Fast food outlets are treating employees like slaves, according to campaigners.
A global day of action saw people across the world take to the streets to highlight the plight of workers in the fast food industry, many of whom are on zero hour contracts.
Campaigners in the UK were largely organised by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) who are calling for a £10 hourly minimum wage and the scrapping of zero hour contracts for those working at outlets like McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.
In Darlington, protestors from BFAWU and Darlington Against Cuts manned a stall close to McDonalds on Northgate and encouraged passersby to take up the fight against “slave labour”.
BFAWU representative Alan Milne said: “Zero hour contracts are going back to the dark ages.
“Fast food workers can go to work and be sent home with no pay despite paying expenses to get there or arranging child care.
“It’s fundamentally wrong and harks back to the shipyard days when people would stand outside waiting for work – it’s disgusting and needs to change.”
A former zero hours worker said:
“I worked in Darlington on a zero hour contract and had my work cut from 40 hours a week to 18.
“It’s slave labour – what’s next, work camps?”
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) representative Alan Docherty called on workers to fight back.
“People are locked in these contracts as they rely on the money but they’re scared to speak out as if you upset your boss, you won’t get the hours.
“The only way to combat this is to get organised and fight back.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Apr 2015
A total of 28,000 North East workers are on zero hour contracts for their main job.
The figure amounts to 2.3%, or one in 43, of the region’s workforce. However campaigners say it could be much higher.
According to the Office for National Statistics, nationally the number stands at 697,000 which represents a 100,000 leap in the past 12 months.
And because workers often have more than one job, the number of employment contracts offering no minimum hours rose from 1.4m to 1.8m in that time.
The ONS said the near 30% UK increase might not be as a result of a surge in zero hours contracts being offered but due more to increasing recognition of the contracts by staff when asked by researchers about their employment terms.
Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer for the Northern TUC, said:
“When we’ve been campaigning on quality employment issues we find that a lot of people who are on a zero hour contract aren’t even aware that they are on them.
“Work from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has indicated the number of people with no guaranteed hours could be several times higher than others have traditionally picked up.
“Zero hours contracts are not defined in law and while this might be problematic for the statisticians they prove even more of a headache for the workers employed through this form of work.”
The ONS figures revealed people on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time.
More than 34% of people on “zero-hours contracts” are aged 16 to 24, a figure in the North East that looks set to rise.
And 34% of people on them want more hours though, according to the ONS, this could be linked to a higher proportion of “zero-hours contract” jobs being part-time.
Some of Britain’s largest employers offer zero-hours contracts including JD Wetherspoon, Burger King, McDonald’s and Sports Direct owned by Newcastle United’s billionaire boss Mike Ashley.
Even Buckingham Palace has offered the contracts to staff working in the summer when the Queen’s main residence is open to the public.
Mr Foster added:
“Many people on these contracts need and want more hours and greater certainty but instead find themselves at the beck and call of employers and in quite a vulnerable situation.
“Working people need to be able to look forward to the future and a real economic recovery relies on greater confidence – but zero hours contracts simply don’t provide that.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015
A stepfather’s impassioned plea to end the use of zero-hour contracts has become an internet hit after his stepson was forced leave his rented home when he could no longer cover the rent.
Stephen Thompson wrote an open letter to his stepson’s employer, JD Wetherspoon, after the family was forced to buy the kitchen worker a new pair of shoes so he could walk to work without getting his feet wet.
And since he posted the letter on Facebook a few days ago, he has been inundated with similar tales from other people who are struggling under the financial burden of a zero-hour contract.
With more than 12,000 likes and 13,000 shares, the post has attracted the attention of people from across the country.
Mr Thompson, who works at a university as a social entrepreneur-in-residence and community engagement coordinator, says he was shocked at how far reaching the problem was for people trying to find secure work.
“My stepson is in 40s and trained for three years to be able to work in catering,” he said.
