web analytics
The Standard
Advertising

UK: Zero Hour Contracts

Written By: - Date published: 8:56 am, August 7th, 2013 - 9 comments
Categories: business, employment, workers' rights - Tags:

Martin Rowson 06.08.13

There’s a Guardian-led campaign in the UK at the moment over “zero-hour contracts.”

Zero-hour contracts are like some at the Port of Auckland (and the port company want them all to be): no guaranteed hours, on-call at a moment’s notice, no job security, but no ability to get another job.  “Flexibility” for the employer, who has a complete whip hand.

To some the answer is how good this is for business, avoiding the problems of Southern Europe (with their civil-service jobs for life), and some job is better than no job.

But the reality for the employees is very different.  There’s plenty of talk about how it can be what they want, but noticeably the BBC couldn’t actually find someone who liked being on one.  It can work for some students / retired people topping up their incomes, but they’d probably still prefer to have some hours guaranteed.

There are an estimated 1 million on these contracts in the UK and the campaign has resulted in a government inquiry, which may led to regulation.

It appears the largest sector of workers are in the care centre.  Councils cutting austerity budgets are reducing the rights of their workers.  And without the guaranteed hours, workers struggle to pay the rent (let alone get a mortgage), pay the bills, even get food.  Doing society’s duty of looking after the sick and elderly, they themselves are being abused.

It’s common in the private sector too – McDonald’s and Sports Direct have the contracts as a matter of course: each have 90% of their staff (83,000 and 20,000 respectively) on zero-hour contracts.  Even Buckingham Palace is in on the act.

Marx would call this by what it is: exploitation.

… there is an early 19th-century feel to zero-hours contracts. It is as though Britain has gone back to the future, returned to an age where the employer had the whip hand and where the rights that workers enjoyed under the feudal system had been removed.

Research by the Resolution Foundation thinktank shows that those on zero-hours contracts earn less than those on staff or on fixed-hours contracts. They have no rights to sick pay. Holiday pay is often refused. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that if they turn down work when it is offered – even if it is to take a child for a medical appointment – they will be pigeon-holed as not suitably “flexible”. The choice to refuse work is, in reality, no such thing.

As the Guardian says zero hour contracts are not unavoidable.  If McDonald’s can predict how much meat they need for their burgers, they can surely predict approximately how many hours they will be able to offer an employee, and give them some security in their contract.

… there are other ways to solve this conundrum than indenturing workers or making them wait at the metaphorical factory gate for a tap on the shoulder.

The contented majority, as the liberal economist JK Galbraith termed the 60% of the (ageing, pension-saving) population who use their money and votes to craft the political economy to keep them in clover, are unwittingly supporting zero-hours contracts. Maybe if they knew that paying higher prices meant wages would rise and employment contracts would be more secure, they would open their wallets. The trend, however, is in the opposite direction.

It’s likely to be the case here too, as employers take notice of the government’s philosophy and employment law changes and implement “flexibility”, forgetting their half of the social contract to provide stability and security to their employees.  They lose out with a lack of loyalty from their employees, and their better staff will go elsewhere; but the trend to lower wages and conditions (including health & safety – something the CTU is focusing on with their forestry and mining campaigns) in many parts of the economy is strong.

But wouldn’t those of us with secure wages rather pay a little more for our services and have all members able to join in society?  We’ll be richer as a community for it…

9 comments on “UK: Zero Hour Contracts”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Just part of a long and ongoing 35 year slide in employment conditions and real pay. All the while, executive pay and shareholder profits have exploded.

    The Left is doing it wrong, but shows no ability to change strategies or set the agenda.

    In New Zealand we think that things like paid Parental leave is an advancement, but few would care about that if pay levels meant that a single income could still run a household and pay a mortgage.

    • muzza 1.1

      Simply it is this.

      As the mathematilcal certainty of global bankrupcy races towards every corner of the globe at various speed, the system will fight for it’s very survival.

      The system fighting for its survival, explicity implies, that others must suffer/die, while all remaining resources are stolen, to prop up the system!

      Exclusively around the wold, any negative situation (bar a few) that can be seen around the world, is directly attributable to the systems survial mechanism, of fight!

  2. Molly 2

    I always considered the tendency for businesses to hire casual staff over the long term – to be an indication of a lack of ability on the part of management or owner.

    In some ways, it was used as both a way to cope with unexpected workloads and for both employer and employee to see whether a job or occupation fits. But pretty soon, it led onto permanent part-time or full-time work. At least this is what often happened in the hospitality industry many moons ago.

