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Recession pressure on retail workers


From the latest edition of PCS Activate, the magazine for activists within the Public and Commercial Services Union.

 PCS culture sector organiser Lizzie Woods reports on efforts to bring together activists working in retail in museums, palaces and galleries

  The economic crisis is being used by some employers as an excuse to shed jobs, attack terms and conditions and increase pressure on staff.

Chaired by CMSOA Group treasurer Reuben Smith, the meeting drew reps from the Tate shops, the National Gallery, the British Museum, and Historic Royal Palaces.

 The forum brings together activists from shops and box offices across the sector, and aims to develop a culture sector retail workers’ charter.

 This will encourage culture branches to work together to achieve shared goals, and develop activity and solidarity.

 Retail workers are among the lowest paid in PCS. With a lack of cohesion over pay and conditions and widely differing working patterns, they are often the most isolated and exploited too.

 It is common for workers to find themselves working bank holidays, yet they do not always receive overtime and are expected to carry out their duties as if it were any other day of the year.

 It is normal for supervisors to be running three shops at once due to lack of cover. The forum also noted with concern that employers are increasingly taking on agency staff rather than filling permanent posts.

 Bullying is all too commonplace, and pressure to hit targets means bonuses are crudely used to pit workers against each other.

 To help tackle these issues, key objectives in the charter will include:


  • An anti-bullying policy
  •  A dignity at work policy
  • An end to indiscriminate use of agency staff Adoption of best practice in working hours and shift patterns
  • Consolidated, inflation-proof pay increases
  • An end to divisive, indiscriminate bonuses
  •  Health and safety/stress at work policy


Only through actively collectivising and campaigning around issues will our retail workers win results and ensure fairness and equality for all.


For more about the campaign for a retail workers’ charter contact Lizzie Woods on or 020 7801 2764

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© Trades Union Congress 2007