Comments this week by the barely employable Employment Minister Esther McVey are so out of touch with the realities of work that they could only have been made by someone who’s never had a real job.
Forcing claimants to take on zero-hour contracts will be unworkable under upcoming changes to the benefit’s system and is likely to lead to huge numbers of people having benefits sanctioned and facing homelessness. This will not be ‘enabling’ as McVey claimed.
For a long time now DWP Ministers have been panicking about how Universal Credit and increased benefit conditionality can possibly work alongside zero-hours contracts. When the new benefit is fully introduced (stop laughing), claimants working part time will be forced to carry out ‘work related activity’ in the hours they are not working or have their in-work benefits stopped. The DWP appear to have confirmed that this will include Housing Benefits, meaning that homelessness is to be added to forced work and child poverty as yet another weapon to police the poor. Work related activity might mean attending a private sector company for shoddy job search sessions or CV workshops, signing on at the Jobcentre everyday, or in many cases workfare.
Claimants will also be expected to give up their current job for one with more hours at the drop of a hat, or take on an additional job until they are earning the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week (or slightly less for lone parents).
What this means is that nobody will be able to sign a contract with irregular hours which expects the worker to be available at any time and not to work for anyone else. With 1.4 million employees now on zero-hours contracts, that will mean unemployed people will not be able to take these kinds of jobs and stay within the new benefit rules.
The Government have said they are looking into banning ‘exclusive’ zero-hour contracts which tie workers into one employer. They will have a fight on their hands with some of the greediest and most powerful companies in the country. They also say claimants will not be forced to take up these kinds of contracts. But none of this will make any difference in practice to people in low paid insecure jobs under pressure to be at work at short notice.
As anyone who’s ever had a real job will know, most bosses are wankers. You just try telling some jumped up supermarket manager that you can’t take a shift because you have to go and do your other zero-hours contract job instead and see how long you last. It won’t matter if they are banned from saying in your contract that you can’t work for other people. They’ll just sack you if you can’t go to work one day because your shift clashes with your other job. The whole point of most zero-hours contracts is that workers are expected to be available to turn up at any time or at short notice after all.
Comedy toff Lord Fraud had already suggested that people could have two zero-hour contracts when he begged the business community not to use exclusive contracts and change their business practices to fit in with the Universal Credit regime. He seems to think employers care more about implementing Iain Duncan Smith’s latest crazy scheme than they do about making money out of ripping off their workers. But at least he realises there is a problem. McVey is either in complete denial or is just plain ignorant about how the business world now works.
Universal Credit long ago became a bad joke, and one that will have desperate consequences. Jobcentre advisors will soon have more power over workers than their bosses as people are forced into an endless juggle to keep one, two or more employers happy and maintain their ‘work related activity’. Whether someone gets sacked or sanctioned, or both, the outcome will be the same. Thousands of people, some with children, left without any money to buy food and unable to pay the rent.
Above pic from here
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