    To compensate for this – casual workers received a higher hourly rate, which included holiday pay etc.
    A justified extra boost – which compensated the worker for lack of security, and incentivised the employer to make a decision.

    This seemed to go out on the tide when the Employment Contracts Bill came in, and all the awards etc floated out.

  3. mickysavage 3

    Very chilling. You can bet that anyone that shows any sort of Trade Union solidarity will not be rung for work because of some crap like they are not a team player. And your reference to the 19th century is very appropriate. It really feels like we are going full circle.

    • Molly 3.1

      ..was thinking a major difference to the balance was near to full employment.

      If you had a casual worker who was a good fit, employers made haste to employ them properly before they moved on.

      There is no balance of power in today’s situation – and now apparently, no “goodwill” either, thanks to Simon Bridges.

  4. idlegus 4

    nz post been doing it for years, their ‘oncall’ posties, could expect a phone call before 7am & be told they are needed, or get no phone call & have to wait til the next day. some ppl are ‘oncall’ for years before they get offered full time employment. also, the oncalls get no holidays or sick days either.

  5. A contract between two parties is not the same as an employee-employer relationship.

    Both parties have equal status in a contract, and a true contract has lawful purpose.

  6. Macro 6

    This law is necessary so that you can have cheap food in the supermarket……

    Producers are at the mercy of supermarket demand. Just in time ordering of food means that producers have about 1 day to supply – but they in turn have no storage (it keeps costs down) eg fresh produce – so they in turn have to have a “flexible labour” (usually foreign workers illegally employed and abused in “gangs” moved around the country (England) as the demand arises) force so no orders mean no work.
    If we really want to do away with this sort of despicable labour laws we must reassess our whole society and our demand for summer produce all year round…

    A very good book on this very topic is “Not on the Label” by Felicity Lawrence consumer affairs correspondent for the Guardian

