Campaign against ‘zero-hours’ contracts

NIKO KLOETEN
Last updated 14:32 01/12/2014

Employment contracts with no guaranteed hours of work are unfair and should be scrapped, a fast food workers’ union says.

The Unite Union, which represents about 7000 workers across the country, announced a campaign against zero-hours contracts at its national conference today.

Zero-hours contracts have no specified hours or times of work, meaning a worker could end up working 40 hours one week and none the next.

Unite national director Mike Treen did not know of the specific numbers of such contracts, but said people would probably be surprised by how widespread they were.

The contracts were particularly common in the fast food industry, although they also appeared in some other industries.

He said they made workers vulnerable to abuse as they became too nervous to speak out, for fear of having their hours reduced.

“There’s no security and it puts enormous power in the hands of managers. People are extremely reluctant to assert their rights for simple things like breaks,” he said.

“You’re also dealing with managers who are very young in the fast-food industry.”

Treen said zero-hours contracts gave employers flexibility, but the amount of flexibility they actually needed was often exaggerated.

“It’s not like they have huge swings or anything. They know how much they are going to sell on any particular day of the week during the year.

“We don’t expect everybody to have guaranteed hours but 80 per cent of the crew should be able to have it.”

Treen said the union was not planning to push for a law change at this stage and would focus on addressing the issue during negotiations with fast food companies early next year.

It will also be targeting Sky City, which does not have zero-hours contracts but instead offers a minimum of eight hours of work a week, which Treen described as “marginally better”.

He said the union was concerned at the number of Sky City workers on part-time contracts.

“They have about 3000 staff and two-thirds of them are on part-time contracts.”

Sky City declined to comment on Unite’s campaign.

– Stuff
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