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Homebase, Argos and Tesco accused of exploiting workers

Some of Britain’s biggest high street stores are paying staff as little as £19 a week on miserly short-hours contracts. Many working for our major retailers are employed on deals guaranteeing as little as three hours of work a week, a Sunday Mirror investigation has found. On the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour that would add up to weekly pay of just £18.93 for the minimum three hours.

And even if they work many more hours than that minimum in an average week, some employees are still entitled to just three hours worth of holiday pay when they take a week off. Companies claim the contracts give working mothers, students or pensioners flexibility.

Staff interviewed by the Sunday Mirror told of people desperately waiting for a call or text offering extra shifts or even queuing up for them. One Tesco worker, who did not want to be named, said: “Notices go up offering the extra hours available and there’s always a raft of people waiting to sign.”

Assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Zero hours or short hours, it’s all the same in terms of absolute abuse of a ­workforce. We recognise that some people might want to work just a few hours a week but in most cases the flexibility is a one-way street and lies with the companies.

The Sunday Mirror investigated firms across the UK and found that Argos and ­Homebase have some staff on contracts as short as three hours a week. Tesco’s shortest contracts are just three-and-a-half hours. National officer Kamaljeet Jandu said: “We believe short-hour contract jobs are not new jobs, but old positions that have been broken up. It’s job splitting. “We feel this is partly so employers can avoid National Insurance contributions.

“The impact of these contracts is the same as the zero-hour arrangement where there is no guarantee of when you will be working or income. That has a tremendous impact on family life. "A lot of people on three or four-hour contracts will only be entitled to three or four hours’ pay on a week off.”

A recent study showed that 40 per cent of people without full-time jobs want more hours. The figures, from Markit, expose the truth behind company claims that flexibility is a lifestyle choice for mums, students or retired people. The research is backed up in another report by retail workers’ union Usdaw. Half of their members on short-hours contracts regularly worked overtime, some doing as much as 16 hours a week extra. And three-quarters of those want the security of guaranteed shifts. The union also attacked the Government for failing to tackle short hours arrangements.

For many Usdaw members short-hours contracts and under-employment are even bigger concerns. The Government is quick to advertise small falls in unemployment but fail to mention the problem of under-employment. “Short-hours contracts suit some but a far greater number are struggling to get the hours they need to support ­themselves and their ­families.”

Companies defended the contracts, insisting they offer flexibility to staff. Tesco said: “We do not use zero-hours contracts and of our 300,000 colleagues a fraction of one per cent are contracted for less than five hours a week. “Most of the people working these short hours are in full-time education or have chosen to work a few hours a week after reaching retirement age. “The vast majority of colleagues are on contracts of 16 hours a week or more.”

A spokeswoman for Argos and Homebase said: “We employ staff with fixed-hour contracts to ensure they have regular core hours to maintain their skills in the workplace. “Some of our workforce have a ­preference for more flexible working hours which enables them to fit work around their home lives.”

Source: Grace Macaskill - Daily Mirror
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/argos-homebase-tesco-exploit-workers-3630972#ixzz33Ni2WOQ3

01 June 2014
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Insight provides a host of information I need on many of our company’s largest customers. I use this information regularly with my team, both at a local level as well as with our other international operations. It’s extremely useful when sharing market intelligence information with our corporate office.

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Paul Boyce - European CEO, QEP Ltd.
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