Having spent most of my working life in the hospitality industry unionising wasn’t really an option for me. I’d been on a contractor, a casual worker, employed on zero-hours contracts and a salaried managed, but even when I gained a salaried position I was working hours that pushed me into poverty wages. For most of those years, there wasn’t a union to represent me, and when I was eventually eligible to join a union it felt like something that was only accessible for the public sector.
After years of working on the service side of the hospitality industry, I entered a role which would allow me to join a union. So cautiously, I did. Even at that point, being the only union member that I knew of in the organisation, I wasn’t sure what the benefit was to me so it was more of an ideological move than a practical one. Once I was ready for a new challenge and to move on from that employer, I struggled to find a vacancy in my specialist area of craft beer marketing, one which would not require me to move to cities once again.
So that is how I came to be self-employed I couldn’t find a position on my terms, so I created one and I love it. However, I didn’t anticipate how lonely being self-employed would be, both in terms of having work buddies and the protections that come with employment. Although I had a new sense of freedom, I’d lost my access to legal advice, collective bargain power and an organised community of people in the same boat as me.
Being self-employed for a few years now, I’ve noticed I get a sense of respect for having gone it alone, but also a heavy dose of suspicion from some members of the public. Due to a lack of understanding and misrepresentation, many people presume self-employed people are playing the system or at worst, that we’re tax dodgers fiddling the system. Had a union like Community not existed for us when coronavirus hit, that perception may have persisted and the government wouldn’t have been forced to offer us support package us through the earlier part of the pandemic. Being a union member is no longer an ideological issue for me, it is a vital service, which protects me as I work.
If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 389 6332.