It has been a while since Duncan Smith has put his head above the parapet in the run-up to the general election – no doubt to avoid awkward questions about his conduct and the policies he has implemented while being in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
But put his head up he has, and in his usual idiotic manner has announced that zero-hour contracts are suffering from an image problem.
Speaking on Sky News, Duncan Smith said that the exploitative contracts should be rebranded as “flexible-hours contracts”, and went on to say that the contracts were suffering from misrepresentation because of propaganda spread by the media and the Labour Party.
So in his grossly deluded mind, Duncan Smith thinks that ALL the media coverage from across the spectrum and ONLY the Labour Party are responsible for criticism of the contracts.
As usual with Duncan Smith he is purposely lying in an obvious political move.
Criticism the contracts comes from across the political spectrum with the exception of hard-core conservative supporters and media.
On 1st August 2013 Channel 4 aired an undercover documentary which provided very clear evidence that Amazon were using zero-hour contracts to exploit and discipline the company’s warehouse staff in Rugeley, Staffordshire.
The government’s own Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has spoken out many times against the use of the contracts and the exploitation of workers forced to take them.
Zero-hour contracts give no security to employees whatsoever, but they do bring down official unemployment figures – which is one of the reasons Duncan Smith and Cameron are so keen for them to be implemented across the UK. It also means that large corporations can have vast pools of staff, with only a few employees ever getting any meaningful hours of employment.
The unemployed are most vulnerable. If they refuse a job with a zero-hour contact they will be penalised for not taking it. If they do take it, they are no better off. They will still struggle with the instability of not knowing how many hours they will work (if any) or how much they will get paid (if at all).
In effect, zero-hour contracts are no different to casual, part-time work. This is fine if it suits the employee who only wants hours to suit them, or is prepared to work at a moment’s notice for some casual money. But these kind of contracts being touted as proper employment is a disgrace, and are wholly unacceptable for people who want to work full-time with some job security, and have commitments such as families to look after.
One of the biggest complaints from those forced to take zero-hours contracts is that they do not get enough work hours. It also means that employees MUST be available when the company dictates. Of course, to what extent this is enforced depends on the company. Some workers, such as care workers, are often told to work a particular day only to be told part-way through the day that there is no more work for them.
The spread of these contracts adds to the claim by the Conservatives that Cameron’s government has created in the region of 1000 jobs a day. This is not a positive achievement by any means.
The magical appearance of these ‘jobs’ is down to zero-hours contracts spreading like a plague, and dramatic increases in self-employment (as more unemployed people are forced to take more drastic action to avoid welfare penalties), and the rise in part-time work.
In reality, the government has not been responsible for creating any real employment of significance since they came to power. Their claims are ‘smoke and mirrors’, ‘puff and nonsense’.
The reality of zero-hour contracts is that they are for the sole benefit of the employer – in particular large corporations who will exploit their workforce in order to make even more profit – which rarely makes its way back into the economy as more mega-corporations are exposed as tax avoiders, and neither does it create more employment.
In some circumstances zero-hour contracts may suit both the employer and employee. But they should in no way be considered anything other than what they are, and they should not be considered the mainstay of the labour market.
All that has been achieved is that more people have become economic slaves caught between a rock and a hard place with little chance of an alternative.
The Labour Party has stated that it would make employers give proper contracts to employees after they have spent three months on a zero-hour contract – but this doesn’t solve the problem. All that will happen is that those on zero-hour contracts will be on a continual roundabout of 3 month contracts. Dismissed, then employed for three months in a never-ending loop of instability and hope.
We think that zero-hour contracts should be banned outright, and employers need to be made aware of their responsibilities to those they employ, because without employees they would not exist or make the profits they hold so dear.