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REAL LIVES Agency workers

Clearly Colin has to deal with the present, rather than mulling over the past. But he points to one irony – that the huge Sports Direct warehouse on the Derbyshire- Nottinghamshire border was built on the site of Shirebrook Colliery where in the nineteenth century bosses used the notorious ‘butty’ system.

The butty men worked like employment agencies who trawled the pubs recruiting men to mine the coal. That absolved the coal owners of any responsibility to the miners and minimised the possibility of union organisation.

So it seems that far from being a state of the art tool of modern capitalism, employment agencies have long been a weapon for those seeking to keep working people in their place.

Head of Unite Community Liane Groves says one of the main reasons for the existence of her part of the union is to bring ‘peripheral’ workers into the union family – including those who are partially or wholly unemployed and agency workers.

“Unite Community brings the message of trade unionism and employment rights to precarious workers.

“Community played an instrumental role in the Sports Direct campaign that

18 uniteWORKS Autumn 2017

brought the issue of zero hours contracts onto the national agenda. As a result of this campaign tens of thousands of low paid workers now enjoy guaranteed hours and a pay rise.”

Labour has pledged to end zero hours contracts – which is good news. In the interim the only way to end the abject misery of ‘bad job Britain’ is for workers to join a union and organise for better working conditions.

Unite and Unite Community are making this goal their priority.


It was so unjust, but people were too afraid to speak out. The job was just a death sentence. I quit to save myself.

Rebecca Rocket Unite member

Find out more HERE

Mark Thomas

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