OIA on Zero Hours reveals just what an attack on workers it is.

Written By: - Date published: 11:39 am, September 24th, 2015 - 53 comments
Categories: employment, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

We have the documents leading up to the what can only be described as a dreadful piece of law legalising employment agreements which tie workers to an employer without any of the reciprocity of guaranteed hours of work.

It all started with the spectacular Unite campaign against “zero hour” contracts in fast food.  These 24/7 businesses employ thousands of workers, make loads of money from their efforts but were exploiting shite employment law to engage workers on contracts that forced them to be available any time day and night, but without any guaranteed hours.

Workers told how some weeks they got hardly any  hours and couldn’t pay the rent and how some weeks they got too many hours and were exhausted.  How they couldn’t commit to family events in case they had to work, how sport was out of the question as they never knew what would be demanded of them and how they were punished for any perceived slight by having their hours cut on any whim.  Unite used industrial and community power to win agreements with these employers that these workers would be guaranteed hours based on the recent historical record of what they had been working.  This has meant a massive improvement in the quality of their lives.  It also highlighted a widely experienced issue and the community responded with disgust about the whole situation.

When you take a bigger look atthe whole issue of hours of work and how important it is to working people to get regular hours , it is a crazy situation that unless there are genuine business reasons, hours and working times should be part of all employment arrangements.  The fact they are not is a simple control mechanism and reflective of an exploitative environment where anything goes.  You might remember at the same time, the public were outraged at stories of petrol station attendants having their wages docked for drive offs.  A similar reflection of the arrogance and greed our current weak employment laws encourage.  The Government realised it was at risk of the whole issue of the deregulation of the labour market coming under challenge.

So up steps the knight in shining armour Minister Woodhouse and in a fashion typical of this Government spins a line that he is going to stop this unfair practice and at the same time stop the deductions of workers wages like in the petrol attendants situation.  As usual, they thought they would ease the public concern without having to chuck out the whole project.  But of course now the pressure is off he is not even going to do that.  In fact the new Bill introduced last week and on a very short submission timeframe actually legislates for both – what could currently be illegal in many circumstances (CTU thinks many zero hour contracts will not be lawful in the circumstances many are operated, and the pay deductions are definitely unlawful), will now be made perfectly acceptable.

The new Bill allows for deductions from wages that are not “unreasonable” .  The current law only allows deductions for things that benefit the employee (e.g. rentals on farms, union fees, kiwisaver etc) but not for losses.  This new provision would allow an employer to propose deductions of no benefit to the worker if they can show they are not unreasonable.  The Bill also allows for zero hour contracts or “availability provisions” as they are called. The Bill even allows an employer to restrict second jobs on new and expanded terms much wider than the current law – effectively an employer can offer no hours but still stop you taking other work!

The official documents reveal just how this Government works.

  1.  Officials start off with some proposals banning unconscionable conduct – this is way too much for Government (think about this – imagine banning unconscionable conduct – what would be left?)
  2. Next one out of control Cabinet Cttee suggests that where historical hours show a pattern of work, the worker gains a right to this pattern as guaranteed hours in their agreement – this is rejected of course.
  3. The next proposal is to legislate for zero hours but provide for “reasonable compensation” to be payable to a worker that has a no hours agreement but is required to be available endlessly.  This is rejected by Cabinet;  and
  4. The final Bill simply says a contract can legally have zero hours regardless of necessity and “compensation” (of any amount) be included in an agreement if the requirement is for endless availability of the worker.
  5. An outrageous proposal is then added that will impact on all workers – that the current law that protects workers being restricted from taking second jobs to earn a fair living is amended to allow the employer to restrict this for a wide range of reasons not currently lawful, and which previously might have encouraged an employer to secure you through decent hours.

So the upshot is – the Bill will pass and make these agreements lawful, acceptable and cheap.  It will encourage them, and pay deductions and restrictions on second jobs.  At a time like now – where work in this country is so badly paid, with so little protection – we get this.

