Friday, 3 February 2012

Extremely low pay in retail

Retailers are cutting wage costs employing job seekers or very young workers who receive wages far below the adult minimum wage or even no wages at all. Resistance against these practices appear to be rising.
In the UK, high-end book chain Waterstones has pulled out of a government scheme that employed unpaid jobseekers in its stores after having been exposed by the Guardian. According to research by the Guardian, retail and food chains participating in the scheme include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda (i.e. Walmart), McDonald's and Burger King. One source told the Guardian that unpaid staff appear to replace paid work. Apparently, various people have gone to court claiming among other things that forced unpaid work is contrary to the Human Rights Act.
In Germany, supermarkets contract the work of stock clerks out to separate legal entities, thus circumventing the minimum wage for agency workers. Die Zeit describes how a supermarket in Nordrhein-Westfalen has stock clerks working at night at 6.50 euros per hour, as opposed to the minimum wage of 7.89 for agency workers and 11.70, plus bonus for working at night, in retail. In this article, Dimphy Smeets describes what German unions are doing to fight low wages.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, supermarkets heavily use very young workers, since minimum wages for young workers start at one-third of the adult minimum wage. Union FNV Bondgenoten has been fighting this practice for years and has managed to raise youth wages somewhat in the latest collective agreement.
(On a different note, FNV Bondgenoten and UFCW have launched a joint campaign to call on Dutch food retail giant Ahold to respect union rights both in the Netherlands and in the US.)

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