to each other and joking – thankfully, they weren’t too intimidated by the supervisors.


For a while, I worked in the transport office at the Sainsbury’s/ Wincanton warehouse in Greenford. My job was to track the deliveries (and the drivers) to make sure they got to the supermarkets on time. When I moved from being a picker in the warehouse to the office, everyone said, “Great! You’re moving to the office! That’s a big step up!” But it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. For starters, the pay was the same miserable £6.70 temp agency wage that I was getting before. Then, I was surrounding by managers, including all those who had bossed us around and treated us like feral kids when I was picking in the warehouse. Then, there was the 6am starts and 12-hour shifts. And last, and worst, was the fact that essentially, they wanted me to spy on the drivers. How? Well, their lorry was fitted with a GPS tracking system that was attached to my computer, so I could see exactly where they were and how long they’d been there. If I noticed they weren’t moving along fast enough, I had to give them a call and find out why.

I was no stranger to being spied on. Being a warehouse picker meant wearing a ‘watch’ which told you what to pick and where to put it, and told the managers how fast you were picking. This got turned into a number that measured your productivity. A low number meant that your shift might be cancelled the next day…so no long toilet breaks for us! Knowing what it’s like for your every step to be monitored, I wasn’t keen to start spying on and hassling drivers, most of whom were experienced in their jobs and didn’t need me looking over their shoulder. When I said I was uncomfortable with that, I was told, “You better get comfortable with that!”

Spy in the Cab…

It doesn’t stop at GPS tracking. There was a dispute at a elevator company called Kone in May 2015 where 300 engineering service workers went on strike against software in drivers’ cabs. It was being used to verify time-sheets and site arrival and leaving times – even though
the information it was collecting was unreliable. A union spokesperson said:

“Evidence has shown the mileage recorded by VAMS [vehicle access management system]
for business or private use is not accurate and exaggerates the amount of mileage being completed. It is ‘a spy in the cab’ that does not function properly, so it is understandable that our members are angry. This will lead to employees being wrongly assessed for private mileage, and could lead to wrong deductions from wages and ultimately disciplinary situations.”

The 2-week strike was called off a few days in when a deal was reached – basically measures were drawn up to make sure inaccurate information wouldn’t be used. It is interesting to note that the software is still being used and the union said it wasn’t against the principle of VAMS when used for health and safety purposes. But the fact is, most of this driver software and cab technology is being used and legitimised under the guise of health and safety – when the convenient side-effect of monitoring and surveillance is probably more of an incentive. After all, driver shifts that are normally between 12 and 14 hours probably have more of an effect on ‘driver safety’ in terms of fatigue but this is rarely a cause for management’s concern and intervention!

The latest generation of surveillance technology is more far-reaching in scope than GPS and speed controls. It is being developed mainly to increase productivity. The most controversial are things like cameras inside the cab facing the driver to see if a driver is slacking off or making unauthorized stops. To minimise the chances of drivers and unions contesting them, they are brought in stealthily and under the pretext of ‘health and safety’. It is harder to argue for ‘privacy’ on the job when management defends the use of cameras for evidence in fatal accidents (HGVs are involved in 52% of fatal accidents despite only making up 10% of motorway traffic).


The fact is, drivers across the board are worse off today than they were ten years ago. Even though there is a shortage of drivers in the UK, it hasn’t translated into better pay and conditions. Why? Because of subcontracting arrangements that has meant more competition amongst logistics and haulage companies and drivers being squeezed. Having some permanent drivers, some agency drivers and some self-employed drivers all working for one company hasn’t made it easier to come together and organise ourselves against the bosses. But it can be done. Back in 1996 and 1997 in France and Spain, tens of thousands of truck drivers who were pissed off about wages and conditions blockaded ports, fuel depots and roads to big factories. In Spain, 75% of the drivers were self-employed and in France, only 10% of them were in a union. But still, they managed to coordinate informally amongst themselves to cause mass disruption – their actions meant that German car factories had to stop production because they didnt have the parts they needed. And they won concessions from the government. In Russia more recently (November 2015), the government had to backtrack on a HGV tax because truckers staged mass protests on the roads.

“There’s 50 people outside going mental!”

The strikes in France and Spain show us that atomisation and control can be overcome. And the situation in general since then has gotten worse, not just for truckers, but all workers. At the Sainsbury’s warehouse, pickers employed through the temp agency, Templine, worked slow for one day to try and put pressure on the managers to give more money and guaranteed shifts. But it was always going to be difficult to do this alone. In December 2014 some of us temp workers invited our friends to come to Greenford and give out a leaflet addressing the drivers at Sainsbury’s. We wanted to tell them that we were fed up, that we had made some demands to management and might need their support in future. Drivers and pickers rarely mixed, and unless they were in the canteen at the same time, occupied two separate parts of the warehouse. So passing information onto the drivers was difficult, which is why we thought a leaflet would get the point across. We had a few drivers email us in solidarity but it didn’t lead to anything more…

So how can drivers, in particular within the supermarket chains, develop more collective power? Drivers potentially have a lot of power because they’re needed to get things from A to B. But as conditions worsen across the board – for drivers, office permanents and warehouse agency staff – our only chance, if we don’t just want very small and symbolic actions – is to do something together. The union, which, in our experience maintains these dividing lines between different groups of workers, won’t be proactive in this. We are all being outsourced, we all have weak unions, we’re all on different work contracts for doing the same job, being driven to work harder and more ‘efficiently’ for less pay, we’re being spied on. Unless we reach out to other drivers (permanents, agency and self-employed), and unless we link up with the warehouse crews, food production workers or supermarket staff, our struggles will be harder to win.


