A parent recently contacted us to ask if we could help highlight the abuse of young workers in Northern Ireland. Names have been removed to protect workers identities. If you have any stories of workers getting ripped off, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
My teenage son recently left a job in a well-known Belfast city centre clothes shop. You might think him stupid to leave a job in a recession like this. But the bullying, abusive treatment he received was making him ill. Despite working for them for over a year he never received a contract, despite repeated promises he would.
Staff were expected to start work 15 minutes before their official start time (or 15 minutes before they started getting paid!) and to stay, unpaid, after their official finishing time while the takings were counted. This could be for anywhere from 20 minutes to nearly an hour.
The staffing rota was prepared 4 weeks in advance and shown to managers but workers weren’t allowed to see it until sometimes the day before it took effect. This was just one of the many petty abuses that senior managers used to keep staff in fear. Of course this caused major problems to workers’ social lives. Managers wanted staff to be available 24/7.
They deliberately employed a huge number of staff on say 10-15 hours a week, though at Xmas and other times staff might be expected to work huge numbers of hours. The average weekly wage was certainly not enough to live on. So my son, like many staff, got a second job. This was interpreted as “You are not committed to this company!’. Despite him telling them weeks in advance what his other working hours were, they would frequently slot him into shifts that he could not work and then bully him when he complained.
Staff were ordered to make up any shortages in the till from their own minimum wages. He never received the full paid holidays he was legally entitled to. After weeks and weeks of working 55-60 hour weeks over Xmas he finally quit.
A friend’s daughter works for a company which expects its staff to strip half naked and hand out leaflets ( guys bare-chested, young women in bikinis). Again, they will only offer 8 or 10 hours work a week. But they bar their staff from working anywhere else. They must be available 24/7. Worse, managers will frequently put 8 people on the rota to work a shift but then phone half of them 30 minutes before they are due to start work….and tell them they are not required. That’s their way of making sure they get enough staff in!
And all this for minimum wage. This whole industry needs unionised. Some people say teenagers don’t want to work. The fact that teens put up with these abusive work practices shows how desperate teenagers are to work.