Image: via Wikimedia

Ever since I can remember, Bristol has wanted to be seen as somewhere that Does the Right Thing. Council House policy from the 1970’s nurtured local arts and social projects, through rate relief and peppercorn rents. Residents in every area of the city have supported local independent projects and businesses through thick and thin, and fought for them when they faced trouble. Activists can trace a line of struggle against oppression back to the Kingswood miners and beyond.

As we live and think, so we eat and drink. Ethically and locally sourced, organic, Fair Trade – Bristol was an early adopter of these ideas and after 50 years the roots run deep, throughout the ‘real city’ as well as the tourist areas that we promote to the rest of the world. Local beers and ciders served up in a ‘free house’ pub, fair trade sugar packets with your cafe cuppa, free range chicken expected on the restaurant menu. Unless we’re going somewhere for cheap price and big portion size, Bristolians expect a certain standard, when the food is brought to the table or the pint is smudged into the beermat.

But what about the waiter that brings the food to the table? Or the tender who places the pint? What about the cook that roasts the free range chicken? Do we care if they are “fair trade” or “ethically sourced”?

The Cable’s investigation into the catering sector last year highlighted what staff, and the unions that work to protect them, already knew:

Increased customer demand for quality and value, alongside a deliberate weakening of the laws that protect the rights of workers, has led bosses to maintain profits by reducing wages and benefits for their employees.

In order to provide ‘flexibility’ for employers to succeed in a cut-throat global economy, governments of all stripes have passed laws removing the rights and protections that employees had against exploitation.

In such an atmosphere, it comes as no surprise that Bad Bosses have thrived in the Bar and Hospitality industry: bullies, creeps, corner-cutters and outright thieves.

An example is this popular city centre cafe, with Trip Advisor reviews that talk of “the best independent cafe in Bristol”, “a Bristol institution” where “friendly staff couldn’t do enough for us”. Great for the customer, but for the ‘friendly staff’ the experience is very different.

Unpaid trials that can last up to a week. Wages witheld as “deposits” that are not returned. Constant bullying by the boss to provide a 5-star service on 1-star wages, with some migrant staff paid less than the National Minimum Wage (this has been reported to HMRC – check their website for details of how you can too). Unpaid overtime demanded as a matter of course, and the constant threat of the sack if the boss decides your face doesn’t fit.

But what can we do?

What can Bar and Hospitality Workers do when faced with conditions like this? The IWW is a grassroots union for all workers. In the words of IWW legend Joe Hill, who died 100 years ago this month: “Don’t Mourn, Organise!” The IWW has launched a national campaign to sign up workers in the industry, and then skill them up to fight back against bully bosses. The next meeting of the Bristol branch is on Thursday 12 November, 7pm at Hydra Bookshop, Old Market Street. See our website or email me for more details.

And, what can the customers of restaurants, pubs and cafes do to help? Bristolians can do the same as they have done for decades: Do the Right Thing. Give a Damn. Find out how much the staff of your local bar or caff are paid: Living Wage or just the Minimum? (If you’re paying over £1.50 for a cuppa, is the minimum really OK?). Dig deeper than the good service and the smile: do staff get proper breaks, does the boss play fair? Add what you find out to your Trip Advisor review, tell your friends, get the word out.

Change needs to come at the local level, in Bristol, by normal Bristolians campaigning for change. This is how fair, ethical improvements have been made in the past.

One Day, the IWW wants to see a world beyond work, where people can choose what to do with their time, rather being forced to do menial, meaningless tasks for money. But, that’s a long way off! As is the change needed at national level to restore rights and protections for workers against bad bosses.

In the meantime, we are pushing for Bristol to become a a “Fair Work” city – better terms and conditions for all, starting with the Bar and Hospitality sector, and we want you to push with us.

 

 

Spanish version:

¿Tu camarero/a es de origen ético y justo?