1. Spy on drivers to try and catch them out e.g. hide behind the bushes and pounce when a driver doesn’t use his totally unnecessary straps; have all vehicles fitted with online tracking devices to make sure we know where the drivers are at all times. Try and stress drivers’ out individually by calling them up and hassling them to make them know they’re always being watched!
2. Cut down time-wasting and limit the time drivers have to talk to each other e.g. make the waiting area seats hard and uncomfortable! No unnecessary lounging about!
3. Divide-and-rule: try not to piss everyone off at the same time cos they might come together and put up a better fight – go for one group at a time e.g. don’t try and cut the shunters’ hours at the same time as you want to introduce new surveillance equipment in the lorries. This is a recipe for trouble!
4. Never admit your long-term plans for screwing people over – do things bit by bit. If you are challenged that you are e.g. cutting hours so that you can, in the future, have less shunters in the yard on each shift, just say they are being paranoid!
5. Always LIE to Sainsbury’s about the reason deliveries are late. NEVER tell the actual truth.
Top managers must sign-off on the exact lie we’re telling e.g. “traffic on the A406 and A205” (always a popular one!) or “driver blow-out” (when we can’t think of any other reason.)
6. Pressurise drivers into returning to work when they’re off work with a workplace injury – we don’t want to get a RIDDOR, be investigated and look bad! Downgrade injuries e.g. call ‘cracked ribs’ ‘sore ribs’. Get a manager or two to turn up at the driver’s house when they’re off to exert pressure.
7. Never presume a driver knows how best to do
his job (even though he’s the one that actually does his job). So for example: have de-briefs at the end of each shift and make drivers account for every minute of their shift; monitor drivers’ performance to try and squeeze even more out of them and then display the results – in order – on the wall to create a sense of competition rather than solidarity.
8. Driver solidarity – especially between agency and permanent drivers – needs to be discouraged at all costs, so pay them differently and give them different levels of training before they start the job.
9. Try and undermine peoples’ skills to make them feel like they are disposable e.g. introduce software for shunters so that a machine tells them where to go and what to do for the sake of ‘efficiency’.
10. Who do they think they are? Grown men?! Give them that school kid feeling e.g. deduct pay if people clock in more than 3 minutes late. We need more discipline!


How many times have we heard our co-workers say that we can’t do anything about our bad conditions? That we’ll get fired. That things will never change. That other people won’t do anything…
Six or seven years ago, warehouse workers in Italy were saying the same thing. Most of them had gone to Italy from North Africa, Eastern Europe or South Asia. Their residency status is linked to their job so they have good reason to be scared: if they got fired, many of them would lose the right to stay in Italy…

But since 2010 things have changed. Warehouse workers at companies like DHL, TNT and IKEA have started to organise themselves. A minority of them were going on strike and getting supporters to blockade the gates so that lorries can’t get in or out. Since then, other workers have joined. They have been causing massive disruption. As a result of their coordinated efforts, by reaching out to other warehouse workers in their area and local supporters, they’ve managed to get pay increases of up to 400 euro per month, guaranteed shifts, sick pay and bullying managers fired. In an ‘age of austerity’, doesn’t sound too bad, does it?!

By building a community of support beyond their own individual companies and various language groups, they’ve even managed to hold a one-day general strike to demand more wages, a slower pace of work and union recognition. The strike in October 2015 was organised by SI Cobas/ADL Cobas, two small worker-led unions. It was largely successful, e.g. after three hours of negotiating at a supermarket warehouse in Milan, the strikers got a permanent contract for everyone from the following Monday…

So how was it possible for workers to stop being so scared? And what can we learn from the experiences in Italy? You can watch a film made about the struggles online at: www.
* Working conditions in Italy

Working conditions in the warehouses in this region were/are bad: people would have to wait for up to 5 hours at the gates to be told whether or not they were needed; some workers had to take a four hour (unpaid) break inside the warehouse before being called to work again; overtime was compulsory and shifts cancelled openly as a punishment if you didn’t work weekends; large, cooperative-owned companies slashed pay by 35% ‘because of the crisis’; some people worked 12 hours and got paid for 4; the work was heavy and back injuries common; as was sexual harassment (for women workers); work discipline/ bullying was rife; payslips were calculated wrongly.

