The Smell of Bullshit, part 74: Consistency (Constantincy?), Thy Name is Not Lush

A couple of emails have come into the blog over the past few days (emails to southside socialist at hotmail dot co dot uk) which suggest that the problems within Lush previously raised by employees here haven’t been resolved. This is one of them, with identifying details omitted.

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The Smell of Bullshit, part 73: Fire Hazards and Sexual Harassment – What a Place to Work!

Another email from an ex-employee of Lush, who worked at a shop in south-east England. I’m not going to reproduce it here whole because I don’t want the woman identified, and also, some of what she says could well entice the trolls who think women are asking for it. There is some discussion of sexual harassment in this post.

The Smell of Bullshit, part 72: So.Much.Fail.

 

A couple of emails from  two ex-employees of everybody’s favourite ethical employer, Lush. The people have asked me to only use excerpts rather than the whole emails, so I’m picking out the worst bits, some of which are a) despicable, b) unlawful and c) cruel. Some of these issues could have been dealt with by a union, or a decent HR department, or a competent, well-trained manager who understands employment law and has a soul.

 

 

Jeremy Clarkson did NOT call for striking public sector workers to be shot in front of their families

Look, I dislike Jeremy Clarkson as much as the next person. He’s an embarrassment to Yorkshire. He says horrible things, Top Gear is shit, and he’s just a crap old man in bad jeans who shouldn’t have a media platform. If he was muttering “eenie meenie minie moe, catch a nigger* by the toe,” then the BBC should sack him. But he didn’t call for striking public sector workers to be shot in front of their families.

Jeremy Clarkson on The One Show

I was a striking public sector worker that day. I got up at the crack of dawn, picketed my workplace, attended a radio debate, stewarded the Edinburgh march and went to the rally. I was as invested in, and supportive of, the strike and the campaign as any other public sector worker. And I came home, and I watched The One Show.

The One Show, that evening, had a fairly lengthy report about the strike and the reasons for it. If I remember correctly, they had vox pops with quite a few of the striking workers. Then they went back to the studio, and they let Clarkson talk. He had nothing sensible to say about the strike, but a) it’s The One Show – when do they ever say anything sensible? and b) it’s Clarkson. He might be a man who thinks and feels things very deeply, but his public persona doesn’t give that impression, unless you count his attention to motorised metal and glass boxes. So he muttered for a minute about how the strike was great because London was quieter and it was easier to drive about, which is not a comment on the rights or wrongs of the strike, or on the rights or wrongs of the government’s attacks on public sector workers. It’s just Clarkson doing his shtick of trivialising important events to promote his image as a petrol-headed fuckwit. And then he said “but this is the BBC so we have to have some balance” and then he went on to say that striking workers should be executed in front of their families.

Anyone who believes for a second that he was serious or that he meant it is, somehow, too stupid to watch The One Show without a carer to explain it to them. His remarks, hilarious as they weren’t, were “the balance,” the extreme opposing view to his previous “support” of the strike on the grounds it was easier to hoon it around London that day. His tone of voice was sarcastic (is it still sarcasm if it’s 90% of what you say?), it was hyperbole, and it was clearly not meant to be taken seriously. It was in bad taste, particularly when you consider that in some countries trade unionists are murdered for their activities, but Clarkson is bad taste.

If you’re going to get angry at Clarkson, get angry because he was reported as saying that the people working on the Hyundai stand at the Birmingham motor show had “eaten a dog” and that the designer of the Hyundai XG had probably eaten a spaniel for his lunch. Get angry at Clarkson because during an episode of Top Gear, he made a mock Nazi salute, and made references to the Hitler regime and the German invasion of Poland by setting the GPS system of the car he was looking at to Poland. Get angry at him for calling Gordon Brown a one-eyed Scottish idiot and a silly cunt. Get angry because he suggested the Welsh language should be abolished, or because of his remarks about how to deal with people who commit suicide by jumping in front of trains, or because of his mockery of India and Indian people, or because of his attitude to the Health and Safety laws which protect many people in the course of their jobs, or because of his attitude to climate change, or because he drove a car into a tree to see what would happen to the car, or because he punched Piers Morgan. No, wait, not that last one.

If you don’t like how Clarkson attempted to mock the BBC’s need for balance by going for the most extreme criticism of striking workers his brain could think of, fine. I didn’t like it either. But please stop perpetuating the myth that he called for the execution of workers. He didn’t, it’s obvious he didn’t, and when people say he did, it makes it all too easy for him to claim that all the really horrible stuff he says is being taken out of context too.

 

 

 

 

*I would not say the word, but I see no point in not typing it. Writing it as n*gger or n***** or “the n-word” doesn’t stop people knowing what the word is, doesn’t protect anyone from anything, doesn’t mean the word wasn’t used. The way to stop the hurt and anger caused by the use of the word is to not use it, rather than to blank some of the letters out.

You know when you’re a union steward,

and you’re representing someone in a disciplinary, and it’s obvious the outcome will be a dismissal, and the person chooses to resign before the hearing, and although you know they were bound to be sacked, and there’s nothing you could have done, and the person really brought it on themself by doing something really really really stupid and wrong (repeatedly), but you still feel bad and like you should have done more?

That.

