Thursday, April 09, 2015

A battle, but not the war

Unite has won a significant victory in the war against zero-hours contracts:

Zero-hour contracts have been abandoned for workers at a group of fast-food chains, who will now be guaranteed hours of work.

Restaurant Brands has committed to end zero-hour contracts by July, in a collective agreement struck with Unite Union. The deal covers workers at KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Carl's Jr.

Under the controversial zero-hour contracts, workers had to be available for work but had no guaranteed hours per week.

Unite Union said its bargaining team unanimously supported the proposal, which guaranteed a worker at least 80 per cent of the average hours they had worked over a three-month period.

Its not full job security, but its far better than they've had before, and gives these workers some predictability about their income. But the war isn't over - McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's are still fully committed to these unfair labour practices. As usual, Unite is working through public pressure, with a mass-mailing campaign to show public opposition (you can sign that here). Boycotts are likely to be next (and I'll be noting that in my letter), and if these businesses value their public reputation, they'll be following Restaurant Brands in guaranteeing hours.

But while it will be great to eliminate zero-hours contracts from the fast food industry, that's still not the war. These contracts are pervasive throughout the retail sector, driven by employers desire to cut costs and keep workers insecure and under control. And we won't eliminate them entirely except by legislation. The government is promising to do that, but we know it'll be half-arsed and full of loopholes. There are currently two members bills in the ballot to eliminate zero hours contracts and give workers certainty. While there's a chance they'll be drawn and passed with the new anti-National majority in Parliament, the only way to guarantee the passage of such legislation is to change the government.