“Everyone was pushed to work faster. There was a supervisor who, day and night, shouted: ‘Come on, come on, come on’, like a broken record! 200 people did the work of 500, so they saved the costs of 300 people. For five years, TNT enjoyed the best productivity levels in Italy but no one went to see under what conditions. The bosses reaped great profits and the workers were badly treated and becoming ill. It’s a mode of slavery. When I suggested to people that we should say no, they would say they couldn’t for fear of losing their job.”
(Mohamed, TNT warehouse worker)

* Struggles and the union

“The first problem was how to unite all the workers of the company to fight the fear together, fight the blackmail of a low income and the threats of losing the job, a constant pressure that has made many of us ill. To rule, they pit us against one another, Italians against foreigners (who are 90% of us), Egyptians against Moroccans. At GLS there were lots of Indians, most of whom speak hardly any Italian and the employer just took advantage of that to exploit us even more. We organised assemblies with the Indian and Chinese workers, we sensed the difference between them and the Arab workers but I said: “Forget where we come from, we are all workers here and we are all being exploited. We just need to concentrate on that.” (Mohamed, TNT worker)

SI Cobas, which is a rank-and-file union, made a strategic decision to make contacts with workers in this sector. They’re a union that stands for self-organisation that goes beyond particular professions or sectors. When a worker or a group of workers who want to do something against their conditions approach them, SI Cobas tell them to organise a strike – no matter if it’s only a minority of workers. The union then brings supporters to the gates and link them up with other warehouse workers in the area. They also take care of legal strike procedures.

“The people from the big warehouses went to those in the small warehouses and told them they had won in the struggle for their rights, and that they are not alone. If they needed support from the other warehouses they would all come and help. That’s how it happened in Piacenza, at IKEA. There were only few people who protested and took part in the strike, just 10 out of 300 workers there! Only 10 went on strike. But people from other warehouses came to support the struggle!” (Karim, SI Cobas delegate and warehouse worker)

“A one-day blockade at the IKEA store in Piacenza ‘means that goods are not loaded onto trucks. These do not arrive on time for the ships, producing a delay in deliveries at destinations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. A one-day blockade blows up the organisation of the entire process, and in order to restart it companies must wait at least ten days, causing a lot of economic damage, as well as incalculable damage to their image…In a warehouse where fresh food is stored, a four- hour blockade means 2-300.000 Euros lost. (Aldo, SI Cobas organiser)

Management try and get around their blockading tactics but so far, SI Cobas have done quite a good job in adapting their strategies accordingly:

“Take the example of DHL in Italy: When this struggles began we had some problems. When workers blocked a DHL warehouse in Milano, DHL closed it and took the commodities to other warehouses, in Bologna, Naples, or elsewhere. They close the warehouse in Milano temporarily until the workers get bored and go home. But these workers did not wait until the gates were reopened but drove to the warehouses in other cities and distributed flyers there. They persuaded the DHL workers in other cities to join the struggle. And immediately, in less than one month, there were banners everywhere and the whole camp was in struggle.” (Karim, delegate and worker)

Many of the struggles have lasted a long time: anywhere from 2 months to a year-and-a-half in the case of the strike at big milk and dairy manufacturer, Granarolo. Obviously, in a situation like London, surviving for this long on no pay would be tough. In places like Bologna, they were able to do this partly because of squats that local groups of activists organise on a large scale. Not having to pay rent and bills definitely takes off the pressure and can open up the space for action. An old Telecom building housed more than 300 people (mainly migrant families).

“So we started to build a militant movement, not only in the logistics sector. The logistics workers often go to demonstrations for housing rights and also support other sectors. They don’t just focus on the logistics sector. Now they help the metal workers, too. They have already helped the hotel workers.” (Karim, delegate and worker)

*(Legal) differences between Italy and the UK

There are differences in terms of labour/ trade union laws, so for example, in Italy the SI Cobas union managed to grow because they used the fact that official union delegates have 8 hours a month facility time. Delegates used this time to go to other warehouses and agitate/ speak to workers there. It’s difficult to imagine a Unite rep here doing that! In Italy, they also have a national wage agreement for the logistics sector. While this is mainly just a piece of paper, with enough actual pressure and a balance of power in workers’ favour, it has been accepted by some bosses – mainly at the bigger multinational companies.

Maybe another reason things kicked off in Italy was that the workers found it easier to come together against the bosses. This was firstly because they were in the same boat: they were all casual workers with no chance of becoming permanent. In the UK, it’s probably more difficult to come together because in our experience, agencies actively dangle the carrot of the permanent contract to keep workers loyal and working fast. “Just work hard and you’ll be made permanent.” So workers don’t want to risk doing something together.

And secondly, in Italy, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling was probably stronger because the workforce was split more along the lines of managers being ‘Italian’ and all the workers occupying the ‘migrant’ roles. Whereas in the UK, shop-floor managers and supervisors are often the same nationality as the workers, meaning, from England, Poland, India etc. This means that workers whose English is poor, tend to have a better relationship with their managers who they can speak to in their native language, than their workmate from a different country.