“I never realised how common the problem was with zero hour contracts, people who just want to work take these jobs but their futures are never secure.
> And this is a large part of the problem – so many people who ought to realise what is going on in this country seem oblivious to it. Mainstream media barely reports it, of course, but even so … and you might at least expect someone who works as a community engagement coordinator to know what’s going on in that community.
Still, he does now, and has done something positive about it.
“When I wrote the open letter, I never expected the response that I have received. I have read some real horror stories in the last few days.
In his letter, he writes:
“He is “employed” on a zero-hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. He got into trouble with his rent and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment for this.
“He now lives two miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear.”
And he has contacted his local MP Alex Cunningham to garner his support for the abolition of zero-hour contracts.
“I believe it is time to end the widespread use of zero-hour contracts.”
A Wetherspoon spokesman said:
“Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.
“The company operates in a seasonal sector and offer flexible hours to meet demand. Pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.
“Rotas are produced by the manager and published to employees at least two weeks in advance.
“Wetherspoon probably offers more hours per week than any other pub company.”
To read the letter visit facebook.com/Stmedia/posts/10152912900027184
Source – Northern Echo, 03 Jan 2015
A council has defended its position after being criticised for employing almost 400 people on controversial zero-hour contracts.
Figures revealed following a request under the Freedom of Information Act show that Darlington Borough Council has 393 people on zero-hour contracts.
Zero-hour, or casual, contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work and often without sick pay or pension benefits.
Labour has pledged to crackdown on their use and improve rights for workers.
Elizabeth Davison, assistant director for finance and human resources at Darlington Borough Council, defended the authority’s use of the contracts.
“We use casual workers as an additional resource to our permanent staff to cover sickness or holidays or to cope with particularly busy periods.
“If any casual work becomes regular, an individual is paid the benefits that are associated with the role.”
Source – Northern Echo, 12 Dec 2014
On the face of it, the headline in yesterday’s Sunderland Echo –
Sunderland benefit cheat claimed £5,000
– looks pretty much like a cut-and-dried case. As the Echo put it – ” A man working on a zero-hour contract fell foul of the law when he continued to claim unemployment benefits – conning taxpayers out of more than £5,000.”
Steven Wardell claimed £5,266 in job seekers’ allowance, housing and council tax benefits he was not entitled to and was caught after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) received a tip-off that he had been working for Velocity Driver Hire since October 2010.
Wardell pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances to the authorities spanning a period of almost two years.
However, the defence put by his soliciter stands as a pretty good warning to anyone contemplating taking a zero-hour contract job…
“The original claim made by Mr Wardell was a legitimate claim for job seekers’ allowance,” defence solicitor Gavin Sword said.
“The problem here is that thereafter he works intermittently. It’s one of those zero-hour contracts. He only works when work is available.
“In 2008 he had been on benefits. He worked for 18 hours. He notified the DWP of that and was signed off benefits. It then took just over 11 weeks before benefits were reinstated.
During that period of time he finds himself in the county court for non-payment of debt. He finds himself in quite a bad situation.
“He cannot face another 11 weeks without benefits. He is thinking ‘how am I going to pay my rent and keep the wolf from the door?’ as it were.
“He now accepts the over-payment. However, there were during that period of time some weeks when he didn’t work at all and he was fully entitled to benefits.
“During that period of time he says he on average worked 14.5 hours per week. The maximum he received when working a full week was £240. He was certainly not living beyond his means. He was struggling to get by.”
Wardell was handed a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was told to pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge. The DWP will seek to recover the full amount of the overpayment from him.
Victim surcharge ? Who to, the DWP ? There’s ironic…
It’s exactly because of the potential for this kind of situation developing that I wouldn’t touch a zero-hour contract job with a bargepole. Forget the dignity of labour and all that crap – for most people jobs like these are far worse than no job at all.
If people refused point-blank to do them, perhaps the employers involved would start offering more realistic terms.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 22 Jan 2014