Important links

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

1 2 3 7

  • Housing Accord not working – prices continue skyward
      The Government's Auckland Housing Accord isn't working as house prices continue to go through the roof, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “The average Auckland house has gone up by $110,000 since the Accord came into effect 15 months… ...
    13 hours ago
  • Justice for Teina Pora long overdue
    The Privy Council’s decision to quash Teina Pora’s convictions for the rape and murder of Susan Burdett could be the final chapter in a case that should have been closed years ago, Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. “Teina Pora… ...
    17 hours ago
  • Ministers must answer questions on IRD blowout
    The current and previous Revenue Ministers must front up and explain how the child support system had a budget blowout from $30 million to $210 million in just four years, says Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove. “Peter Dunne was Revenue… ...
    2 days ago
  • Curb stratospheric public CEO salaries
    A review of the way MPs’ pay is set should also look at ways to curb excessive rises in the salaries of public service chief executives, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “Some of these CEOs have had stratospheric pay increases… ...
    2 days ago
  • 50 cents? Makes no sense.
    The minimum wage rose by 50 cents this month from 14.25 to 14.75. While it’s a small step towards ensuring minimum workers get a fair share, it’s important to remember that real wages only rose 1.5% while productivity rose by… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    3 days ago
  • The Serco corrections circus
    It should seem obvious to employers, private or public, that it’s important to do what you can to retain your best, most experienced staff. They make life easier for you because they’re effective, attentive and often respected by those around… ...
    GreensBy David Clendon MP
    3 days ago
  • Time for NZ to prohibit the killing of great apes
    That ban was widely hailed, and spurred efforts in other countries to get similar bans. However, apes are still being exploited, abused and killed, both in captivity and in the wild. Examples of cruelty, neglect and abuse abound. Apes are… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    6 days ago
  • Auckland building consents: Tragic
    The only word to describe the latest building consent figures for Auckland is ‘tragic’, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Whatever the Government is doing to address the Auckland housing crisis, it is clearly not working. ...
    6 days ago
  • A whiff of a new biosecurity scandal?
    A pest which could create havoc for New Zealand’s horticulture and agriculture sector must be as much a focus for the Government as hunting out fruit flies, Labour’s Biosecurity spokesperson Damien O’Connor says. “While the Ministry for Primary Industries is… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government shrugs off health sector crisis
    Despite new evidence showing that cuts to health spending are costing lives the Government continues to deny the sector is struggling, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “Health services in New Zealand are in crisis. ...
    6 days ago
  • Parata lowered the bar for failing charter school
    When Hekia Parata became aware that the Whangaruru charter school was experiencing major problems her first action was to drop standards by reducing the number of qualified teachers they had to employ, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins has revealed. “Hekia… ...
    7 days ago
  • National not being straight about the economy
    John Key and Bill English need to be straight with New Zealanders about the damage their failure to diversify the economy is doing, after new figures show export growth plunged due to a collapse in dairy exports, says Grant Robertson.… ...
    7 days ago
  • Mind the Gap
    This week the International Monetary Fund released a report on the wider economic value in closing the gender pay gap. When even the bastions of free-market economics start to raise concerns about gender pay gaps, we have to realise how… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    7 days ago
  • Labour will hold National to parental leave promise
    Labour will hold National to its promise to increase the support given to new parents of premature, multiple birth and babies born with disabilities, Labour’s paid parental leave campaigner Sue Moroney says. "I am naturally disappointed that after battling for… ...
    1 week ago
  • It was all just pillar talk
    Steven Joyce’s confession that he can no longer guarantee a pillar-free design for the New Zealand International Convention Centre shows the Government has abandoned its dream of creating an ‘iconic’ ‘world-class’ structure, says Labour Economic Development spokesperson David Clark. “Steven… ...
    1 week ago
  • Australians move on offshore speculators
    John Key might want to have a quiet word with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott about Canberra's just-announced crack down on offshore speculators when he visits New Zealand this week, Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says."Tony Abbott's centre right government… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government at odds on overseas driver crashes
    National backbencher Jacqui Dean has spoken out about overseas driver crashes, putting herself at odds with Prime Minister John Key who is on record as saying it’s not a big issue, Labour’s Transport spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “I’m not surprised… ...
    1 week ago
  • Human Rights and the Palestine Crisis
    Last week I heard two Palestinians speak at Wellington events about the ongoing crisis in their country. Samar Sabawi spoke to a full house about the history of Palestine and gave us a lucid and disturbing account of the situation… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • Time to take real care of our kids
    An Amnesty International report has once again criticised New Zealand’s track record on looking after our kids, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. The annual report, which looks at global human rights abuses highlights not only the fact that high… ...
    1 week ago
  • John Key wrong about Labour’s war vote
    John Key’s desperate claims that the former Labour Government didn’t put combat troop deployment to a Parliamentary vote are simply wrong, Labour’s Defence spokesperson Phil Goff says. “It was disgraceful that the Prime Minister ran rough shod over democracy and… ...
    1 week ago
  • Manus Island and the New Zealand Government
    This week the Greens have participated in awareness activity about Manus Island, the refugee camp on an island in Papua New Guinea where Australia dumps asylum seekers. John Key says that he has every confidence in the Australian Government’s claim… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Election Inquiry – Getting accessible voting on the agenda
    James Shaw has been doing a series of blogs on the Election Inquiry into last year’s general election.  I thought this was a great opportunity to raise an issue very dear to me – accessible voting. Last year’s general election… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    2 weeks ago
  • RMA changes no solution to Christchurch housing
    Housing will continue to be a big issue in 2015. The latest Consumer Price Index, released last month, shows both good news and bad news on the housing front. After years of being the most expensive place to build a… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Saving kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges
    It is amazing that you can hear the song of the endangered North Island kokako in South Auckland’s Hunua Ranges, less than 50 kms from the central city. A heavy schedule of policy workshops at the Green Party’s Policy… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Let’s not turn a blind eye to human rights
    The Cricket World Cup has just opened in New Zealand, and it’s an opportunity for us to shine on the world stage. International sport can be a chance for us to build relationships with other countries, and examine what it… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Its Just Not Cricket
    This week it was my privilege to work with Sri Lankan Tamil communities in this country and host Australian journalist and human rights advocate Trevor Grant. I knew a bit about Trevor from his biography but I didn’t know just… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Time for NZ to #BeCrueltyFree
    The Government is about to progress the final stages of the Animal Welfare Amendment bill. This will be our last opportunity to get changes made to improve the bill to ensure a better outcome for animals. I have put forwards… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • We want access!
    Access to buildings is a big issue for many New Zealanders. It looks like that, due to the hard work and persistence of people in the disability community, the Government may finally be starting to take access to buildings seriously.… ...
    GreensBy Mojo Mathers MP
    3 weeks ago
  • Greens call on Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels
    The Green Party today called on the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the Fund) to divest from fossil fuels, starting immediately with coal. The call was accompanied with a new report, Making money from a climate catastrophe: The case for divesting… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    3 weeks ago

Removed at the request of The Daily Blog.
Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere