The Herald reports:
It was an accident of timing that on the very day he was signalling the party needed to modernise its cloth-cap image, he should be invited to speak at Unite, the most militant of modern unions. There were liberal references to “mate” and “brother” from Mr Little in the question session that followed.
“Will Labour outlaw zero-hour contracts?” one delegate asked directly. Getting rid of them is a new campaign for Unite.
Mr Little had already criticised zero-hour contracts in the morning speech as a disturbing trend.
“Zero-hour contracts” give employers the right to tell employees from week to week how many hours they will be working, if any at all – hence the word zero.
Mr Little answered: “The idea that you sign up and enter into an obligation to make yourself available to the employer with no reciprocal obligation for the employer to provide work, that’s not acceptable.
“If it doesn’t change, we will outlaw it,” he said to resounding applause.
That would be a huge mistake.
I share the distaste that some fast food companies use zero hour contracts, when they have regular hours and demand. I wish good luck to UNITE for negotiating an end to them in those industries.
However Little will be making a huge mistake if he follows through on his pledge to outlaw them, as there are industries and businesses where they are essential. If an employer literally has no work available, then it is insane to say they must pay staff to turn up and do nothing.
Also many students like zero hour contracts as it gives them flexibility also, to just work the shifts they can. Making it illegal for an employer and employee to agree to a casual contract would be draconian. It would mean a diary owner couldn’t have a relief worker on call, for example.
Yes there is a problem in the fast food industry. But do not treat all businesses and industries the same. You’ll destroy lots of jobs and employers if you do.Tags: Andrew Little, employment law, zero hour contracts