Wednesday, 15 April 2015


On the 20-22 April the STUC Congress will be meeting in Ayr. The theme of this year's Congress is Decent Work and Dignified Lives. In the run up to Congress this blog will host a series of articles prepared by STUC affiliated unions. These articles reflect the positions and priorities of our affiliates and are designed to give a flavour of the disparate work that the trade union movement is undertaking in pursuit of decent work and dignified lives.

As we approach the General Election and the political parties try to entice voters with promises of better times ahead, we should be looking at exactly what it means for working people. Promising an end to zero hour contracts, abolishing the bedroom tax or advertising that “we need a pay rise”, mean nothing if they are wrapped up in austerity measures and cuts to workers’ rights. So when it comes to putting your “X” in the box, you should first ask those seeking your support, what measures they support and what are they going to do about improving the lot of working people. In particular what are they going to do about giving young people an equal standing in society, instead of the merry-go-round of unemployment, workfare schemes, low pay and every other type of exploitation imaginable.

The BFAWU like all other unions are committed to pursuing a fair deal for young people both in the workplace and society in general. To this end, the BFAWU along with other sympathetic organisations and individuals, have launched the Fast Food campaign alongside the “Hungry for Justice” campaign. This multi- faceted approach linked to similar campaigns in many countries around the world sees us targeting the big fast food companies who use youth rates as a means to keep pay low.

We understand that a young person starting out as an apprentice electrician or a plumber is not going to be paid the same as a qualified tradesperson, but wages should rise incrementally as skills are learned. The problems with some of the household name fast food joints is that they take on young people on below £3 per hour, not because they are learning an apprenticeship with skills that will last them a lifetime, but because they are cheaper than Minimum Wage rates and easily replaced from the reservoir of exploited young people created by subsequent Governments.

Besides the obvious, what is the difference between a 16 year old and a 60 year old flipping burgers, making coffee or preparing sandwiches? The answer is the pay difference. But when it comes to employing staff to do these jobs the blatancy of these companies to the fore as they employ the young person, whether it is on an apprenticeship or a juvenile Minimum Wage rate, because they are cheap labour.

As a Movement we have to be forceful in our insistence that the politicians we elect irrespective of the colour of their rosette, have to commit to cutting youth unemployment, introducing meaningful protections that end exploitation, an end to the use of youth rates to drive down pay, an end to free labour schemes like workfare and the adoption of the Living Wage irrespective of age, capability or geographical location. 

We are a strong Movement when we unite and together we can put an end to young people spiralling into the abyss of poverty and give them hope of an equal standing in both the workplace and in society.

Ronnie Draper
General Secretary
Bakers, Food & Allied Workers’ Union

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