So UNITE and I appear agree on zero hour contracts: which is nice
A couple of days go I suggested that rather than clamour for legislation to ban zero hour contracts, which I suggested might have unintended negative consequences, the left might better come to the aid of exploited workers by organising:
In the end, Labour might be better off doing the hard yards on the re-unionisation of the labour force – something I’ve argued may be a positive outcome from Miliband’s recent forays, whether or not it’s intended – rather than the easy but narrow legislative victories still redolent of New Labour’s approach to state management**.
Because I brought to bear my own experience as a zero hour contract employer*, I received the fully anticipated colourful abuse, principally from people who had only read as far as Tom Watson’s kind retweet.
So it’s with a certain degree of satisfaction that I see UNITE apparently in full agreement with my position. In the press release accompanying research conducted on their behalf into the rise in zero hour contracts, UNITE make no call for legislation to outlaw zero hour contracts. Instead, they call for a sensible package of measures. Of these, the most important of these (since many of the other protections would follow fro m it is:
A restoration of sector level collective bargaining to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ in ‘vulnerable’ sectors including social care, hospitality, retail, food and logistics.
This is precisely what the unions, and Labour, should be campaigning for/putting in the manifesto. From effective collective bargaining** follows the potential (though according to Chris only the potential) for wage-led growth as well as direct job security. And of course wage growth creates its own job security over time, irrespective on contractual niceties.
None of this, I repeat for the hard of thinking, is to defend the abuse of zero hour contracts. It is simply to suggest that the UNITE leadership has its collective head screwed on, and that the actually understand something about employment. It’s a shame some in the party are currently keen to suggest otherwise.
* Social enterprise, I’m totally unpaid, sick and holiday pay in contracts, blah blah, I point out for those doubting my ethics/parentage, though that really wasn’t the point of the initial post.
**In the public sector, or private-contracted-by-public sector, this often works best by a two stage process of union to employer pressure, then employers pressuring the government for more resources. I was involved n the detail as a union steward in the 1980s.