Wednesday 1 April 2015

Zero Hour Contracts: An Anecdote

I'm glad Labour is making some good noises about zero hour contracts. It's even better that they've met the stupid and entirely predictable letter from Tory supporting business chums that, shock horror, support the Tories with a signed letter of their own featuring people on zero hour contracts. For all their money advantage, so far Labour's campaign is proving much cannier and smarter than the blue party's scaremongering. Though it would be quite helpful if Labour MPs, Labour-run councils, and the Labour Party apparatus itself didn't use them.

Anyway, zero hour contracts. As people who've never had and never will have to live on them engage debate their suitability, flexibility, and opine over businesses ill-prepared to offer people guaranteed hours like, you know, how they did more than 10 years ago, there's the anecdote I'd like to share.

There is a well-known local employer who will remain nameless, and owns a few enterprises dotted about the city. This individual has been an enthusiastic user of zero hour contracts since long before they were picked up by official politics. There was an occasion where two employees decided to swap shifts, as one woman had childcare issues. That's pretty innocuous - such shift-swapping is common in workplaces up and down the country. Except this workplace.

The boss hit the roof when they found out. Being someone who you can only describe as being jealously conscious of their wealth and position, and sensitive to the slightest challenge to it, and any sign of employee autonomy - even something as banal as working each others' shifts without the gaffer's say so - was to be stamped all over. And so this employer used the zero hour contracts the staff were on not to give them any hours again, effectively making them unemployed and leaving them without an income for several weeks before they got the hint.

Do zero hour contracts suit some people? Yes. Bu are they also used as a weapon of workplace control, causing people who can ill-afford it lost income and associated stress-related problems? Absolutely. A crack down on these hideous scams is overdue - but will only happen if Labour are elected into office.

1 comment:

Curtly said...

Most of the workers on them who support them will be kids who live at home with their parents or people whose partners have good jobs. Try being single on such contracts in your own flat trying to pay the rent and stop /starting claiming Housing Benefit all the time due to fluctuating hours,its all a nightmare. You spend a considerable amount of time when you are not working dealing with such bureaucracy