Posts Tagged ‘zero-hour contracts’

Zero-hour contracts and other bad employment practices

September 2, 2013

Recently we saw the number of jobs rising, unemployment falling, meanwhile the economy collapsing. How was this possible, was it an illusion?

Neo-Labour found it was very easy to rig the unemployment figures. Force the unemployed into scam training courses, boot camps for the unemployed, run by A4E, CDC, Working Links, stop benefits for anyone who refuses.

At a stroke this got rid of the long-term unemployed, massaged the unemployment figures, as those forced onto these courses were also obliged to sign off the unemployment register as technically they were no longer unemployed, they were in training.

Professionals to unqualified who were illiterate and innumerate and could barely communicate, white collar workers to murderers and rapists, would spend the day idling their time waiting to be released. This constituted training. They were obliged to apply for several jobs each and every day, failure to do so would result in sanctions, ie benefits being withheld anything up to six months. This overloaded employers with bogus job applications. Bullying was widespread both by staff and between inmates which not only was condoned by staff but actively encouraged. If anyone did manage to find a job, the companies running the boot camps would claim the credit and get a fat bonus from government.

It was a nice gravy train for those who got the contracts.

David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Employment, sat on the board of one of these companies. Conflict of interest?

We will always have unemployment, it is a feature of a free market economy. There will always be people who are unemployable.

Employment should be seen as a sabbatical, an opportunity to try something new, with the government providing the funding to add additional skills, to transfer skills to a new area.

Job Centres do nothing to help the unemployed, they simply harass people off the unemployment register to meet targets.

Should you be ill, an unqualified clerk will know better than a hospital consultant qualified in the field, that you are fit for work. A task now being carried out by Atos, who were sponsors of the London 2012 Paralympics.

A friend was very ill. She was under two consultants, they and her doctor said she was not fit for work. The Job Centre decided otherwise.

That the numbers of jobs appear to be growing is an illusion due to the casualisation of work and the creation of part-time jobs. Workers are having to string together two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Employers like casual, part-time workers as the workers have less rights, no social security to pay.

For some part-time work is better, for example a mother with young children, can drop the kids off at school, put in a few hours, then pick them up on the way home from work.

For a coffee shop, part-time workers can supplement full-time workers during peak periods.

One of the most pernicious forms of employment are zero-hours contracts.

Naomi Klein in her seminal work No Logo, brought to wider public attention the appalling working conditions at Starbucks. During a slack period workers would be told to sign off, then sign back on again when busy. A worker could be on site for ten hours but only get paid for two hours.

Part-time you know how many hours you have to work, say 20 hours a week, similarly for full-time workers they know they will be working a 30-hour week. With a zero-hours contract, no hours are specified or guaranteed. You work when required, but are expected to be on call, you may not even be able to leave the premises.

Zero-hour contracts are not unlawful, though should be and it begs the question why Trade Unions are not acting to outlaw these contracts.

No one is forced to work zero-hours contracts. If people refused to agree to them these contracts would die out.

The Independent has a blog from a worker complaining at his zero hours contract. The solution is simple, do not work under a zero-hours contract. If you behave like a victim you cannot complain if your are victimised.

I asked of Costa were they using zero-hours contracts. I was told no. What happens if there is a slack period? Staff are sent home. Are they paid? No.

There is one step worse than zero hours contract, slave labour, unemployed being forced to work for nothing.

The ConDem government has taken the neo-Labour boot camps one stage further and has introduced Workfare, unemployed are forced to work for nothing, if they refuse their benefits are stopped. Companies benefiting from slave labour include Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Poundland and Primark.

Sports Direct: 90% of staff on zero-hour contracts

August 17, 2013
Sports Direct Farnham closing down sale for last two years

Sports Direct Farnham closing down sale for last two years

Zero-hour contracts is an insidious way of employing people, basically it is exploitation. From one week to the next, the employee has no idea what their income will be as they have no idea what hours they could be working, they could that week be working zero hours, zero hours means no money that week.

No one can exist on this type of employment contract, when from one week to the next they have no idea how much money they will have.

Sports Direct employs 90% of staff on zero-hour contracts. Sports Direct’s entire 20,000 part-time workforce are employed on zero-hour contracts at a time when 2,000 full-time staff are about to cash in bonuses of up to £100,000. The contracts, handed to 90% of the company’s 23,000 employees, leave staff not knowing how many hours they will work from one week to the next, with no sick pay or holiday pay, and no guarantee of regular work.

For the staff who may get a bonus, it is paid on a whim, they could be excluded, leading to a climate of fear. For the part-timers, their hours can be changed on a whim at a days notice, again leading to a climate of fear.

McDonald’s employs 90% of staff on zero-hour contracts. Employees are expected to be on call, to be avaible to work at a moments notice, but may have zero hours work in an one week.

Burger King and Domino’s Pizza are two more companies exploiting their staff by using zero-hours contracts. Burger King employs all 20,000 workers in its restaurants on zero-hour contracts, while more than 90% of staff at Domino’s, or more than 20,000 employees, are also on zero-hour contracts.

In 1999 Burger King was forced to pay £106,000 in compensation to staff employed on the contracts after staff were made to clock off and stand around in stores unpaid until business picked up.

In No Logo, Naomi Klein exposes Starbucks for having the same employment practice, forcing staff to clock on and off depending on the customer throughput.

Costa, when not busy, sends its staff home. They do not get paid when sent home.

Staff working for Domino’s Pizza, can have worked there for several years, be putting in over 50 hours a week, and still be on zero-hour contracts.

Zahera Gabriel-Abraham, 30, quit her job at Sports Direct after suffering panic attacks that she blames on her family’s lack of financial security – the result, she says, of a contract that offered no guaranteed work or income.

As Zahera explains, zero-hour contracts are open to abuse and make the employees vulnerable to workplace bullying:

I felt I always had to play up to someone’s ego just to work – and in the end you just start to feel a bit bullied.

Regularly they would call you in the middle of the day and they are like: ‘Can you come to work now?’ You feel like you have to say yes because if you say no you are seen as unreliable and the next week you don’t get a shift, it is as simple as that … I felt hugely manipulated and bullied the whole time.

Zahera, as an ex-employee of Sports Direct, is taking them to court to challenge their use of the controversial contracts. If she wins, it will set a precedence, it will send out shockwaves to all companies abusing their employees. And it will put pressure on the government to tighten up the law and protect vulnerable employees. Elizabeth George, a lawyer at law firm Leigh Day, has offered to represent Zahera on a no win, no fee basis, and will only receive a fee if she win the case. But there will still be costs involved. If Sports Direct decide to fight, it could cost over £10,000 to go to court, much more than Zahera could afford on her own.

38 Degrees has taken up her case, and is asking its members to provide the funding. If everyone chips in, we can take Sport Direct to Court.

So far over 14,000 people have backed Zahera, which has raised the initial £10,000, but the more who contribute, the bigger the fighting fund.

Over 125,000 people have e-mailed Sports Direct to complain their employment practices. Sports Direct has declined to comment. Taken to Court they will have no choice than to comment.

Sports Direct is owned by owned by billionaire Mike Ashley, one of the richest men in the UK. His wealth has come from exploiting others.

Mike Ashley also owns Newcastle United Football Club. Newcastle United has recently signed a sponsorship deal with payday loan company Wonga turning is players and fans into walking billboards for a loan shark charging over 5,000% APR interest.

Sports Direct part-time workers are the very people likely to be desperate enough to seek a pay-day loan from a loan shark.

Bills arrive with regular predictability, but how can you pay them when your working hours, and thus income, is anything but predicable?

When people are squeezed this much, as we also see with cut in benefits, people are pushed for what they can spend their money on, and ironically, they will will buy junk food from McDonald’s, tat from Sports Direct.

People cannot afford to buy off farmers markets, support local suppliers, eat out in good restaurants, or even shop at Waitrose (which has an equitable income distribution).

We all suffer. Money not spent in the local economy, is drained out, local businesses collapse. Poor diet leads to health problems, an obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes.

Those who are squeezed, turn to payday loan sharks like Wonga, leading to social problems. Companies as the Archbishop of Canterbury said should be driven out of business.

Aldershot and Farnborough are a microcosm. A significant preponderance of junk food outlets, a high underclass, performance on health indices much worse that the national average.

In Farnborough, McDonald’s has applied to demolish The Tumbledown Dick, a c 1720s pub that predates Farnborough, a once popular live music venue now lies derelict with water pouring in through holes in the roof.

Farnborough has a simple choice, restore The Tumbledown Dick as a cultural centre, live music, art, good food, staff paid a living wage, or a Drive-Thru McDonald’s employing staff on zero-hours contracts and serving fat-laden junk food and sugar-laden fizzy, flavoured water.

We are regressing to an age where dockers lined up each morning, not knowing whether or not they had work for the day.

As with tax dodgers, these companies offer unfair competition to other companies. As with tax dodgers, they say they will relocate. Good, the sooner they BurgerOff the better. Will we really miss companies like Starbucks, Sports Direct and McDonald’s?

Please sign the petition calling on business minister Vince Cable to change zero hours contracts. Over 81,000 people have signed the petition. Please add your name, and spread the word.


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