This afternoon around 50 people came to give noisy solidarity to workfare slaves and exploited workers at The Range in Lochee.
In an attempt to salvage their reputation the store had produced their own leaflet for the occasion to give to shoppers who had passed through our picket. This consisted of testimonies from two employees who – unlike many people we have been in touch with – were actually given a paid job after their stint of unpaid labour, and were sickeningly grateful about being rewarded for their slavery with a chance to earn a living with this shockingly exploitative employer. They read like something written by followers of a cult, expressing their devotion to the system that has enslaved them – or by someone with their employer leaning over their shoulder: perfect examples of the cowed yes-men that the DWP would like everyone to become.
A shop such as The Range does not create jobs. Its ruthless employment practices and use of unpaid labour allow it to undercut other businesses that treat their workers decently and pay them properly – as we explain in our own leaflet. Range workers are forced to work 12 hour shifts days together and we have seen allegations of sexual impropriety by management and of attempts to get rid of workers who are over 25 to avoid paying them the higher minimum wage.
Our fight against exploitation brings together unemployed and employed workers: those who took up the loud hailer at this joint SUWN/Dundee Trades Council demo included Mike Arnott from the Trades Council, Tony Cox and Sarah Glynn from SUWN, Arthur Nicoll from Unison, Carlo Morelli from UCU, Mike Taylor and Andy Duncan from Dundee Against Austerity, Leah Ganley from TUSC and Gareth Norman from Solidarity; and there were also folk there from USDAW, RIC Angus and Mearns, and – bringing solidarity from the capital city – Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, as well as several folk who live close by in Lochee.
Police were called to the store, but never spoke to us. They were in there for a long time. Perhaps they were looking at all those bargains for things they never knew they wanted – or perhaps they were hoping that we would try and protest inside and they could arrest us from not leaving.
Before we had quite exhausted our own leaflet pile we re-formed the demo into a march down Lochee High Street, with more speeches and leafleting in front of the Mary Brooksbank statue – and several speakers drew parallels with the dreadful employment practices of the mills that once occupied the same area. We won’t be dragged back to the Nineteenth Century.
More protests are planned – so watch this space.