Zero-hours contracts have taken on something of a pariah status in New Zealand, due largely to the Campbell Live show and the fact that a chunk of business figures and political commentators oppose them, and partly because of the campaign by Unite trade union.  In Britain, however, zero-hours contracts along with removal of penal rates have become increasingly common.  The following is a piece from the Irish blog The Cedar Lounge Revolution by one of its founders who uses the blog-name World by Storm. We’ve added the tables, which we’ve taken from 

Zero-Hours-Contracts2-295x300A great deadpan analysis in the Observer Business leader (always worth reading) at the weekend on the living wage:

Most company boards want to “do the right thing” on pay and conditions for their workers, according to the amply remunerated Lord Rose, chairman of Ocado.
If that’s true, then they seem to be going about it in an unusual way. Only about a quarter of FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the living wage, a measure of the amount required for people to live with dignity, based on research by the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Guardian and Observer are in the process of applying to be accredited.

74549270_zero_hour_worker_contracts_624-01And yet, the Observer notes that for all the touchy feely rhetoric…

Some of the UK’s most respected companies are missing from that list, including all the major retailers. Sports Direct has been vilified for its treatment of staff, the majority of whom are on zero-hours contracts. But others are involved in practices which should make their boards blush.

And it gives this positively Kafkaesque example from the ‘high street’.

Next – a company led by a man compassionate enough to have handed his bonus over to staff more than once – is one of them. Ten staff at the retailer are holding out against its decision to scrap extra pay for Sunday working – a move that hit about 800 people.

Here’s the kafkaesque bit:

The company deems those numbers a measure of how happy staff are to accept new contracts.

Except, except:

But more than one worker affected by the change described how they were persuaded to give up their extra pay: they were taken into a “forced change” meeting and told that if they did not accept the new conditions, they were effectively resigning. All have worked at Next for at least seven years.

And the leader notes:

Campaigners say that many retailers are now ditching traditional benefits, such as extra evening or bank holiday pay, as companies try to reduce costs in the face of a still-tough consumer market. With no collective bargaining in companies such as Next, staff have little support. The costs and career risks of challenging the company at a tribunal mean few take that route

And the pernicious dynamic which has been noted many times before where the state effectively supports private enterprise in paying wages continues and expands:

It is not just an issue for do-gooders. An estimated £11bn of taxpayers’ money goes towards “in-work benefits” to top up the wages of those on low pay. You don’t need to be an economist to realise that doesn’t add up any more.

We’re not in this together. We’re not even close.

  1. badcop666 says:

    hi….small correction – “by one OF its founders…”

  2. Phil F says:

    Cheers, fixed.

    Plus I added the link to the site as well.