 

53 comments on “OIA on Zero Hours reveals just what an attack on workers it is.”

  1. Detrie 1

    It could be said that ‘we’ only have ourselves to blame, in that too many voters last time simply accepted that a national government would still ‘be kind and fair’ to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. John Key said as much after his win. We just assumed he would not allow the exploitation of young NZ citizens for the profit motive and protection of corporates. At least this horrid example will [hopefully] provide ammunition for the opposition parties come next election, encouraging young people to become more active politically. See national for what it really is. A deceitful government with no soul.

    • Sabine 1.1

      NO WE, please.

      one million voted for National, the others voted opposition or not at all.

      Unlucky for the country and its young population, we have an opposition that is toothless, idealess, wholesale corporate useless pathic suits the red/purple one as much as the aquamarine ones, that spend more time mediating flags n shite, instead of hammering on the issues that are important.

      But luckily all the poor buggers on 0 hour contracts with 0 income will get to vote for a feather or a triangle. All is well in Aotearoa.

      Sorry.

      • Rosie 1.1.1

        +1 Sabine.

        There is no WE.

        Nor do the people of NZ have themselves to blame. The citizens are not the ones writing such regressive and exploitative law.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          The citizens are not the ones writing such regressive and exploitative law.

          Yep. There’s no way that the citizens of NZ would write the type of policies that National do. Firstly, they’d be much better at it and secondly they’d be a damn sight fairer.

        • keyman 1.1.1.2

          i blame the none voters
          there should be riots over this
          the pay day lenders and loan sharks are going to love this doubling up on the misery get ready for more stress in society and violence ,nationals brighter future is here. bonded labor through poverty not exact 21 century we hoped for the 20th was a lot better

      • Liberal Realist 1.1.2

        “Unlucky for the country and its young population, we have an opposition that is toothless, idealess, wholesale corporate useless pathic suits the red/purple one as much as the aquamarine ones, that spend more time mediating flags n shite, instead of hammering on the issues that are important.”

        Agreed. Labour are mostly useless seat warmers. They’ve been co-opted since ’84 and are part of the neo-liberal consensus, part of the problem not the solution.

        I think Andrew Little should be coined ‘Do Little’ because he’s done fuck all since becoming leader. I still can’t figure out where he stands on a raft of issues, if anything he just tinkers around the edges of prominent issues.

        Labour should be raising hell with all of the ammo provided by National yet a recent example of what we see is stupid meaningless crap like red peak being bandied around.

        Where is the outrage! The Key government is taking us back a century in industrial relations and Labour faff around with flag bullshit!

        • sabine 1.1.2.1

          You can replace Labour with the Names of any of the other Opposition Parties and it would be absolutly the same.

          There is not one opposition Party that has achieved a single thing on their own, and still they refuse to work together. Useless and toothless that is the opposition in NZ, all of them.

          it is the next generation that will pay the price in full for the squabbles of todays polititians.

      • Tim 1.1.3

        We also have a population that is largely toothless. The number of no votes or votes for the legalise cannabis party is partly what allows this to happen (especially when there was a choice for a strong Green party on the rise as well as Labour as well as Mana). But go ahead and blame those who are trying to make a difference.

        • sabine 1.1.3.1

          actually that might be the party i am going to vote for.

          they have one policy,
          have been outspoken about it
          it would be a huge earner for the country
          jobs, taxes etc
          and as colorado has shown, domestic abuse and driving under the influence goes down, arrest on rowdy people go down, less costs to police etc etc
          this would keep people out of prisin
          so less costs for the police, the courts and serco of course in the end would also loose out cause a lot of criminals would not be made.

          compare that to any of the other parties that are essentially only windbags.

          the greens, the labour party ….nothing, they can not work together if their members were begging them. Thanks to their non working together we have Nikki Kaye, and Peter Fucking Dunne in Parliament. So really they are working hard? At loosing and at staying lost?
          heck winston peters at least won the north.
          so why not legalise canabis in aotearoa. We would do somethin good, finally and for once.

