Tag Archives: tesco

Why won’t people work for nothing?

Carl Cooper, 26, owns his own business – Car Smart UK in Canterbury, and had what must have seemed at the time to be a very bright idea.

It’s a real problem for a small business. You got a good idea, there’s a demand for it, you put in a lot of hours building up your business, but there are only so many hours in the day, you cannot be two places at once, you can’t talk on the phone to two different car dealerships simultaneously, you need more people. But the moment you bring new people in, the whole situation changes.

One big problem which does not occur to many people in Carl Cooper’s situation: you can be very good at running your own business but an absolutely terrible manager. But the cashflow problem is something you just can’t ignore.

Even if you just pay your new employee minimum wage, they’ve got to bring the company – that is, you! – a minimum of £4000 each quarter (allowing for 25% over the cost of their wages) just to break even. The chances are that even if you advertise for someone who can “hit the ground running”, an employee’s first few weeks will not be their most productive – they’re learning the job, learning what you expect of them. But you still need to pay them. Then if they’re telesales workers, you’ve got to rent more office space, buy the desks, get phones and phone lines and computers and all – huge expense, and their wages are really just the last straw, because you’ve got to pay them that whether they’re any good or not….

Imagine a little light-bulb coming on over Carl Cooper’s head. Continue reading

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North Fort Street. 5.45pm. Police.

Fort House with police cars from North Fort Street

This evening about 5:45, on North Fort Street (about 200 meters from Ferry Road) I saw three police cars. Two on the corner by Fort House, one on the facing corner by Lapicide Place. And at least five police. They were all gone about an hour later, established by cunning investigative journalism (ie I texted someone who I knew would be walking home about that time and asked).

Anyone got any idea what was going on there?

This has been your hyperlocal news query.

In other news, David Cameron does not know the difference between a month spent shelfstacking in Tescos and a month studying at university, which suggests his time at Oxford was totally wasted, as was he.

“We see this in the debate on education, put a young person into college for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s hailed as a good thing. Put a young person into a supermarket for a month’s learning, unpaid – and it’s slammed as slave labour.”

David Cameron was that student you see wandering dazed around the supermarket, staring thoughtfully at the text on the back of tins of baked beans. He was “learning”. I wonder what his essays were like?

“Bibble babble TOMATO KETCHUP.”

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Good show, Tesco. Good show, what?

I say: those lovely people at Tesco have realised that it is wrong to employ people for nothing, who are showing up to work not because they’ll get paid but because if they don’t they’ll lose their benefits. (Turns out there were questions raised about this by the House or Lords in April 2011.)

Tesco: What my mom thinks I do

So Tesco have decided…
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The ideology of workfare

On 9th February, Tesco in East Anglia posted a job on the DirectGov JobCentrePlus website, looking for someone on JSA to work the night shift. On 3rd March, there’s a National Day of Action against workfare.

The basic details (should you wish to apply) are
Job No: BSD/27442; Hours: TBC; Location: EAST ANGLIA IP32 (this is the 24-hour superstore at Bury St Edmunds). Duration: Permanent. Pension details: No details held. Description: Interviews as part of SBWA, dates and times to be arranged by the store. Contact Amanda Evans at Tesco.

Wage: JSA+Expenses

Tesco will pay you nothing if you apply, Continue reading

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Resist the supermarkets

When supermarkets come to town, they wreck local businesses, set up a flow of money out of the community, increase traffic, and generally act like bullies who think they’re too big to fall. They make use of workfare labourers to save themselves hiring temp workers in rush periods, they override planning permission, and once they’ve shut down all the local “competition”, you can’t even boycott them, because where else can you shop?

When was the last time you read something really radical in the Guardian?

What is to be done? Oddly enough, perhaps one mad answer lies in the other Tesco-related story of the week. Just possibly – and obviously entirely unwittingly – shoplifting chef Antony Worrall Thompson has suggested an act of civil disobedience. If a critical mass of shoppers were to decide to do a Wozza for moral reasons, then the robotic scanners would become less economically viable than human checkout workers. Pilfering from Tesco would become a political act. – Marina Hyde in the Guardian

*sings* You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Because: You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement.

Except in honour of the man who inspired it all perhaps it ought to be You can get anything you want at AWT’s Restaurant.

After all, since Tesco had approved Bob Robbins, head of Tesco’s UK stores, making £47,450 by selling Tesco shares when he had insider information that their value was going to drop, you’d have to steal an awful lot of cheap cheese to even approach the kind of shady dealing that Tesco’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, says was just fine: Robbins sold 50,000 shares for £202,250 just 3 days before they dropped so substantially in value, for “necessary family expenditure”, and haven’t we all had Christmases like that?

Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer:

It’s probably not a good idea to break the law and helping yourself to items from Tesco’s deli counter isn’t to be recommended. But when the chief operating officer sells his shares eight days before last week’s profits warning, netting himself £200,000, isn’t that a bit obvious and offensive too? The company has defended Bob Robbins’s actions. Of course. But there are some who say pocketing £200,000 is a greater offence than taking a tub of reduced-for-quick-sale coleslaw. That Phil Clarke’s multimillion pound bonus somewhat overshadows the price of a packet of cheese.

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Slave labour is inefficient

One of the most consistent complaints that slave overseers make about their unpaid labourers is that they are lazy and inefficient workers. This is usually put down to a failing in the character of the slave. Sometimes it is argued that if the business making use of the slaves is itself efficient and well-run, the slave labour will be efficient and profitable. Specific examples of this argument have been refuted.

Workfare is not (yet) slave labour. Chris Grayling is right to argue that if someone has been on the dole for 12 months, then it can only help to have 8 weeks of work experience.

The scheme is designed to get young, unemployed people into the workplace for up to eight weeks of work experience. One of the young people you interview says: “I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does”, but the placements are not long enough to be a replacement for permanent staff. However, they are long enough for a jobseeker to impress an employer and, at the very least, to leave with a good reference and some practical experience.

Grayling goes on to adjure “let’s not be snobbish about this – plenty of people have started on the bottom rung and climbed their way to the top”.
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Chris Grayling recommends slave labour

Chris Grayling MPChris Grayling, Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell, is rather proud of the thousands of young people obliged to be shelf-stackers in Poundland and Tesco for no pay, in order to retain their JSA benefit:

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that if jobseekers “express an interest” in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period or face having their benefits docked.

Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and have to be available from 9am to 10pm.

In three such cases jobseekers also claim they were not told about the week’s cooling-off period, and that once they showed a willingness to take part in the scheme they were told by their case manager they would be stripped of their £53- a-week jobseekers allowance (JSA) if they backed out. Guardian, 15th November 2011

All you have to do is say “yes, I’m interested in work experience” – as who wouldn’t be? – and then you’re stacking shelves in a superstore, at no cost to the superstore, with the threat that if you don’t comply, your benefit gets docked.

Some figures to be considered.

£53 per week is what a young person on JSA has to live on. Even paid at the apprentice rate, a person working for 35 hours a week ought to be paid £91 – and 8 weeks shelfstacking is not rightly an apprenticeship for anything. A jobseeker over 20, should legally be paid £212.80 for their week’s work.

But Tesco and Poundland and the other companies taking advantage of Chris Grayling’s workfare don’t have to pay that; they get these workers for free, and they aren’t allowed to withdraw their labour or they lose even the £53 they have to live on.

Chris Grayling is MP and Minister for Employment. Contact details here. His basic salary is £134,565 per year: over twelve times what those jobseekers working in superstores ought to get paid on minimum wage, and close to 50 times what they actually do get.

But that’s not all. Chris Grayling also has access to the most extensive and unsupervised expenses scheme.

Within weeks of first being elected in 2001, he bought a flat in a six-storey block for £127,000. In 2002, he set up an unusual arrangement with the Parliamentary Fees Office, claiming £625 a month for mortgages on two separate properties, both the main home [in Ashtead - 17 miles or an hour by train from the House of Commons] and the new flat in Pimlico. This is usually against the rules, but Mr Grayling negotiated an agreement because he was unable to obtain a 100% mortgage on the London flat that he had bought.

That “arrangement” went on for 4 years, until 2006, during which time Chris Grayling claimed per month for his mortgage more than five times the jobseeker’s allowance in 2011.

Nor was this all. In the summer of 2005, after the May general election, evidently sure of his MP expenses now for another four or five years, Chris Grayling decided to have his flat refurbished. He was already claiming £15,000 a year for his flat in Pimlico and his house in Ashstead, 17 miles apart – it would have cost the taxpayer less to pay for a day return from Ashtead into London at peak rate, every day of the month, than to pay for a second mortgage in a London flat – but he wasn’t satisfied with that. In the financial year ending March 2006, Grayling claimed £9000 for refurbishment costs for that flat. That’s over three times more than the total paid to someone on jobseeker’s allowance in an entire year. It would take someone on minimum wage 42 weeks to earn, gross pay, what Grayling claimed between June 2005 and March 2006 – for the flat which mortgage he wasn’t paying for.

