How hugely amusing that it’s a journalist complaining about zero hours contracts

Great news: everyone can stop worrying about nasty, unfair zero-hours contracts because Iain Duncan Smith has rebranded them and made them sound nice. The Conservative work and pensions secretary thinks that the phrase “zero-hours contracts” is too negative, and wants to replace it with “flexible hours”. Did you see what he did there? It’s even better than Esther McVey’s “enabling hours”.

Because another interesting name for the practice could be “freelance contract” where you are promised no set amount of work, no guaranteed income, but only whatever scraps might be too much for the permanent staff to deal with. And swathes of the whole journalistic industry runs on these contracts as well.

109 comments on “How hugely amusing that it’s a journalist complaining about zero hours contracts

  1. And a bit “lady doth protest too much”, which it was Labour who renamed “casual labour” or whatever to “zero-hours contracts” to make it sound nasty in the first place…

  2. Another example of people with “zero-hour” contracts would be agency or hire car drivers. They usually don’t know even a day in advance if they’ve got any fares. It’s been that way for years with nary a peep from the bleeding hearts.

  3. @abacab

    ‘Zero Hours’ was a well used term long before a word was written about how they are a nasty Tory/neoliberal plot to make kittens cry… e.g. by all those Labour-dominated public sector organisations who we using them widely long before the Tories won the election because they’re the only way they could afford to employ key low-skilled and casual workers without derailing the gravy train that’s run for the management and unionised professional public sector classes.

    So this one isn’t an example of the language being hijacked.. just (another) one of bare-faced hypocrisy.

  4. I suspect the problem of zero-hours contracts lies with the state. How are your benefits calculated if you work 35 hours one week and 15 hours the next week? I imagine not very well.

  5. Yes, as a self employed chartered surveyor, I have been on zero hours contracts for years, wouldnt have it any other way…

  6. The benefits problem is simple. Lets assume if you dont work you are due £100 week. Each week you fill in a slf assesment form saying how much you earned that week one is deducted from the other and you get any shortfall from the basic £100. No checks, no investigations, just simple self certified entitlement. If you do get caught cheating they cut your balls off and shove them in your mouth. Simples, cheap, easy to administer. Whats not like?

  7. Andrew M,

    Not only that – employers NI only kicks in at £153/week.

    So, if you hire 1 person, 35 hours a week, minimum wage, you’ll pay an extra 13.8% on your wage bill than hiring 2 people doing 17.5 hours.

  8. Dannyl,

    You’ve obviously not been near the benefits system. How much housing benefit do you get if you’ve worked 17 hours this week and have one six year old child? Do you qualify for free prescriptions that week? Does your kid get free school lunches that week? And so on.

  9. BicR,

    And that suits a lot of people. I know a software freelancer who has an HGV license. If he’s got no software work, he drives a truck down for a few days.

  10. The Stigler,

    Yes, as the Americans discovered with Obamacare. Employer-funded healthcare coverage is now mandated for all employees working 30+ hours a week. Cue lots of people having their hours cut back to 29.

    For all the faults in our systems (health, tax, benefits, police) the Amercans have it far worse.

  11. I’m glad you said that, Luis, because my understanding was that a zero hours contract required you to be available without guaranteeing work.

    Strictly speaking that’s an agreement not a contract because the employer couldn’t sue to enforce it.

  12. Andrew M none of that is relevant you are fixated on the hours bit. Who cares if you work 1 hr or 100 hrs? What matters is income derived from work. Whatever the individual circumstances, kids, housing benefit etc, if you do no work you get all the benefits your circumstances qualify for. If you earn ten quid then ten quid is deducted from that total. What is hard about that?

  13. dannyl

    Broadly I agree with you but most people think a 100% marginal tax rate is a little harsh.

  14. Dannyl,

    You’re describing a hypothetical benefits system that you’d like to see; not the one that actually exists.

    Under the present system the number of hours counts – you need at least 16 per week to qualify for Working Tax Credits, or 24 hours if you’re a couple (including unmarried couples). How do you begin to calculate your benefit entitlement if you break up with your partner on Thursday this week, but get back together on Tuesday next week? And does your kid get free school meals that week?

    Individually each of these rules exists for a good reason; but together they create a Byzantine labyrinth of interlocking systems.

  15. My employers have hired freelancers for specific time periods or projects, it is quite different from what people are concerned about in relation to so-called zero hours contracts. There are four key concerns that grew because some employers (not all) have taken the piss.

    1. Exclusivity – the worker isn’t allowed to work for anyone else but isn’t guaranteed any hours of work (now banned in terms of writing it in the contract but can still happen in practice).
    2. Transparency – the precise nature of the arrangement has not been clear to some workers.
    3. Uncertainty (financially and otherwise) – if you are on low income you can claim benefits and if your hours vary then your benefit entitlements can become difficult to calculate or administer. In some cases you may be overpaid and the difference clawed back weeks later or you may be underpaid and have insufficient money until you are paid the difference. Also, some workers have been given very short notice of work or very short notice of work cancellations (including cancellations at the beginning of when the work was to be started). This makes it difficult for people on low incomes to plan or budget ahead.
    4. Power asymmetry – some workers perceived they would be penalised if they refused hours offered by the employer even if the offer was short notice or otherwise inconvenient.

    Some employers want an army of people sitting at home that are on-call but only pay the person for the time he spends working, not the time he spends on-call and they don’t want him to have the same rights an employee would have – they want it one way, their way, they don’t want the ‘mutuality of obligation’ in a normal employer-employee contract. You aren’t obliged to pay the person if he is sitting at home waiting for your call – you would be obliged if he was sitting at or near work waiting to be put to work. And if you do not give him regular hours then he is less likely to be seen as an employee by an employment tribunal. Although the Government has made it more difficult for the worker to enforce his rights so that point may be moot.

    Some workers want such contracts, they like the flexibility, they are quite happy with their contracts. But there has been some exploitation, some taking the piss, so here we are.

  16. It seems to me that people have only started to complain about zero hours contracts if the hourly rate is set at the minimum wage. If you are paid two hundred pounds an hour, then people don’t care.

    Maybe the solution would be a citizens income instead ofstate pension and benefits. That way people would always have an incentive to work even if they were on zero hours contract.

  17. Ukliberty has got this one right. There is more than meets the eye and in some cases its exploitative. However the ban proposed by miliband won’t help many, if any.

    Also this journalist complaining isn’t the worst, look at the student ‘movement’. They hate zero hours for some reason even though flexible hours is preferable for students in every case. They are the idiotic, hypocritcal whingers.

  18. ukliberty

    That was my understanding, although I am unclear on one point. How can the zero hours worker not be regarded as an employee? He may not have guaranteed hours, but once he has an hour, I would have thought he has the same statutory rights as anyone else? He can’t be said to be self employed as he has an exclusive contract with his employer.

