Tagged: zero-hours contract

Stockton : This is why we hate big business Mr Cameron!

 

 

Just a couple of days ago Wetherspoons were boasting about opening 200 new pubs and creating 15,000 new jobs.

But not real jobs…

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from Facebook

This is why we hate big business Mr Cameron

AN OPEN LETTER – TO JD WETHERSPOON

I have dined in your establishments many times but I write to inform you that I will never do so again and nor will any of my friends or family.

The reason for this is that my stepson has the misfortune to work in your Thomas Sheraton bar in Stockton and I am now aware of the basis upon which you operate and profit.

He is “employed” on a zero hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. Not long after joining your establishment he got into trouble with his rent due to the extremely low wages and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment with you for this. He now lives 2 miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk…

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‘Devastating’ number of North East people on zero-hours contracts

A “devastating” number of North East people are struggling to get by on a zero hours contract, a union has warned.

The TUC has published report which estimates there are 52,000 people – enough to fill Newcastle United’s home ground St James’ Park – in the region employed on the controversial contracts, something it says is “deeply damaging for society”.

The study, called The Decent Jobs Deficit, also reveals those on the casual contracts are earning around £300-a-week less than those on a permanent contract.

The report shows average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are just £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers.

The research also reveals that zero-hours workers are five times more likely not to qualify for sick pay as a result of their lower wages.

The TUC says 39% of zero-hours workers earn less than £111-a-week – the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay – compared to 8% of permanent employees.

Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary of the Northern TUC, said:

We estimate over 52,000 North East workers are employed on zero hour contracts which is a devastating number of people experiencing insecurity, and lack of basic workplace rights such as sick pay.

“Research from our region shows that this type of work can be disastrous for family relationships as it increases pressure on people often in quite desperate situations with no alternative.

“Such exploitation by employers is deeply damaging to society and for the economy since insecure work limits access to basic goods and services such as renting a flat.

“The Coalition might claim we’re in recovery but one reason why income tax revenues are down last year is because too many new jobs are low paid, insecure and with insufficient hours. We need a strategy for decent jobs with fair pay and an alternative to exploitative zero hours contracts offering people rights and respect.”

The report comes as the TUC begins a week of campaigning.

A quarter of zero-hours workers work a full-time week and one in four (23%) work over 35 hours a week, compared to two-thirds (60%) of other employees.

One in three report having no regular amount of income and were nearly five times as likely to have differing amounts of weekly pay compared to staff with other kinds of work arrangements.

The report also reveals women on zero-hours contracts don’t make as much as their male counterparts, earning £32-a-week less, on average, than men employed on the same kind of contracts.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The growth of zero-hours contracts, along with other forms of precarious employment, is one of the main reasons why working people have seen their living standards worsen significantly in recent years.

“It is shocking that so many workers employed on these kind of contracts are on poverty pay and miss out on things that most of us take for granted like sick pay.

“While it is good to see employment is rising, if the UK doesn’t create more well-paid jobs with regular hours we will continue to have a two-tier workforce where many people are stuck in working poverty.

“The increase in casual labour also helps explain why income tax revenues are falling which is not only bad for our public finances but for society too. The lack of regular hours and income makes it difficult for households to pay bills and take on financial commitments such as rents and mortgages.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  15 Dec 2014

Hidden debt epidemic from pay day loans hits North East teens

Desperate North teens are saddling themselves with payday loan debt with the help of their parents, it is claimed today.

A shock report by Action For Children has unearthed “worrying levels of borrowing” in the region among young people aged from 12 to 18.

Research by the charity reveals one in eight borrowed money from companies and an alarming 41% said they had used a payday loan company.

While it is illegal for anyone aged under 18 to get credit, Newcastle’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said staff had dealt with cases where parents or guardians had sought payday loans on a youngster’s behalf.

And bureau Chief Executive Shona Alexander said the hidden debt epidemic is leading to relationship breakdown within families as teenagers – the age group most likely to be on a zero hours contract – struggle to repay relatives.

It is a serious problem,” said Shona, who called for the credit age to be raised to 25. “We know that young people have forged the signatures of adults and that they have pressured parents or grandparents into getting a loan for them or being their guarantor.

“When they can’t pay them back, the adult’s credit rating is seriously damaged and then it is not just a debt problem but a relationship problem.

“Young people don’t know how to manage money. Something needs to be done.”

Frontline staff see young people seeking debt money to replace household goods, set up their first home or keep up with pals. High street lenders, including store cards, were used by a third (38%) of those able to get credit, the survey said.

Action For Children said the Government must fund more debt education to stop another generation of young people from a cycle of debt and bad credit.

It comes as the charity publishes its Paying The Price report ahead of Christmas amid fears the expensive festive season could be a trigger.

