A confused article

Stuff reports:

The Government is set to tighten up the rules around zero-hour contracts – the casual employment agreements that saw petrol station workers docked wages after customers drove off.

This article conflates two separate issues. Zero hours contracts and if an employer can deduct wages for staff actions or inactions which cause a loss. The latter issue could occur no matter how many hours you are contracted for, and it is misleading to conflate the issues.

I think deducting wages of petrol station workers for drive offs is wrong, and illegal in many cases.

It comes as a union campaign to outlaw the controversial contracts – which are widely used in the fast-food and service industries – gathers a head of steam.

The terms mean staff work and get paid only when they are needed and often at short notice. Shifts can be cancelled, without reimbursement for travel or other costs. Holiday, sick pay and other employment rights are not guaranteed and in some cases employees are penalised for losses.

Again this is wrong. The article lumps together a number of what you may call employment abuses and calls them zero hours contracts. This is useful to Labour and the unions who have a campaign against them, but it is again misleading.

do mean staff only get paid when needed and can be cancelled at short notice. But it does not mean holiday pay is not guaranteed – that is an absolute right. It also has nothing to do with penalising employees for losses. That is a separate issue.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister said he was motivated to act after it emerged Gull service station managers had billed staff when customers fled without paying for their fuel.

He has asked officials to look at a ban on practices “where there is no quid-pro-quo in the employment relationship”. It will form part of an ongoing review of employment standards that began last year.

Billing staff for drive offs is wrong and exploitative and may already be illegal. It is good the Government is looking into the law around that.

However, it is unlikely the Government will go as far as outlawing zero-hours contracts – because they suit students, part-time parents and the semi-retired. He rejected the ‘Certainty at Work’ legislation proposed by Labour last week, saying it was “blunt and unsophisticated and would make things worse for the workers”.

It could effectively be a ban on all casual work, which would devastate many employees and employers. As the article says, zero hours contracts suit many students who don’t want fixed hours.

My view is that zero hour contracts are absolutely fine – however if the employer does not guarantee a minimum number of hours, then the employee can’t be forced to work any particular hours – ie the employer has to persuade staff to work a particular shift – rather than just force them on, with no reciprocal obligation of minimum hours.

Kelly says current employment laws only provide for fixed-term or permanent employment.

“If someone is fixed term they have to be employed on genuine grounds. We think most casual employment is already illegal, it just requires enforcement.

So the CTU and their parliamentary wing want to abolish casual work. Nice.

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