Desde que yo recuerdo, Bristol ha querido ser visto como el lugar donde “se hace lo correcto”. Desde los años 70′ la política del Ayuntamiento promueve el arte local y los proyectos sociales mediante la exención de tasas y el alquiler social. Los/as residentes de cada área de la ciudad han apoyado proyectos independientes y empresas locales y han dado la cara por éstos cuando han tenido algún problema. Los/as activistas pueden trazar un línea de lucha contra la opresión partiendo desde la lucha de los mineros de Kingswood y otras.

Como vivimos y pensamos, es como comemos y bebemos. De origen ético y local, orgánico, de comercio justo – Bristol fue una de las primeras ciudades en adoptar este tipo de ideas después de profundizar a través de la “ciudad real” y de las zonas turísticas que promovemos de cara al resto del mundo. Cervezas y sidras locales servidas en los pub independientes, azúcar de comercio justo con tu taza de café, pollo ecológico en el menú del restaurante. A no ser que vayamos a algún lugar barato y de grandes porciones, los/as “Bristolians” esperamos un cierto patrón cuando nos traen la comida a la mesa o se derrama la cerveza por el posavasos.

¿Pero qué pasa con el/la camarero/a que trae la comida a la mesa? ¿Qué pasa con quien sirve la cerveza? ¿Qué pasa con el/la cocinero/a que asa el pollo de granja o de origen ético?

La investigación de The Cable realizada el año pasado, destaca que el personal y los sindicatos que trabajan para protergerle, ya sabían que:

El incremento de las demandas de calidad y valor por parte de los consumidores, junto a la deliberada debilidad de las leyes que protegen a los/as trabajadores/as, ha permitido a los/as jefes/as mantener las ganancias y reducir los salarios y beneficios de los/as trabajadores/as.

Con el fin de proporcionar “flexibilidad” a los patrones para alcanzar el éxito en la despiadada economía global, los gobiernos de toda índole se han saltado las leyes recortando los derechos y la protección que los/as trabajadores habían conseguido para luchar contra la explotación. En tal atmósfera, no es de extrañar que los “Malos/as Jefes/as” hayan prosperado en la industria de la restauración: acosadores/as, trepas, mezquinos/as y ladrones/as de derechos.

Un ejemplo es un popular café del centro que recibe críticas en Trip Advisor como: “El mejor café independiente de Bristol”, “Una institución en Bristol” donde “el amable personal no pudo hacer suficiente por nosotros/as”. Genial para los/as clientes pero para “el amable personal” la experiencia es diferente.

Días de prueba sin retribución que pueden durar hasta una semana. Salarios retenidos como “depósitos” que no se devuelven. Acoso constante por parte de los/as jefes/as para proveer un servicio de “5 estrellas” con salarios de “1 estrella” con personas inmigrantes pagadas por debajo del Salario Mínimo (esto ha sido reportado al organismo pertinente en el Reino Unido, HMRC – consulta su website para más detalles). Horas extras obligadas no pagadas y la constante amenaza de ser despedido si a tu jefe/a no le gusta tu cara.

Pero, ¿qué podemos hacer?

¿Qué pueden hacer los/as trabajadores/as de la restauración cuando se encuentran con condiciones como las anteriores? El IWW es un sindicato de base para los/as trabajadores/as. En palabras del legendario IWW Joe Hill, quien este mes hizo 100 años que murió: “¡No se lamenten, organícense!”. El IWW ha lanzado una campaña nacional para que los/as trabajadores de la industria se inscriban y así después poder formarles para luchar contra jefes/as acosadores/as. La próxima reunión de la división de Bristol es el jueves 12 de noviembre a las 19.00h en “Hydra Bookshop”, Old Market Street. Mira nuestra  web o escríbenos para más detalles.

