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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

174. Zero Hours is not a Contract it’s a Con-trap

I won’t bother with a new cartoon this week. Sadly the one I did in 2013 about this zero hours nastiness is still relevant (click on the orange Amanda Baker top right hand side and you’ll be pinged to the cartoon)

Everyone knows by now that a Zero Hours Contract is a fancy name for not-a-contract. It’s a sandwich with no filling, no butter and no bread. It’s Wimbledon with no tennis. It’s life with no life.

Back in 2007 I bought a small cactus for my daughter from The Green Festival in Newcastle. (Stick with me its relevant). It was tiny. Today it’s hardly any bigger. The wee spiky thing has a hand written name tag – still visible. ‘Not-a-cactus Magnificus’. A zero hours contract is Not-a-contract bollockus.

The only point of a zero hours contract is for employers to circumvent employees’ rights, falsely inflating profits. It is shocking then to learn that here in Scotland even modest estimates suggest that as many as 80,000 workers may now be labouring under this non-contract. It’s a contract for zero security, zero dignity, zero ability to plan your life.

ZHC simply means zero obligations and a totally free ride for the employer. It’s the ultimate FCKYU arrangement.

But if these things are here to stay let us be imaginative.
As has been said before on this blog, it is often helpful to take an idea to its logical end. For example I did not throw up my hands in horror when it was suggested that Scottish MPs should be barred from votes on specifically English laws. I simply suggested that we embrace that idea fully and ensure that those with private healthcare do not vote on the NHS. Ditto those from private schools should keep their interfering lizard claws off state education. Surely the notion of Zero Hours Contracts could also be broadened. Let MPs keep their latest generous pay rise but put them on the FCKYU arrangement so they earn that wage on a pro-rata basis. We’ll just call them up when we want them!

And if the employers are so comfortable with FCKYU let them extend it too. Take for example a well-known high street fashion shop. I may go in (I wont) and buy a dress (I wont). Let’s say that a month later I have in fact only worn it twice. I should be allowed to get a partial refund. Oh and all shops using zero hours staff in any part of their supply or service chain must advertise that fact on their shiny smiley posters. Don’t be shy.

Is FCKYU even lawful? Under UK law parties to a contract must have some degree of parity. If one party is so powerless, so pressured by circumstance, so desperate then the terms of agreement between them cannot be regarded as binding. With FCKYU, the worker’s entire life is made vulnerable and random. It is the employer who enjoys zero commitment. In circumstances where there is inequality of bargaining power more sensible terms can be implied. Zero hours contracts should be abolished but if not standard terms of decent employment must be implied rather than leaving increasing tens of thousands of UK workers in long term, stressful, poor-pay limbo.

Zero hours contracts partly explain why – if 1.85 million people are unemployed (officially) The Trussel Trust estimate 13 million people in the UK live below the poverty line.

But as we learn that even the chancellor’s family firm manages to pay no tax in the UK we also see that zero hours contracts continue to rise and rise.

Some companies realise that the public find the notion of zero hours abhorrent. So they subcontract to companies they know use zero hours contracts and then claim ‘we don’t’. That’s like employing a hit man then claiming innocence because you didn’t pull the trigger…

Meanwhile zero hours contracts should be banned in all public sector institutions.
Not surprisingly the only people I’ve ever heard singing the praises of the zero hours contract are those who are comfortably off or nasty people or mad as loons or all of the above (Ian Duncan Smith)

Zero hours contracts are literally freezing families out of any chance of a decent life.

They must be banned.

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