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All you need is direct action!

Thu, 18/06/2015 - 15:31

You quit your job and your former employer refuses to pay what he owes you? That sounds familiar. And it is exactly what happened to A. and D. who had been working in the kitchen of a Hanover pub. After quitting their job, they were expecting £371 and £287 in holiday entitlement and unpaid shifts. Of course, the former employer, who owns a couple of other businesses around Brighton, started to make up all sorts of excuses in order to avoid having to pay. And, eventually, she stopped replying to A and D requests.

This was the moment when the two workers got in touch with SolFed. Together we prepared the demand letter and the workers themselves, supported by several SolFed members handed it in to the pub's manager. The manager came out with the usual excuse: “There's nothing I can do about it, I am not the owner”. A and D asked the manager to forward the demand letter to her and then we left. By the time our deadline ran out, we had not heard back from the pub. No reply at all, no contact. This is another strategy that the bosses particularly like: to ignore you. To pretend the issue does not exist and eventually make you feel a lonely, unjustified troublemaker. However solidarity is a force more powerful than capital and they were about to find it out.

On Valentine's Day 2015, the day after the deadline expired, roughly fifteen people stood at the entrance of the pub, together with A and D, handing out leaflets describing what was going on to the people from the area, raising the flag of anarcho-syndicalism on the pub's terrace and peacefully convincing potential customers to turn back and consume somewhere else. Very soon it got pretty empty in the pub, with noone left but the staff. Not surprisingly, when the picket was over we had to wait just a couple of hours to hear from the boss. She was suddenly available to listen to A and D. The workers asked for a meeting and the owner accepted, but she totally rejected the idea of SolFed members attending the meeting, even if she had no right to do so. Anyway A and D accepted the condition as sign of good will. However few minutes before the meeting the boss communicated to us that she had changed her mind and was not going to show up. A and D wrote her their disappointment, stating once again their demands and making clear that we would be back to picket pretty soon.

Eventually that was not necessary: she paid up in the very next days, except for a tiny amount,  owed to A. This is another classic situation: if they fail in their attempt to keep your money and get away with that, they try to steal a smaller amount from you , in order to make not worth for you to take any action for it. However A did not give up on that and kept on constantly demanding that money.
Finally, in less than a week from the first, and only, picket both the workers had received the whole amount which was owed them, while their attempt to solve the grievance amicably had gone on for months.

A and D have been a clear example of workers emancipation, not just because they decided to react, which is already difficult enough in our society, but also due to the way they managed the dispute. They have been directly responsible for their dispute, organizing, coordinating, choosing the strategy and keeping the relations with the boss and the management. The only thing they needed was to know that they were not alone, that they were not fighting against how the things work in our society on their own. And they found people willing to fight on their side, people moved by the simple reason that this was the right thing to do.



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