Zero Hour Contracts

I remember this time last year Newsnight informed me that 8% of the UK workforce are currently without a job. Despite an Olympic boost in positions. Today it’s 7.8%

Having loved the show for more than all my adult life, I do hate it when they get all lefty on me. That means just about every Paul Mason report. And the one revealing this above stat, from a quiet Tuesday night, displaced an outrageous imbalance.

It introduced me to the concept of Zero Hour Contracts. They’ve recently made headlines once more.

They work like this. You sign up for a job. But you have no guarantees as to hours.

When you’re needed, you get the call, and off you go.

The example most milked last year was with a big name employer, namely McDonalds.

Newsnight’s reporter didn’t like this. The worker gets left in the lurch quite a bit. They claimed that they didn’t know where they were, and it was unfair. They even railed at “employment by emoticon”. At Eleven o’clock each day one factory worker would receive a text on the day’s prospects. And sometimes a smiley or frowny would be attached, depending on whether there was a shift open that day. Those pesky capitalists. It’s like the 18th century mill owners are still with us, right.

Then they looked at the figures.

2005 – 54,000

2011 – 161,000

These were the numbers of the workforce on zero hour gigs. A threefold increase, we were gleefully told.

Yet the example they used confided how she ended up with work every other day. The inference being that beforehand, she had nothing.

Yes, I can see the flaws, but I also see the upsides. For both parties.

Anyway, there is a selling point to be made here.

I do like a Hollywoodisation of this zero hours concept.

Imagine you had a Zero Hour commitment to a prospect.

You never know when you’ll be needed, but you’ll log in every day and see.

With someone on the inside, picture a daily, or weekly, call. Any issues that had cropped up could be aired. And you resolved to make a plan. Together.

The issues could relate to information, opinions, standings, details, technicals, specs, politics. Anything.

There’s no guarantee any issues may have arisen, or that it might be solved, but at least you get to talk any through.

Can you even see some of the younger members of our profession presenting to management a frowny and smiley, with numbers against each to depict the current state of play, day-by-day on a bid…?!

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