The report unveils how that 55% of children have not received any financial education.

And of those who had, 87% learnt from parents or carers while just 27% learnt about money at school.

The CAB added its Stockton branch had run a successful service helping to educate young people on the dangers of debt which had now disappeared because of public sector cutbacks.

Shona added aggressive marketing campaigns from payday loan companies were attractive to young people and credit firms were likely to change tack after reforms in 2015 to sell more guarantor-style short-term loans.

“Young people don’t understand interest rates and they don’t get into the regular habit of saving,” she said. “We have really got to start education at primary school age and keep that going. Too much of the debt education that we have is short-term.”

John Egan, Action for Children’s operational director of children’s services, said by becoming bogged down with debt from a young age, countless young people from the region could have their future marred by unemployment and mental health problems as a result.

He said: “High interest products and companies are now far too easy for young people to access.

“Some young people are less likely to have the financial skills they need, they may have to live on a low income or are not in education. They are also not able to learn about money at home or at school where other young people do. Add in baffling financial jargon and a lack of knowledge will dramatically create a vicious circle of debt, increasing the risk of mental health problems and unemployment.

“We cannot afford to let children pay this price because of a simple lack of financial education. They must be equipped with the necessary skills to make informed money decisions to give them a chance of a happy future.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle,  14 Dec 2014

South Tyneside Council accused of ‘discrimation’ against unemployed over council tax charges

South Tyneside Council has been accused of ‘discriminating’ against the unemployed over its council tax charges.

The authority is one of the few councils in England to demand those receiving job seekers’ allowance (JSA) still pay 30% of their annual council tax bill.

All other North East councils request lower contributions, including Northumberland County Council which charges nothing to single unemployed people in receipt of JSA.

South Tyneside says it has been one of the hardest hit authorities nationally by reductions in Government funding, and although it has frozen council tax since 2010 it has been unable to keep bills low for all groups.

But Peter Watt lives in a one bedroom flat in Priory Road, Jarrow, and has been out of work for almost four months.

The 38-year-old’s annual band A bill of £967.53 is reduced by a 25% reduction for living alone and again by 70% for being unemployed, but still stands at £217.69, which he says is too high.

He said: “South Tyneside Council is about the only council I am aware of in the country that charges 30% to the unemployed – a group that cannot afford it. Neighbouring councils don’t do it so how can this one?

“They tell me they are trying to protect three groups of people – the disabled, OAPs and households with children under the age of five – and I have nothing against that but it does seem like they are discriminating against people without jobs.

“My JSA is £71.60 per week and it is there to help people seek jobs – not to bail out South Tyneside Council. I did have a job briefly but it was on a zero hours contract so I wasn’t entitled to working tax credit.

“I was being paid £200 a week and the council took £130 for the council tax and a furniture package I got with the house. I was left with £70 for bus fare, food and all my bills so I had to quit to survive.”

Mr Watt continues to search for security jobs, and has even applied to South Tyneside Council for a position.

He added: “I plan to appeal against the fees at a valuation tribunal.“I am so short on cash that when I am cold I use my sleeping bag rather than the heating, I do my cooking in the microwave or deep fat fryer because it uses less power, I don’t wash up with hot water until all my dishes are dirty, and I haven’t turned my electric fire on for two years.”

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “Council tax contributes to the funding the Council needs to provide vital public services.

“In 2013, South Tyneside Council introduced a Local Council Tax Support scheme to replace the Council Tax Benefit scheme which was abolished as part of the Government’s Welfare Reforms.

“The changes resulted in the Council losing more than £1.7m in Government support, a shortfall the Council had to meet while still protecting the Borough’s most vulnerable residents.

“Band A residents who are not in the protected groups, but are unemployed and live alone, currently receive up to a maximum 70% discount on their Council Tax and are required to pay £4.18 per week.

“We are, of course, concerned when residents find it difficult to pay and would urge anyone in this situation to contact us as soon as possible so that we can explore flexible repayment arrangements that take their circumstances into consideration.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  06 Oct 2014

Cleveland Police commissioner defends zero hour contract jobs despite ‘Living Wage’ pledge

A police commissioner has defended his decision to employ specialist investigators on zero hour contracts despite signing up to a Living Wage campaign.

Barry Coppinger decided to advertise the jobs following ‘the unprecedented level of serious investigations’ that Cleveland Police has had to handle in the last year.

The former Labour councillor and union representative has regularly spoken out about people earning a living wage but maintains the jobs are aimed at a specific market and would not expect anyone to work solely for the force.

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner said: “This is specialised work, suitable only for appropriately qualified and experienced applicants. The extra staff are being recruited to deal with the unprecedented level of serious investigations required over the last 12 months.

