What is it like working on a zero-hours contract? Luke Donnelly, from Barnsbury ward, talks about what it was like for him and other workers in the same position.
In a time without full employment, zero-hours contracts are a means of keeping workers under-employed and vulnerable. They make it possible to pull the carpet out from under workers’ feet and keep them in a constant state of fear for their jobs.
I’ve had two zero-hours jobs, one for the postal service and one for the prison service. (Yes, some of the people who work in our prisons are underpaid, overworked, barely trained, and nothing like qualified.)
When I worked at Royal Mail, workers had to call on Friday to get work for the next week, but many of us were working on Friday and couldn’t call!
It was commonplace to expect workers to change shifts at a moment’s notice; on occasion they would be turned away at the door when they arrived. You couldn’t plan your time off as you wouldn’t know when it would be and when you did work a good long week you couldn’t plan to spend your money as you didn’t know when the next pay check was coming, nor how much it would be.
It was clear that the companies employed far more people than there was work for and simply let people battle it out.
We also noticed that many people lost their jobs just before the 12-week mark, when you qualify for:
- the same pay as a permanent colleague doing the same job
- automatic pension enrolment, and – paid annual leave.