The finding that more than a million British workers (not 200,000 as earlier claimed) are employed on zero hours contracts tells you half of what you need to know about market fundamentalism in Britain today. The other half is that there are now 2,436 bankers in the City of London taking home more than €1 million a year, that is £15,723 a week, and their bonuses are now rising again. The first group have no guarantee of work or pay, often get no holiday or sick pay, and to cap it all have to ask permission before trying to get additional work elsewhere (even though if they don’t get additional pay they could be sanctioned by DWP). The second group nearly crashed the world economy, have not been held to account, and now think they have a right to return to business-as- usual as though nothing’s happened. Welcome to Osborne’s equal opportunities Britain.
But why stop at zero hours contracts? They haven’t. They’ve forced up to 1.6 million severely disabled persons to sign up for work they cannot possibly get and through a farcical work capability assessment deemed people fit for work and therefore liable to be deprived of benefit. Maybe if they win the election it’ll be the introduction of child labour next. Profits are now at an all-time high and wages are at their lowest ebb for 50 years, with a 9% fall in real terms since the crash and the longest period of decline in average wages for a century, even exceeding the wage squeeze in the 1930s. Yet there seems no end to the Tories’ victimisation of the lowest paid, with the Tory party chairman Grant Shapps pledging last week to make it easier to hire and fire rather than, as at present, having to rely on ‘disingenuous reasons’ to get rid of staff.
Will the Labour party declare it’s opposed to zero hours contracts and will end them? Will it show it’s opposed to blacklisting by making it an imprisonable offence, prosecuting the 44 companies who indulged in it if convicted, and making it sure that all the 3,213 building workers secretly subject to blacklisting are informed of the cause of their up to 20 years’ joblessness and fully compensated? Will it say loud and clear that a decade of pay cuts for those on the lowest incomes is flagrantly unjust when the 0.01% richest have not only not paid any price, but have seen their wealth continue to grow untouched?