Direct action gets the goods again, this time in London

An underpaying, exploitative restuarant boss in London was forced to pay a foreign kitchen porter his owed wages and also holiday pay when a picket arrived outside his restaurant, backed up by threats of legal action.

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on April 2, 2008

Cesare Copeta, an Italian national working seasonally in London, was employed by The Food Room, owners of The French Table restaurant in Surrey and the Tom Ilic restaurant in Battersea, which has been spotted listed in Time Out's Top 50 London restaurants.

He was employed as a kitchen porter at the Tom Ilic restaurant and had applied for the job through an advertisement in the Department of Work and Pension's Jobcentre Plus database.

He worked 50 hours over a 2 week period, but was then paid only £75. Having been paid only £1.50 per hour, he walked out of the job in disgust.

The South London local of the Solidarity Federation, of whom Mr Copeta was a member during his time in England, wrote to the boss setting out our member's legal entitlement to the National Minimum Wage, payment for wrongful dismissal and accrued holiday pay. A picket was also organised outside the restaurant at 6:30pm on Thursday 7th February. At the start of the picket, the employer agreed to pay the member his wages at a little over the rate set at the National Minimum Wage and has also paid the member's accrued holiday pay.

The South London local secretary, Mike Ward, said "The catering industry is riddled with long hours, low pay and shady practices. This is a far cry from the glamorous world of celebrity chefs. We are determined to help workers do something about the conditions they face."

Comments

Tacks

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tacks on April 3, 2008

that's great news.

But so many questions! First off, why on earth did he take a job paying £1.50 an hour thats insane! If he was politicaly, ecomically aware enough to have joined Solfed, an anarchosyndicalist group, how did the fact he was being paid 3.5 times less than the minimum wage sneak under his radar?

Secondly, if a business is doing something that illegal surely they face a lot more than simply paying back the difference?

Mike Harman

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mike Harman on April 3, 2008

He worked 50 hours over a 2 week period, but was then paid only £75. Having been paid only £1.50 per hour, he walked out of the job in disgust.

Sounds like he took a job, then didn't get paid properly. Not that he took a job at £1.50 an hour.

Tacks

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tacks on April 3, 2008

didn't think to check? and left 'in disgust'? surely someone with that political background would have done more than leave in disgust. I'm not having a go it just seems like this article could be a bit longer.

Submitted by Mike Harman on April 3, 2008

There's a difference between taking a job that pays £1.50 an hour, and taking a job which you think is going to be paid at x rate, then being given a paltry figure which works out at £1.50 an hour. Some people do work then never get paid - doesn't mean they should ask at the beginning of the job "are you actually going to pay me?".

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on April 3, 2008

Secondly, if a business is doing something that illegal surely they face a lot more than simply paying back the difference?

Out of interest, what do you suggest? The comrade's already returned to Italy btw.

Kattmannen

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Kattmannen on April 4, 2008

The guy was obviously a foreigner and therefore the boss thought he could get away with it. The threat of getting thrown out of the country is a powerful weapon that the employer has. Him being an Italian of course puts him in a much better situation than those who come from poor countries who spent their fortunes to get here, they keep their mouth shut because once thrown out of England it is too hard to get back and too expensive. All cred to SolFed for sticking up for their comrade!

And Tacks, your comment about not taking work that pays under minimum wage is mostly relevant for people who are in the system. If you are white, english speaking and entitled to wellfare of course you can to some extent pick and choose from jobs. Everyone has the opportunity to say no, but some people really do go hungry if they say no. This doesn't seem to be the case in this conflict but it is very often so, at least in Sweden illegal immigrants work at wages as low as 2,5£ but they have started to organize themselves so it looks like the circle of lowering wages could be broken.

Tacks

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tacks on April 4, 2008

Out of interest, what do you suggest? The comrade's already returned to Italy btw.

Well as i confirmned with one of your members when i had a chat yesterday, the restaurant is mos definitely liable to further legal ramifications for paying below the min wage, so you could grass them up for that.

However waht i also learned was the situation was sorted plus holiday pay there and then so there wouldn't be any need for that. I also learned that there is nothing illegal about cash in hand, which i was always unsure of - the only thing that is illegal is not declaring your earnings to the tax man* so if this happened to anyone else they shouldn't worry about legal problems for themselves as long as they were legally in the country.