“Cleveland Police won’t be expecting successful applicants to work solely for them, therefore this is a long way from the kind of zero-hours contracted employment where people have no idea from one day to the next when they are working.”

The job description, which is posted on the force’s website, states that the salary range is £21,309 to £25,704, and clearly states that it is on a zero hour contract.

 Last year, Mr Coppinger signed the force up to the Living Wage campaign and has spoken at union meetings and Labour forums about people’s salaries and the impact of austerity on living standards.

Explaining the reasoning behind his decision to advertise the jobs, he added: “We have introduced a number of measures to ensure that major incidents are managed professionally and effectively. Measures include allocating experienced senior officers as advisers to all murders, and a weekly resourcing meeting to review staffing on major incidents.

“It was agreed that a temporary team would be created using staff from commands across the force and that additional funding would be provided to recruit “agency” staff, similar to models used by other forces.

“We made the decision to create a register of staff who would be available to the force to use on investigations during peak demand. The staff would be directly recruited by Cleveland Police.

“The terms of contracts issued to successful applicants (zero hours) mean that we are not tied into paying people during quieter periods when there is no requirement for additional staff.”

We have been transparent from the outset about the fact that this is a zero hours contract and we anticipate the posts will appeal to a variety of highly experienced and appropriately qualified people who will add significant value to any major incident investigation.”

Source – Northern Echo, 24 July 2014

Zero Hours Contracts Force Workers To Rely On Food Banks, Says Charity

Highly controversial Zero hours contracts are forcing Scottish workers to turn to food banks and payday lenders, according to a new report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

The report, ‘Working at the Edge‘, found that the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts by unscrupulous employers is exploiting workers and leaving them with “no hours, no pay and no chance”.

Some employers are now using zero hours for the majority of their staff, the report says, with women representing over half of those workers trapped on the controversial contracts. Young people and pensioners are also greatly affected.

 While Zero hours contracts can be beneficial for some people, such as those seeking casual or seasonal work, but far too often they provide workers with no guarantee of hours and shifts can be cancelled with little or no warning, say CAS.

Workers are frequently denied equal and fair working rights routinely awarded to part-time and full-time staff. The report warns that some employers are using zero-hours as a tool to easily sack staff.

CAS also warns that the misuse of zero hours by some employers is leading to some workers facing bankruptcy and prosecution over unpaid debts.

The report includes a case study of a CAS client on zero hours who only had three days work in a month and was forced to turn to a food bank to feed themselves. The client received a court summons after they found themselves £1,000 into arrears as a direct result of not being given enough hours work to pay debts.

Another case tells the story of a waitress on zero hours who was facing possible bankruptcy, after stacking up a debt of nearly £5,000 to payday lenders, while they waited for their employer to give them more hours work.

CAS policy manager Keith Dryburgh said:

Zero hours contracts (ZHCs) are meant to provide flexibility for employers and workers alike. They are not suitable for everyone, but they can be a useful option for some people — as long as the system is applied fairly.

“However, we see growing evidence that the system is in fact being abused by some employers, who are frankly misusing it to exploit their workers.

“It seems that the flexibility in the system often lies with the employer, not with the worker. And too often workers are left with no hours, no pay, no security and no chance.

“There are 1.4 million people on ZHCs across the UK. They tend to be aged under 25 or over 65. Over half of them are women, and the areas they work in are those like catering, tourism, food and care.

“In highlighting these cases we hope to persuade employers that they should do right by their staff, and also to open a dialogue with government about how to improve the system to make sure this kind of exploitation doesn’t occur.

“We make a number of recommendations in the report, and we want to engage with ministers, unions and others to discuss ways to ensure a fair deal for all workers.

“We also want to get the message to any worker who is on a zero hours contract. You have rights, and we can help you to stand up for them.

“If you are unhappy with your contract or unsure of your rights, contact your local CAB and we will help you with free confidential advice.

“Nobody in 2014 should be in a position where they are working but don’t have the security of an actual income.”

The Scottish Government has previously called on the UK Government to crack down on the use of inappropriate zero hours contracts, by ensuring that workers receive compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

Commenting on the report from Citizens Advice Scotland, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:

While the UK government is encouraging the use of zero hours contracts, the Scottish Government has been looking at options available to tackle the issue within its current limited powers.

“As employment policy is reserved to Westminster, this is yet another example of how we can do things differently, and better, with independence.

“Zero hours contracts can be beneficial for some but they are not appropriate for everyone – and are more likely to be offered to women, young people and pensioners. And the growth in the inappropriate use of these contracts is clearly cause for real concern.

“The fact that anyone is forced to rely on food banks in a wealthy country like Scotland is nothing less than a scandal – but that people in employment are now struggling to afford the basics like food is simply unbelievable.

