Not the “end to zero hour contracts” you were looking for

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, July 12th, 2015 - 30 comments
Categories: employment, national, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

We have two options before us, New Zealand. Either Michael Woodhouse still hasn’t had anyone explain the difference between zero hour contracts – which are exploitative trash – and casual employment – which is casual – to him.

Or, Michael Woodhouse knows damn well that there’s a significant difference between fairly negotiating an on-call position with your employer, and being at your employer’s beck and call and whim with no ability to say no; and the only reason he’s making any kind

I’m favouring the latter, in light of this report on the proposed changes to employment contracts, which relies heavily on the words “reasonable” and “unreasonable” (and when you’re the one who can afford lawyers, that means whatever you want it to mean) and apparently does nothing to address the actual problem: workers being effectively bonded to their employers and expected to show up at any hour of the day or night with no guarantee of a minimum weekly pay and no ability to get secondary employment to make up the difference.

But speaking on TV One’s Q and A programme Woodhouse said there was no real definition of zero hours contracts.

If an employer wanted someone to be on call, then there would need to be “reasonable compensation” for that, but the law would not put a figure on it.

But he agreed it would still be possible for an agreement to have no stipulated hours.

I don’t know, that sounds pretty much like a zero hours contract to me.

This is the problem for the government. Zero hour contracts are patently unfair. Everyone can see that. And thanks to a dedicated campaign by unions like UNITE and FIRST, with a publicity boost from the much-mourned Campbell Live, it became an issue which couldn’t be ignored or swept aside.

They had to at least appear to do something or the whole “fairness and flexibility” facade would have come crashing down.

But this is not a government which gives one single damn about workers being exploited by big business. This is a government which took away guaranteed minimum rest breaks and knighted Peter Talley.

They’ll talk the tough talk when they need to salvage some credibility, and they’ll promise change when they’re under the gun. But once you look at the real detail, it’s empty. If anything, it makes things worse, by creating even more loopholes for bad employers to exploit – and the irony is that this doesn’t just hurt workers. It hurts the good employers who do want to treat their staff with respect and decency, but get undercut and driven out of business by the exploiters.

In most of the industries which employ people on zero-hour contracts, there is literally no need to. They can predict demand. They know what times are busy and what aren’t. It’s the height of penny-pinching for a 24-hour fast food joint to demand that its workers come and go at no notice in order to save a buck, and it only works because those workers don’t have a lot of choice.

Even an anti-worker, union-hating National government like ours should be able to ban this kind of coercive arrangement without doing any damage to their base. The fact that Michael Woodhouse is still dancing around the issue and trying to weasel his way out of clear, decisive action just shows how morally bankrupt they are.

30 comments on “Not the “end to zero hour contracts” you were looking for”

  1. adam 1

    Thanks for the post Stephanie Rogers.

    The Tory Scum will always default to Tory hatred of working people every time. It’s like they lie, and lie and believe their own lies.

    Michael Woodhouse – Tory scum of the week!

    Sheesh that takes some serious hard work mate, with so many Tory Scum bags this week to pick from.

  2. Charles 2

    Looks like the proverbial is about to hit the mechanical:

    “…Unite Union has been negotiating over the last months with the major fast food companies. During this time public pressure has mounted and we have now successfully negotiated for all workers at McDonalds, Burger King and Restaurant Brands (KFC, Pizza Hutt, Starbucks and Carls Jr.) to have guaranteed hours from July this year.

    Thanks to everyone who has been part of the campaign so far- we are winning..!”

    oh hang on…

    A victory lasting from July till… July? Nobody in Restaurants Brands etc knew of course, while they were all negotiating in “good faith”. Things just happen. Just like that. Woodhouse gets up in morning with great idea, everything in place by noon.

    • If Unite have managed to get guaranteed hours in the collective at Restaurant Brands etc. it doesn’t get superseded by this law change. On the other hand, when the collective comes up for renewal the companies may try to claw back the hours guarantee. The struggle never ends!

      • Charles 2.1.1

        Mike Treen of Unite says March next year the 3 monthly measuring of hours (agreement mentioned above) is up for review at McD’s. It’s all just too co-incidental. A co-incidence that happens every time. What is an agreement worth if the agreement parameters have been out-flanked/made obsolete by new law due later this year? The data is potentially able to be legally ignored. The struggle, indeed. If the Nats were a football team, they’d play on the side of a hill and visiting teams would always play uphill.

        • Mike the Savage One 2.1.1.1

          Unite have an endless battle to fight, as the employers will always try to undermine any agreement they make with the union, they have done it in the past, before the ink has dried under a contract between Unite and certain employer representatives, they are already scheming to find ways to exploit loopholes or circumvent whatever they just agreed on. That is the employer side, it is the race between the hare and the hedgehog, I fear:
          http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm187.html

          Or if you prefer, the hare and the tortoise:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_and_Tortoise

        • NZJester 2.1.1.2

          You forgot to put on that list that if the Nats were a football team the ref would be chosen from a list of their supporters only.

