Article from the Sept 2004 edition, Socialist Voice


MEMBERS OF Omagh Socialist Youth picketed the Supervalu store in the centre of the town at the end of August in protest at the poverty wages paid to young members of staff.

By Daniel Waldron, Omagh Socialist Youth

16 year old employees were being paid a miserly 2.50 per hour, until pressure from trade unions forced the management to grant a 3% pay rise. However, this has made little difference, as these workers can only look forward to an extra 8p for every hour they work!

This supermarket is part of O'Kane Supermarkets Ltd, a very profitable company that has property across Northern Ireland. There is no excuse for them paying this disgusting level of pay!

The shop's manager denied these allegations when we challenged him, but we have a recent pay-slip from a young worker to prove it! The police were called to investigate our protest, which was surely an indication of management's frustration that we exposed the poverty wages they pay.

We were also made aware by workers of poor conditions in SuperValu. Workers doing four hour shifts are often expected to stay longer to fill in for those off sick, without being given the appropriate breaks for the extended shifts. Some have been given verbal warnings because trivial pieces of work weren't done, usually because the shop is too busy and under-staffed.

We have been contacted by two workers who allege that they were put under pressure to leave because their 18th birthdays were approaching and they would have to be paid the minimum wage of 3.80 per hour!

The picket was very successful and had quite an impact. We gave leaflets to passers-by and explained what SuperValu were doing.

Many people voiced their disgust at this exploitation of vulnerable young people and turned away. Two young workers from SuperValu joined Socialist Youth immediately afterwards.

Management have responded by threatening to sack one young worker who they accuse of giving information about her pay to Socialist Youth. A meeting of all 16 year old staff has been called to "discuss" their pay.

If any worker is victimised, Socialist Youth will respond by stepping up the campaign for a complete boycott of SuperValu.

Meanwhile we are calling on the people of Omagh to protest to the owners and managers of this shop about the wages they pay, and to boycott this shop until they vastly improve their pay and conditions. Until this happens, we will continue with our campaign!

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