“I am on a zero-hour contract with the promise of 16 hours if I am good”

photo greyweed/Creative Commons

photo greyweed/Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Steve Jones, Nuneaton

“Save the… save the… save the nhs!” I chanted on the last march in London. Now here I am working in a call centre for a profit-making company that delivers care to people in their homes. I am on a zero-hour contract but with the promise of 16 hours if I am good.

I manage carers who have to drive between their clients without pay for travel time. I also have to persuade such carers over the phone in the early hours to take on more work to cover others who are off sick. I am wondering – apart from needing to pay my rent and bills – what I am doing here.

Within a short time of me working at the call centre, there was a clear example of this exploitation. A client, Tom, asked for the carer of the day to call his phone and then Tom would open his door to let the carer in.

When the carer, Winnie, arrived and phoned Tom, there was no answer. I was still learning the job so called over a manager who instructed me to tell her to move on to the next appointment so that she wouldn’t be late.

I was asked to call another carer, James, to see if he could try to visit Tom. I know James, we were both on the same induction training (training that I was paid for attending while James was not).

It was only 7.30am and James’ first appointment wasn’t for an hour. But he agreed to get up early and make the extra call. When he arrived, he reported again that Tom was not answering the phone. So just as with Winnie I thanked James and told him to move on to his next client.

It is then that James asked me, “will I get paid for this?” The manager sitting next to me heard and told me that the company won’t pay for any care not delivered – don’t tell him that though, she said.

I pointed out how unfair this was but was just again told that it was company policy. I even considered sending James some of my own limited cash and checking up on him to see if he pursued the matter and managed to get what was owed to him.

Instead I emailed my notice to leave the job.

We have to fight to ensure carers – in the main very low paid women – are paid travel time, fuel rates and for training. They shouldn’t have to pay for their own criminal record checks. They shouldn’t lose out on pay if they are sent to see a client who isn’t in or refuses to see them.

And we have to fight for a fully integrated, publically owned and democratically run system of health and social care to meet the needs of all patients and workers.

All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.