Unfortunately, management apparently haven't realised yet that people can.t be bullied into being well.

Despite the headline in the last Catalyst, Tesco carries on oppressing its workers regardless! The recent moves by Tesco to axe sick pay heralds the beginning of yet another attack on workers. rights. Tesco makes £4.4 million profit every day, yet the bosses have decided this isn't enough, and they are axing sick pay in some stores, and testing other schemes to stamp out the ‘sickie' once and for all. Where Britain's biggest retailer leads, others are expected to follow, and worse still, the shopworkers union, USDAW, which represents about half of Tesco's 220,000 workers, is co-operating with the plan.

Instead of looking at why workers take time off, usually through low morale caused by crappy pay and conditions, the bosses typically label us .shirkers. and try to cause divisions in the workforce. One scheme, introduced in two new stores in the south, doesn't even make any sense. What happens is that workers get no pay at all for the first three days off sick, but after the fourth day they start getting paid again, with compensation for the first three days. So, if you are feeling a bit shit one morning you might as well take four days off instead of one, otherwise you will lose pay. Of course, inevitably, the next step will be to insist on a doctor.s certificate rather than a selfcertificate.

They have targeted new stores because they know if they tried it on existing workers they would have breached contract rules. Still, if they like it, no doubt it will be slowly introduced. After all, it is unlikely that individual workers on low salaries will successfully take a large employer to an employment tribunal, especially if their own union has backed the scheme.

Another store, Asda, which employs 130,000 people in 265 shops, says it offers incentives to reward low absenteeism. Again, this is divisive and means people will come into work when they are not fit, thus compromising their own health and the health and safety of their co-workers.

Meanwhile, that mainstay of workers rights, the Royal Mail, has announced a new incentive scheme for staff who are not ill over the next six months. They will be rewarded by being entered into a prize draw to win a car or a holiday. While I wouldn.t refuse such a prize, it hardly does anything to address the real problems of morale and sickness within the industry.

However, the main point is that this prize idea was given publicity, but what is less well-known is that, for people who aren't would-be prize-winners, there are plans to bully and harass them back to work, even when they are genuinely sick. People are being forced to phone up daily and long-term sick people are being forced into interviews. Unfortunately, management apparently haven't realised yet that people can.t be bullied into being well.

Workers in all sectors need to be aware of this new battleground that the bosses are going to try to exploit. Whether your union is co-operating or opposing a new sickness scheme, in the end it is down to the collective strength of the workers as to whether these schemes come into operation or not.

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