*Critical questions

To what extent can blockades work?

Over time, as SI Cobas grew and more warehouses were blockaded, the police started showing up more regularly and in bigger numbers. Many activists have been banned from whole towns and cities. A blockade might be necessary under certain circumstances, but in the end a longer-term strategy would need to focus on how we can build day-to-day collective steps at work.

To what extent can you rely on delegates?

There is one delegate for eighty workers. The militant workers are ‘delegates’ for SI Cobas, which means that they can leave work for their union activities without facing the immediate threat of being sacked. We could see the potential for the gap between the delegates and workers to grow wider, as they spend less and less time at work, take on more union responsibilities and are treated like heroes everywhere they go. These people easily burn out, are targeted by the police or get bought by the bosses.

*What can we learn and do?

We have to build a solidarity network of people from different workplaces here in
west London. If people have problems at their job or with their landlord or job centre, the others can come and support them. You can see how workers in Italy can now hold their heads high, how people have started to trust each other – while we in London still largely live in fear and in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere. If you want to join our solidarity network, please get in touch:

It seemed that Amazon had some trouble hiring the 19,000 temps it needed across the UK for the Christmas rush in 2015. Temp agencies in Greenford were offering up to £9 an hour (up from £7.50 last year), as well as a £250 ‘joining bonus’ for people on weekend shifts and £150 for those on weekday shifts at Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead warehouses. They were also offering free buses to get there and payment for the commuting time. They were fishing in the big pool of migrant workers in our area, dangling the carrot of £500 per week (five 10-hour shifts plus paid travel time) – a good deal when you compare it to the £250 a week we get for a regular 40-hour minimum wage job.

But by now, most of the hired Christmas temps will have been let go. There have been TV exposés about the stressful working conditions and cut-throat work culture but unions have been locked out and workers have, up till now, not made any visible stands against the bosses. We can’t rely on the media to ‘shame’ companies to improve our situation, as this rarely works. Workers are not helpless victims that need rescuing by middle class do-gooders. We are the ones that can apply the real pressure – because we do the work and have the power to make the money for the bosses and shareholders – or not…

So where do we start when thinking about ways to take on a giant like Amazon? Well, some friends of ours started working and struggling for better wages and conditions at the Amazon warehouse in Sady, near Poznan in Poland, which opened in 2014 – while others we know have been supporting Amazon workers on strike in Germany. We think we can learn from workers’ experiences in Poland and Germany. They have already started to work together to coordinate their actions, knowing that if they don’t, management will play them off against each other. Striking workers in Germany recently met up with their fellow-workers in Poland who are organising through rank-and-file union,Workers’ Initiative (IP), to discuss their common situation.

If Amazon workers in the UK (or other warehouse workers who are part of bigger multinational companies) want to do something collectively and effectively, hooking up with their brothers and sisters abroad will be necessary in the long-run…

21st century exploitation is global…

Walmart, IKEA, Amazon, Apple … these companies are symbols of what the future has to offer. They are modern, multi-billion pound profit companies. Their business success is based on the fact that management is globally organised and can exploit workers wherever they find the most profitable conditions and play workers off against each other – especially workers from areas with high unemployment. What seems like ‘greed’ by multinational corporations is just the healthy expression of the general rules of the system we live in: reduce costs and wages, use technology to squeeze workers, and increase profits and/or share value.

Dollar, dollar bill y’all!

Amazon employs over 180,000 permanent people in its offices and 173 warehouses around the world. Amazon only announced their first profits in July 2015. Up until then the company had only recorded losses – and it has been around for twenty years! This is because any money they make has not been recorded as a profit for shareholders but instead it has been used to undercut competitors in the hope of becoming a future monopoly. At the profit announcement, shares surged and Bezos, Amazon’s founder, made $7 billion in 45 minutes. Compare that to the minimum starting rate for the 7,000 Amazon permanent staff in the UK, which is £7.20 per hour, rising to (on average) £8 after 2 years.

Divide and rule

Amazon has to constantly be on guard against their workforce coming together. They are a union- busting company, meaning that they use dirty tricks to keep the unions out. So far in the UK no union has managed to get their foot in the door. But that’s not to say that Amazon could not find ways to cooperate with unions if they had to. So they also try and use a mixed workforce of different language groups, hoping this will prevent workers coming together. For example, at a warehouse in Germany, 44 different nationalities were taken on in 2012’s Christmas season, many of them bussed in from crisis zones like Spain, Greece, Poland and Portugal.

