We spend so much of our waking lives at work, it’s surprising how little we seem to discuss our employment rights and conditions.
Paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, weekends, reasonable weekly working hours and decent pay all had to be fought for and today’s employees reap the benefits.
Yet, over recent years these rights and conditions have been put at risk, as some employers have sought to increase their profit margins straight from their employee’s pockets. Zero-hours contracts, umbrella contracts and any other number of legal loopholes have started to roll back 200 years of improvements to people’s working conditions.
A classic case of this can be seen at the Royal Mail. For over 500 years, Royal Mail was a public service, a vital part of our national infrastructure and a source of secure employment for many thousands of postal workers. Then came privatisation and, despite all of the assurances provided in the run-up to the sale, now that the service is in the hands of private investors, little-by-little the rights and conditions of postal workers are beginning to disappear.
Fortunately for postal workers, they have a union which is willing to stick up for them and the CWU is now balloting its members-many of whom live and work in our community-to decide whether or not to undertake industrial action to ensure the Royal Mail provides a pension solution for all, a full-time working week of 35 hours, an extension to the service’s current legally binding agreements and a re-designed pipeline.
Strikes can be inconvenient for customers and I know that there are those who complain about unions always pushing for a better deal for their members when their own working conditions aren’t getting any better. It’s true that alongside the general rights unions have secured us all over the years, unionised professions have tended to fare better than un-unionised professions. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a rallying cry, if you want to retain and improve the rights past generations have handed down to us, we all need to band together to fight for them.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council