The collective bargaining round for the retail sector is over, the conflict far from so: the wage differential between temporary workers and those who get the contractual wage continues. While the starting wage at H&M for permanent staff has now increased by 36 cents an hour (3%), from the 1st January 2014 agency workers get just 31 cents an hour (3.8%) more. A wage alignment isn’t happening – not to mention the unequal treatment in the workplace.
The same goes for the development of company profits in relation to wages. In the last three months of last year alone, H&M profits rose by 6.5%.
At the same time, H&M turnover has risen by 12% – but does this equate to 12% more workers in the warehouse in Allermöhe? Of course not – more work is just done in less time. Now H&M is trying to further intensify and control work in ‚Call Off‘ (order picking), which re-supplies items sold in the shops (just-in-time).
Deepening of the division of labour: in their best case scenario the pickers are only supposed to pick, increasingly extra tasks are only supposed to be undertaken if instructed. This way they want to know more precisely how much time these tasks need – and better control whether all the pickers are also really picking.
The same goes for the new stricter rules around breaks: If they record breaks better, they’ll also have a better overview who, when and how often we’re standing around or sitting on the toilet.
They’re hoping for an increase in productivity, currently characterised by the fact that the picking sections are getting bigger.
Time is saved with big ‚Group Picks‘ (simultaneous picking of multiple orders). That requires even more concentration, we’re picking continuously and breaks are shorter. But here, it shows that ‚bitching‘ is worth it: after lots of people complained, the Group Picks were reduced again in some sections.
Through the deepening of the divisions of labour and control of breaks they want to discipline and control. But it’s precisely the small breaks in-between that are important so that we can endure the dry air, stress and monotony of work.
A picker from H&M wrote:
„Why are we always trying to argue with the management, that this or that measure won’t be effective for the company? It should be about what’s good for us: we don’t want to break our backs at work. We should decide our own pace of work, not theirs. Work will only be more effective if submit to their speed-up. Why should we?
Very important: we, co-workers, have to talk about this collectively, not only at team meetings. If someone opens their mouth there, we have to support each other!„