Amazon gobbles jobs

By using new technologies (internet shopping, electronic monitoring of workers in warehouses, robots for picking items) and employing large numbers of people in huge warehouses, Amazon can undercut traditional retail and delivery companies. In this sense Amazon is not creating jobs, but reducing them, e.g. in the US 42,000 jobs were lost in the retail sector in 2012 due to Amazon’s ‘business success’. Postal delivery jobs are also affected: Amazon UK is Royal Mail’s biggest customer, accounting for 6% of all parcels. When Amazon UK announced that that they would use the Connect Group’s infrastucture to deliver parcels themselves in early 2015, the Royal Mail share price went down the drain. Thousands of jobs at Royal Mail are at risk – jobs that are equally threatened by Royal Mail’s ‘internal’ automatisation drive in the sorting offices.

Slave to the rhythm

In a profit-system, higher productivity cuts jobs and turns our lives into a stressful hell. At Amazon toilet breaks are timed and monitored. Management uses a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ system: you get half a strike against your name if you’re one minute late for work. Arm monitors with GPS tell the pickers what and where to pick and and count them down for each item to enforce the productivity target. Squeezing their workers is crucial to their business plan. But they still have problems with their technologies: the Kiva picking robots are not as flexible as humans and still more expensive than cheap labour. Workers in Poland tell us that the conveyor belts clog up regularly. Meaning: they still need us!

Power to (not pity for) the people

The Amazon business model has an internal problem: if you bring thousands of workers close together in big warehouses, apply loads of work pressure and pay them peanuts, then it is only a question of time before trouble starts. If you work in a small book shop you might hate your boss’s guts, but the rest of the world wouldn’t give a toss. If Amazon workers stopped working, the world would be in tears over delayed birthday presents and undelivered sex toys! So it is pretty lame
to portray the Amazon workers as poor victims and semi-robots – this is unfortunately what most of the established trade unions and campaigns do. Amazon does not pay less than other warehouses, working conditions are not so much worse than other warehouses – no need for pity! The difference is that given the size and concentration of Amazon warehouses Amazon workers have potentially more clout – they could create the initial power that many of us are lacking!

Struggles at Amazon: in Germany

Recent struggles at Amazon show that this is not just wishful thinking. In Germany – which is the biggest Amazon market outside the US – eight out of their nine warehouses have lost a total of 80 days to strike action for better wages since May 2013, most recently, this Christmas. The biggest union in Europe, ver. di, have managed to represent a minority of mainly permanent workers there. They want workers to be classified as ‘retail’ workers’, not ‘logistics’ workers because this would mean they earn more money through a national wage agreement. Solidarity groups have formed to support workers. Strikers were invited to university rallies and supporters came to picket-lines
and temporarily blockaded the gates, delaying the orders going out. Officially Amazon did not agree to the demands, but increased wages ‘voluntarily’.

To put pressure on workers in Germany (as well as for future expansion into Eastern Europe), Amazon recently opened new warehouses in Poland (Sady near Poznan and Wroclaw) and Czech Republic, solely to cater for the German market. Many goods are shipped from Germany, sorted
and packaged across the border in Poland and sent back – a big detour and not environmentaly friendly! Sending the goods back and forth makes no sense, but it does from a business point of view: the minimum wage in Czech Republic is 330 Euro per month – around a quarter of workers’ wages in Germany.

…and Poland

There are between 2,000 and 3,000 workers at the Sady, Poznan warehouse, who when it opened, were paid the equivalent of around £1.80 an hour. Agency workers, hired through temp agencies and who make up 50% of the workforce, got the same wage. Standard full- time shifts are four, 10.5 hour days. The company provides buses, which bring workers from different towns up to 50 miles away. Some people spend more then 4 hours a day on a bus, commuting.

Winter of discontent

From the beginning, workers have had problems with wages not being fully paid and often delayed, as well as with a complicated system of bonuses. The finance office is in the Czech Republic and it is difficult to get hold of them. Temp workers decided to speak to the local press, which opened up public debate about the terrible working conditions not only in Amazon but in workplaces in the whole area. Low wages, high productivity targets, bullying, work stress, job insecurity, instant dismissals and the covering up of workplace accidents were also raised by workers. And there was a scam with the ‘productivity bonus’, which was only paid when the basic wage was not met because there was not enough work.

All of this means the company shoots themselves in the foot. This Christmas (2015), Amazon’s plan had been to employ around 6,000 people during the Christmas period (2,000 permanent workers and 4,000 temps). By the time they should have finished recruitment, they were still looking for workers…


Although unemployment across Poland is pretty high, near Poznan where they built the warehouse it is only 4%. Maybe this is why workers there started organising themselves
just after the place opened. Just before Christmas 2014 some workers approached the rank-and-file union, Workers’ Initiative (IP), – who, as it turns out, already had some people working inside the warehouse, to set up a union. There are now 330 members, most of them permanent workers.
Once IP had a small membership inside Amazon, they formally presented the management a list of demands, including:

1. A wage increase to 16 zloty/hour; 2. A seniority bonus of 10% after 12 months, 15% after 24 months;
3. For the time it takes to walk
to and from the break to not be included in the break time – the warehouse is so big that by the time they walk there and back again, there is hardly any actual ‘break time’ left!;
4. An allocation of company shares; 5. Yearly shift plans.
After a few meetings, management refused all of the union’s demands. Amazon aborted negotiations in November 2015.

