Last Friday I went to my local bar near work. Little did I know when I went, that it would be my last visit.
It turned out the owner had decided to sell it on to be turned into a soulless estate agents. Friday was its last night.
I wondered why the bar staff hadn’t told us weeks ago. I discovered they only found out four days before me!
Instead of being given a months notice so they could find alternative work, they were told last Monday they’d be out of work a the end of the week.
What struck me was the sheer abruptness and the needless anxiety it caused its loyal staff. More and more workers are the victims of job insecurity.
Today’s news that 9 out of 10 McDonald’s staff are employed on zero hours contracts (that’s 83,000 people) adds to this picture.
What makes me furious is that the last Labour government bent over backwards to help the burger chain set up its own qualifications. Whilst career development is important, it always struck my McDonald’s was trying to make up for the child labour controversy in 2001.
McDonald’s are run as franchises and 12 years ago two restaurants in one of Britain’s wealthiest areas were heavily fined for exploiting child workers. Ten schoolchildren, including a girl who worked 16 hours on a Saturday and another who worked until 2am on a schoolday, were found to be illegally employed at a McDonald’s in Camberley, Surrey.
My friend Andy Sawford has brought forward a private members bill that would outlaw zero-hours contracts.
Nearly a million people are these contracts, usually on half the pay of those in full employment with guaranteed hours.
But they have the added stress of not knowing from one week to the next whether they’ll have enough work to pay the rent, childcare or food. And when they fall short, the pay day sharks are more than willing to show interest – 2000% to be precise.
A student friend of mine who works at McDonald’s, which earned nearly a £1b in profit in the second quarter, told me: “You do need some flexibility but my mate, who works their full time, got no hours this week yet they can’t do anything about it.”
So it’s good that Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna is calling for a debate and vote when the House returns.
But if Andy Sawford is not successful with his bill, outlawing zero-hours contracts must be in the manifesto.
This is just the type of bold and morally right policy the party should champion.
But the public must vote with their feet and force McDonald’s to guarantee hours for its workers.
Until then, I’d rather eat a stem cell burger then go for a Maccy D and countenance their workers pay and conditions.
If I did, anything I ate would be a very unhappy meal.