North: Exploitation Scandal at Reid Transport

By Paddy Meehan, Belfast Socialist Youth

Reid Transport’s recent collapse has unearthed the exploitation of a 14 year old worker who worked night shifts of up to 11 hours before going to school the next morning!

The worker, who cannot be named, stated he worked mostly from 8pm to midnight, but on some nights he worked until 7am the next day. On some occasions he was working five nights a week!  He kept up this workload while still attending school during the day. This is of course illegal, but as senior barrister Jill Brown recently stated “it does happen quite regularly that children are employed… beyond the hours that they are supposed to be”.

This will come as no surprise to many young workers still at school, who are forced into working longer hours just to keep up with higher living costs. In October 2007 the minimum wage for 16-17 year olds increased by 10p an hour to £3.40. This miserly extra 10p means nothing when the prices of everything from food to CDs are rising daily.

Presently school students can legally work two hours on a school day, but cannot work between 7pm and 7am. This is casually ignored by bosses throughout Northern Ireland. Current legislation, supposedly in favour of protecting young workers, actually excludes workers under 16 from entitlement to the minimum wage. This leads to super-exploitation of under 16’s by bosses being allowed to pay starvation wages.

Since 1997 there has only been one successful prosecution of a company for paying under the minimum wage, making bosses feel confident they can get away with this super-exploitation. Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party however, have forced many businesses to increase wages over the years by ‘Naming & Shaming’ low pay bosses and picketing businesses we have discovered are paying peanuts.

However, greedy employers out to make a profit will always seek ways to further exploit young workers. The example of Reid Transport is only the tip of the iceberg. Socialist Youth has spoken to many young workers who get just £2 an hour! It is the nature of capitalism to pay the lowest wage possible to maximise profits. This exploitation will continue until there is a joint struggle of the low paid to fight for better wages and conditions linked to the building of a socialist alternative to the cut-throat system of capitalism.

Are you low paid? Bad conditions at work? Know your rights? Get organised! – Contact Socialist Youth today at 02890232962 or 07876146473

Socialist Youth demands:
– £8 an hour minimum wage
– Scrap the youth exemptions
– Trade union rights for all young workers

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