We publish here three short letters in which young workers in different sectors explain the conditions they face in the workplace. It is clear that young people across the country are forced to endure enormous exploitation and insecurity. The leaders of the labour movement need to take bold steps to organise young workers and guarantee decent pay and conditions for all.
I work on a zero-hours contract in the NHS. This means that when I get sick or have to take time off for other reasons I don’t get paid or looked after by my employer. This poses serious risks for the health, both mental and physical, of me and my colleagues.
Loads of the people I work with are single mothers and people who struggle to make ends meet. We take these precarious jobs because they pay slightly above average, and we have no choice but to risk our health and job security to earn enough money to make it to the end of the month. The NHS takes advantage of us while we’re in this situation, to avoid the cost of the benefits related to a secure job.
I work with patients suffering from mental illness. Insecure jobs means a high turnover of staff, which negatively impacts the patients who need stability in their treatment. Also, a permanent number of new staff who are not familiar with the workplace means that more mistakes tend to be made, plus the fact that we don’t get paid for training means staff lack the training required. Under these intolerable conditions mistakes are inevitable. We get blamed, but in reality it’s a problem of privatisation in the NHS, which is a symptom of capitalism in a deep crisis.
There’s huge pressure on us not to “waste the resources of the NHS”, as if we’re responsible for the lack of resources in the healthcare system. When slimy politicians use the NHS as a political football (remember the £350m NHS Brexit bus?) while cutting funding and the number of staff in wards, it’s not our fault when patients, staff and the NHS as a whole is struggling just to tread water.
We’re not just employees of the NHS, we, like everyone else, are also its patients. We won’t stand by while our health becomes the victim of a bankrupt capitalist system.
by Emily Francesca, Bristol Marxists
My work-life balance as a newly qualified teacher is non-existent. As austerity cuts are implemented, staff are shed from schools and the additional work load lands with teachers. If I work less than 55 hours a week I’m lucky. But if I don’t do this unpaid overtime it’s the poorest, most vulnerable children in society who suffer, a fact faced by anyone who works at the coal face of public services.
Young workers are acutely aware of their unpaid over-time, unstable contracts and low pay; issues that are directly tied to the drive for profit. As long as private profit exists, businesses will continue to squeeze hours from workers for lower pay.
We shouldn’t put up with this any more! Why should business owners claim the profits whilst everyone else struggles? We need to fight to take control of major businesses to spend their profits to benefit everyone. We need to fight to overthrow capitalism! We have to fight to bring about socialism and allow people to enjoy their lives instead of working away their free time!
by Natasha Sorrell, NUT Sheffield (personal capacity)
60% of academic staff in Britain scrape by on casual contracts, myself included. Before starting as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) at King’s College London I received four hours of training (which involved watching the Monty Python ‘Spanish Lesson’ sketch as an example of ‘poor teaching practice’) before I was thrust in front of an overcrowded room of undergraduates, feeling like a total fraud.
The way my pay is calculated means that I work about 80% of my hours for free. However, a recent campaign we ran through the UCU will result in some improvements for casuals next year: we might only work half our hours for free. Meanwhile, our Principal earns £452,000 a year: that’s where your student fees are going. Expropriate the fat-cat bosses and reinvest in teaching!
by Joe Attard, KCL Marxists