*not me, IR

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 4, 2008

How do we know that it was the "direct action" part that got the goods, as opposed to the legal threat? I mean, it's not like the boss even raised any commotion once receiving the letter:

[SolFed] wrote to the boss setting out our member's legal entitlement [X]
At the start of the picket, the employer agreed to pay the member [a little above X]

The update seems to suggest that the boss was responding to the letter, rather than to any "direct action". I'd say the title is misleading, and should be changed into "legal action gets the goods, again." Not as compatible with SolFed's agenda, but facts are facts.

the button

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by the button on April 4, 2008

I'm guessing, but maybe it was a combination of the two. Would Cesare have got his backpay without the picket? Somehow, I doubt it. It seems to me that the SolFed here was doing a spot of "direct action casework" -- i.e. using the law as far as it goes, and then backing it up with a spot of direct action to put pressure on the employer.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 4, 2008

And what evidence do we have of this? It's not like they even claim that the employer refused to comply with the law before the picket. Just that he conceded to the legal demands as soon as the picket started.

the button

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by the button on April 4, 2008

It's true. It's a bit of backward step for working class self-organisation, tbh. I bet Cesare's gutted.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 5, 2008

Yeah, sure, whatever, glib ironic responses are all that's needed to excuse poorly formulated arguments and factual inaccuracy. :roll:

I'm very happy for Cesare, like I'd be happy for any worker who got what he wants from his boss, but this article isn't titled "SolFed helped worker get his legal rights," is it? It's claiming something more, something that's in line with class-struggle anarchy but isn't supported by the facts cited in the same damn article.

If you want to claim that direct action got some results, you better prove it was the direct action that got the result, not that there was direct action about to happen when the results occurred, otherwise you might as well say "prayer gets results" is someone happened to pray to Jesus for him to get his money.

the button

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by the button on April 5, 2008

Perhaps some sort of linear regression analysis could demonstrate the percentage of the outcome that was down to the letter, and how much was down to the direct action. xConnorx would be your man for this sort of thing -- I'm a bit rusty.

dashoflime

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by dashoflime on April 5, 2008

You will never ever find anyone admitting to have backed down to direct action. Thats what the legal stuff is for. Give them something face saving to back down to.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 5, 2008

You will never find any US president admitting to be a member of the Illuminati, either.

JoeMaguire

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by JoeMaguire on April 5, 2008

I cant believe the hair-splitting on this....some people are never happy.

Rob Ray

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on April 5, 2008

I don't mean to hair split, but I think it's important to make it clear that conspiracies about 13 bloodlines ruling the world via a vast masonic cult are kind of silly.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 5, 2008

I don't think it's hair-splitting. I think that people have to actually back their claims with evidence or arguments, not glib remarks and defensive banter. I'm not happy with a class struggle organization (or representatives/supporters thereof) using legal means to obtain concessions for a member --- which in itself is obviously a positive thing --- and then claiming that it was really the direct action what done it, without even seeing fit to back this up in any way in the same press release. I find that highly disingenuous.

Jason Cortez

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jason Cortez on April 7, 2008

Whilst i am sure the threat of legal action played a part in this (the whole point is to apply pressure on the employer after all) if they were really worried why did they not contact Cesare to offer him his wages before the picket?
We take the approach which is most likely to get the goods, the quickest. I don't really care whether you think it is direct action or not. You may not agreed with our preception of events, but I fail to see how we being disingenous. The picket was direct action as i see it, and as soon as it was put on, the employer caved. simple. And as to "It's not like they even claim that the employer refused to comply with the law before the picket", it is illegal to pay under the mimmum wage and no way did they not realise that £1.50 per hour was way below the legal limit get a grip!

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 7, 2008

Jason Cortez

I don't really care whether you think it is direct action or not.

You do seem to care enough to title the press release as "Direct action gets the goods", rather than "Direct action backed by legal threats" or "legal threats combined with direct action". It's important enough to star in the title, not important enough to back up by evidence?
Jason Cortez

And as to "It's not like they even claim that the employer refused to comply with the law before the picket", it is illegal to pay under the mimmum wage and no way did they not realise that £1.50 per hour was way below the legal limit get a grip!