  19. @UKLib from “Some employers want an army of people sitting at home that are on-call but only pay the person for the time he spends working…”

    Speaking as someone who’s employed casual labour….yeah, right. We’d all like that. Meanwhile in the real world…

    Yes one wants access to a supply of labour when one needs it & not have to be paying for it when one doesn’t. But it’s hardly all one way. As an employer, you do actually want the labour when you need it. Given the people you’re employing must be actually worth their crust or you wouldn’t be wanting to employ them, they therefore have talents are attractive to other employers. So if you don’t look after them, they aren’t there when you need them.
    So in the real world you’re always conscious, if you don’t provide them with sufficient earnings opportunities,you won’t be able to ensure a labour supply to meet needs. So you create work or even pay them to sit at home do nothing. In truth, casual labour has a stronger bargaining position than regular labour. If you’ve employed someone on fixed terms, you may be paying them more than their production, at times. But at least you know where you are. If you’re relying on casual labour you’re going to have to top whatever the market’s paying at the time. And given, in whatever field you’re in, labour demand has a nasty habit of peaking for all employers simultaneously – because you, as an employer, are responding to your own market demands – you tend to be dealing with very much a seller’s market.
    In return, those sellers of labour will also be conscious of their future needs. The wise ones, the ones you’ve looked after in the lean times, will likely give you preference over other possible employers – even to the point of accepting lower remuneration – because we’re all of us thinking towards the best outcomes over the longer term.

    ie Most of this zero hours crap is about people who are functionally unemployable except by a limited range of employers, occasionally. Or tossers as they’re more generally known. Probably why so many we’re hearing from are loosley connected with “the professions”.

  20. To clarify:
    Anyone who’s only chance of obtaining paid employment is to sign up to a “zero hours” exclusive contract is, by definition, a tosser & not worth paying in the first place.

  21. Incidentally, worth noting a large proportion of “professionals” are casual labour. But they’ve connived sufficient regulatory capture to make their employment only casual from their own prospective. Their employers don’t have the choice.
    No doubt why “zero hours contracts” have become such a big talking point with certain professions. They want to turn tosserdom into a profession. Some might opine they already have.

  22. Roue le Jour,

    A worker does not necessarily have the status of “employee”, and here is a list of things that will help determine if someone is an “employee”:
    https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/employee

    There are five main employment statuses including employees and workers. The differences are not particularly obvious/clear on the face of it but, long story short, all employees are workers but not all workers are employees – an employee has rights and responsibilities that workers-who-aren’t-employees don’t have.

    Workers-who-aren’t-employees aren’t usually entitled to:
    minimum notice periods if their employment will be ending, eg if an employer is dismissing them;
    protection against unfair dismissal;
    the right to request flexible working;
    time off for emergencies; or,
    Statutory Redundancy Pay.

    As you probably know a contract of employment isn’t merely what is written on the piece of paper signed by both parties, it is what can be inferred from the circumstances or “the reality of the agreement”. If for example the work was regularly offered and regularly accepted than the employment tribunal or court would be more likely to infer that whatever the piece of paper says there was an employer-employee relationship, not an employer-worker relationship, so the person has the rights of an employee. On the other hand if the work was irregularly offered and/or irregularly accepted the employment tribunal or court would be less likely to infer that there was an employer-employee relationship, so the person does not have the rights of an employee. Assuming, of course, that the low income zero hour contract worker attempts to enforce his perceived rights.

    Excerpt from a decision, by way of example from real life:
    I am satisfied there was sufficient mutuality of obligation for the claimants to be employees. Once the rota was prepared they were required to work and the employer was required to provide that work. They were subject to control and discipline; they had to provide personal services; they were provided with uniforms and equipment; they were paid on a PAYE basis; they had all worked regularly over a number of years and had only taken time off for holidays, sickness and when suspended for which they received payment; it was not established that there were gaps in the continuity of employment. The claimants required regular work and this was provided by the first respondent.

  23. ukliberty,

    “Some workers want such contracts, they like the flexibility, they are quite happy with their contracts. But there has been some exploitation, some taking the piss, so here we are.”

    But in the end, this comes down to labour being a market. Can you earn more than minimum wage at Sports Direct? Go and do it then.

    And a lot of the reason we’re here is that the state (via its various tentacles) have taken the piss. We’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit overriding employer’s desires, we’ve had rights upon rights added to employees. Maternity law has gone from being a reasonably sensible law allowing mothers to take a few weeks off to recover from childbirth to potentially, years off of work with a job having to be kept open and no required notice of return. They then had to add ageism law in because employers were working around this by hiring older women whose kids are now in school.

    The work around for that? Well, I wouldn’t document my actual recruitment policies. Telling someone below me “for fuck’s sake don’t hire women in their 20s” would be done in a corridor rather than in an email. Or I’d just outsource the work to Hanoi or Bangalore where these laws and minimum wage and diversity shite and god knows what else don’t apply.

  24. ukliberty

    Thanks for that. What was confusing me was that if you had a contract forbidding working elsewhere, as I understand is the issue with zero hours contracts, the revenue would regard you as an employee and your employer responsible for deducting tax. It doesn’t surprise me though that an employment tribunal might take a different view.

  25. I am in general agreement with UKLiberty on this.

    As someone who in the past actively chose to be an agency worker who turned down offered full time positions because I liked the flexibility and mutual lack of commitment (shitty workplace? I just walked out.) “zero hours” does not trouble me. “Contract” does trouble me, and “exclusive” troubles me a great deal. A person who is offered no work but forced to not work for somebody else who may offer them work is in a difficult position indeed. This strikes me as a definitionally asymmetric relationship.

    I am a Libertarian. I think people should be free to make whatever contracts they like. But it also seems to me to be symptomatic of a labour situation in significant crisis and, I personally believe, indicative of a deliberate manipulation of the economy by the powerful using their mechanism of the State. As indeed are other symptoms like internships.

  26. How this was explained to was this: with part time jobs you may have more than one, making hotel beds in the morning, clean a few houses in the afternoon, stack shelves in the supermarket in the evening.

    With a zero hours contract with the supermarket they may require you to be available whenever the store is open, preventing other work, even though they are paying you no more than before.

    This is obviously pretty shitty, but it’s not clear what legislation you could pass that would resolve it as it is a supply and demand problem.

  27. The Stigler,

    But in the end, this comes down to labour being a market.

    Well, ultimately it comes down to what are people supposed to do to get sufficient food, clothing and shelter in a economy where remunerative work is scarce and it would be nice if people (including employers and workers) didn’t take the piss causing more infringements on liberty that possibly made some circumstances worse.

    Roue le Jour,

    This is obviously pretty shitty, but it’s not clear what legislation you could pass that would resolve it as it is a supply and demand problem.

    In the context, you can only legislate against provable arrangements, not ‘informal’ behaviour; exclusivity is banned, so a contract that includes an exclusivity clause is clearly unlawful, but it will be difficult to prove The Stigler didn’t give you any more work because he saw you working in another shop or because you once refused his offer of work.

  28. @IanB

    “Contract” does trouble me, and “exclusive” troubles me a great deal. A person who is offered no work but forced to not work for somebody else who may offer them work is in a difficult position indeed. This strikes me as a definitionally asymmetric relationship.”

    Comes down to that skill-set thing, doesn’t it? If that’s the only option open to the person, then it’s pretty obvious they’ve limited skill-sets. One bit of advice I’ve always given to youngsters. Don’t be content with learning one thing. Go on & learn a few more. Or if your one thing becomes not-in-demand you’ll be relying on the alternative skill-set you share with all the other tossers. “Mostly useless.” Where you’re in against very strong competition.

    And that’s a reply to UKLib’s “.. in a economy where remunerative work is scarce ” When was that ever true? There’s always work available for those who can do the work. And if those jobs were filled, there’d be even more work available. Economics’n that. Productivity creates demand.

  29. bloke (not) in spain,

    Haven’t you mentioned several times the struggles of a Spanish guy to find work with whom you’re acquainted (and have helped)? If it’s non-trivial why has he had any problems at all? Why is Spain’s unemployment rate nearly 25% (50% among the young adults) if it’s so easy (it was worse last year and the year before)? Why are many Spanish leaving the country to seek work? Why should anyone be concerned about “competition” if “there’s always work available for those who can do the work”?

