I often get the impression that many readers don't understand or literally haven't a clue of what little protection if any, workers in some parts of business and private sector have, in fact I was surprised recently when a Labour councillor contacted me, concerning Unite's campaign highlighting working conditions and practices at Thanet Earth ( I didn't realise there was anyone left in Labour who cared about working people).
I was happy to forward contact details of Unite's organiser, whom I notice has sent me an email updating me on their campaign against Thanet Earth's working conditions, Unite's protest includes publicity stunts such as mob events in supermarkets and sending a man dressed as a tomato to M&S's shareholders meeting, reported by the Telegraph as it happened on the Telegraphs website with this gem
"16.02 Unite protesters shouting about employment conditions at a tomato glasshouse in Kent get their fifteen minutes of fame. A man dressed as giant tomato asks about working conditions.
Robert Swannell looks genuinely rattled when answering giant tomato man's question. Decades of wheeling and dealing in the City clearly didn't prepare him for arguing with people in massive fruit costumes in front of 2,000 pensioners. Tsk.
VIDEO OF CAMPAIGNERS IN ACTION
Looking at Thanet Earth, there do seem to be issues that need addressing beyond those alleged by Unite, which include hostility to union organisation, bullying, bribery, denial of pay & holiday pay. I myself would like to know why so few staff are local around the time of opening, I personally witnessed long cues to register for work, my experience was that many local people were happy to work there, despite the low pay, evidenced by the then boss of Thanet Earth who was quoted by KRN as saying this “We wrote to 350 people who expressed an interest in working for Thanet Earth and 217 are coming for interviews. also reporting "Recruitment consultant Marta Kozlowska could not believe her eyes when she turned up for work at the new Kent Staff office in Ramsgate to see an orderly queue outside the door. She said: “There was a queue of 30 to 40 people waiting for us to open. Over the two days we had about 110 applications for work, 95 per cent of which were English, at Thanet Earth.
Still there are two sides to any story and Thanet Earth are adamant that Unites accusations are, lets say unfounded. Of course in using agencies to provide staff clearly there is an area for confusion, Thanet Earth cannot answer for the agencies and so in the interest of balance, I rung one of those agencies and I have to say the person I spoke with seemed genuine enough in confirming that there was no foundation to claims that they didn't adhere to the law.
Anyway if you'd like to know more about Thanet Earth a new blog is available here also via the sidebar and of course if you'd like the facts from Thanet Earth click here hopefully you will be able to judge for yourself, and in the interest of fairness I suggest you take my views as being personal and as a result inevitably my own.
Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of this local issue, in my view the protection and rewards for agency workers in agriculture, and food processing industries are abysmal in comparison with those in other industries and sectors. If food producers are squeezed to a point where they cannot pay a living wage something is seriously wrong. Unite seem to be about the only people interested in workers getting a fair deal.