Yesterday the Green Party called on the Government to follow the leadership of Restaurant Brands and ditch zero-hour contracts.
Currently it looks like the Government is a large part of the zero-hours problem. It allows these types of “non-jobs” to be listed through Work and Income, which hasn’t ruled out cutting someone’s benefit if they refuse to take a zero-hour contract. We assume this has been happening and, even if it hasn’t, the threat to cut benefits has been.
These contracts are a disaster for most people. Zero-hour contracts mean workers go from week to week not knowing when their next pay cheque will be or how much they’ll be paid. This makes it really hard to pay the rent and care for a family, let alone make any other financial plans.
This is particularly bad for sole parents, and people who have been on a Jobseeker benefit because of a stress-related illness or mental illness. These contracts can set back people’s healing and progress, ultimately forcing them back onto a benefit.
Forcing people to take these contracts also has an opportunity cost as people miss out on finding secure, reliable work that might actually help them get ahead.
The Government has said its main response to poverty is welfare reform and getting people into work. If Work and Income makes a stand to only accept secure, regular, minimum-hour jobs, and commits to not sanctioning anyone for turning one of these contracts down, it would have a positive impact for workers, New Zealand families and society as a whole.