Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/879/21764
A day in the life of a Game retail worker
"Zero-hour contract means I struggle to make my rent"
A Game worker
I wish I could describe a standard working day but being on a zero-hour contract, days are anything but standard.
Due to midnight launches, late night shopping days and special events with early opening times, I am expected to be ready to work anywhere between the hours of 5am and 3am. Often I will be called up with only a couple of hours' notice to cover a shift if somebody goes sick.
There is no consistency in how many hours I will work, sometimes it's over 16 hours which means I'm no longer entitled to job seekers' allowance or housing benefit but often my hours drop below this meaning I have to go through the laborious process of applying again, having only just signed off.
This is even more frustrating when I'd happily work full-time if I could just be given the hours. Instead I spend my free time looking for supplementary jobs (impossible considering how flexible I have to be) and explaining to assessors my ever changing situation.
I can't plan my social life as my hours are never regular and I'm forced to accept any shift offered because if I don't, management will put me at the bottom of the list of people to ask.
I struggle each month to make my rent and I'm constantly on edge wondering if I will have enough left over each month to be able to afford more than one or two meals a day. I go into work sick, tired and often hungry and sometimes work up to seven hours straight with no breaks.
Due to lower level managers and supervisors being salaried, they often work more than 20 extra hours a week just to ensure that all tasks are completed. If staff were employed on genuinely full-time contracts the workplace would be far less daunting. But often you're left with a contradictory situation where most of the staff are complaining that they don't get enough hours while others are grumbling that they work too many unpaid hours and feel unappreciated and exploited.
Staff are cynically employed on minimal contracted hours and are pitted against each other. More hours are only offered to those who have the most sales, complete the most unpaid hours of extra training and be the most flexible with their hours.
The ones that don't adapt to this fast-paced, highly competitive environment just get their four or eight hours a week. There's nothing that can be done about this as that's all they are contractually entitled to.
Unions need to reach out to this ever-growing layer of insecure workers.
We need a £10 an hour minimum wage now and at the same time, an end to zero-hour contracts. Many young workers have recently been attacked in the press, particularly by the Tories for being lazy, unproductive and unwilling to work. Give me enough hours and a wage I can genuinely live on and I will happily work it.
In The Socialist 18 November 2015:
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