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(en) Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement: SOLIDARITY! #18 - Zero hours = Zero dollars = Pissed off

Date Wed, 3 Aug 2016 19:08:22 +0300


THERE HAS BEEN a lot of discussion and organsising on zero hour contracts recently. Unite Union successfully negotiated for all workers at McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hutt and Starbucks to have guaranteed hours. We interviewed two people on zero hour contracts to illustrate that the problem of casualised labour is much wider than just the fast-food industry. ---- :: Kia ora, a couple of years ago, you were ‘employed’ by a NZ university. Can you tell us about that? ---- Ae kia ora. Yes just over a year ago I received a pānui about this university looking for research assistants so I applied. About two months later it was arranged for me to attend an interview. I went to that city and attended a hui at a fancy kind of pub where the proposed research project was discussed with the relevant project organisers and some new PhD students.

I realised after some time that this wasn’t really an interview so asked what this process was. I was informed that I could have the job if I wanted it and they would send me the relevant paperwork for the contract. After quite a few emails the university finally sent through the contract and I signed it. After a few months I asked what was going on and was informed that someone would contact me. I had already contacted her several times and got no replies. I’ve now waited over a year for any actual work.

:: Why do you think universities have these zero hour contracts in place?

I presume now that they use contracts like this to secure funding and bump up their so-called EFTS [Equivalent Full Time Students] that make them look as if they are employing more people than they actually are. From what I’ve seen of other projects and contracts with this university they receive very large ‘administration’ fees from funding arrangements.

:: How does it make you feel? You went to an interview, got selected, signed a contract and didn’t get a single dollar out of this!

Pretty pissed off. You know I’m trying to arrange to pay my bills and feed my son etc and you budget ahead thinking you’ll have money coming in and you don’t apply for other jobs because you think you already have one. It also makes you feel really used and unappreciated, wasting your time on pointless correspondence and CV preparation.

:: Hey, you have just signed a zero hour contract. Do you work in the fast-food industry?

No, I don’t. I have just started to work for a labour hiring company. The contracts there are totally casual. Basically, by signing the contract, the boss doesn’t agree to offer you any work, and you don’t agree to take any assignments offered.

:: How does that work in practice?

Well, if you want work, you have to let them know what days you want to work and then just ring up first thing in the morning and hopefully they have got something for you. But there are no guarantees at all that you will get any work. Some people work full-time on assignments lasting months and months. Other jobs are just for half a day and that’s it. Basically, the middle-man, the labour hiring company, just takes another cut out of your wages. You are being exploited three times: by the boss, the other boss and the government.

:: Have you followed the organising efforts against zero hour contract in the fast-food industry?

Yes, a little bit. It’s good to see workers organising against these vicious attacks from above. I suppose their situation though is quite different to ours. At least they are working for the same company shift after shift. For us, while we work for the same labour hiring company, we may have a different assignment every day working for another company. Those companies have no obligations to you, and nor does the labour hiring company. It’s pretty messed up.

Check out www.awsm.nz for more information!
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