Union members’ right to privacy‏

You might have seen news reports over the past year or so about construction companies blacklisting workers who were union members – refusing to employ workers or whole workforces because they were union members. The government is now attempting to pass a law which makes it legal for the government and appointed third parties to inspect union membership lists to see which workers are members and which are not. I don’t see why it’s any of the government’s business. Given this government’s other attacks on workplace rights (increasing the fees for lodging tribunals, for example, and trying to dismantle health and safety legislation) and their links with big business, I can’t see that any good will come of this for ordinary working people. I see it being a particular problem for people working in the private sector where union membership is not as strong and employers are often quite vocal about breaking unions (see numerous posts about “ethical” company Lush), but it could easily become a problem in the public sector too. And you could argue that employers wanting to get rid of people could use the lists to start with getting the non-members out first because they have nobody to support them. So this Bill is bad for everyone who is an employee.

The Bill in question is going through the House of Lords so the time for contacting your MP is past – now it’s time to contact a peer. http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/lobbyingbillpart3 has all the information you need and a handy email form to contact the peer of your choice online. Unions already have a vested interest in keeping their membership records up to date so this Bill isn’t anything to do with making records more accurate for our sake, it’s about giving the government the right to breach our privacy and pass that info to their corporate fat-cat chums. I’m a bit cross about it. Contact a peer today – do it now!

The Smell of Bullshit, part 25: working hours

Someone drew my attention to this yesterday. I’m not particularly familiar with legal terminology, especially American legal terminology, so all I can say is that it looks like some Lush shop managers in the USA are suing the company for not paying them enhanced rates for overtime which they were legally entitled to. I make no comment on the rights and wrongs of the case because I don’t know, but I thought it might be useful to offer some information about the law regarding working hours in the UK.

Now, those of you who have read all the Bullshit posts on this blog will know that Mark Constantine said quite openly on the Lush International Forum that he didn’t see why Lush should have to pay attention to employment law because they were a small family business and it would cost them too much money. And you’ll know that as far as the law goes, Mark’s feelings don’t come into it – the law is the law is the law and he doesn’t get to decide that his multi-milllion pound international business is above it.

We already talked about holiday entitlement for people on zero hours contracts, but now lets talk about basic working hours. In the UK, the law relating to working hours is shaped by the European Working Time Directive. It gives EU workers the right to a minimum number of holidays each year, rest breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week. In the UK, it is possible for employees to opt out of the maximum 48 hour week and work longer hours, but all of the other requirements of the directive must be observed.

Her Majesty’s Government’s website has a useful overview of the regulations. These are the main points:

  • workers do not normally have to work more than 48 hours in an average week
  • working hours should be set out in the employment contract or written statement of employment details
  • employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week (averaged over 17 weeks)
  • there are some jobs which are exempt from the 48 hour limit but Lush manufacturing and retail jobs do not fall into the exempt categories
  • adult workers (those who are 18 or over) can choose to opt of the 48 hour limit
  • opting out must be voluntary and it must be recorded in writing
  • opting out of the 48 hour limit can be temporary (for a set period of time) or it can be indefinite
  • opting out cannot be a collective agreement with the whole workforce, although employers can ask every worker individually if they would like to opt out
  • employers should not sack or unfairly treat a worker (eg refuse promotion) for refusing to sign an opt-out, and if they did, the worker might have grounds for legal action
  • a worker can cancel their opt out agreement whenever they like, even if it has become part of their employment contract
  • employees must give at least 7 days’ notice of cancelling their opt out agreement, and might have to give longer if their agreement requires it
  • the employer cannot force a worker to cancel their opt out agreement
  • 16 and 17 year olds cannot normally work more than  hours a day, 40 hours a week, regardless of averages, and they are not allowed to opt out and work longer

The number of hours you work per week can be averaged by your employer over the applicable 17/26 reference week period (or your contract length), rather than measured in one week, and the first 20 days holiday you are legally entitled to cannot be used to reduce your average number of hours worked. However with the daily and weekly rest breaks and the opt out above included, the maximum in any week you should work is 78 hours.

This page has useful information about calculating your working hours and what counts as work.

If someone works for more than one employer, the amount of combined hours shouldn’t be more than 48 hours on average a week. Workers with more than one job could either consider signing an opt-out agreement if their total time worked is more than 48 hours, or reduce their hours to meet the 48-hour limit.

Overtime is normally hours that are worked over the normal full time hours; it can be compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory overtime would form part of the terms and conditions of employment, but workers can still not be made to work over 48 hours on average per week if they do not agree to. There is no legal right to be paid extra for any overtime worked, but this should be detailed in the terms of employment.

Rest breaks are also important. Workers are entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 hours uninterrupted rest between finishing your job and starting the next day. (Workers aged between 15-18 are entitled to a minimum daily rest break of 12 hours). This means that if you finish work at 8pm, you cannot be asked to start again before 7am (8am for under-18s). Workers are also entitled to a weekly rest period of 24 hours uninterrupted rest within each seven day period (workers aged 15-18 are entitled to 48 hours); or, if the employer chooses, a fortnightly rest period of 48 consecutive hours within each 14 day period. The weekly rest period cannot include any part of the daily rest period.So, if you have worked 8am-6pm Monday – Friday, finished at 6pm on the Friday and had 11 hours daily rest break, the 24 hour rest period does not start until 5am Saturday and the worker wouldn’t be able to work again until 5am Sunday.

If your working day is more than 6 hours long, you are entitled to a 20 minute break. If you are 15-18 years old, and you work more than 4.5 hours at a stretch, you are entitled to a 30 minute rest break. If you are an agency temp, the employer you are working for, not the agency, is responsible for ensuring you get your breaks. Breaks are usually unpaid, but might be paid, depending on your contract of employment.

There is plenty of useful information about working hours on the internet. If you feel your employer, no matter who they are, is not treating you in line with the legal requirements, then please join the appropriate union and get assistance. Your legal rights aren’t optional.