  2. Grindlebottom 2

    This government gets away with this sort of assault on workers because too few people have the time or interest to take any notice of what they’re doing. Where are the massive protests?

    Where are the innovative strategies by Opposition parties to force MSM attention on these ongoing assaults on our most vulnerable people? Press releases, and two second sound bytes by Andrew Little or opposition spokespeople don’t even ripple the surface of public attention.

    • Rosie 2.1

      Doesn’t help voices that speak out have been silenced. John Campbell committed quite a bit of air time to covering zero hour contracts, but he is gone from our TV screens – conveniently for Michael Woodhouse.

      Labour did email it supporters and members suggesting people write a submission against the new bill. It’s only now since Helen has put her post up, that we know exactly what’s in it so can form an argument based upon the information.

      But you’re right, a lot goes under the radar in the wider public. Writing a submission is only a small individual action.

  3. Steve Withers 3

    So if ACT and UK and NZF and Maori party dont support it……it won’t pass, right?

    Why would they hate our kids – particularly – as much as National apparently does?

    • greywarshark 3.1

      @GRindlebottom and Steve W
      Why do Nats hate our kids. Because they are not their kids – and they aren’t too sure how they feel about them either.

      Where is the massive protest? Thinking about it over a beer, like in the 1980s.

      • sabine 3.1.1

        they don’t hate your kids, they just don’t want to pay them.

        • greywarshark 3.1.1.1

          Sabine
          Ends up the same result though.

          • sabine 3.1.1.1.1

            i have a young one who works on a 0 hour contract, usually he works 48 hours per week.
            he is gonna work over christmas, and when the company closes shop for vacation he is out of a job.

            they don’t hate them, that would be an emotion they are not capable of. They view them as producing units. they have to produce the time they are needed and when not needed they will switch them off. and you will have to house/feed and take care of them, cause Winz is not gonna make it easy for them.
            And when they need them again, rinse repeat.

            It pisses me off, but I am at the point now where I don’t fault National anymore, the country to a large part does not give a fuck, they either voted for the lot, or they did not vote at all, and the pathetic excuse of opposition is to busy scoring beauty points that are meaningless.

            When the parents of the children stop ;hating; their children, and vote accordingly, or start demanding that their oppostion parties do better, and cajole and bribe by stealth the non voters to go to the poll maybe something will change. Unless then, our young ones are screwed. No jobs, No income, No houses, no nothing. And the whole country stands by and does nothing.

            here have a flag, a panda and fucked up work legislation.

  4. greywarshark 4

    Helen thank you for giving us the details about this neanderthal legislation. Not very good feelings for you. Unbelievable for us all that we have come to this scandalous result. But some day we will overcome, and it won’t be long. Thanks for keeping on, keeping on.

  5. Rosie 5

    Thank you Helen, for getting to the bottom of this horrid bill, and making it clear just how low our government is prepared to go to allow the exploitation of workers.

    I particularly like this bit, 67E, Availability Provision:

    “67E Availability provision unenforceable unless agreed compensation payable
    (1)
    In this section and section 67F, an availability provision means a provision in an employment agreement under which—
    (a)
    the employee’s performance of work is conditional on the employer making work available to the employee; and
    (b)
    there is no obligation on the employer to make work available to the employee; but
    (c)
    the employee is required to be available to accept any work that the employer makes available.”

    So, in essence, suck it up workers. Not comforting reading for jobseekers and those already coping with exploitative work conditions, at all. Sighing for the days when your hours were cut and dried and you could plan your life, or even have a life!

    • Keith 5.1

      “The employee’s performance of work is conditional on the employer making work available to the employee;” So then, not peformance based incentives, oh no, performance based employment. You only get work if you perform, like a slave perhaps?

      You have to hand it to National. Armed with the knowledge that if you pay a worker shit money on shit conditions you can pretty much expect a shit employee, they have legislated in the ultimate invasive state exmple possible to ensure a worker works like a well paid well treated worker. You can lead a horse to water National but you can’t pass a law to make it drink.