Employers "wrongly balance the books" to screw you over all the time. I'm being done that right now, in fact. I think that it's a significant problem that the press release does not document the employer's response to the legal threat before the picket started. Did he ignore it for a significant while? Did he respond with a "fuck off I'm not a public company", like many private Israeli firms did when faced with legal threats from their employees` lawyers? If that was the case, then this isn't disingenuous, but a mere oversight. Otherwise, while I'm willing to accept that if he was in two minds about it, finding a picket at his doorstep might have tipped the scale towards paying, nevertheless, even then it's not the direct action what done it, it's direct action backed by legal threat, and that paints a different picture than the thread title does.
Jason Cortez

We take the approach which is most likely to get the goods, the quickest.

That's very sensible of you. Really, like I said, I've no quarrel with SolFed's tactics in this case, it's a matter of how they portray it. The thread isn't titled "Likeliest, quickest approach gets the goods" either.

Jason Cortez

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jason Cortez on April 7, 2008

Like i said i don't care what YOU want to call it. I can't believe the petty nonsense posted on this. You might be better off expanding your energy on beating your boss. I don't know what "wrongly balance the books" has to with it, the employer tried to stiff him for most of his wages, end of. I won't be wasting any more of my time, replying to your inane and somewhat anal remarks, about the title of the post.

Werther De Goethe

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Werther De Goethe on April 7, 2008

Well done solfed. To me what you did was direct action in its fullest sense. some anarchists are such pedants.

the button

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by the button on April 7, 2008

I take it the next time that treeofjudas posts his whiny "oh noes my boss is being nasty to me" shit on the boards, we can just advise him to take 100% certified real authentic direct action as the only principled route for an anarchist.

:D

Mike Harman

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mike Harman on April 7, 2008

I don't think he's complaining about the action itself, just its presentation. Given how many anarchists whine when the SWP inflates demo numbers, it seems fair to hold reporting of stuff from anarchist sources to as strict, or stricter standards. Having said that, the article itself says that it was a letter and picket combined, so I don't think it warrants this specific criticism at all.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 7, 2008

What catch said. You might want to look into your overly defensive responses, but then again why do that when you can just piss at someone else instead.

Catch, don't you think there's some information missing from this article for it to be properly titled "Direct action gets the goods?" Don't you think the title is a little bit misleading?

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 7, 2008

And I said, maybe, three or four times that I think SolFed acted well in this case, I just don't like how it was presented. Someone reading the title wouldn't know there was any legal action involved. I think if you people are its representatives then it's taking criticism quite poorly, but it's not something not seen before on these boards. (Re: NEFAC). Makes me wonder whyever would anyone be anti-organizational. :roll:

Rob Ray

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on April 8, 2008

Well no, because Direct Action did get the goods. Headining is not the art of saying the entire story in five words, it's the art of making people notice your piece by highlighting a story's most important or noteworthy aspect (the 'sting').

To take an example, if you're headlining a man getting jailed for pouring lighter fluid over his head and threatening to set fire to himself, you don't write that out in full for the headline, it's too clunky and cumbersome. Instead you write:

Headline - "Jail for man who threatened self-immolation" (or even shorter, just "Man threatened self-immolation")
First par - "A prison sentence has been handed to a man who poured lighter fluid over himself in front of his girlfriend's house and threatened to light it after a domestic argument."

All the relevant information is thus prominently displayed, with the eye drawn in the first place by a snappy and accurate headline explained more fully below. That's pretty much standard across the entire newspaper industry, and it's what this article does perfectly well.

Mike Harman

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mike Harman on April 8, 2008

I think the phrase "direct action gets the goods" is hackneyed in general, but the headline itself is no more misleading than many other headlines. (edit: as Saii put more eloquently)

Having said that, I agree solfed members could've just dealt with the criticism rather than strawmanning, which isn't very appealing.

Caiman del Barrio

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on April 8, 2008

Having said that, I agree solfed members could've just dealt with the criticism rather than strawmanning, which isn't very appealing.

