Iain Lees-Galloway, Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Issues, has lodged a member’s bill which would ban the use of zero-hour contracts:
“Unlike casual agreements that provide flexibility for both employer and employee, zero-hour contracts require employees to be available for work at all times but place no expectations at all on employers to provide work.
“The Certainty at Work Bill requires employment agreements to include an indication of the hours an employee will have to work to complete the tasks expected of them. It maintains flexibility for employers while giving employees certainty about the amount of work they can expect to be offered.”
It’s an issue of basic fairness. When you don’t know how many hours you’re working from week to week, how are you supposed to budget? Plan ahead? Start saving the massive deposit you need before you can even imagine owning your own home?
Zero-hour contracts are most used in the food industry, as Unite national director Mike Treen notes:
“McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Burger King, Wendy’s – all of the contracts have no minimum hours, and so people can be – and are – rostered anywhere from three to 40 hours a week, or sometimes 60 hours a week, and it depends a lot on how you get on with your manager.”
At ANZ – whose CEO got an 11% pay rise last year – workers went on strike in late 2014 over the company not only refusing to give its workers a decent raise, but also demanding they allow for zero-hour-style “flexibility” in their rosters.
Even John Roughan suggested in December that Andrew Little should “make it Labour’s mission to propose [a legislative solution to the zero-hour problem] without delay.”
So a ban on zero-hour contracts seems to be an idea whose time has most definitely come. But is the Government which took away a basic guaranteed level of rest breaks going to step up and do what’s right?