1 x Christmas Hat with ‘UNDERPAID?’ written on
1 x 50p coin
1 x 20p coin
1 x 10p coin
1 x piece of paper reading ‘LESS THAN £1 AN HOUR FOR WELSH CRACKER MAKERS’
by Jessey Tidahy
80 pence. That’s not a bad present for inside a cracker! But hang on, the headline… is this how much someone was paid for an hour’s work? In Wales?
The process of making Christmas crackers is intricate. They have to be assembled by hand. Until 2003, a company called Swantex was employing 200 homeworkers in Wales. The low labour cost and flexibility of homeworkers encouraged this company to adopt this production method. Here is the story of Julie, one of their employees and her working conditions.
Julie was making crackers in South Wales. Her employer did not provide its 450 homeworkers with written terms and conditions or any information about their rights, claiming that the homeworkers were ‘self-employed’. The company failed to pay the National Minimum Wage, paying less than £1 per hour for work. The company failed to provide the paid holiday leave to which the homeworkers were entitled, and withdrew work from all the homeworkers who complained to the government’s Compliance Unit about the poor pay. Since the publicity around Julie’s case, the supplier has moved its production overseas, and no longer uses homeworkers in Wales.
80 pence. An hour’s work. Wales. Is that right?