Acts of resistance

“They say that we should increase productivity by 20%! What do we get in exchange? Some manager on the top will get a nice bonus and we will get a donut.”

In May 2015, just half an year after it opened, 400 workers signed a petition against higher targets. A few months later, a state inspection was carried out at one of the warehouses, confirming the bad conditions that workers had been talking about. As public criticism mounted, Amazon suddenly announced a wage increase: 7% for the assembly line workers and 12.5% for the foremen, i.e. from
13 (£2.20) to 14 zloty (£2.36) and team leaders getting 18 zloty (£3) an hour. But even with the increase, it was still only about a third of what workers in Germany get. The threat of simultaneous acts of resistance at Amazon in Poland and Germany created pressure on management. In Poland it meant that workers did actually get a pay rise, although Amazon did not admit workers’ actions had been the real reason, nor was the rise as high as the union were demanding.

You’ll never walk alone..?

Striking Amazon workers in Germany decided to meet up with struggling Amazon workers in Poznan. They knew that if they didn’t coordinate their actions, management would try and undermine them and ultimately they would lose. For example, when workers were on strike in the Leipzig warehouse in Germany, management re-routed deliveries to the warehouse in Poland. Workers in Poland were then asked to work overtime to make up for the work not being done in Germany. They didn’t want to
be scabs, and because some of them had already linked up with struggling workers in Germany to start developing some rank-and-file coordination, they refused to do the extra work. Dozens of workers took annual leave or worked slow at the end of June 2015. This is a big step forward. Solidarity between workers becomes something practical, not just symbolic.

But as well as an expression of workers’ confidence and international organisation, the strikes also reveal the divisions between workers. In Germany, only 20-30% of employees are taking part in the strikes, mainly permanent workers in ver.di. So at Amazon in Leipzig, out of 2,000 permanent workers only 500 are union members and only 400 of them went on strike. And temp workers have not been so involved in disputes because they are not union members – “why should I become a union member if the job’s only for a few weeks?” Those that do get involved find that their contracts are not renewed. Unless these workers come together, it is no surprise if the struggles remain rather weak.

What to do? – no more border-line syndromes!

The example from Poznan shows that even under difficult circumstances – (e.g. the wages
in Poland are low, there is no unemployment benefit) – workers can kick arse and force management to pay up! This begs the question: what are we, here in the UK, so afraid of?!

There are many ways to put pressure on a company like Amazon. When we are in a minority, disrupting the work- flow collectively ‘on the job’ might be more effective than ‘striking’ outside, especially if most people continue working through the strike and the union does not want to blockade the trucks ‘for legal reasons’. And we have to get the temps involved – whether they are union members or not!

We also can’t leave the creation of links between warehouse workers – in particular between workers of different countries – to a small circle of paid union officials. We have to find ways to organise that ourselves. So we are hopeful that the international meeting of Amazon workers from Germany and Poland that took place in April and October 2015, and will happen again in February 2016, is a positive leap forwards.

And we have to kill the company badge inside our head! For example, we can see how the work of Amazon and Royal Mail workers is closely linked and how both Amazon and Royal Mail management forces us into their competition game. We have to relate to each other as fellow workers – who have to fight under similar conditions and need each other in future. If anyone is working at Amazon in the UK and wants to share their work experiences, email us or post something on our new forum!

https://forum.netzwerkit. de/c/workerswildwest


News about working class people struggling against bad conditions and government cuts often don’t make it into the big media and even more rarely arrive here on the fringes of the city. Below some news against the ‘nothing can be done’ attitude!

* Maternity unit of Ealing hospital occupied
In June 2015 people protested against the closure of the maternity ward of Ealing hospital, where around 3,000 babies were born last year. Some of the protestors occupied the reception area.

* (Bike-) Couriers win higher wages
Couriers working at Gophr and Citysprint organised various actions for higher wages. They are organised in the small union, IWGB. In autumn/winter 2015 Gophr promised to increase the wage to £11.10 per hour and Citysprint said they will play a surcharge of 50p for each delivery.

* Art students occupy university to protest closure
The university building is supposed to be sold to real-estate developers. This would put 2,000 student posts and 93 campus jobs at risk. On 10th of December 2015 students decided to occupy the building in Whitechapel.

* Sisters Uncut protest against government cuts of services for victims of domestic violence While the government seems to have plenty of dosh for arms and real estate owners they cut money for public services, amongst others, for women try to get away from violence at home. Sisters Uncut took various actions in autumn 2015 in order to fight back.

* Students’ rent strike and actions win compensation payment and rent cuts
In autumn 2015, some students won a 25% decrease in their university rent after they went on a rent strike. They refused to pay extortionate rents to live in “unbearable” living conditions. The UCL Cut the Rent campaign continued in January 2016 when 150 students collectively withheld £250,000 in rent, demanding rent cuts of 40%. Since 2009, UCL management has increased rents by 56%.