  30. ukliberty,

    “Well, ultimately it comes down to what are people supposed to do to get sufficient food, clothing and shelter in a economy where remunerative work is scarce and it would be nice if people (including employers and workers) didn’t take the piss causing more infringements on liberty that possibly made some circumstances worse.”

    And if you think that’s an employer’s responsibility you need to grow up. That’s $15 minimum wage, or in this country, living wage. And someone puts that into a spreadsheet somewhere and either a) they might as well shut up the business or b) buy a machine that does the job or c) outsource it to China.

    If “society” wants people to live OK, and I’m all in favour of that, “society” can pay for it.

    And I’m not sure what you define as “remunerative” work, but there are lots of jobs around. I guarantee you that if I went to the 4 McDonalds near me that at least one has a job ad. And yes, McDonalds isn’t a living wage, but nor was the record shop I worked in when I was 16, or the shop job my wife had. Hell, my first job writing code paid £60/wk for a 40 hr week.

  31. BnIS-

    I think the argument here is that there are contractual terms that are better or worse for the contractees. Nobody would deny that. The question is, if we see steadily people accepting crappy contractual terms, then it’s worth asking why their negotiating position is worsening such that they are accepting those bad terms.

    The exclusivity I, personally, find troubling. As a Libertarian I’m not interested in prohibiting it. As a Liberal, I want to know why it’s a growing phenomenon, nonetheless. To use the term that Theophrastus has questioned, I am of the opinion that the bourgeoisie- the ruling class, the better-offs, the haves, whatever- like the idea of a society that consists of their own class in a good position and another class of supplicants who are not, and since they are the ones with the power to skew the economy in that manner, I suspect therefore that this phenomenon is deliberate.

    I may be wrong. But we must remember that we are not living in a free market, not even close, and so the state of the centrally managed market is something we can validly question.

  32. The Stigler,

    And if you think that’s an employer’s responsibility you need to grow up.

    I didn’t suggest it is all the employer’s responsibility. Them taking the piss is their responsibility.

    And I’m not sure what you define as “remunerative” work, but there are lots of jobs around. I guarantee you that if I went to the 4 McDonalds near me that at least one has a job ad.

    Remunerative work = activity in exchange for payment. Yes there are lots of jobs there is also lots of competition – there is less competition than last year and the year before as the economy improves. I’m sure you recall the financial crisis and its consequences including many businesses dismissing workers.

    In 2013 Costa Coffee advertised three full-time and five part-time jobs at a new branch in Nottingham – apparently they got 1,701 applications (one thousand, seven hundred and one). Yes that’s an outlier along with similar stories but it doesn’t exactly scream an abundance of work does it? Some of the applicants reportedly “well overqualified”. Some of the applicants having lost their jobs at HMV and Clinton Cards, two of the 330 medium to large retailers that had financial problems or went completely bust since 2007 (to date, god knows how many small retailers) directly affecting 240,000 employees. Where was the HMV or Clinton Cards worker going to go? Peacocks, Phones 4U, GAME, JJB Sports, Clinton Cards, Borders, Barratts, Jane Norman, Habitat, the Officers Club, Oddbins, Allied Carpets, Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi/Virgin Megastore? No, because they were among the chains that shed workers because of their financial difficulties. Outside of retail then? No, because the whole UK economy was struggling.

    Do people look at that jump in the UK’s unemployment rate during recent years and think, “boy, look at this weird rise in feckless parasites in this country, god knows where they came from, because it’s really easy to find work all the time”?

  33. As for contractual terms, something that would seem reasonable to do and not involve government interference is the employer giving people a little bit of notice that the work offered and accepted has been cancelled, instead of (according to a CIPD survey) nearly half of zero hour contract workers reporting that they receive no notice at all (40%) or finding out at the beginning of an expected shift (6%) that work has been cancelled. It costs money to get to and from work and there may be other costs e.g. childcare. It’s not a big ask, is it?

  34. It’s worth repeating just as a general point that unemployment always collects at the bottom of the economy since people downgrade when they can’t get work at their expected level, rather than upgrade. Hence, “I can’t get a job as an architect I’ll take this bus driver job” rather than “I can’t get a job as a bus driver I’ll have to be an architect”.

    Hence the unemployment burden naturally falls on those whose skills (or lack thereof) would naturally be deployed at the bottom of the economy. Which means that that is also the place where the contractual terms will get most shitty.

    Also, I have to admit that on this issue until it became a political issue I had no idea that these contracts existed and my natural reaction to somebody offering me at any stage of my work life would have been, “are you taking the piss?”; the idea that one should be bound by an exclusive contract for what amounts to casual work is extraordinary.

  35. ukliberty,

    “In 2013 Costa Coffee advertised three full-time and five part-time jobs at a new branch in Nottingham – apparently they got 1,701 applications (one thousand, seven hundred and one). Yes that’s an outlier along with similar stories but it doesn’t exactly scream an abundance of work does it?”

    And yet, net migration to this country is still positive and stayed positive throughout the recession, and most of those people are working. So, they’re finding jobs. Why isn’t everyone else?

  36. And Jesus said, “we’re in trouble, we’ve only got 12 fishpaste sandwiches, and there are 4000 in the audience”.

    And lo, the disciples made of them 100 sandwiches and handed them out. And the people cried out and said, “Oh Jesus, we are starving and have no fishpaste sandwiches”.

    And Jesus said, “Well these 100 people here got one, so it can’t be a shortage of sandwiches, can it?”

    And the people said, “You’re talking bollocks Jesus, aren’t you?”.

  37. The first verse actually should have been 12 loaves and 12 fishes, but you get the idea. I need a decent editor.

  38. The Stigler,

    And yet, net migration to this country is still positive and stayed positive throughout the recession, and most of those people are working. So, they’re finding jobs. Why isn’t everyone else?

    “Most” not all. Why not all? Why can’t they find work in their native countries? Why are some countries experiencing really high net migration? Why is Spain’s unemployment ~25% and youth unemployment in particular 50%? Why does unemployment rise when the economy gets crap?Maybe there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who wants a job? What’s your explanation?

    IIRC in 2013 when those Costa Coffee jobs were advertised there were over 2.5m people claiming to seek work and some 500k advertised vacancies or on the face of it five people competing for every job. For example.

    And according to mainstream economics we don’t want 0% unemployment.

  39. When was the last time vacancies were anything like number wanting work? Even at best we have had million+ unemployed.

  40. ukliberty – “Why can’t they find work in their native countries? Why are some countries experiencing really high net migration? Why is Spain’s unemployment ~25% and youth unemployment in particular 50%? Why does unemployment rise when the economy gets crap?Maybe there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who wants a job? What’s your explanation?”

    What makes you think they cannot? Some countries are a soft touch and have the legacy of generations of workers. That means that their modern descendants don’t have to work all that hard and there are lots of opportunities for people who move there. Therefore people move there. It is not difficult to understand. Making a poor living in Mali is a lot harder than making a poor living in Paris or London.

    Spain’s unemployment rate is so high because Spanish people have little shame about being unemployed and pay no penalty for being so. The government gives them some money and their families give them enough support that they can sit around all day. If there were no benefits or if Spanish girls would not sleep with Spanish boys who did not make some money, they would not be unemployed.

