Why precarious workers should organise for themselves

There is a real need for precarious workers to organise bacause  I and so many people know would benefit from it.

Putting all forms of unstable work together, precarious work is a catch-all term for people in short-term, self-employed, part-time work etc… Although very few people identify with the term, many are living as precarious workers.

This may be the first time that you realise that it describes you.

I noticed that I was in different jobs and situations but they were all tied together by common issues of instability, and that I was un-unionised and un-unionise-able. My problems over the past 6 years where not isolated situations but part of ongoing  systemic issues. There is a lot of relearning occurring: people don’t avoid the mistakes that have been made before because no one is there saying “Watch out for that”. I’d like a group that offered encouragement and advice for people that wanted to stand up for themselves in the work place. My experience is that people feel alone and don’t know what to do when they are being mistreated while still feeling the genuine injustice.

We have been misrepresented in a massive way. That we are somehow at fault because our lives are not stable. That either something is wrong either with our actions or our thinking. That we don’t have a fixed contract, traditional 9 to 5 or whatever, when actually its okay if we can’t fit into this part of the economy. Or if we just don’t want to. We don’t say this often enough, in part because we are embarrassed – but we shouldn’t be.

We are still very wrapped up in conservative ideas of work when work has changed dramatically in the last century. So far, this change has been pushed by corporations and governments onto us. Can we start taking back control of work and the influence it has over our lives?

In and beyond our current situation

That we face institutions and an economic climate that are not going away any time soon, raises real questions about how we operate within and beyond them. We should be finding ways of limiting the stress and difficulty of unstable employment, but not simply so that it can keep getting worse. Nor should we be only focused on grand change that will have little immediate effect on our lives.

Caught up living day to day and week to week, we have become predictable and this stops us from being able to make change. For a long time people have thought that you can’t organise precarious workers. We are too vulnerable. We think to short term. We just aren’t commited enough.  We just move on anyway.

Because people think that it can’t be done, it’s even more worth doing. Its about changing what’s possible.

Our instability can be a source of can bring us together

Our work situations are very diverse but we share common experiences. We should be talking about them, learning from them what is the best way forward. We want to make our lives better. We are told that this is done by competition, but so many employers don’t let people see their contract, deny them their rights or don’t pay them the wages they have earned.

I want to start cooperating with large groups of people to ask: how do we make all of our lives better? Lets us talk about all the stuff that we should have already, but cannot actually get. That is what I want to ask and that is what I think will make a real difference. There are a lot of people telling us how we should live but few people are asking how do we want to live?

We all need to contribute and have our contribution valued. Society is clearly not fulfilling that need well.

Let us talk about ideals and practicalities: How are we going to represent ourselves and our issues?

How are we going to get control in our work and the effects over our lives?

How do we stop competing and work together to make work better?

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Open letter to an employer

Dear McKean Distribution,

During my time under your employment I spotted a number of easy steps
at minimal cost that you could take to become a better employer to
work for.

1. A code of conduct
Employees should receive a print out telling them how they are
expected to behave. It is unrealistic to expect people to guess how
you want them to act with any degree of accuracy.
People have the right to know that lateness can result in them losing
a shift and that you can be disciplined for chatting.

2. Clear targets
when I first started working for you I was told that it doesn’t
matter how many magazines you get hand out as long as you are handing
them out. We later I was told that I need to hand out more. Despite
doing so I was still fired. If I had been told how many bundles I was
expected to hand out it would have been a clear target and easier to
deal with.

3. All employees have a right to see there contract by law.
This should state what is expected of them and what right they have.
Generally people won’t ask to see their contract as they do not want to
attract attention to themselves or be seen as being difficult but it
is hard to meet unknown expectations and life is made more confusing.

4. Don’t fire people by text
Obviously it can be a difficult thing to do but it shows a lot more
consideration if you make a phone call or talk to them in person. You
should also tell them why they have been let go so that they
understand why it has happened.

If you adopt any of these practices I will be grateful.

Yours Sincerely


A precarious worker

This letter is available online at:

Address any reply or queries to: precariousworkersgroup@gmail.com

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precarious workers group at the pop up social centre

We will be having a stall at the pop up social centre this Saturday and Sunday.


To promote what we are doing.

I hope to see you there.

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