¿Qué pueden hacer los/as clientes de los restaurantes, pubs y cafés para ayudar? Los/as “Bristolians” pueden hacer lo mismo que han hecho por décadas: Hacer lo correcto. Interésate. Busca cuánto cobra el personal del bar o café que frecuentas: ¿salario digno o salario mínimo? (Si estás pagando más de £1.5 por un café o té, ¿crees que el salario mínimo está bien?). Ve más allá del buen servicio y la sonrisa: ¿El personal tiene los descansos apropiados, el jefe juega limpio? Añade el resultado de tus investigaciones a Trip Advisor, cuéntaselo a tus amigos/as, corre la voz.

Los cambios tienen que sucederse a nivel local, en Bristol, por los/as “Bristolians” corrientes haciendo campaña por el cambio. Así es como las mejoras éticas y justas se han dado en el pasado.

Un día, el IWW quiere ver el mundo más allá del trabajo, donde la gente pueda elegir qué es lo que quiere hacer con su tiempo, por encima de ser forzada a realizar tareas menores insignificantes por dinero. ¡Es un largo camino! Se necesita un cambio a nivel nacional que restaure los derechos y proteja a los trabajadores de los/as jefes/as.

Hasta entonces, estamos empujando a Bristol para que se convierta en una ciudad “justa para trabajar” – con mejores condiciones para todos/as, empezando por el ámbito de la restauración, y queremos traerte hacia nosotros/as.

 

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Comments

  • Maff Tucker says:

    The IWW & SolNet will be holding a demonstration this Saturday 14th November, outside Cafe Amore on Nelson Street (between Broadmead and the Centre).

    Fellow Worker Bonny, an ex-employee of the cafe, is owed wages by the boss. Her union, along with SolNet, are standing with her in her fight to get them back.

    Last week Bonny delivered a written demand for payment. The boss has paid some money back. But not all.

    So, we will be accompanying Bonny this Saturday to demand the rest, as well as to highlight the bad practices that Cafe Amore use on their staff – unpaid trials, underpaying migrant staff, and forced unpaid overtime.

    The demo will not be confrontational, and we will not break the law. We will be standing outside the cafe, singing songs in support of Bonny, handing leaflets to customers, and generally making a spectacle of ourselves!

    All are welcome, including children. Bring home-made banners, muscial instruments, pots and pans, whatever you fancy. We will also have our IWW banners for people to hold.

    If you have a spare hour to help a Fellow Worker, meet at “Roll for the Soul Cafe” (at the other end of Nelson Street) by 11.45am, and we’ll walk down to Cafe Amore together. If the boss still does not pay what they owe, we’ll be back the week after.

  • Maff Tucker says:

    Hopefully good news (not yet confirmed) – Cafe Amore have agreed to pay Bonny all of her outside wages.

    Not so good – they chose to inform Bonny by printing a load of lies in a Bristol 24/7 article accusing her of stealing from the till and being late…. none of which they have mentioned at any point before.,…. hmmmm.

    Thanks to everyone who supported the campaign – you share in Bonny’s victory! Now, the focus moves to another ex-employee who is in the same situation. More details as we get them.

  • Maff Tucker says:

    Hopefully good news (not yet confirmed) – Cafe Amore have given in and paid Bonny all of her owed wages!

    Not so good – they chose to inform Bonny by printing a load of lies in a Bristol 24/7 article accusing her of stealing from the till and being late…. none of which they have mentioned at any point before.,…. hmmmm.

    Thanks to everyone who supported the campaign – you share in Bonny’s victory! Now, the focus moves to another ex-employee who is in the same situation. More details as we get them.

  • Maff Tucker says:

    Bonny paid, Rhyannon still owed!
    Next demo called for this Saturday at midday – see Bristol SolNet page for details – https://network23.org/bristolsolnet/2015/11/19/cafe-amore-update-picket-this-saturday-one-victory/

  • Mat A says:

    The IWW has a new campaign to gather information on dodgy bosses see:

    http://www.bristoliww.org.uk/rateyourboss/