    Unemployment rises because employment lags. Jobs are created by a few gifted, far seeing people who understand that there is a gap in the market and are willing to take a risk to fill it. You can discourage these people – as Spain has done en masse. But when there is a sharp downturn, they lose their businesses and it takes them a while to start up again. Hence short-term unemployment.

    There is no such thing as not enough jobs for everyone. There are only not enough jobs that are nice enough and pay well enough to compete with idleness on benefits. Which is why illegals who get no benefits are so very rarely unemployed.

  41. SMFS,

    Spain’s unemployment rate is so high because Spanish people have little shame about being unemployed and pay no penalty for being so.

    What’s the cause of the ~5% increase in Spain’s unemployment rate from summer 2006 to summer 2007? A sudden drop in “shame”?

  42. Why were there integer percentage rises in unemployment rates in most if not all ‘rich countries’ after summer 2007? A sudden worldwide drop in “shame”? Was there something in the water?

  43. There is no such thing as not enough jobs for everyone.

    Actually there is, and it’s a problem economists have been analysing and wrestling with for generations. What we know is that it’s a natural consequence of a market economy, and the issue is what factors contribute to the number going up or down.

    The simplest example is an agrarian subsistence economy, in which “not enough jobs” translates into a Malthusian crisis and mass starvation, until the number of people equals the number of jobs again.

    Yes, this is a very simplistic analysis, but it is simply false to state that there is no such thing as genuine unemployment.

  44. Ian B – “Actually there is, and it’s a problem economists have been analysing and wrestling with for generations. What we know is that it’s a natural consequence of a market economy, and the issue is what factors contribute to the number going up or down.”

    Actually there isn’t. Economists have been dealing with the fact that employment lags. That is, it can be a short term problem. The economists of the past would have been utterly baffled by the long-term generational unemployment we have today. Although perhaps not if they had studied the aristocracy.

    “The simplest example is an agrarian subsistence economy, in which “not enough jobs” translates into a Malthusian crisis and mass starvation, until the number of people equals the number of jobs again.”

    It is not a good example because this does not happen. Ireland had mass starvation but not because it had too few jobs. It got hit by the potato blight. War reduces population. So does disease. But more people only results in more jobs.

    “Yes, this is a very simplistic analysis, but it is simply false to state that there is no such thing as genuine unemployment.”

    That is not what I said though.

  45. ukliberty – “What’s the cause of the ~5% increase in Spain’s unemployment rate from summer 2006 to summer 2007? A sudden drop in “shame”?”

    Actually I already explained this. Would it be too much to ask that you read what you are replying to?

    Unemployment rises because employment lags. Jobs are created by a few gifted, far seeing people who understand that there is a gap in the market and are willing to take a risk to fill it. You can discourage these people – as Spain has done en masse. But when there is a sharp downturn, they lose their businesses and it takes them a while to start up again. Hence short-term unemployment.

    Notice how mainstream this number is – not unusual when compared to other countries – and how small it is compared to Spain’s *normal* figures. 50% youth unemployment and 25% unemployment over all at the moment. It is not nothing but it is not the main cause of Spain’s problems. Notice as well that Spain continues to be flooded by immigrants who seem to have no problems finding jobs.

    But hey, if you like, let’s go with the idea that there is a fixed number of jobs to hand out. About a tenth of the Spanish population is now immigrant in origin. I suppose you would agree Spain should take no more and deport all they can? Because the only solution to unemployment must be to hand out the fixed number of existing jobs in a better way. That means countries that are losing people must have a lot of unfilled jobs while Spain has unemployment. Sending the Guatamalans home helps both countries, right?

  46. By the way, it is off topic and will no doubt provoke the wrath of our resident Guardianistas, but is it me or have I finally found a watermelon who used to be in the Socialist Workers’ Party who actually has something sensible to say? The Daily Mail’s attack on Natalie Bennett’s boyfriend does not really seem to work to me. He actually sounds fairly sensible. Although I think sex between students and teachers should always be prohibited.

    Although the other question is, when did Caroline Lucas, everyone’s favourite English Lit graduate, lose control of the Greens? I literally only just found out.

  47. SMFS-

    Nobody is saying there is a fixed number of jobs. The question in our advanced market economy is why you might have a persistent lag. One reason might be if you overwhelm an economy with migrant labour for which there is insufficient demand from job creators.

    Here is the problem; migrant labour tends to have lower costs than much of native labour. Consider a migrant who is young, single, happy to live in cramped shared accomodation to an older native with a family and commensurate accomodation and other costs. Consider that the money earned by the migrant may be worth far more in his home country.

    The result is that the price of the jobs done by the migrant labour falls (this is Ricardo’s subsistence level which limits the rapaciousness of the rentier). The more this happens, the more that the wage falls below the family man’s subsistence level. The upshot of this is natives who literally cannot afford to work. So now the State starts having to give them subsidy benefits, making a mockery of the price system, and making one wonder why bother working at all.

    In a general case, compared to the population of Britain, the capacity for the rest of the world to supply low-skilled manual migrant workers is effectively infinite. The price of labour can be pushed arbitrarily close to zero. And those migrants who choose to stay while find themselves, and their children, suffering the same problem due to the next wave of migrants coming in.

    I also have some anecdata that those migrants who are entrepreneurial tend to favour co-national migrants over natives when hiring, and in treatment of employees, but that’s nothing more than things I’ve heard said (for instance by an English plasterer describing working previously for a Polish-run business). That may be a factor also.

  48. Ian B – “Nobody is saying there is a fixed number of jobs. The question in our advanced market economy is why you might have a persistent lag. One reason might be if you overwhelm an economy with migrant labour for which there is insufficient demand from job creators.”

    I am not sure that is not what ukliberty is saying. It is certainly true that flooding a country with immigrants will push down wages. But the key is that demand from job creators. If you live in a society with a lot of job creators you can put up with a lot of new labour. A good example being China which has moved hundreds of millions of peasants from the countryside to the cities. And yet does not have a noticable unemployment problem.

    “Consider a migrant who is young, single, happy to live in cramped shared accomodation to an older native with a family and commensurate accomodation and other costs. Consider that the money earned by the migrant may be worth far more in his home country.”

    It is certainly true of nurses in the NHS for instance. A short term stay in the UK with the aim of saving up enough to go home, certainly undermines British nurses. But does it do enough to cause the unemployment we have? I don’t think the evidence is good. The Blair government sent out delegations to trawl the world for new Labour voters. The numbers leapt through the roof. What had been a powerful flow became a deluge. But did it cause large scale mass unemployment?

    “In a general case, compared to the population of Britain, the capacity for the rest of the world to supply low-skilled manual migrant workers is effectively infinite.”

    Britain’s government is planning for a British population that is larger than Russia’s. Fairly soon too. So on this we also agree. But would jobs keep growing to provide jobs for them all? Notice that Spain has twice as much youth unemployment as any other sort. Even though bosses prefer young workers. It does not look like a demand problem to me.

    “I also have some anecdata that those migrants who are entrepreneurial tend to favour co-national migrants over natives when hiring”

    I have yet to meet a British employer who would not take an Eastern European or an East Asian if they could. The UK education system turns out people who are mainly utterly unemployable. That may be a factor too. But if they had no choice, they would take them.

  49. SMFS-

    I’m not trying to say what UKL is saying. I’m saying what I’m saying, if you see what I mean.

    My general point is that, yes, migration is enough to cause large scale unemployment. There are other factors. But in my view it is surely a significant one. Whether or not you accept that, it makes no sense at all to import commodity labour when there are already unemployed people. Unless you are somebody who benefits from disruption in the labour market, like the State and its beneficiaries do.