      This is seriously fucked up legislation!

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    This legislation is National to ‘T’ – pure bloody psychopathy.

    This legislation effectively makes slavery legal because that’s what being available for work but not being paid means.

    But, but, you’re not doing any work cry the RWNJs as they conveniently forget that people on these contracts can’t actually go out and work while not being paid to be available.

    If the psychopaths business people want these contracts then they need to be paying for forty hours per week and then they can expect people to be on call for them. If they don’t want to pay that then they can get a temp in – who’s actually paid significantly more per hour because of the fact that they don’t often get 40 hours per week.

  7. One Anonymous Bloke 7

    Is there any way to document the link(s) between these legislative changes (which are another clear and present threat to national security) and Cabinet Club?

    Why is the National Party so intent upon pitchforks and lamp-posts? Who are they working for?

  8. One Anonymous Bloke 8

    Why are good business owners being forced to compete with human-rights-abusing National Party prospects?

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Because the National Party voting business people are so stupid that they can’t compete any other way than driving their workers into poverty.

      • Ch-ch Chiquita 8.1.1

        It’s not just driving workers into poverty. Its even preventing them from being human; like scheduling a doctor appointment. Oh, wait! Maybe its a way to save on the health budget; get people on zero hours, they can’t schedule an appointment because they don’t know when they will work and they must be available so they will not go to the doctor and ta-da! Less expanses on health.
        Can’t these proposed changes be classified as human rights violation?

        • sabine 8.1.1.1

          this is a good point, how disruptive or how much influence can an employer have ont he life chocies of his / her workers.

  9. Keith 9

    So in essence and reality workers have NO rights.

    Of course it was as predictable as night following day that Michael Woodhouse told the public he was going to get rid of these oppresive conditions only because it had actually made it into the media but he never ever intended on honouring his word. I mean after all this kind of duplicty is the hall mark of this government.

    Why did they not campaign on this?

    How can you legislate to make someone work in shit conditions or else by preventing them working for someone else. No free market here is there?

    How can you allow employers to deduct money as they see “reasonably” fit? What badly paid under employed worker is going to challenge Uncle Bully who is raping their bank accounts?

    All that this will do is drive crap wages down even further and increase employee churn which is wholly unproductive which in turn will hinder the economy even further.

    What scum idiots the National Party are!

    • Craig H 9.1

      The word ‘reasonable’ appears a lot. The Employment Court will make strong use of that to blunt the impact of the worst of the excesses. Better not to pass it at all, but will be interesting to see if UF and MP can wring concessions before passing it, and what changes the Select Committee makes.

  10. My comments to the select committee which I posted before – or thought I did:

    “I am opposed to the proposed changes to the legislation governing zero hour contracts as laid out in the Employment Standards Legislation Bill because the bill entrenches these unfair and retrograde employment arrangements.
    If enacted as drafted, this law will put already economically vulnerable New Zealanders in the untenable position of having to be on-call without pay, being unable to take another job, and being sent home without notice.
    The lack of any minimum standards for financial compensation for such contracts will encourage their use by employers and will drive down standards of living even further, leaving the State to pay the balance of the costs of subsistence.
    The proposed law runs counter to all the protestations of modern employers that they value their ‘human resources’ and turns the clock back to employment arrangements more typical of the early industrial revolution than a 21st century first world democratic nation.
    Given the disproportionate effects these zero-hours contracts are likely to have on women, Maori and Pasifika people, they may be proved to be unfairly discriminatory.
    I urge the select committee to amend the legislation to match the Government’s original promise to ban zero hour contracts completely.”

    • Rosie 10.1

      +1 TeWhareWhero. Well said.

      Good point too about the state then be required “pay the balance of the costs of subsistence”. In the same breath Richard Christie points out below that there is likely to be a stand down period before any assistance arrived. He mentions the case of a worker being dismissed but the worker could also be mucked around with WINZ as a result of the uncertainty around their work hours.

      Either way, they’re screwed.

