On one level I know that this situation has always existed in some form. In the past, mine even, part-time work would be taken on and you never were guaranteed any number of hours every week. I think back to my first job at a McDonald’s while I was still in high school. It was located in a shopping mall down the road from my house of the time. I could have walked to it but being an American (also working the closing shift), I drove.
I experienced all sorts of non-sense working there. All that stuff I came to accept is part and parcel of being employed in a menial job by a large corporation. My one pet hate of working there was schedule changes. These would happen literally overnight. I would have worked the closing shift, clocking off about 11pm and at that point the schedule would say I was due back in say around 12 noon. First thing in the morning, I’d get a call asking where am I and saying I was due in at 7am! That happened several times during my time there. I do believe this was down to people not turning up for work and management trying to play us younger ones and make us feel stupid. Instead of asking us to cover a shift, they re-wrote the schedule so we couldn’t argue. Frustrating as it was, it usually meant an easier shift and more hours for me so I went along with it.
Once, and only once, the management held a mandatory meeting. It was scheduled for a Sunday because at that time, Virginia had the “Blue Law” which meant majority of businesses (our McD’s included) couldn’t open on a Sunday. I arrived a few minutes early, went in and clocked on. The manager asked what did I think I was doing – we were having a meeting, not working. I replied that if it was mandatory then they had to pay me to be there, if not then I was leaving. I’m not an idiot and won’t be screwed over in such a pathetic way. Overhearing this, all of my co-workers clocked on. We never had another mandatory meeting again during my time there.
But with all the silliness we endured, never was lack of hours a concern. The managers did try to misuse us but they did seem to know how to manage their workforce. They knew how many employees they needed and how to schedule them. So the concept of a Zero Hour Contract not only baffles me, it actually pisses me off.
How did these things come about? Are managers that incapable these days that they cannot juggle a team and schedule them for work properly? Do they not receive proper training for this? Has the workforce changed to such a point where no one can be relied upon to turn up for work? Am I right in thinking it is of the benefit of the employers in some way? And if so, in what way do they benefit? Who decided to give this a name and thereby justify workers getting shafted?
The fact that there is a name and an actual contract of employment for this disgusts me. Now bear in mind that back in Virginia in the 1980s we didn’t even have contracts of employment in the fast food industry unless you were a high enough manager. Even the office jobs I had out there after McD’s didn’t come with any contract. Us plebs just got hired and started working. We trusted our managers to give us regular hours and as long as we turned up and worked that is exactly what we got! The better you worked, the more hours you’d get or else you’d get your preferred hours.
For example, I loved doing the morning shifts. Mostly either baking or salad making. It meant I could go in, do my thing without having to interact with customers and go home early. As a teenager that was the ideal as it left me plenty of time to catch up with friends who were probably only just rolling out of bed when I clocked off. I did my time during school term on the late shifts so when summer vacation hit, I got those early morning hours and could enjoy my days.
It’s been a very long time since I worked without a contract of employment. I don’t even know if such jobs still exist but from what I hear from people back home, they still work that way at restaurants at least. I do hope so. I cannot imagine being asked to sign a contract of zero hours. How demeaning is that? That must make a person feel less that human.
In my imagination, a lot of people are being forced into this situation by the government. The Job Centre pushes people to accept any job going regardless of whether it is suitable or not. They don’t care if the hours work for your situation (parents being the ones I am thinking of here – one that would struggle to arrange let alone pay for childcare). They don’t care if the actual work is suitable for you – thinking of people who had good career-type positions and maybe the company folded leaving them unemployed and are being pushed into accepting positions that mean a step (or three) backwards career-wise. I have known people in both situations and it is appalling what they’ve had to go through with the job centre just to survive.
This rant has come from viewing a video on Facebook this morning where women are speaking about how working at McDonald’s has impacted on their lives. One woman has become homeless through severely fluctuating hours and therefore pay. I have put a link to the video here (but it is also showing up below because I’m not very good at techy stuffs lol). Watch The Video Here!!! Please watch it. And once you do, can you reply and help me make sense of this?? Comments encouraged as I am at a loss!