Unions reach out to Sheffield’s young workers

Unions reach out to Sheffield’s young workers

Sheffield has become the first UK city to have its own, dedicated union organiser to work across the low paid, unorganised sectors in the city.

In February, Sheffield Trades Union Council and the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BFAWU) signed a pioneering agreement to hire a union organiser to recruit and organise young workers in areas like hospitality, cinema and mobile phone shops – the latter two being Prospect areas.

Prospect was one of the many trade union and Labour movement bodies that donated money to the project.

On the day the agreement was signed, young workers approached businesses asking to speak to workers on zero hours contracts and shift workers about their rights at work.

Prospect member Tom Machell, pointed out that although the ‘TUC patrol’ was copied from Norwegian unions, “it actually sounds very much like the Connect retail campaign that gained us many members across the high street mobile phone shops. So maybe we were there first!”

The initiative started around two years ago when Sheffield Trades Union Council launched the ‘Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise’ campaign.

This followed a Rowntree Foundation report that showed that Sheffield as a city was the highest beneficiary of a then increase in the adult minimum wage. The Rowntree report highlighted how far wages had declined in what was once a high wage industrial town.

Further research carried out by the University and College Union showed that real wage growth had stagnated from 2006 – before the 2008 banking crisis and government austerity.

Local Prospect representatives will monitor progress and it is hoped that if it is successful, the model will be replicated across other areas.

BFAWU will carry out the line management and workers will be directed to join the appropriate trade union.