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It’s not all defeats for the left…  March 15, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Speaking of working lives. Take the example of New Zealand, as Gewerschaftler noted in comments at the weekend. 

 

Zero-hour contracts have been outlawed in New Zealand after parliament unanimously passed a bill to ban the controversial practice.

And:

Political parties across the board supported the ban, which is being hailed as a major victory for minimum wage workers, particularly in the fast-food industry.

Mike Treen, leader of the Unite union, who led the charge, said the move was being closely followed by fast-food workers worldwide, many of whom banded behind the New Zealand workers campaign last year.

Reading the detail of how the contracts are implemented it is clear that this is a profound and material change for the better.

Hannah Shelton-Agar, 23, is employed on a zero-hour contract at Hoyts cinema in Auckland.

She usually works between 10-25 hours a week, and said she is “ecstatic” about the ban.

Notable too how the unions have led it. But check this out:

The move to ban zero-hour contracts gained huge momentum around New Zealand last year when it was picked up by TV3’s Campbell Live current affairs show, which has since been axed.

Campaigners said the exposure and interest of Campbell Live galvanised opposition to zero-hour contracts nationwide.

Interesting programme that.  But I can’t help but feel that there’s something key in that juxtaposition of unions and television.

Just on the unanimity of the vote in the parliament any of us who have listened to the turgid and economically conservative debates on workers rights in this state in the Dáil would have to be a lot less optimistic that we would see unanimity on similar measures.

 

Meanwhile on zero-hours contracts in the UK

Larry Elliott in the Guardian says it like it is:

The phrase “zero-hours contract” was virtually unheard of in Britain a decade ago. That’s not surprising, since in the years leading up to the start of the financial crisis in 2007 few people were employed on one.

But,,,

Today, after an eightfold increase in the past 10 years, everybody knows what a zero-hours contract is and what it represents. It is a symbol of an increasingly insecure labour market in which the balance of power is tilted decisively in favour of employers.

It’s astounding to read the stats he offers. There’s around 801,000 workers in the UK on ZHC’s – albeit for all that we hear about new economies that is about 2.5% of the UK workforce as a whole. And he notes that it was after the recession, not during it, that the greatest growth occurred in numbers.

Initially, the argument was that ZHCs were a response to the sluggish and uneven nature of Britain’s recovery, and they would become less prevalent as unemployment decreases. This argument looks less tenable now that the jobless rate is back to its pre-recession level. In the past year alone, the number of zero-hours contract workers has increased by 15%.

He notes that some on ZHCs like them due to their flexibility but it is clear that many many more want longer/proper hours. And it’s crucial to recognise how other rights, sick pay etc, are not afforded to those on ZHCs. This isn’t to say that flexibility cannot and never should be an element of contracts, but strong supports and protections are absolutely essential to ensure that those working to them are afforded the necessary rights.

Comments»

1. Phil - March 15, 2016

I was an ‘hourly paid lecturer’ or ‘associate lecturer’ for a couple of years before I got my current job in 2010: over summer you were assigned your teaching hours for the following academic year, and you got paid for the hours you worked. Nobody called it a zero-hours contract, but that’s effectively what it was.

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2. Phil F - March 16, 2016

This is a different Phil writing.

The changes in relation to zero-hours contracts are good, but I’m not sure I’d describe it as a vicory for the left. A lot of key capitalist spokespeople have opposed zero-hours contracts here in NZ and the party in government is actually the National Party. It’s the NZ equivalent of the British Coservative Party but different in some key ways.

For instance, the current National Party government raised social welfare benefits for the first time in 43 years – during that time we’ve had three Labour governments which didn’t! National have also kept the retirement age at 65, while Labour has campaigned to raise it!

Labour and National are really sibling parties, dedicated to managing NZ Capitalism Ltd. On some things National is a wee bit to the eft of Labour, on some things Labour is a wee it to the left of National.

The working class is almost totally quiescent, so these parties deliver the ‘tyranny of the centre’ undisturbed.

Here’s a thing I wrote a few years ago on the state of the working class in NZ: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/low-pay-longer-hours-and-less-social-mobility/

It links to some other articles covering the same area.

Phil F (NZ)

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3. Phil F - March 16, 2016

PS: Here’s a critical little history of the NZ Labour Party: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/the-truth-about-labour-a-bosses-party/

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