6 May 2015

Call to ditch Parliament's zero-hour contracts

10:37 am on 6 May 2015

Labour Party leader Andrew Little is calling for cleaning and catering firm Spotless to ditch all its zero-hour contracts.

Andrew Little at caucus run this morning.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Little's comments come after the Parliamentary Service confirmed nine staff at Parliament, employed by Spotless, were on zero-hour contracts. A spokesperson said the contractor was working to have guaranteed hours for those workers.

Mr Little said that was a good start but did not go far enough.

"The reality is that Spotless should follow the lead of Restaurant Brands, Burger King and McDonalds and get rid of them for all of their staff. We just don't need zero hour contracts in New Zealand."

The Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse should have taken more of a lead in the situation at Parliament, Mr Little said.

"I mean he is the Minister, he should be providing the lead in this. Sure, I can write letters and all that sort of stuff but it would be nice to know that the Minister understands these things are insidious, they're nasty, we don't need them, we don't want them and they've got to be got rid of."

Mr Woodhouse said staff working arrangements in Parliament were a matter for the Speaker.

"Well, I have no more responsibility for those workers than I do for those in the opposition leader's office. I am concentrating on the policy framework around those terms that are referred to as zero hours and I will be making some decisions in the near future."

The Council of Trade Unions backed Labour's calls to get rid of all zero hour contracts.

CTU president Helen Kelly said zero-hour employment arrangements were just a symptom of a wider problem and employment law should be changed to give workers more rights.

"In a deregulated labour market workers have no say and no protection from exploitation and it manifests itself in a whole variety of forms and while zero hours are the focus at the moment, what if these [workers] had one hour? Would people be happy with that? The real issue is a lack of employment protection."