  11. ianmac 11

    I think that the Farrar polling shows that the only ones who would give a damn are not likely to vote National.
    So nothing to loose and probably some pro-Key would agree with him. “If you don’t like the conditions, get a better job.”

  12. Richard Christie 12

    Not pointed out strongly is that if an employee on zero hours is dismissed for non compliance e.g. taking a secondary job then they are ineligible for immediate unemployment benefit and face draconian stand down periods.

    This has hallmarks of a feudal system.

    You are owned.

    • greywarshark 12.1

      Actually as I understand it in a feudal system there were reciprocal expectations from peasant to lord and vice versa.

      These however could be overridden as in The Highland Clearances in Scotland where people were turfed out of their crofts, because their lord and lady wanted the turf under their feet, no reciprocal arrangement there.

      All the enlightened treatment of people which advanced nations in the modern world have adopted and built into their economies and culture is being stripped back to that of primitive times.

  13. Kevin 13

    My local supermarket has just put in automatic checkout terminals and the Macdonalds now has the touchscreen ordering system.

    With even the shit, worse paid jobs disappearing to automation, what hope is there for young people looking for a start in employment?

    • Rosie 13.1

      Refuse to use them. I do. I also let the manager know that the machines don’t get paid so I won’t use them.

      Also, do these businesses expect their customers to do the work of serving themselves? Nobody pays you to work the self service till, so its another reason not to use them.

      Keep people working by allowing yourself to be served by an actual worker.

      • left for deadshark 13.1.1

        +100 % Rosie

        • sabine 13.1.1.1

          Ditto, if they ask me why i won’t use the self check out, i usually ask them if they like to keep their jobs. Its sometimes appears as if they have not even thought that they might be replaced.
          anyways, not using self check outs.

          • RedLogix 13.1.1.1.1

            In Aus Woolworths is chucking the self-checkouts.

          • Rosie 13.1.1.1.2

            Yes, it’s quite interesting how when you give your reasons for not using the self service checkout, they are really quite surprised.

            Our local supermarket which I only use in absolute emergencies has more self service checkouts than actual checkouts, and no express lane. Even in the busiest times they won’t even fully staff the checkouts.

            I wrote to New World head office about self serve checkouts and why I won’t use them and they never replied.

      • Kevin 13.1.2

        Absolutely 100% Rosie. I am happy to stand in line for the remaining served checkouts. You get some funny looks when they try to usher you to an automated checkout but I refuse and tell them I am doing my bit to keep them in a job.

    • Craig H 13.2

      I use the self-service checkouts – at my locals, they have the same number of people on checkouts as before, but more total checkouts open.

      Besides which, the work is poorly paid and provides insecure hours for most staff. If crap work like this is automated, we as a society find other options, or we move to a UBI.

      Also, truck drivers look like they’ll be obsolete in 10 years or less, and I could see buses and taxis following suit. Best we start planning…

  14. Rosemary McDonald 14

    Sterling work Helen, and how fortunate we are to have someone of your calibre bringing these atrocities into the light.

    ” 5. An outrageous proposal is then added that will impact on all workers – that the current law that protects workers being restricted from taking second jobs to earn a fair living is amended to allow the employer to restrict this for a wide range of reasons not currently lawful, and which previously might have encouraged an employer to secure you through decent hours.”

    This is already entrenched in law for those paid family carers of adult disabled people under MOH:DSS.

    http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/disability-services/disability-projects-and-programmes/funded-family-care-notice-and-operational-policy

    The Funded Family Care policy was this government response to over a decade of legal wrangling which culminated in the Appeal Court agreeing with the Human Rights Review Tribunal that not allowing a disabled person the choice of a trusted family member to provide the care that they had been assessed as needing was a breach of NZBORA.

    FFC allows for the family carer to be paid the minimum wage for a maximum of 40 hours per week.

    This does NOT constitute a living wage.

    The paid family carer is not allowed to undertake ANY paid work above the forty hours at minimum wage.

