“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Time to take another look at zero hours?

Many years ago Solidarity published a pamphlet simply entitled "The Lump" that attempted to take an unbiased look at the building trade work practise of the same name. I don't remember all of the arguments and never having been employed in the building game am not best qualified to comment but I do know that simply challenging the knee jerk lefty response to casual employment was enough to bring down a cascade of shit onto the head of the author. Perhaps it's time to take a similar look at zero hours contracts especially in view of the latest announcement that JSA claimants may lose benefits if they refuse zero hours employment. There is no doubting that zero hours contracts suit employers and the very fact that it tends to be the most vulnerable workers  in the least organised and worst paid industries that end up with such contract should set alarm bells ringing. But casual work does suit some people and it seems to me, and yes I have done a lot of casual work as it goes, that the trick is to get the best possible deal out of it. All I'm saying is that lefty knee jerk reactions are frequently wrong and that a hard look at the facts, no matter how uncomfortable, is always the best way.


Dr Llareggub said...

One day I will tell the story of my Lump pamphlet. I recall being physically attacked by three IS (later SWP) students who had never worked in the building trade. Anyway, I threw one of them through a shop window. Many people said I had no knowledge of the building trade. Wrong. I started work as an apprentice plasterer, served a full apprenticeship, five years, and worked on numerous union sites later on, in big construction sites, for North Sea gas, building steelworks, and on housing sites. I supported union pickets and attended in solidarity the trial of the Shrewsbury pickets at Mold Crown Court. I was a union member for years,a shop steward, and regular conference delegate. So I knew what was going on. I wrote the pamphlet with a desire to piss certain people off - the knee jerk left which you describe in your piece. My simple philosophy - working people are not determined by Marxist laws or whatever to become class conscious etc. But they are obliged by the system to survive and protect themselves, and do the best they can. Sometimes this does not fit in with the strategies of the left leaders. The Lump was such a case, so were the army mutinies, and so were the strategies involving sabotage I covered in another pamphlet.

Jemmy Hope said...

Just one point - the 'lump' was introduced by employers, so it must have been to their advantage. Same with zero hours contracts.
Round here it was called 'money in the hand'. First I heard the word 'lump' was when the Ken Loach play was on the telly. When we talked about the play at work the next day it turned out the only thing that the blokes remembered was the scrapping.