Thursday, 20 July 2017

Crummy Jobs: Park Cake Bakeries have their cake and eat it!

Park Cake Bakeries

Anyone who has had the misfortune to be pressed ganged by the Jobcentre onto a so-called government training scheme in Greater Manchester, will have heard of John Hill Biscuits in Ashton-under-Lyne and Park Cake Bakeries in Oldham. For donkey's years, both firms have relied on seasonal casual workers and temps to meet their production needs particularly in the run up to Christmas and other festive periods.

In 2011, employees at Park Cakes in Bolton and Oldham threatened industrial action following the introduction of new employment contracts, which were described as tantamount to 'slave labour' Park Cake were accused by the 'Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union' (BFAWU), of seeking to circumvent the EU 'Temporary Agency Workers Directive' which came into effect in October 2011. This directive (which Conservative leader David Cameron tried to block), entitles agency staff who work for twelve consecutive weeks, with the same employer, to equal rates of pay and basic working conditions with permanent  employees. The cake and dessert maker was accused by the union of creating a "two-tier workforce" by introducing about 30 new permanent staff on minimum wage contracts to drive down terms and conditions, in order to bring in cheap agency labour and zero-hour contracts. 

This afternoon I spoke to a young woman outside Ashton Jobcentre who told us about her experience of working at Park Cake Bakeries in Oldham on a wonderful zero-hour contracts. She explained that there are two agencies now based in Park Cake Bakeries who recruit staff on zero-hour contracts. Having been recruited initially via the Jobcentre, she receives text messages from the agency calling on her to attend the bakery for possible work. She then explained that she was told to sit and wait for two-hours, in the expectation that there might be work, but she would be paid for the second hour. If nothing was available, she is sent home. According to this young woman, around 90% of the staff at the bakery are agency staff. When I asked how she could know this, she said because she could tell agency staff by the colour of the hairnets - red and purple for agencies workers and white for those directly employed by Park Cake.

When  I asked this young woman how she managed to live when she was not getting temporary work, she said she relied on the goodwill and generosity of friends and neighbours. This is the world of work that many now face daily in Tory England. Data provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in March of this year, shows that the number of UK workers in zero-hour employment has rocketed to reach a staggering 905,000 people, an increase of 101,000 over the past year alone. Recent research undertaken by Middlesex University found that one-in-20 workers do not get statutory holiday pay and on-in-12 does not get a payslip. Around £1.2bn in wages are unpaid annually. 

As Britain prepares to leave the EU, expect more of this race to the bottom and precarious employment. This country will sold on the basis of low-taxes for the bosses and little or no rights or regulation for the workers. This, we will  be told, is all in the national interest. 

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