Papa John’s workers in Sheffield have won a huge victory against a local franchise owner and have finally been paid their stolen wages.
The workers had not been paid for shifts worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. One worker at the pizza takeaway and delivery company reported that as a result of stolen wages he was working “80, 90 hours a week...and got paid less than minimum wage”.
Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise (SNAP) has identified that this is a wide scale issue, with at least two million workers in Britain losing over £3 billion in unpaid wages every year.
In response to this wage theft, the workers and SNAP organised a solidarity action to demand they be paid. The action drew the support of around 50 people, with many passers by joining in.
Chants included demands for a £15 per hour wage and for unionisation, along with an end to union busting at Papa John’s and at other employers in the city.
Hungry for action
As a result of this high energy mobilisation and sustained pressure on the boss, the workers – supported by BFAWU (Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union) and SNAP – received their stolen wages. This sends a strong message to employers across Sheffield and beyond that workers will not tolerate mistreatment and exploitation any longer.
This campaign shows there is a clear hunger amongst precarious layers of young and minimum-wage workers for bold action from the trade unions. There can be no more fence-sitting and cosying up with bosses.
Unemployment is set to soar by the end of this year, as the furlough scheme is withdrawn and economic depression sets in. Some forecasts predict that around four million could be unemployed in Britain.
Workers should be organising and pressuring their unions to take action against the bosses, who are looking to place the burden for this crisis onto our shoulders.
Such mobilisation and initiatives should be multiplied and replicated across all industries and sectors. Activists must push the unions in this direction and increasingly seek to organise precarious workers, who without a union are just raw material for exploitation.
Demand the whole pizzeria!
Many are seeing that business as usual is a dead end. Capitalism cannot provide a decent life for our class. The trade unions must not accept ‘the new normal’. Instead, they should be leading a militant struggle against the bosses, to fight for a system that will provide all workers with security and dignity.
Wage theft is a common and blatant way that the bosses steal from us on a daily basis. But this is only one part of a bigger problem. All of their profits come from the unpaid labour of the working class. And it is this system of exploitation that needs to be brought to an end if workers are ever going to get what they deserve.