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Zero-Hour Contracts

Working class families are currently facing a three pronged attack on their employment rights. First workfare was introduced by a the Labour government as a tool to force unemployed people into working for their benefits. It richly rewards large corporations who no longer have to pay many of their workforce. Next came the dismantling of the benefits system in an effort to push everyone who needs support to survive to accept less in the form of Universal Credit. And now the very same companies which have benefited from workfare are pushing zero­hour contracts onto the few employees they still pay.

A zero­hour contract states that, whilst the employee must be available to work at all times, they are not guaranteed any work. If they say no to any work offered (even if it’s at twenty minutes notice) they will be breaking their contract, and so they can be disciplined or even fired. On the other hand, the employer has no obligation whatsoever towards the employee – if they don’t want to provide work they don’t have to. They can retain employees without paying them any money whatsoever for months on end. In recent months JD Sports has been highlighted as one of the many large companies who are exploiting their workers in this way, but there are many others.

Of course, the flexibility of zero­hours contracts may suit some workers who want occasional earnings. It is very clear, however, that this flexibility favours businesses over workers. It means that businesses no longer need to make expensive redundancies in the lean times which, perhaps coincidentally, also makes government employment statistics look much more favourable. After all, even if someone hasn’t worked for weeks, if they are engaged on a zero­-hours contract they are not technically unemployed, and nor are they eligible for Job Seekers Allowance.

The introduction of Universal Credit, in addition to the ever growing restrictions on trade unions, means that the constant attack on our rights as workers is growing every day. We are being asked now, more than ever before, to fight amongst each other for crumbs as real jobs which can support families disappear and fake jobs which can support no one take their place. Over the last few months workers at JD sports have been fighting against Zero Hour contracts, and as more and more companies begin to implement this abusive employment system other workers will begin to fight back. They will be able to look to employees at Hovis who have successfully taken strike action to beat back zero­hour contracts. They’ve shown that it’s possible to fight and it’s possible to win. What employers like the bosses at Hovis fear most is not bad publicity, it’s the anger that’s building on their shop floors. There is potential for working class traditions – unions, strikes and solidarity – to assert themselves powerfully as employees get a feel for their own strength.

Welcome to the Robin Hood Solidarity Group website

Who is the Robin Hood Solidarity Group?
We are a group of Forest Fields residents who are tired of feeling isolated within our community and powerless over our lives. Living in Forest Fields means we all have some things in common. We share the same streets, buy our food from the same shops, often have the same landlords or work in similar jobs. This means that we often suffer from similar problems, such as debt, poor housing or unemployment. But we often face these problems alone, even though our neighbours may have the same worries. The police and the council pay lip service to consulting the community, which reflects little consideration for our actual needs or wants, and results in top-down solutions to the problems they perceive we face in our neighbourhood. We believe there is an alternative to this. We believe that to come up with solutions to the problems we face in our everyday lives, we need to work together as a community to support each other and take control of our lives. The Robin hood Solidarity Group is open to anyone who feels like this.

What we do
We will begin running a weekly drop-in session every Tuesday 10am – 2pm at Forest Fields Advice Centre from 7th January 2014, offering group and one-on-one problem sharing and practical problem solving sessions on the issues that affect us in our daily lives (whether that’s to do with debt, landlords, benefits, employment, stop and search, or whatever else). We offer information and problem solving if we can and if not we’ll point you towards helpful groups in Nottingham and elsewhere who can.

We’re also publishing a monthly newsletter which will be distributed door to door. Some articles will also appear on this blog. If you’ve got an article you’d like to see published or an idea for a story you can contact us at info@robinhoodsolidarity.org.uk.