On 1 December, Better than Zero visited their list of the worst employers in Glasgow. “12 Demands of Christmas” were made to these employers, including mandatory paid trial shifts, minimum hour contracts and ensuring that all tips go to the staff.
Better than Zero hear many complaints from young workers concerning past and present employers. These complaints prompted the organisers to choose employers to tackle in time for the festive season.
The evening began at Firewater on Sauchiehall Street. This was a symbolic choice by the campaign to support the first nightclub in Glasgow to pay the living wage to its staff.
The employers which were then targeted included Hilton Glasgow, Betfred, Pizza Hut, Sports Direct, Mooboo Bubble Tea, Boteco Do Brasil, the Grosvenor Casino and the Corinthian Club.
In some cases, Better than Zero received multiple complaints concerning similar incidents reoccurring with the same employers, such as the Hilton Glasgow allegedly conducting unpaid trial shifts lasting up to 8 hours – or longer in instances where the trial was more than one shift.
The strategy for the action was for campaigners to enter the various establishments, speak to staff about their experiences and provide information with leaflets and posters detailing their legal rights. Some leaflets were altered to look like menus or wine lists and left on tables by campaigners. One of the leaflets read: “SPECIALS INCLUDE: Low Wages, Rotas Changed without Staff Consultation, Unpaid Trial Shifts” and gave a link to the organisation’s website.
An alleged repeat offender targeted by the campaign is one of Scotland’s largest employers – G1 Group.
Bryan Simpson, an organiser for the campaign, said: “We’ve heard multiple stories from staff, former and current, of [G1 Group] that they still have zero hours [contracts].
“Today for the first time in the Evening Times, the HR Director claimed that they didn’t and that they’d gotten rid of zero hours, so what I’d like to know from G1 categorically – have they gotten rid of zero hours and, if so, what [minimum hours] have they put them on?
“Is it something that can be lived upon? … If it’s just five [hours] then our argument would be that that’s just as bad as zero hours.”
The campaign will not be limited to Glasgow and similar events will be taking place across other Scottish cities during the festive period. The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) launched the Better than Zero campaign in 2015 to “take on the issue of insecure work”, especially in the case of young people entering work. Members of the campaign said its structure and methods were inspired by the Fight for 15 campaign in the United States, a grassroots movement which fights against low wages for fast food workers.
STUC recognise that although young workers can be protected best by joining a union, this is often not an option because of “the hostile attitude of employers”. According to a Statistical Bulletin from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, just 24.7% of UK employees were in a trade union in 2015. The report states that female employees and UK-born employees are statistically more likely to be members of a trade union than their male and foreign-born counterparts, respectively.
Previous campaigns from the organisation have been more publicity oriented, including stunts and flash mobs. This recent campaign focused more on raising awareness of workers’ rights and highlighting exploitative employer practices.
A member of the campaign, Jack O’Neill spoke about the results of their work: “[Whether you’re getting] small results, such as maybe one company decides they’re going to pay [for taxis] for their staff or, like Las Iguanas, a whole restaurant chain [changes] their policy on the back of it… these small victories are all adding up.
“If we can start improving the lives of young workers and giving young workers the chance to stand up for themselves and educate them, then it’s all worth it.
“That’s the point of Better than Zero, it’s allowing young workers to stand up for themselves.”