    Remember, the whole justification for Progressive government is fixing problems. If it can’t create new problems, the State runs out of justifications. As with the deliberate creation of a racial problem, to give it something to manage.

    I don’t know if I would classify it as a demand problem so much as a deliberate manipulation of the labour market problem.

  50. ukliberty,

    ““Most” not all. Why not all? Why can’t they find work in their native countries? Why are some countries experiencing really high net migration? Why is Spain’s unemployment ~25% and youth unemployment in particular 50%? Why does unemployment rise when the economy gets crap?Maybe there aren’t enough jobs for everyone who wants a job? What’s your explanation?”

    Why is Spain’s unemployment 25% and Denmark’s 6.2%?

  51. ukliberty,

    “IIRC in 2013 when those Costa Coffee jobs were advertised there were over 2.5m people claiming to seek work and some 500k advertised vacancies or on the face of it five people competing for every job. For example.”

    182,000 people came to the UK in 2013. Are you suggesting that 4/5ths of them were unemployed? These Poles don’t seem to have much trouble finding work, what’s everyone else’s excuse?

  52. Pingback: On unemployment for UK liberty | Tim Worstall

  53. @ UK Lib
    “Haven’t you mentioned several times the struggles of a Spanish guy to find work with whom you’re acquainted (and have helped)?”

    Yep. And his core problem was not being able to do anything anybody wanted. So the solution wasn’t to force someone to pay him for what he could do but encourage him to learn something they’d pay him voluntarily.
    Sorted.
    But then he did actually want. to work.
    Which, despite SMfS’s allegations above, is truer of rather more Spanish than Brits. Despite the headline figures there’s a lot less Spanish not working than there are without jobs. Because they tend to find something to do. Either for a bit of cash or other benefits. They will till a bit of ground, grow some veggies & sell them by the roadside. You see them as you drive around the country. See that in the UK?
    The Spanish do want to work (And there’s money to be made in matching Spanish keen to do something to things need doing. Smiles.) It’s not their fault they’ve got a system, taking on someone in regular employment’s a nightmare. Subject of a conversation with a buddy over there at the weekend. He wants to take on people for a business he’s going to try. But it’s getting around the employment regulations make doing that a guaranteed way of causing a business to fail.
    Which is why this whole schtuk with “zero hour contracts” is insane. If you haven’t got sufficient work to take someone on, on a full time contract, then you haven’t got the work. You won’t take them on. So there’ll be things could be done, won’t. And money could be earned, not. There’s nobody can benefit.

  54. @IanB
    “Remember, the whole justification for Progressive government is fixing problems.”
    Remember.
    A problem solved is a problem wasted.
    There’s an explanation for a whole lot of things in those few words.

  55. @ The Stigler
    “These Poles don’t seem to have much trouble finding work, what’s everyone else’s excuse?”
    The Poles coming over here mostly have skills. End of sentence.
    Too many of the under-25s have no skills that are valued in the market-place or have skills for which demand is c.1% of supply. Because Tony Blair talked them into going to university and taking a useless course instead of an old-fashioned apprenticeship that would give them a useful skill.

  56. BNIS,

    > Which is why this whole schtuk with “zero hour contracts” is insane. If you haven’t got sufficient work to take someone on, on a full time contract, then you haven’t got the work. You won’t take them on. So there’ll be things could be done, won’t. And money could be earned, not. There’s nobody can benefit.

    Except the fact that exclusivity clauses are in widespread use refutes your hypothesis: if no-one’s got any work on offer, why the need to insist your staff don’t work anywhere else? It’s almost as if employers are afraid a free market might drive up prices.

    I say, ban ’em. Not just for zero-hours contracts, but for any employment where the employer can’t show a valid secrecy concern.

  57. john77,

    “Too many of the under-25s have no skills that are valued in the market-place or have skills for which demand is c.1% of supply. Because Tony Blair talked them into going to university and taking a useless course instead of an old-fashioned apprenticeship that would give them a useful skill.”

    it’s worse than that – FE colleges are having their funding cut and not in real terms. And none of the parties or any of the media are complaining about it. But I’d hire a software developer with a 1yr BTEC HND in Computer Studies over someone with a humanities degree. Lots more jobs on indeed.com for welders with a C&G than art historians with a post-graduate qualification.

  58. Except the fact that exclusivity clauses are in widespread use refutes your hypothesis: if no-one’s got any work on offer, why the need to insist your staff don’t work anywhere else? It’s almost as if employers are afraid a free market might drive up prices.

    I say, ban ‘em. Not just for zero-hours contracts, but for any employment where the employer can’t show a valid secrecy concern.

    This.

  59. “Except the fact that exclusivity clauses are in widespread use refutes your hypothesis: if no-one’s got any work on offer, why the need to insist your staff don’t work anywhere else? It’s almost as if employers are afraid a free market might drive up prices. ”
    Sorry Sq2. You have this the wrong way round. An employer can offer any terms he likes. No-one has to accept them. If you’ve people signing up to exclusive contracts without a firm prospect of work- and sticking to them despite not getting any, (Because what’s the employer going to do if they break their contract? Withhold their pay?) – it’s telling you a great deal about the people entering into the contracts. They’re no-hopers. This is the best deal they can get.
    “It’s almost as if employers are afraid a free market might drive up prices. ”
    You’re implying there’s some unholy cartel amongst employers to keep employees in penury. How long would that last if one of them needed some work done & couldn’t find the bods? It’s all SWP fantasy.

  60. Incidentally. I’ve employed on verbal zero hours contracts for years. Verbally, it was “If I ring you up tomorrow & tell you there’s a job going for you – and you don’t show – you go down to the bottom of the list of people I ring.”
    No-one complained.

  61. > An employer can offer any terms he likes.

    No he fucking can’t. Obviously. And shouldn’t be allowed to either.

    > it’s telling you a great deal about the people entering into the contracts. They’re no-hopers. This is the best deal they can get.

    Some of them are no doubt being told by our lords & masters to take the job or lose their unemployment benefits.

    A lot will also simply be young and naive. People starting out in the job market tend not to know their rights, so get pushed around a bit. That’s not an argument to approve of all exploitative employment practices.

    > Because what’s the employer going to do if they break their contract? Withhold their pay?)

    What are you saying? The clause is unnecessary and unenforceable so must stay?

    > You’re implying there’s some unholy cartel amongst employers to keep employees in penury.

    Not really, but what are you implying? Employers prefer wages to go up as high as possible? No, you’ve said already that of course employers will offer as little as possible. Yet the idea that they might therefore behave in such a way as to keep wages low is apparently paranoid delusion? Feh.

  62. > Because what’s the employer going to do if they break their contract? Withhold their pay?

    Oh, and I see you’ve now answered your own rhetorical question, which rather spoils its air of incredulosity.

  63. If these people are really “no-hopers”, why would anyone want to prevent a “no-hoper” deploying themself as efficiently as possible in the marketplace? Why would an employer be fearful of a “no-hoper”? Is it not more sensible to wonder whether such clauses are more about reducing the “hope” an employee has?

    I used to do agency work and was thus “zero hours”. If I fancied or needed a bit more money, I might ring round and find (for instance) a weekend shift. If my usual agency had no work, I would phone around until I found some. The economy benefitted, I benefitted. It helped me avoid sitting at home with no hope.