* Wildcat strike against library closures in Lewisham In November 2015, library workers in south London walked out of work in a protest over plans to convert three libraries into “healthy living centres”. Doors have been locked at all 10 libraries in Lambeth after opponents said the council “refused to listen” to concerns over the move.

* Struggle against eviction on the Sweetsway estate
After more than six months of occupation to prevent the demolition of 142 family homes, Barnet Council, Annington Properties, the London Metropolitan Police and other emergency services are colluding to carry out a violent eviction of the entire Sweets Way estate. In September 2015 tenants and supporters tried to stop the attack.

* Student nurses protests against bursary cuts
The government have announced they are removing NHS bursaries for amongst others, student nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists. This means they will be left with thousands of pounds worth of debt, which could take years to pay back from a salary which is capped at a 1% rise over the next 4 years and not in line with the rising costs of living in the UK. In London students started the first protests in December 2015. events/1520448934947698/

* Anti-begging order scrapped in Hackney after protests
In June 2015, after various protests and the collection of 80,000 signatures, Hackney council scrapped the Public Space Protection Order, which was used to harass and criminalise homeless people.

* Successful action to prevent raid against ‘illegal’ workers
Workers facing police raids and deportation will accept the lowest wages. So one way to to fight back against the pressure on wages that all of us are experiencing, is to try and protect migrants from raids. In the summer if 2015 there was successful resistance against raids by the immigration police in south London.


“This Flexi Worker role does not have standard hours of work and you will be required to work at such times and for such periods as may be applicable to each Assignment…”

(LSG job advert)

During the last 20 years the big airlines have outsourced catering and other work to smaller companies. They did this to protect themselves against a potentially strong and united workforce. The catering companies became big global corporations as they bought up other companies. Alpha and LSG Sky Chefs merged in 2012 and now employ over 30,000 people in 50 countries, catering for over 300 airlines, e.g. American Airlines, Canada Airlines, Singapore Airlines. There is big money involved: LSG made £73 million profit on revenues of £2.6 billion in 2014.

This has brought about an an inevitable attack on conditions. Airline catering companies can’t allow their workers to get away with indiscipline or a strike: any delay in the food supply would result in flight delays, backlogs, and heavy fines if deadlines aren’t met. Air-traffic is the most strictly timed mode of transport and the catering workers in kitchens and warehouses 5 or 10km away from the airport feel that pressure on a day-to-day basis. In 1998 and 2005 workers in Southall, West London, most of them of South Asian origin, many of them women workers, put up a fight against the attack on terms and conditions, but, predictably, the world’s biggest airline catering companies LSG and Gate Gourmet came down hard on them and the trade union bosses weren’t much help.

Struggles in time and (aero)space

* LSG, Southall, 1998 – Strike ends in a lock-out

LSG tried to force their workers in Southall to sign new, worse contracts. The workers, most of them TGWU union members, had two ballots before taking official strike action. On the first day a decision by the court prevented them from going ahead. Management then sacked 200 workers on the second strike day and hired new ones. Only a few of the original workers got their jobs back, after months of symbolic pickets and legal show-fights. The TGWU union only gave lukewarm support to the workers – at the time the TGWU had thousands of members at Heathrow airport, but the union tactically decided not to call other workers out for support – they didn’t want to risk a confrontation with the law or the New Labour government at the time.

* Gate Gourmet, Southall, 2005 – Another hard strike

In the 1990s, British Airways (BA) outsourced work to Gate Gourmet. In August 2005 management wanted to enforce a worsening of conditions and one day brought in agency staff, seemingly replacing permanent workers. The old workers met up
to discuss what was happening
in the canteen and to protest. In response management sacked over 800 workers over the next two days. An unofficial walkout by BA ground staff – mainly baggage handlers – at Heathrow airport in solidarity with the Gate Gourmet workers resulted in a 48-hour airport shutdown. But the baggage handlers had to return to work – the TWGU union did not wan to be associated with ‘illegal’ support strikes. In the end the union told workers to sign contracts with worse conditions.

In both cases proper blockades of the gates would have been necessary. This might have been difficult at the time, but possible nowadays, as many people are fed up with low pay and zero-hours contracts and willing to come out in support. Similar disputes have happened around the globe, e.g. in Finland, where, in November 2013, around 400 LSG workers walked out over pay. The following day there were no warm meals on the Finnair flights. Management tried to increase pressure on the workers, but the airline workers’ union threatened to go on a support strike. The threat alone was enough to get management to agree to a better offer. An international coordination of disputes is possible.

