Tory policy on ‘zero hours’: Beggars can’t be choosers


Isn’t it nice to see some clear blue water emerge between the main political parties on an important issue?

Less than two weeks after Ed Miliband announced that he would tackle the “epidemic” of zero-hours contracts if Labour wins the next general election, the Conservatives have confirmed that Universal Credit – if they can ever get it working – will force jobseekers into those very contracts.

Labour said workers on zero-hours contracts should not be obliged to be available outside contracted hours; be free to work for other employers; have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice; have ‘clarity’ from their employer about their employment status, terms and conditions; have the right to request a contract with a ‘minimum amount of work’ after six months, that could only be refused if employers could prove their business could not operate any other way; and have an automatic right to a fixed-hours contract after 12 months with the same employer.

At the time, the Tories said the number of zero-hours contracts had increased under the last Labour government, which had done nothing about it.

This tired excuse has been trotted out far too many times to be taken seriously any more, but it may have led some members of the public to believe that the Tories were distancing themselves from zero-hours contracts as well. They are, after all, supposed to be The Party of More Choice. Perhaps they are, themselves, less than keen on this kind of exploitation.

Not a bit of it!

The Guardian revealed yesterday that conditions will be imposed on the receipt of Universal Credit, meaning that – for the first time ever – jobseekers could lose their benefits if they refuse to take zero-hour jobs – for three months or longer.

Currently, people on Jobseekers’ Allowance are able to refuse such jobs without facing penalties.

The policy change was revealed in a letter from employment minister Esther McVey to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore. She said Job Centre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts” – basically forcing them to accept this kind of exploitation by employers.

The DWP has also stated: “We expect claimants to do all they reasonably can to look for and move into paid work. If a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied.”

The message from the Conservatives – the Party of More Choice – is clear: Beggars can’t be choosers.

Their chums on the boards of big businesses want more profits, and know the way to get it – employ people on low pay and with no employee benefits. Zero-hours contracts mean you can be made to work fewer hours than you need in order for employers to have to pay National Insurance credits for you. You don’t get sick pay; holiday pay; or a pension. And you’ll probably still be on benefits, meaning the work that you do is subsidised by other hardworking taxpayers, most of whom earn only a little more than you do.

It’s a racket – as bad as workfare/mandatory work activity/the work programme/whatever-they’re-calling-it-today, in which taxpayers subsidise work carried out by jobseekers for participating employers, hugely boosting those firms’ profits while ensuring that the number of people without proper, paid jobs remains high.

Their attitude is that, if you don’t have a job, you are a beggar.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

So they’ll choose what you do, and they – or their boardroom chums – will benefit from it.

If you are a working taxpayer, think about this before casting your vote later this month – and especially before you do so in May 2015: A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your fellow citizens will be prevented from getting proper jobs and becoming contributing members of society by the greedy – and idle – rich.

A vote for the Conservative Party means more of your tax money going to subsidise fat business board members who already have more money than they can ever use.

A vote for the Conservative Party means a better life for them and their friends – and a poorer life for you.

You’d have to be mad to choose that.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:


latest video

news via inbox

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


  1. stewilko May 7, 2014 at 1:26 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    Disgusting, if people vote for this conservative shower of sh**e. They require their heads testing.

  2. Terry Cfc Poole May 7, 2014 at 1:47 am - Reply

    does this apply to forcing a group of people into unpaid work?, as the government are doing. does the payment of benefits become a wage, if so there is defo some laws broken here….cos its not even minimum wage.WORK FOR YOUR BENEFITS, BUT WE , THE GOVERNMENT, WILL PAY YOU LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE, this has to be illegal surely.

    • mey151 May 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      with a few quick rewrites of legislation it will then become legal

  3. beastrabban May 7, 2014 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog.

  4. […] Isn't it nice to see some clear blue water emerge between the main political parties on an important issue? Less than two weeks after Ed Miliband announced that he would tackle the "epidemic" of ze…  […]

  5. jray May 7, 2014 at 7:57 am - Reply

    A little advice,I kicked the prescribed JCP+ job searching method into touch after my last appointment,result an interview,only for 25 Hours,but local,no travel costs,here is my question? It is Z-hours,but informed 25 should be no problem,if I apply for Working Tax Credit I need 30 Hours,can I start a 2nd job self employed as a “Window Cleaner”? 5 Hours a week,it is worth £54 pw WTC and this would help especially waiting for the first Months check..Cheers.

  6. Barry Davies May 7, 2014 at 8:57 am - Reply

    I wonder how many companies in reality would not be able to operate without zero hours contracts, although no doubt some creative highly paid legal bod would come up with something to pretend they can’t.

  7. benny May 7, 2014 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Shared on the Chris forum, thanks!

  8. Florence May 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    While the promise by Labour to “act” on the ZHCs, why oh why do they always provide a get out clause, under the guise of not being anti-business of course? We all know where that leads.

    There is no justification for most ZHCs, being in industries where there has always been a high degree of part-time and casualised work. Somehow they muddled through before without these evil contracts. When Labour are returned to power, as they must be to save us from these fascists, we must be prepared to continue the struggle for return of workers rights, and social security entitlement gained 70 years ago – and the return of the NHS to public ownership. The current debate on the rail system has shown that there is still massive support for the previous status quo, without putting monopolies into the hands of cartels and profit-takers from public services.

  9. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady May 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on glynismillward189.

  10. Thomas M May 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    We need unions like the French have. If the French don’t like something, they have all manner of ways, some legal, some not, of showing their disapproval. Whilst those in the UK either do nothing or idiotically riot and smash things up.

  11. tecnoffobig May 7, 2014 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I think that once again Labour are just mouthing their opposition, and once they get into government it will be ‘business as usual’ and on with implementing Tory policies. Anyone who seriously believes that Labour will make any real changes is sadly deluded.

    There is an alternative union for workers in the UK that is outside the mainstream. It’s called the Industrial Workers of the World, founded in Chicago in 1905 and is radically different to the craven mainstream TUC unions – though many members of the IWW are ‘dual carders’ (also memebers of mainstream unions) fed up with the spineless inactivity of both the mainstream unions and the Labour Party.

  12. philip May 8, 2014 at 7:03 am - Reply

    I was unlucky enough to be on a zero hr contract for a parcel firm , the first month was great , second month only worked 4 days , third month one week , that was enough of that ,couldn’t pay rent , food was almost none existent , had to take out a loan from family just to survive , how the hell can anyone support themselves on these contracts i have no idea …

  13. A6er July 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

Leave A Comment