    I am a libertarian. I am loathe to invoke interference in contracts. But there is a legal principle that there are some contractual terms which are unenforcable. I am tempted to agree with Squander that this ought to be in that category. It’s not zero hours that is the problem. It is the control of what people do with their other hours, which from a libertarian perspective should be their own goddamned business.

  64. What competitive edge does a company gain by disallowing useless no-hopers from working for the competition? Surely that’s exactly who you want working for your competitors.

  65. How long would that last if one of them needed some work done & couldn’t find the bods?

    It would last until that point. Incentives matter, don’t they?

  66. Read the words, Sq2
    ” An employer can offer any terms he likes.”

    If you’re going to insert some legal restrictions into contracts he doesn’t like, he doesn’t offer contracts on those terms. End of. No job.

    “Some of them are no doubt being told by our lords & masters to take the job or lose their unemployment benefits.”

    Very sad. Take it up with your MP. Employers are neither charities nor social workers. Just feels like it, sometimes. But you’re still not worth the money. F**k off.

    What you don’t get, Sq2, is by employing someone casual you’re paying over the rates for the job. The people who are worth employing full time are employed full time. So to employ someone casual you must pay over full time rates or you wouldn’t get anyone. What you can’t see, from your end, is the full time rate for the individual would be what THEY were worth full time. Not the full time rate of some other worker on full time. Thanks to Minimum Wage there’s a floor on that price, so some people aren’t worth full time employment. End of story.

  67. If you still don’t like contractual “zero hours”, look at it this way. The employee can effectively reduce his asking wage by offering exclusivity. To the employer, that’s worth money because it ensures labour when required & counts against the pay rate. Both sides benefit.

  68. No-one here is suggesting banning zero hour contracts. Just the exclusivity and other crappy behaviour like giving no notice that the work is cancelled.

  69. So what you’re saying, UK Lib, is you’ll prevent potential employees offering inducements to employ them?
    Remember, no one’s acting with malice here. An employer ideally wants an employee working & making him money. Anything else is a fail. If you can get a casual worker to agree to an exclusivity deal you’re going to preferentially give the work to that worker. because continuing the exclusivity is in your interest. Likewise, if you want to run a cancellation no payment policy then you’d have to pay higher rates against those who don’t..
    The only place all this gets problematic is at the bottom of the barrel where the people can’t get work on any other terms. But that means exactly what it says. No employer will employ them on any other terms. They’re not worth it.

  70. BNIS,

    > Very sad. Take it up with your MP.

    What’s that got to do with anything? I’m not taking a position on whether people should be forced into work. The fact is that they are. It was you who claimed that the only conceivable reason why someone would accept such a job is that they’re a pathetic loser capable of nothing else, as if the only factors in their bargaining position are the contract on offer and their own abilities. I was pointing out — entirely correctly — that there are other factors. If you don’t like those other factors, you take it up with your MP.

    > If you’re going to insert some legal restrictions into contracts he doesn’t like, he doesn’t offer contracts on those terms. End of. No job.

    The only thing I have discussed here is the removal of legal restrictions.

    That aside, I note that casual labour without exclusivity clauses has always existed in the UK.

    > Employers are neither charities nor social workers.

    What, but employees are? They’re supposed to give up the opportunity to work other part-time jobs because, what? Because their employer wants the value of having them on call at all times but isn’t willing to pay for it? You want it, pay. If you won’t pay, you don’t get it. You seem to think these concepts should apply to staff but not to you. For some reason.

    > What you don’t get, Sq2, is by employing someone casual you’re paying over the rates for the job.

    So it’s an inefficient, loss-making thing to do? Why the huge objection to letting the competition do it, then?

    > What you can’t see, from your end, is the full time rate for the individual would be what THEY were worth full time. Not the full time rate of some other worker on full time.

    Sorry, is this person who’s worth so much more than the other available staff that their employer demands they be on call at all times the same as the pathetic useless loser capable of fuck all which is the only conceivable reason they’d accept a shitty contract that insists they be on call at all times? I lose track.

    If you still don’t like people having freedom, look at it this way. If you want to dictate what your casual labour do with their own time, pay them. If you’re not paying them, it is their own time, and it’s none of your business what they do with it. Sad to be having to explain that amongst a bunch of libertarians, but hey.

  71. Also, the only reason to tell someone to come into work, wait till they get there, then tell them there’s no work after all is a mixture of extreme callousness and utter fucking ineptitude.

  72. bloke (not) in spain,

    So what you’re saying, UK Lib, is you’ll prevent potential employees offering inducements to employ them?

    Well that’s a potential trade-off I suppose. What’s the prevalence of that in practice?

    Remember, no one’s acting with malice here.

    Sufficiently advanced crappy behaviour is indistinguishable from malice.

  73. Rather, what’s the prevalence in practice among the alleged no hopers of that particular inducement, “I’ll wait for your call and won’t work for anyone else while I’m not working”?

  74. @Sq2
    “Also, the only reason to tell someone to come into work, wait till they get there, then tell them there’s no work after all is a mixture of extreme callousness and utter fucking ineptitude”

    Let’s try this the other way round & see what you think of it. This has actually happened to me.

    You have a job planned. The job takes 4 people. No less. No more. Any less than four & it’s undoable. You arrange four guys to do it. Come the day, three turn up. You ring the fourth & he tells you he’s not coming. No warning. No chance to get a fill in. So now you’re not going to get the job done, you aren’t going to get paid for it, There’s no money.
    Who pays the three guys showed?
    Should you have booked a fifth to cover no shows? If four turn up after all, who pays the fifth? Do you put all five on 4/5ths rate?There isn’t enough money in the job to cover five at full rate.

  75. What you don’t get, Sq2, is by employing someone casual you’re paying over the rates for the job.

    Almost two-thirds (64%) of employers who use zero-hours workers report that hourly rates for these staff are about the same as an employee doing the same role on a permanent contract. Nearly a
    fifth (18%) report that hourly rates for zero-hours staff are higher than permanent employees. Around one in ten employers report (11%) that they are lower.
    – CIPD

  76. UK Lib
    “…what’s the prevalence in practice among the alleged no hopers of that particular inducement, “I’ll wait for your call and won’t work for anyone else while I’m not working”?”

    Amongst the no-hopers, unfortunately, common. That’s what you get. “G’wan mate, You must have something for tomorrow. No. Oh, Ok. I’ll ring you tomorrow night. Yeah?”
    Pain in the ass. You really do wish they’d get up off their butt, go find their own work.
    Maybe that’s why they’re no-hopers.

  77. Amongst the no-hopers, unfortunately, common. That’s what you get. “G’wan mate, You must have something for tomorrow. No. Oh, Ok. I’ll ring you tomorrow night. Yeah?”

    Not quite the same is it.

  78. There isn’t enough money in the job to cover five at full rate.

    No, there isn’t the money all five are prepared to work for.

    /glibertarian

  79. > Let’s try this the other way round & see what you think of it.

    Yeah, and? People are unreliable and annoying: big wow. Your preferred solution to this is apparently to penalise the reliable non-annoying ones. Clever.

    > You really do wish they’d get up off their butt, go find their own work.

    Yes, I can see why someone’s failure to go find some other work and stop bothering you would lead you to give them a contract disallowing them from working for anyone else.

  80. Nice quotes, UK Lib

    Except. I said “….the full time rate for the individual would be what THEY were worth full time.”
    And they’re not in full time, are they? That’s not telling you something?

    On the 18%. Mmmm… I wouldn’t say no to a bit of zero hours, on call, exclusive. Long as the hours were kept near that zero & didn’t upset the social life. But my rates would make your eyes water. And I’d get them.