“After a Yes vote we can use the powers of independence to make sure that more people feel the benefits of Scotland’s wealth.

“The establishment of a Fair Work Commission and a commitment to raise the minimum wage at least in line with inflation will help us take action on low pay.”

Source – Welfare News Service,  23 July 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/zero-hours-contracts-force-workers-rely-food-banks-says-charity/

Jobseekers Being Forced Into Zero-Hours Roles

This article  was written by Rowena Mason, political correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 5th May 2014

Jobseekers face losing their benefits for three months or more if they refuse to take zero-hours contract roles, a letter from a Conservative minister has revealed.

For the first time, benefit claimants are at risk of sanctions if they do not apply for and accept certain zero-hours jobs under the new universal credit system, despite fears that such contracts are increasingly tying workers into insecure and low paid employment.

 Last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of contracts that do not guarantee minimum hours of work or pay but require workers to be on standby had reached 1.4 million.

More than one in 10 employers are using such contracts, which are most likely to be offered to women, young people and people over 65. The figure rises to almost half of all employers in the tourism, catering and food sector.

Currently, people claiming jobseekers’ allowance are not required to apply for zero-hours contract vacancies and they do not face penalties for turning them down.

However, the change in policy under universal credit was revealed in a letter from Esther McVey, an employment minister, to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore, who had raised the issue of sanctions with her.

The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, JobCentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts”, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.

> Oh well, that’s all right then. We can rest assured that the fact that they’re chasing targets and bonuses wont affect their judgement as to whether a role is suitable.

Quite obviously, if a job doesn’t guarantee a  weekly income, its suitable to very few people indeed – mainly people who don’t eat or have bills to pay presumably…

Separately, a response to a freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published on its website reveals: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied, but we will look into the circumstances of the case and consider whether they had a good reason.”

Higher level sanctions – imposed if a jobseeker refuses to take a position without good reason or leaves a position voluntarily – will lead to a loss of benefits for 13 weeks on the first occasion, 26 weeks on the second occasion and 156 weeks on the third occasion.

Asked about the issue by the Guardian, the DWP said jobseekers would not be required to take a zero-hours contract that tied them in exclusively to work for a single employer. The government is already consulting on whether to ban this type of contract altogether.

The change has been made possible because universal credit will automatically adjust the level of benefits someone receives depending on the number of hours they work. This means claimants should not face periods without the correct benefits when their earnings fluctuate or they change job.

> Universal Credit still does not work. It may never work, judging by its progress so far. Why would anyone trust it to “simplify” the system ?

However, critics raised concerns that the new policy will force people into uncertain employment and restrict the ability of claimants to seek better work while still placing a burden on many to increase their hours.

Sheila Gilmore said she was concerned about the situation because JobCentre decision makers already do not appear to be exercising enough discretion before applying sanctions under the old regime.

While I don’t object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, I am concerned about this policy change,” she said.

“I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term.”

> Oh, I see. She’s not against the principle of either universal credit or zero-hours contracts, just that it might prevent someone taking part (for which read : being made to take part under threat of sanctions) some other pointless “training” course.  Labour – the people’s friend…

Andy Sawford, a shadow minister who has pushed for reforms of the contracts with his zero-hours bill in parliament, also expressed concern about the change, as universal credit will require many people on low hours to try to increase their work. Those below a “conditionality earnings threshold” – normally 35 hours at the minimum wage – may be asked to “carry out relevant actions” to raise their earnings, or again face sanctions.

“How can you commit to training, undertake a proper job search or agree to participate in interviews when you are on a zero-hours contract and may be required to work at any time?” Sawford said.

“Requiring people to take zero-hour jobs is a big change from the past. It will create further insecurity for many of the lowest paid people.”

Labour has promised to crack down on abuses of zero-hours contracts, with leader Ed Miliband saying their use has reached “epidemic” proportions in some industries. He wants to see workers with irregular shifts and pay getting a contract with fixed hours if they have worked regularly for the same employer for a year.

The TUC has also expressed worry that they are “no longer confined to the fringe of the job market”.

A spokesman for the DWP said: “As now, if there’s a good reason someone can’t just take a particular job they won’t be sanctioned. But it is right that people do everything they can to find work and that we support them to build up their working hours and earnings. The average zero-hours contract provides 25 hours of work a week – and can lead to long-term opportunities.

“Universal credit payments will adjust automatically depending on the hours a person works to ensure that people whose hours may change are financially supported and do not face the hassle and bureaucracy of switching their benefit claims.”

> We don’t believe you…

Source – Welfare News Service   06 May 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/jobseekers-forced-zero-hours-roles/