NZ Bans Zero Hours Contracts But Numbers Jump In UK

zero-hoursAs the UK’s Office Of National Statistics announed a growth of 104,000 to 801,000 workers in the UK who were working to zero hours contracts, the New Zealand government banned their use after political parties across the board supported the ban.

Mike Treen, leader of the Unite union who organise food workers in NZ and who led the campaign, said the move was being closely followed by fast-food workers worldwide.

“It was like we had God sitting on our shoulder helping us out – it just went wild,” said Treen.

“This is an incredible victory and I am still shocked by it to be honest – the fact that the ban was unanimously supported in parliament is pretty unbelievable.”

In New Zealand zero hours contacts have become widespread – in  fast-food chains, as  cinema’s, security and cleaning companies.

The bill, which will take effect on 1st April, stipulates that employers must guarantee a minimum number of hours work each week, and workers can refuse extra hours without repercussions.

“The passing of this Bill delivers on the government’s commitment to improve New Zealand’s employment law framework to encourage fair and productive workplaces without imposing unnecessary compliance costs on employers in general,” said Michael Woodhouse, the workplace relations and safety minister.

“The bill eliminates zero-hour contracts by getting rid of unfair employment practices where employers do not commit any hours of work, but expect employees to be available when required without compensation.”

Meanwhile in the UK, the ONS announed that the numbers of workers on zero hours contracts had grown by 104,000 to a massive 801,000.

Zero hours are not just confined to fast food, hospitality and services. There is a growing use in manufacturing, transport and other sectors.

The most notorious is Sports Direct, owned by Newcastle Football Club boss Mike Ashley, who is refusing to appear before the UK Parliament to answer questions about employment practices at his warehouses and outlets.

Unite (in the UK) said the Office for National Statistics figures showed there were around 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in November 2015.

The figures confirmed a growing number of workers relying on more than one zero hours contract to make ends meet said Unite with young workers and women particularly hit.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Under this government the world of work is becoming less secure with increasing numbers of people trying to eke out a living not knowing one day to the next if they have work.

“Far from being a ‘flexible’ choice for workers, zero hours contracts put all the power in the hands of the employer and are increasingly becoming the only form of work open to young people. 

“This ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ form of employment leaves people at the whim of their employer and unable to plan for the future, rent a home or get a mortgage. 

“Everyone deserves decent work and the dignity and security of knowing how much they will earn from one week to the next. This government has repeatedly crowed about the falls in unemployment, but what it never mentions is the type of precarious, insecure work and falling wages it has overseen.

“The government needs to tackle the growing crisis of insecure employment by following the lead of governments like New Zealand in banning zero hours contracts.”

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