Scrooge firms operate two-tier Christmas

Dec 05 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Christmas comes but once a year - and that's once too often for some employers, according to survey of union officials in ‘Labour Research’ magazine.

Labour Research's regular survey of Christmas benefits, which this year covered 150 firms employing 96,000 staff, shows that the trend towards reducing Christmas benefits is continuing. But it also shows that some employers treat their senior staff better than those on the shop floor.

The Christmas benefit which staff are most likely to receive, reported by nearly half of the reps, is modest, to say the least - a Christmas dinner in the works canteen, which may not even be free - nearly 20 per cent of respondents reported paying the normal price.

Fewer than a quarter of the officials in the survey said employers provided a Christmas party for employees, and just over a quarter received a seasonal gift.

And those gifts that remain are falling in value. At biscuit manufacturer Jacobs, where the employees get... biscuits, the union rep reports: "The value of the Christmas biscuits has declined."

The gift given by Brewer Scottish Courage (part of Scottish and Newcastle) is equally generous - at two packs of beer. But again workers fear this "could be the last year as no-one else in Scottish and Newcastle gets it."

But not all employees are treated in this off-hand way over the festive season. Over a quarter (26 per cent) of reps said that their managers or supervisors were treated differently by their employers.

These include Nestle Rowntree, where supervisors and managers get a gift, Rockware Glass, where they are taken to a restaurant for a meal, and Akcros Chemicals, where there is a "private do for them plus drinks."

However, the bus companies are the real pantomime villains for this insensitive behaviour, with many giving bus drivers virtually nothing while their supervisors and managers get a range of Christmas benefits.

At Arriva North West, for example, supervisors and managers get "time off for a get together and Christmas parties in office hours", while at Sovereign Bus London and a Stagecoach operator they get Christmas dinner. And union reps from six companies in the First bus group also reported that managers and supervisors get Christmas dinners and parties while their drivers go without.

The miserly behaviour of bus and other companies was summed up by the dejected union rep at Trent Buses, who said that "we receive a photocopied Christmas card for most of the notice boards - but not all - and we're not sure about this year."

Labour Research is published by the Labour Research Department, an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 90 years ago. More than 1,800 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions representing 99 per cent of total TUC membership, are affiliated.