£24,000 is the maximum an MP is allowed to claim for their second home per year – over eight times as much as a person on JSA gets to live on: £8,000 more a year than the national median household income in the UK. It’s a nice little bonus in itself, as the living places bought using the second home allowance are the personal property of the MP – for Chris Grayling, who owns several flats on a “buy to let” basis, it’s an excellent addition to his properties in London.

But Chris Grayling wasn’t satisfied with that: He spread the costs for the refurbishment of the Pimlico property over two financial years.

This effectively allowed him to spread the costs over two years – whereas he would have been unable to claim all the costs in the 2005-06 financial year. For example, in June 2006, Mr Grayling submitted an invoice for £3,534 for service and maintenance on his block of flats, which included a service charge of £1,148 and a “balance brought forward” of £1,956. … In July 2006, Mr Grayling submitted a claim for £2,250. The invoice from the decorator was dated July 2006, and referred to “remedial and refurbishment works July 2005”. … If the various late receipts had been submitted in the 2005-06 financial year, they would have exceeded Mr Grayling’s second home allowance for the 12-month period by over £4,700. Telegraph, 11th May 2009

£4,700 is 20 times what someone on JSA gets paid in one month. A person on minimum wage would have to work 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for over two and a half years, to earn what Chris Grayling paid himself to refurbish the flat and pay the mortgage in those two financial years from 2005 to 2007.

Second homes allowance is the nicest bonus MPs get, but it’s not the only claim Chris Grayling makes. In one month in 2007, while being paid £63,291 per year – 4 times the national median wage – Grayling claimed £4700 “expenses”. That is, Grayling claimed for one month 1.7 times as much in expenses as someone on JSA gets to live on for a year. Someone on the minimum wage that Grayling denies to people who are working in Tescos for their JSA, would have to work for over five and a half years to earn Grayling’s basic annual wage.

Rayburn, who was also told by his jobcentre he would lose his benefits if he did not work without pay, said he spent almost two months stacking and cleaning shelves and sometimes doing night shifts.
“They said [my JSA] would be cut off if I didn’t do it.”
Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: “I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that’s what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.”

In April 2011, Tesco reported full-year profits before tax of £3.54bn, up 11.3% from April 2010. In August 2010, Poundland announced expansion plans based on pre-tax profits that had gone up 130% to £19.1m. Other superstores using free labour in this way include Asda and Sainsbury’s.


Update: in February Chris Grayling claimed the only opposition to this was from Socialist Worker Party members – apparently he thinks SWP has a huge membership! – but by April he was blaming the “Polly Toynbee left”, possibly because she’s the only left-wing writer he’s ever read.


Update: Following the Panorama (Disabled or Faking It on BBC iPlayer) / Dispatches programmes tonight (30th July), I found a discussion on ConHome in 2007 about Grayling’s “tough love” ideas about welfare. Interestingly: not all the Tories who respond five years ago approve Grayling’s idea of “forcing” people into work.

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Update, 31st August:

After winning his case with the snooty people who want to get paid, Chris Grayling rolls out a new scheme:

Job-seeking graduates living in London are to be forced to work for three months unpaid in order to keep their benefits, the government has announced. That means they will be toiling for less than £1.87 per hour – even less than the pitiful wages that apprentices earn. And it gets worse. If the scheme is successful, it will be rolled out nationally.

Fresh from his department’s success crushing objections from Poundland intern Cait Reilly in court earlier this month, employment Minister Chris Grayling announced that 18- to 24-year-olds (including graduates) who have spent less than six months in employment since leaving education will now have to work for 30 hours a week for their £56-a-week jobseeker’s allowance. (That’s £1.87 an hour – we did the maths). He denied that it was “slave labour” and insisted it would help young Londoners improve their career prospects.

They will do ‘work experience placements’ in charities or social organisations – such as care homes – for 30 hours a week over 13 weeks. It is unclear how much real work these ‘placements’ will involve, but given that the idea is to banish the “something for nothing culture” that he feels is so prevalent among workless under-24s, we assume these will look very similar to proper jobs (only they will be unpaid, of course). The scheme will be tested this year in 16 London boroughs including the riot-hit areas of Croydon and Haringey. The Government then hopes to roll out the scheme across London and the rest of the UK.

Update, 4th September

Just to add injury to insult: Chris Grayling is now Justice Secretary. This is the man who thinks homophobes running a B&B should have a right to discriminate against LGBT people:

I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences,” he said. “I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home.”

Chris Grayling - Benefits Cheat

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