Monday, 29 July 2013

Work till you drop whether you want to or not and do zero hour contracts



The UK has an ageing population and an ageing workforce. Throughout the 1990s, fewer than 8% of men over 65 and women over 60 were in work. By 2006, this had increased to 10% of men and 12% of women of state pension age (SPA). And the number of workers aged 65 and over who are still in work has doubled in the past decade. In addition, the over-50s now form more than a quarter (27%) of the UK workforce and by 2020 it is estimated that they will make up almost a third of workers.

So it’s work till you drop whether you want to or not.

The government has now increased the SPA to 66 for both men and women between 2018 and 2020. It also announced that it will change the law again to increase the SPA to 67 between 2026 and 2028. And although the SPA is already scheduled to rise to 68 by 2046, this target will now be subject to five-yearly reviews, as announced in January 2013. And the government’s changes to public sector pensions, which provoked co-ordinated strike action by unions, will certainly mean that public service workers will have to pay more, work longer and receive lower pensions in future.

By nailing workers down to the floorboards in such a way will have serious consequences for generations to come and may lead to social unrest as working people and their families struggle to retain and sustain regular full-time employment, especially in light of employers and the Bosses now opting to exploit and using part-time workers. We can see already the impact that low pay is having on the low paid worker finding it hard to pay bill and using food banks to survive.

Yesterday the Guardian ran a story about Sports Direct’s entire 20,000 part-time workforce being employed on zero-hour contracts, you can read the full story here.

My understanding of zero hours is (and please correct me if I am wrong) a zero hours worker is someone who agrees that the employer does not have to provide work but if there is work to do then, the worker is obliged to accept it. The contract is for a worker who has no fixed working hours and agrees (mistakenly) to work on a day to day or week by week basis. The contract can be used for for temporary or permanent workers.

More than 150 staff at the House of Commons are employed on the controversial zero hours contracts, despite growing calls by MPs for tougher rules to prevent workers being exploited by them. And now it has emerged that the NHS are using almost 70,000 staff on zero hour contracts. The only official estimate of the number of employees on such contracts was a 200,000 figure by the Office for National Statistics; and whilst I see no attempt will be made in this parliament to bring in any legislation to outlaw the practice its set to continue and expand and despite what Labour may say in opposition we all know by experience they act differently when in office.

A quarter of all workers are now part-time, for most this is not by choice I will argue; and one of the many drawbacks is that they cannot get promoted unless their hours are increased, so is it any wonder that many feel trapped?  The world of work is undergoing a fundamental shift a shift in the wrong direction for us all and the generation that comes after us; it is true that the vast majority of the population of this planet live in want to one degree or another whether they be industrial workers now a disappearing breed in Britain or the North American trying to make ends meet, or beggars on the streets of Britain, India and in the great USA. Yet still they seem to blindly accept that this is the inevitable consequence of things - and in the particular context of capitalism they are right. Various degrees of want will always exist in a private-property based society where all production is with a view to making a profit and where the majority sell their labour-power in return for a part only (now shrinking) wage, of what they produce.

But all is not lost, workers are now tentatively beginning to wake-up they see now more than ever that the years of tinkering with these problems by politicians, of all parties, well-meaning or not, has achieved nothing if anything matters have got worse. There is only one solution; which is the worlds workers must examine the contradictions of capitalism and then organise politically for a society where poverty, hunger, unemployment, pollution, waste, planned obsolescence of workers, war and a host of other things not mentioned in this post will be a thing of the past.

1 comment:

Chris H said...

I also believe on zero hour contracts you don't get sick pay and the employer doesn't have to pay NI. No wonder the employer loves it.

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