  81. B(n)IS-

    The quandary you describe is a matter of management and ought to be priced into the job, as with all other management concerns.

    I once had a three day job fitting a fan system in a pub, and on the first day I arrived just in time to see the delivery lorry with my supplies on it heading round the corner; it had come out too early. By the time I got in touch with the wholesalers (this was before I had a mobile phone) it was on the way to Brighton. That was a day lost. It was also my problem, which I absorbed.

    I guess my bottom line is that I think there is reasonable behavour and I just wouldn’t have the sheer gall to put somebody on an exclusive contract to sit by a phone, not take work from anyone else, and not pay them for it. It’s taking the piss.

  82. But then I have also said previously, I think internships are taking the piss as well, so I’m probably in a minority here.

  83. Except. I said “….the full time rate for the individual would be what THEY were worth full time.”
    And they’re not in full time, are they? That’s not telling you something?

    I know you’ve inferred that therefore they are “no-hopers” but that’s just your inference and I disagree with it, I don’t think it logically follows, we would have to know the circumstances. And it’s difficult for to imagine hiring “no-hopers” at all, let alone at the same hourly rates as regular staff and with exclusivity clauses to make sure they are sitting at home waiting for your call instead of working elsewhere.

  84. “But my rates would make your eyes water. And I’d get them.”

    You may indeed have an absolutely colossal penis, but mere mortals sometimes need some help.

    There are retail chains that demand exclusivity and Total Availability whilst only paying the minimum wage. This strikes me as behaviour every bit as pathetically “entitled” as the most venal of dole scroungers.

    I don’t think you’re paying NMW for the work you require. Correct?

  85. The way I see it, there’s a pay threshold above which you have to give a shit about your work, work a bit of unpaid overtime, take phonecalls on holiday, etc, and below which you don’t have to even think about your employer when you’re clocked off. I don’t know exactly where the threshold is, but I can tell when I’m above it. The jobs we’re discussing here aren’t within a mile of it.

    Ian,

    > I think internships are taking the piss as well

    They certainly are. There is an argument to be had about whether we should have a minimum wage. But we do, and the law should be obeyed and should apply to everyone. Quite how zero is not below the minimum wage, I do not see. But of course politicians were going to make an exception for their own employment practices.

    > I once had a three day job fitting a fan system in a pub, and on the first day I arrived just in time to see the delivery lorry with my supplies on it heading round the corner; it had come out too early. By the time I got in touch with the wholesalers (this was before I had a mobile phone) it was on the way to Brighton. That was a day lost. It was also my problem, which I absorbed.

    Whenever I’ve employed builders, they’ve absorbed this sort of problem by apologising to me for the fact the work’s going to have to start a day late then getting straight on the phone to say, “Mrs Smith? Turns out I can come do that work today.” Seems reasonable to me, and I can’t see what I would gain by disallowing them from doing so.

  86. The problem with this discussion is the constent assigning of malevolence to the employer.
    Stand back & look at the situation, for a moment.
    The employer always suffers costs employing anyone, on any sort of contract. So the best outcome, for any employer in any situation, is to maximise the work opportunities for the employeee. because that minimises fixed costs as a proportion of variable costs. And this coincides with the best outcome for the employee.
    Now there may be advantages for an employer to employ on a ‘when needed’ basis because the flexibility outweighs the increased cost. And exactly the same may be preferable for an employee, for the same reasons.But they’re both trying to optimise in the same direction.
    So if we ignore malevolence, if the employee is getting a ‘bad deal’ out of this, it’s simply because the work opportunities aren’t there in the first place. There’s always a danger in employing someone – the value created by the individual won’t cove the individual’s cost. Risk. Variable hours contracts are a way of an employee sharing that risk with the employer. Something they may wish to do, to induce an employer to give them work opportunities.
    If the risk of not getting enough work opportunities is unacceptable, it’s because the work opportunities aren’t there & wouldn’t be under any sort of contract. Unless the employer simply doesn’t understand the dynamics of running his own business & is better off not worked for.

  87. > The problem with this discussion …

    … is your motte-and-bailey tactic. No-one here’s complaining about variable hours, casual labour, or freelancing. What people are consistently objecting to is exclusivity contracts. And you keep answering those arguments with stuff about variable hours and casual labour and freelancing.

  88. Exclusivity is simply a bargaining counter around that sharing of risk arrangement. You can surely see why an employer would prefer exclusive access to the employee’s services & there’s presumably an adjustment in the remuneration to reflect its value. No-one has problems with ‘sole agency’ with estate agents, do they? Of course the ‘adjustment’ maybe simply “don’t agree? Then there’s no job.” But it’s still a bargaining counter. Just not a very strong one.

    It’s why I related that 4 guys for a job scenario. If your business is creating work opportunities for people. Which is basically what I do for a living. There are considerable costs involved in creating them & risks attached to fulfilling arrangements that one is entering into. Ensuring your “raw material”, your workers, don’t bugger off & work for someone else when you’ve just contracted to supply their services is helpful. Shame it’s nigh on impossible to do a contract with them with some serious teeth in it, would deter them from doing this. Best way is you can withhold some of the back pay you owe them. Maybe. Couple hundred quid. Despite they may have cost you thousands.

  89. Just to add. If they don’t like exclusivity deals & are so f****g clever, let ’em go & find their own work opportunities. And carry all the expense & risk.
    But they’re tossers. They don’t because they can’t. And the ones who aren’t tossers are getting lots of work opportunities, earning lots of money & not complaining.

  90. > Best way is you can withhold some of the back pay you owe them. Maybe. Couple hundred quid. Despite they may have cost you thousands.

    Sorry, I thought you said there was so little money in the job that you can barely afford to pay the staff. Now you say that the profits far outstrip the wages.

    It strikes me that, to you, these staff are pathetic useless no-hoper tossers when you decide how much to pay them but invaluable responsible workers with highly desirable skills when the prospect arises of their doing something other than being on call for you. Heaven forbid that they not be available when you call. You need them, desperately! Even though they’re fucking worthless.

    > The problem with this discussion is the constent assigning of malevolence to the employer.

    > But they’re tossers.

    > Anyone who’s only chance of obtaining paid employment is to sign up to a “zero hours” exclusive contract is, by definition, a tosser & not worth paying in the first place.

    > Pain in the ass. You really do wish they’d get up off their butt, go find their own work. Maybe that’s why they’re no-hopers.

    > They’re no-hopers.

    > But you’re still not worth the money. F**k off.

    Yes, it certainly is a mystery worthy of Poirot why anyone might assign malevolence to the employer.

  91. It strikes me that, to you, these staff are pathetic useless no-hoper tossers when you decide how much to pay them but invaluable responsible workers with highly desirable skills when the prospect arises of their doing something other than being on call for you. Heaven forbid that they not be available when you call. You need them, desperately! Even though they’re fucking worthless.

    Yep, it’s really hard to reconcile those opposites.

    As for “malevolence”, I used the phrase “crappy behaviour” which in management jargon is “bad practice”, not necessarily born of “malevolence”, it could very well be incompetence. Employers are people too! aren’t they, and some people are goodies, some baddies, some know what they are doing and some don’t.

    Here are three companies that get cancelled work right (quotes from CIPD):
    Produce World: “Both the company and the zero-hours workers have to give 24 hours’ notice if there is a change to circumstances. ‘If an individual has a domestic crisis or something else happens which means they can’t come in, they are asked to give 24 hours’ notice and we will also give them at least 24 hours’ notice if there is a drop in demand and hours are no longer available.'”
    Hertz: “If a shift is cancelled at short notice, zero-hours employees are paid a minimum of three hours’ work for that shift.”
    Moorfields (paraphrased): in the rare event work is unexpectedly canceled, we find the worker alternative work to do.