To be honest, I don't really understand what Treeofjudas et al hope to achieve anyway. I mean, this isn't Libcommunity where you can all fart away your spare time, you're fussing over a news article that will be the first point of contact for many people of this site. Bear in mind that this article will (hopefully) appear on Google searches for the restuarant name, Time Out's restuarant guide, and also searches for workplace activity amongst kitchen workers in London. if you don't care about how it appears to people who read it cos you're a long way away and this site is essentially a hobby that's fine, but don't expect members of the organisation involved in the struggle to be so relaxed about it.

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 8, 2008

Saii: The headline is suppose to include the most relevant facts. It is highly relevant that it seems like the direct action was only a small part of what was done (which, again, could be wrong, I don't know all of the facts, and neither would anyone reading this news article).

Alan: I was expecting that the news article be edited to add a few relevant facts showing that direct action was a significant part of what got the goods, as it were, or maybe an argument or two to that effect.

As it stands, if I were to read the article, I wouldn't title it "direct action gets the goods", for the reasons I've already repeatedly stated. If someone not initially positively disposed towards class struggle anarchists/libertarian communists/whatever were to read this news article, having arrived at it, as you say, through a google search or whatnot, they may well be puzzled at this discrepancy, presume that this is yet another leftist organization with an agenda (Direct Action (tm)) bigging itself up for no good reason, and move on. Looking at a bunch of Friends of SolFed standing on their hind-legs and frothing at the mouth wouldn't give them a positive impression either.

Of course, the most important thing here is that this incident not reflect poorly on SolFed. I suggest that I, being the offending party, be purged, and all records of my crimes removed, for the sake of the Federation. :eek: It's been a good life...

Rob Ray

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on April 8, 2008

No it's supposed to highlight the most relevant or interesting bit, as I just pointed out, with examples to show why. Direct action is both rarer and more interesting than legal action, so it's fine to focus on that first, as long as you clarify in the next sentence. The piece may not be perfect, but it's not disingenous, it explains that legal action was part of it in the first sentence of the story.

Sticking your fingers in your ears and saying 'I'm right you're wrong' when you haven't got a leg to stand on is just silly.

And stop acting like some sort of wounded angel who's being picked on by all the nasty solfedders, you raised a pedantic point which was shown to be inaccurate, and various people got pissed off when you refused to acknowledge you'd been an arse. Get over it.

the button

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by the button on April 9, 2008

I'd also like to point out that I'm not a member of the SolFed. I just don't like dickheads. :)

Tojiah

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tojiah on April 9, 2008

Saii: It's not inaccurate and your explanations are really insufficient. What pissed me off in this interchange is the straw-manning, not anyone proving me wrong. If someone had written that same article and titled it "legal action gets the goods", you and pretty much anyone on this site would be all over it for pushing a reformist agenda. Sorry, not buying it, but since nobody's interested in my criticism, I guess there's not much more for me to expect from this discussion, is there?

the button: If you say so. I don't like people who erect straw-men instead of arguing with the other person's position, but I guess what I like or don't like is just an illusion in my mind..

Rob Ray

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on April 9, 2008

What pissed me off in this interchange is the straw-manning, not anyone proving me wrong.

In which case, why didn't you stop posting about a page ago?

If someone had written that same article and titled it "legal action gets the goods", you and pretty much anyone on this site would be all over it for pushing a reformist agenda.

Actually I wouldn't have cared, a win is a win (though I would have thought it was a bit weird that they went with the most boring headline possible).

What this article set out to do was show that where legal action on its own is inadequate, direct action can get the goods. It's not straw manning, it's not a misleading headline. Swallow your pride, stop arguing a losing case, and move on with your life.

JoeMaguire

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by JoeMaguire on April 9, 2008

Alan is pretty much bang on, the 'exchange' on here as bored me to tears, I am a member of Solfed and I find it pretty shitty that when some of my comrades do good work they have to defend it in the most ridiculous manner - fuck wonders why people bother reporting any action at all if it gets dissected out of any meaning like this.

Tacks

16 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Tacks on April 17, 2008

would solfed be up for doing the same for anyone who'd been paid below the inimum wage, cash in hand....?

martinh

15 years 12 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by martinh on April 17, 2008

Hi Tacks,

Yes, in principle we would be up for doing similar things. We would want to discuss the case with the person involved first and explore any avenues for them solving it collectively, though.

Regards,

Martin