Working at LSG in Southall

At the unit near Heathrow there are around 350 people working

Office: 60 (incl. HR, transport office, security)
Warehouse: 10 (shifts start from 6am, 8am to 12noon)
Carts: 30 (incl. some temp-workers from ASAP)
Kitchen: 100 (incl. training- kitchens for chefs)
Dish-room: 30 (cleaning trays etc.) Security: 20
Dispatch: 40 (incl. airport security) Cleaning/Canteen: 15
Drivers: 150

Warehouse: £8-9 (plus £12 p/w bonus
for fork-lift driving)
Dish-room/kitchen: £6.50 – £7
Dispatch: £8
Drivers: £10
Shop-floor-/Line Manager: £30,000 per year

* Divide and rule: Different pay and conditions for the same workforce

In the warehouse, only people with old contracts have sick pay and more paid holidays, double pay for working on their days off, time and a half for overtime. Everyone hired after the Alpha LSG merger in 2012 didn’t get these bonuses. In the warehouse half of the workers are on old, half on new contracts.

There are only a few temp-workers hired through the agency ‘ASAP’ – a quite significant local recruiter. One of them was offered a permanent contract after two months, but their pay and conditions hardly changed as a result, given that e.g. permanent workers in the dish-room or the cleaners are also on the minimum wage and zero-hour contracts.

There are between 40 – 50 flights a day. A big aeroplane takes up to 80 carts, filled with food, drinks etc. The flights are not regular enough to develop a proper routine, particularly in the warehouse. The volume of work goes up and down a lot, which means that overtime is announced at short notice.
Some drivers are on 8-hour, some on 12-hour shifts (for company internal transport). Some drivers were transferred to Alpha via Tupe, i.e. they should have retained their previous pay and conditions, but now they are not being given their correct holiday entitlements…the union is dragging their feet.

* A visit to LSG at Manchester airport

We spoke to Alpha LSG workers at the unit next to Manchester airport. In total there are around 200 workers (including kitchen, warehouse, drivers).
Workers inside the same warehouse have 38 different contracts!
90% of the older Alpha workers were transferred to an agency called GAS after their merger with LSG in 2012, and had to accept a wage cut. Management promised the same pay as LSG after two years, but wages are still at £6.70. After two-and- a-half years some people went to management and asked about getting the same pay, but management said that they haven’t given a written promise, so “what do you want?” GAS also doesn’t pay sick pay. Workers said that the union wasn’t doing much. One driver said that they’d had a pay offer of 0% this year (so that’s more like pay cut then?!) and that they were thinking about stopping working overtime. A difference to London LSG is that the drivers have mates, so there are always two people in a truck.

What can we do?

For the last 15 years, there has been cooperation between Alpha and American Airlines, but in mid-2015 there were problems due to delays and Alpha might lose the contract. In 2015 a smaller contract got lost and the airline then outsourced the work to a warehouse/catering unit across the street from Alpha LSG, a company called ‘Plane Catering’. This ‘loss’ was compensated by a different small contract coming in from another airline. The ‘loss of contract’ threat is used by management to put pressure on workers, but once workers of different airline caterers coordinate together, this pressure could be turned against management.

The way the LSG unit in Southall is organised makes it difficult for workers in different departments
to talk to each other at work. To overcome these divisions, a meeting outside of work would be helpful. What would it take for workers to reject the divisions imposed from above? What would it take for airline catering workers to find common cause with airline staff, many of whom have also been subject to worsening pay and conditions, as the recent Air France workers’ dispute demonstrates (those guys who ripped the shirt off their bosses back)?

If you want to meet and discuss how to go forward and/or send us your experience for the next issue, e-mail:

We live and work in Greenford and Park Royal. We think that workers, wherever they come from, are screwed over and should fight back together. We have to figure out how we can run this world without bosses, bankers, politicians and mind-numbing, boring jobs in the future. This newspaper is a means for us to exchange our experiences about conditions at work. We have to learn from other workers. No one else will do it for us. We are fed up hearing or saying: “Nothing can be done”, because a lot IS being done, the question is: “What works, what doesn’t?”

The newspaper is not (just) about words. We need a local network of workers who support each other: if someone doesn’t get their wages or has trouble with the job centre; if some of us are kicked out; if people need someone to leaflet their workplace or want creative ideas to undermine the management. For the struggle to survive and beyond. Do you need support? – Get in touch! And keep in touch – because others will need your support, too!

Other websites we find useful:

We try to distribute this paper once a month at following places – if you have other suggestions where
we could hand it out, let us know.
– Greenford Auriol Drive (amongst others, Sainsbury’s and Tesco warehouses)
– Park Royal (Bakkavor, Greencore, Premier Park)
– Royal Mail DC (Greenford and Princess Royal)
– Greenford Retail Park
– Ealing and Southall Job Centre
– Greenford Bus Depot

– to share your experience of your workplace (anonymously of course!)
– to write about a conflict at work and what the workers did in response – if it made a difference, or not
– if you need support for an action you want to do e.g. getting outstanding wages from the temp agency or distributing a leaflet outside your workplace
– if you like the newspaper and want to get involved!

Email us at:
Forum: https://forum. workerswildwest

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