    Government didn’t need to interfere there, those companies just know somehow (basic manners maybe?!) how to treat people when work is cancelled at short notice. Sadly, “almost half of the zero-hours staff in the survey report that they receive no notice at all or they find out at the start of the shift that work has been cancelled” and ” Four in ten employers say they don’t have such provisions or policies and a quarter say they don’t know [what they do when work is cancelled”.

  92. I suspect SQ2, you’ve never made a living off of supplying other peoples services. If you had you’d know the successful employer treats good workers like gold dust. As I’ve always told my people – “You don’t work for me. I work for you. You’re where the money’s made. I just make it happen”
    I will do anything, literally anything, to keep my people in remunerative employment. I’ll babysit their kids, backstop their finances, wipe their noses (although perhaps not their arses, never been asked), sort out their mother-in-law, sweet talk their girlfriend when she finds out about the other one… These people are earning my wages. I want them to earn every cent they can. The last thing I want if for them to be the slightest bit unhappy. I don’t want to lose them. They’re my resource.

    And that, Sq2, is how you make a living supplying services. Anyone who does so knows this. For, if they’re any good, I need them more than they need me.

  93. Interesting quotes, there, UK Lib.
    Now as a small employer I don’t see the value of contacts & try & avoid them whenever possible. A simple verbal agreement’s sufficient. Because it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if the sum outcome isn’t recognised as appropriately beneficial to both parties & both parties have a strong incentive to continuing the relationship, no contract’s worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s almost exactly the same as marriage & if you get down to disputing the terms of a marriage contract you really are in trouble, no?

    So the “good” employers you mention understand the principal of this & act accordingly. Irrespective of contracts.

    So I’d say, once you get down into what we’ve been discussing you’re getting near to the bottom of the barrel of the marginally employable employed by the marginally capable because they’re the only ones left for each other. And how you sort that lot out’s beyond me.

  94. the successful employer treats good workers like gold dust

    100%

    contracts

    For redundancy and similar type stuff, or the “prenup” in your analogy?

    So I’d say, once you get down into what we’ve been discussing you’re getting near to the bottom of the barrel of the marginally employable employed by the marginally capable because they’re the only ones left for each other. And how you sort that lot out’s beyond me.

    And at this point we’re moving – how does one put this delicately – out of the private sector…

  95. > I suspect SQ2, you’ve never made a living off of supplying other peoples services. If you had you’d know the successful employer treats good workers like gold dust. [blah blah blah] These people are earning my wages. I want them to earn every cent they can. The last thing I want if for them to be the slightest bit unhappy. I don’t want to lose them. They’re my resource.

    Lovely.

    However, you appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that I, not understanding your line of work, have simply made a load of stuff up. But not at all. I haven’t said “Bloody employers, I bet they’re the kind of people who call casual staff useless no-hope tossers.” I have, rather, simply watched you repeatedly calling them useless no-hope tossers. If you’re annoyed that I’ve got the wrong idea, well, who gave it to me?

  96. Well, I’ve made a living supplying other peoples services. When I was younger as I’ve mentioned- before the maintenance man bit- I was in entertainment lighting. And there was lots of casual work in that. Phone rings, “can you do an overnighter tonight?” or “Can you get to Birmingham first thing tomorrow?” or that kind of thing. And maybe you say yes, or maybe no, and if it’s no the person on the other end puts the phone down and rings someone else.

    And if anyone had asked me to sign a contract guaranteeing them exclusivity, I would have thought they’d lost their marbles.

  97. “And if anyone had asked me to sign a contract guaranteeing them exclusivity, I would have thought they’d lost their marbles.”

    Depends which end of the deal you are, Ian.
    If I’d got IanB on the books as wanting sparks work & I can negotiate a rewire, that means I’ve a deal to do with the punter, promises made, maybe money put up to cover materials… I wouldn’t be to keen on finding, overnight, ianB’s found himself 2 month’s work elsewhere. ‘Cause now I’m scrabbling for another sparks to cover it & paying maybe more than I’d negotiated with you. Or I’m stuffed.
    But then, as a reliable bloke dealing with a reliable bloke who’s been looking after finding work for you & maybe your mate, I don’t suppose you or I need a contract anyway. It’s in both our interests to look after each other. Even if the re-wire drops out, last minute, I’ll be trying to get you something to earn off. All the way along, you, I, even the customer have established credibility to call on.
    But let’s be honest. There’s a lot of people got the credibility of a nine bob note. On all sides.

  98. Sq2
    “If you’re annoyed that I’ve got the wrong idea,”
    Not in the slightest. Just bemused you don’t appreciate the world contains tossers.
    The sort of people bitching about being the wrong end of “zero hours” exclusive contracts are the sort of people whose lack of marketable skill leads them to being on the wrong end of “zero hours” exclusive contracts. Otherwise they wouldn’t be. What else do you call someone whose lack of marketable skills sets them to bitching rather than getting their arse in gear & acquiring some?

  99. What gets me about this conversation is it’s fairly obvious there is no way the presumed “victims” are going to get any money The worse way is they sit at home waiting for a job that doesn’t happen, rather than just sitting at home. For them there is neither the work, not the money. If their was, they’d be doing it & earning it. You can’t magic stuff out of nothing.

  100. The sort of people bitching about being the wrong end of “zero hours” exclusive contracts are the sort of people whose lack of marketable skill leads them to being on the wrong end of “zero hours” exclusive contracts.

    Again, that’s your inference, it doesn’t logically follow from the fact, it isn’t in evidence – particularly as some of them are doing the same work at the same rates as their colleagues on ‘normal’ contracts. But we’re just repeating the same thing now.

    What else do you call someone whose lack of marketable skills sets them to bitching rather than getting their arse in gear & acquiring some?

    But that’s not necessarily trivial is it? An acquaintance of mine got fed up with working in IT, he wanted to become his own boss and retrained as an electrician – it cost him thousands then there was the van and equipment purchases. He could do that because he and his wife were earning good salaries at the time – he couldn’t have done it on a low income household hand to mouth existence.

    The worse way is they sit at home waiting for a job that doesn’t happen, rather than just sitting at home.

    No, the worst is it costing them money to work, whether it’s because of the vagaries of the benefits system or the lack of common courtesy/sense of the employers who don’t give notice or compensation when cancelling shifts. ‘Society’ wants people to work but we seem to make it pretty hard sometimes.

  101. “An acquaintance of mine got fed up with working in IT, he wanted to become his own boss and retrained as an electrician – it cost him thousands then there was the van and equipment purchases. He could do that because he and his wife were earning good salaries at the time – he couldn’t have done it on a low income household hand to mouth existence.”

    So your answer, UK Lib, is to reduce your acquaintance’s return on his investment by subsidising other entrants/restricting his freedom of contractual choice by regulation?

    This is how you get France.

  102. So your answer, UK Lib, is to reduce your acquaintance’s return on his investment by subsidising other entrants/restricting his freedom of contractual choice by regulation?

    No, it isn’t my answer.

  103. I don’t think there is an answer, UK Lib. Life is shitty at the bottom.
    TANJ
    Maybe the purpose of life being shitty at the bottom is it provides incentive to get off of the bottom.
    But
    TANSTAAFL

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