The great supermarket swindle

The great supermarket swindle

A brief look at the supermarket plot to dispense of the services of a large percentage of their workers. Where are USDAW is all of this? They are sat in board rooms, chasing peerages, and brown nosing the bosses.

Have you ever used the self-service checkouts in a supermarket? If so, please consider the following.
What is the main purpose of ‘employment’ and ‘work’? For me, it is to ensure that people and their families can live and lead a certain lifestyle. For the boss class its purpose is to ensure their businesses are a success, and to enable them to grow rich and live extravagant lives. If you agree with my view on work, then I would urge you never to use a self-service checkout again!

Supermarkets has introduced these hideous inventions for the sole purpose of replacing workers, and in time, they would like to completely rid themselves of checkout operators altogether. There are around 500,000 supermarket workers in the UK, at least 40% of these will work on a checkout as their main role, whilst a proportion of the rest will work on a checkout at some point during their working week. Supermarkets claim that they will need one member of staff to supervise five self- service checkouts. Once implemented fully this could mean the reduction in over 200,000 jobs in the supermarket sector. Be in absolutely no doubt that this is the medium to long term aim of the supermarkets.

The checkout machines are scab workers, they are brought in on no wages, they will never be off sick, do not need holidays, will not require maternity leave, and will not unionise, and are more than prepared to work twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. Each one will mean the loss of several full and part time jobs. In the future,
I am not a technophobe, and generally technology should be embraced, and used to enhance the workers experience, but never to replace a worker completely. I enjoy human contact and speaking to someone when shopping, this cannot be replaced by a machine. In the future, I can see the only people that supermarkets employ are security guards, because everything will become self-service.

I cannot think of any other industry or sector, were such a flagrant intent to get rid of workers and replace them with machines would have led to absolutely no resistance from a trade union. What exactly do USDAW do? They should be fighting tooth and nail for the workers interests, rather than brown-nosing boards of directors with their damaging and divisive ‘partnership’ agreements, and dreaming of a peerage.

Please show some solidarity with the supermarket workers, and do not use the self-service checkouts, and ask yourself, could you ever be replaced by a machine?

Posted By

working class s...
Nov 17 2011 10:11


Attached files


Nov 17 2011 15:27

Good post man, didn't Usdaw do fuck all as well when the Tesco in Salford told it's staff to work during the riots/ clean up for free or something?

What the boss class don't tell you about self-service checkouts... tongue

Nov 17 2011 15:27

You should be shopping at a farmer's market anyway.

working class s...
Nov 17 2011 16:40

Yes, TESCO would not send their staff home during the riots in Salford. They were all terrified, and the police had to instruct TESCO to shut and send home the staff. When they returned to work they were told that they would not be getting paid for being sent home and they would need to make up the hours.

Good clip

Nov 17 2011 18:20

Now, I'm no fan of USDAW (or trade unions in general), however there is very little workers can usually do to fight technological changes which replace their jobs. Simply because the amounts of money they save are so huge that it would be pretty much impossible to mount strike action which would cost the employer a comparable amount.

Just look at the global auto industry, for example. These workers were very militant, and well-organised in many areas but could not resist automation.

Ditto train drivers on the Paris Metro (replaced by driverless trains).

The really sad thing is that really these checkouts, like all laboursaving technology, should actually improve workers' lives. Basically they mean that a load of soul destroying, pointless work can be eliminated (because who the hell would work on a Tesco checkout if they didn't have to) and it should mean that there is less work to go around for everyone. But in a capitalist society instead of that it just means loads of people get thrown onto the scrapheap, and the rest of this have our wages pushed down by the now-reduced demand for labour.

There aren't really any measures short of replacing capitalism which can solve this problem in the short term.

In the here and now, trying to get consumers to boycott the self-service checkouts I think is a dead-end. I don't want to spend any more time in supermarket than I have to, and for many proletarians these checkouts offer increased opportunity to expropriate from the bourgeoisie. For example, just the other day I ran through a red onion, as a normal onion! black bloc That's communisation right there. So there is a very minor silver lining

Feb 18 2012 00:09
Steven. wrote:
these checkouts offer increased opportunity to expropriate from the bourgeoisie. For example, just the other day I ran through a red onion, as a normal onion! black bloc That's communisation right there.

Feeling this wink

I understand where Matthew's coming from but ultimately I think Steven's right here.

Feb 18 2012 14:59

These machines are just a small part of 'self-service' technology extending accross the whole commercial sector, both replacing workers previously employed in relevant roles but also at the same time involving worker-consumers doing part of the relevant work themselves in their so-called 'spare time'!!

A friend of mine does boycott these machines as a matter of principle but I think it's probably a losing battle in so far as younger people are effectively brought up with this way of operating accross all sectors of industry from education to home entertainment.

Supermarkets are already a long way from the earlier social meeting places of local markets and designed for fast consumer throughput.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 18 2012 19:51

Sorry, but if anyone boycotts the self-service machines in my local Tesco I get furious, especially if I'm a) on my way to or b) returning from work. It's a ridiculous suggestion. It's not our place to reject technological advances, leave that to the nostalgia market on the left.

Feb 19 2012 18:01


Well it's not me that's boycotting them but your glib comment seems to suggest that you regard 'technological advances' in capitalist society as somehow entirely beneficial or at best nuetral?

If it is on the contrary the case that 'technology' today is shaped specifically by capitalist social relations and advances under the influence of competition and class struggle, then it is difficult to see how opposition to capitalism cannot involve some level of opposition to, or at least subversion of, such technology.

Your comment suggests you are internalising the capitalist time machine to an extent where your anger is being diverted against other 'worker-consumers' rather than the bosses and their system.

Or are you just jesting?

Chilli Sauce
Feb 19 2012 18:27

I'm basically agreeing with Steven and Choccy here, but yeah, I used to try to boycott these things myself. I think that's really problematic though as--and I'm not suggesting that WCSO you're doing this intentionally--it places the onus on the customer to combat capitalism.

I don't think boycotts are without their place (a very limited place), but us boycotting self-scan is tokenistic at best. And, as for USDAW or any other trade union, the fightback is gonna have to come from the workers--no matter the issue. I mean, we should criticise the trade unions, but that criticism should be structural. I guess what I'm saying is that we shouldn't actually expect them take up militant fights and, with the realisation, it should change how we understand (and hopefully initiate) struggle.

jef costello
Feb 19 2012 21:07

Why would you be angry about someone not using the machines?

I personally don't use them because I don't like the fact that they take away jobs. I used to use them before they put the weighing machines etc into them so that you could get buy one get one free wink

Plus they are so fucking annoying I usually end up kicking the fucking things anyway. They won't let you use your own bags, jam if you buy more than can fit into one bag, or decide that maybe you don't want to put a cans in the same bag as peaches etc.

Feb 20 2012 04:20

Sometimes if the checkout assistants are too busy they will just cancel items that are already on the scales and you can get away with free stuff, I've seen others have that happen to them. Also like Steven says you can pass off most veg as cheap onions, also you sometimes they generally malfunction and give you the wrong price (for better or worse) and you can whistle if it's for worse. Also sometimes people leave money in them.

And finally, the people who work there seem to enjoy many of those things about them too, that's why I've overheard plenty of the staff at my local sainsburies talking about their rich pickings from them, you might as well make the best of a bad situation seeing as there's no way of resisting the scab machines, unless you can open them and beat the dwarf operating it to death.