      • Lucy 2.1.2

        But now McDonalds, Restaurant Brands et al do not have to negotiate with the collective any more they can work away and demand the employees negotiate individually. Didn’t that law just go through? So this collective agreement is likely to be the last with employers who want to break the unions in their workplace.

  3. TheBlackKitten 3

    What I would like someone to do is to ask Woodhouse what is the difference between zero hour contracts and only allowing a business to have customer. A customer that does not guarantee enough work to keep the business viable and a customer that expects the business to be available 24/7 despite that they may only use them for an hour each week.
    Zero hour contracts takes away the right for an employee to make a decent living and for them to be in the position to pay their own way. What they do do is force an employee to rely on the taxpayer dollar via welfare. Perhaps someone should also ask Woodhouse why the taxpayers should be expected to prop up businesses that are making millions in profit because they are too stingy to pay their workers a living wage. Taxpayers are already subsiding their low wages via WFF. This whole concept of zero contracts just stinks and I really fail to see how anyone (unless you are a shareholder of these corporates) can support it.
    The other issue is that the big white elephant in the room is being ignored. That being that there are not enough jobs for people. Due to desperation for a job, employees are being squashed to the ground. If there were more jobs, then employers would be forced to pay fairly. Jobs, jobs, jobs is what is needed and I don’t see one single party talking about another white elephant in the room, being that countries like China have stolen a lot of our jobs due to their slave labour laws. Until this is addressed, things will just get grimmer, less jobs, less pay, desperate people accepting crap conditions just so they can have a job.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    But this is not a government which gives one single damn about workers being exploited by big business.

    Of course they give a damn – they know damn well that employers need to be able to exploit employees so as to maximise profits.

  5. Iain Lees-Galloway 5

    What I find most astounding is that when given a choice between supporting good employers who take health and safety seriously and don’t use zero-hour contracts and exploitative employers who cut corners and abuse the power they have over their workers National has routeinly stood alongside the exploiters. Good employers should not have to compete with those who get and advantage from exploitation as well as a Govt that incentivises poor practice.

    • Skinny 5.1

      If only they buckled to opposition pressure like they did with that ‘vote losing policy of yours’ lowering the drink driving limit, which was the final straw for some voters who jumped ship.

    • Cheers, Iain. It’s bloody sad the Nats won’t even listen to business leaders who publicly say that zero hours contracts aren’t needed. Michael Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce for example. According to the Stuff website he said the proposal ignored work-life balance, the needs of the family and protection for those that were weak and zero hours contracts should simply have been outlawed as the Nats promised.

      It’s almost like Woodhouse was nobbled. But who by?

      • Skinny 5.2.1

        I agree that he was nobbled, probably a bit rattled after Amy Adams decided to flag party lines and insisted on supporting corporate manslaughter. You can bet Judith Collins was giving her the hard stare.

        Mind you Key is no pro worker kind of guy below that Teflon veneer of his.

    • Thanks for commenting, Iain! 😀

  6. Keith 6

    Routine, deeply cynical and entirely predictable National at their duplicitous best.

    There is a storm over an issue, they sit back and see which way the cards fall and especially if its against their wishes (and that of their donors and wealthy mates) but the public are unhappy then they come out in a blaze of publicity telling the public they are going to fix whatever the problem is. This;

    a) takes the heat out of the subject
    b) gives them time to come up with a “solution’ that does nothing to change anything but looks like it does something.
    c) Leads to a convoluted, confusing, loop holed do nothing policy that leaves everything nicely as it is. Job done.

    Just look at the Clayton’s solutions on Auckland’s property market and as of late the rental insulation “solutions”.

    But they miss the point that it is their kids too along with a hell of a lot of other people they don’t give a shit about who are being screwed by this Victorian throw back!

  7. Mike the Savage One 7

    Judith Collins and some like minded MPs sitting in amongst the Nats on the benches, they still wield a lot of power. I am not at all surprised about Woodhouse being so ambiguous, would we expect anything else from National?

    Casual work, yes, casual, that is going to stay, and they want the “freedom” to “negotiate”, of course, for employers, and their supposedly “equal” employees, to come to terms they agree on, and then put into a contract. Most contracts are individual ones, and guess who has the stronger negotiating arms?!

    I do not believe for one moment, that we will really do away with “zero hour contracts”, they will simply get another name and description, and still be there, for employers to take advantage of their staff.

    “Flexibility” is something National will NEVER do away with, as their funders and supporters will pull back the money for their election financing, should they honour their words and actually do something for the ordinary worker, or even the low skilled, underpaid, defenseless worker.

    Watering down policy and all else, that is the expert area of Key and Nats, they do it all the time, and sadly they get away with it, as the general public are too slow to pick up on it. “Let us be reasonable” , is one of their comments.

    I observed Helen Kelly and her reservations on Q+A, and I agree, this is not what it seems, coming from the Minister, and sadly the mainstream media already reported, without scrutinising details, Minister Woodhouse, or the government, wants to do away with “zero hour contracts”. So again, the spin has worked, and nobody bothers reading the details. It is driving me to despair, how this crap media we have do not bother reporting facts and the truth, but then again, they have over time managed to put many of their favourable operators in key media positions, the Nats, have they not?!

  8. keyman 8

    new zealanders are sheep there should be a riot
    in the UK zero hour contracts are forcing people in to hands of the pay day lenders
    dam the million none voters see what not voting causes the results of loss income drive more into poverty its such a false economy

    • Mike the Savage One 8.1

      Have you ever heard of any “riot” in NZ, let alone by “sheep”? It will never happen, and if something similar happens, it will be alcohol induced, something like the New Years “celebrations” in known resorts. Only
      if a pub runs out of beer, will there ever be a riot of sorts.

    • I’m not a fan of dismissing people as “sheep” just because they aren’t as interested in politics as I am.

      Given rising inequality and increasing numbers of people having to work two or three jobs just to get by, I’m especially worried about the tendency of some people on the left to sneer at those people’s lack of “proper” political action.

      Those of us who have the privilege of time, ability and inclination to do political activism should be finding ways to reach out and support those who feel disaffected or powerless – not crap on them for being “lesser” than us.

  9. Peter 9

    If we had a decent Labour party they would have already said when we become the government we will get rid of zero hour contracts and if the workers want a collective agreement then so be it. I wouldn’t hold my breath

  10. Peter 10

    If we had a decent Labour party they would have already announced that when we become the government it will be the end of zero hours contracts and if the workers want a collective contract so be it. Don’t hold your breath.

  11. repateet 11

    Woodhouse is a bloody idiot and is so stupid he thinks we’re as stupid as him.

    Now that I’ve got the nasty bit off my chest, on to a reasonable view given his attitude.

    Woodhouse is either a cretin or a sly, conniving, weasely scumbag.

  12. fisiani 12

    Woodhouse knows that real life is not just a simplistic slogan. He lives in the real world. A world where work conditions and wages are improving. Zero hours will soon be gone. Employment is growing and people know that we are heading in the right direction. Welcome to the brighter future.

    • Skinny 12.1

      If his party stuck to their word you wouldn’t be needing to make an ass of yourself.
      A very amusing post cobbah! Thanks.

    • Skinny 12.2

      If his party stuck to their word you wouldn’t be needing to make an ass of yourself.
      A very amusing post cobbah! Thanks.

    • Wensleydale 12.3

      As has been documented previously, employment statistics in this country are a complete lie, and the only place working conditions and wages are improving is on Planet Key.

      In other news, you’re still a muppet.

  13. Akldnut 13

    “Woodhouse knows that real life is not just a simplistic slogan. He lives in the real world. A world where work conditions and wages are improving. Zero hours will soon be gone. Employment is growing and people know that we are heading in the right direction. Welcome to the brighter future.”

    Fisi are you fucking kidding me, everything you just wrote is a combination of simplistic slogans. Your world is not real.

    • Jones 13.1

      It’s real for him… domiciled to Planet Key where the official languages are soundbites and slogans.

  14. Sable 14

    A good article. Indeed, this Nat mob represent the worst attitudes on the part of business and employers at the expense of simple human decency. Its the same in the UK too where we are seeing much the same winding back of employee rights and exploitative legislation.

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    From the Wall Street Journal:Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Mr. Trump looked over a gathering of American and Egyptian officials and called out in ...
    1 week ago
  • Magdalen Burns, 1983-2019, fighter for women’s liberation
    by the Redline blog collective At Redline we are very saddened to hear of the death of Magdalen Burns who passed away on the morning of Friday, September 13 (British time). Magdalen was a great fighter for the rights of women in general and lesbian women in particular, a defender ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Parliament and the Executive
    The Brexit issue has certainly brought with it a series of apparently difficult constitutional issues, many of them concerning the respective roles of the executive and parliament. Most of them arise because of the unwillingness of MPs, despite their professions to the contrary, to be bound by a constitutional rarity ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response
    . . This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues… Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    1 week ago
  • Police will have to wear silly Buckingham Palace hats from now on, says Police Minister
    Those close to the Police Minister believe the initiative may be the result of Nash “seeing a great deal” on AliExpress. In a move that comes seemingly out of nowhere, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced this afternoon that he expects all frontline staff to don bearskin hats, famously worn by ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • A sensible crackdown
    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    1 week ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    2 weeks ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    2 weeks ago

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