    If the disabled person has been assessed as needing more than forty hours of care per week….the extra hours can be done by an outside carer who can be paid about $20 per hour, and is under no restrictions to how many hours they can work in one week.

    The Public Health and Disability Amendment Act 2013 specifically removes the right of complaint about this policy….

    “(2)On and after the commencement of this Part, no complaint based in whole or in part on a specified allegation may be made to the Human Rights Commission, and no proceedings based in whole or in part on a specified allegation may be commenced or continued in any court or tribunal.”

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2013/0022/latest/whole.html

    First they came for the cripples…..

    Kia Kaha, Helen.

  15. Keith 15

    Personally I think the opposition should quietly let this monster pass in its true horrific unedited state. Why, because National will have to wear the bitterness that will spring from the draconian filth that it is.

    Don’t allow them to say they listened, like they always do, and tinker with it, leave all of this offensive crap as it is, let them be blamed for all of it!

  16. Red delusion 16

    Yawn mountain out of a mole hill , how many people does this really effect to the extent indicated, bugger all ! Likewise gets people into employment and then they can move on

    • One Anonymous Bloke 16.1

      Yeah, fuck them, you’re alright trash.

    • Kevin 16.2

      Move on to what? Indentured servitude?

    • Paul Campbell 16.3

      Oh come on – if it effects more even one person, one person who has a job that pays them 0 some weeks, who can’t take a second job and can’t collect the dole then it’s an evil bill, something from the Victorian sweatshops

    • JeevesPOnzi 16.4

      It affects heaps. Including you.

    • Rosie 16.5

      It affects a huge amount of people who work in hospitality, service and caring roles. Something like 30% of NZer’s are now working weekends (read that somewhere, not sure where). It’s these 7 day a week operations that demand workers be on call.

      I’m looking for part time retail work at the moment. Every ad says “must be flexible with hours”. I posted a job ad on Open Mike a last week, pointing out this type of zero hour exploitation. The ad said guaranteed hours were 20 per week but you must be on call 7 days. I’ve seen several ads like this. They are usually chain stores or big box retailers who have the most draconian expectations.

      Have a read of Sabine’s post about her son and his work life.

      There needs to be clear boundaries between work life and private life, anything less and you are totally owned by your employer. Do you think that is ok?

      As for “moving on”. Clearly you have no idea of the job market at the moment. It is the worst I’ve ever seen it. You simply can’t move on because there isn’t another job to go to.
      I know so many people who are stuck in unrewarding unsuitable work, right up to corporates level work, who can’t get other work. It just isn’t there. This is causing psychological problems for them.

      Things must be sweet for you, if you have no idea about the NZ workplace. Good for you. Keep up the blissful ignorance.

    • Tricledrown 16.6

      Bluelusion bonded labour.
      The same methods used to keep former slaves on very low wages from moving to better areas better jobs.
      In our case we are heading toward slavery away from a livable wages.

  17. Vaughan Little 17

    could be a good law for uniting the opposition. there could be a bunch of great campaigning around this.

  18. the pigman 18

    Fantastic work Helen; you’re a treasure of the Labour movement.

    This is the press release that opposition parties should be sending to their media contacts (if indeed they still have any).

    Alas, poor country!
    Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
    Be call’d our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
    But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
    Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air
    Are made, not mark’d; where violent sorrow seems
    A modern ecstasy; the dead man’s knell
    Is there scarce ask’d for who; and good men’s lives
    Expire before the flowers in their caps,
    Dying or ere they sicken.
    (Mac. 4.3.2031-2040)

    Hey, but at least Uncle Keys is giving us a new flag for Christmas!

  19. save NZ 19

    +100

    If only the opposition would unite on this instead of throwing lifelines regarding the flag and concentrate on what is actually IMPORTANT!

    Labour is supposedly pro worker – where are they?

    Greens stop worrying about the flag and damp houses, there is a possibility people can’t actually afford to rent a house at all and they don’t have a ‘real’ job with the draconian measures being introduced by this government on a weekly basis, while providing lying sound byte faithfully reported by MSM.

    WAKE UP!

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