Youths warn of trending ‘zero hour’ job contracts

ff009VALENTINE’S Day was celebrated today by youth members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor by picketing a bustling McDonald’s outlet in Quezon City as part of the Philippine leg of the international campaign against “zero hour” work contracts.

Activists of the APL-Youth, an affiliate of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), staged their protest outside the McDonald’s branch near MRT Quezon Ave. station to denounce the global fast food chain giant’s penchant for contractualization and other precarious work arrangements like the zero hour job practices.

According to the global union IUF zero hour contracts are those with no specified work hours and which do not guarantee jobs or income, but which are now becoming rampant in the rapidly expanding fast food industry. The IUF is supporting the campaign by the Unite Union New Zealand against zero-hour work.

Young workers are particularly vulnerable under these exploitative contracts since they comprise the bulk of the fast food workforce throughout the world, the IUF said, adding that “workers on zero hour contracts live with the uncertainty of how much they will earn each month (and the unpredictability of) when and if they will get work.”

The US-based McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants – in 2012 it has already over 34,000 hamburger joints serving 68 million customers daily in 119 countries and territories, enabling it to amass $27.6 billion in revenues and $5.5 billion in net income – but it also pioneered and systematized the use of contractual labor, especially among the youth, in the multibillion dollar fast food industry.

A 2012 BBC study reported that McDonald’s is also the world’s second largest private employer (behind the US retail firm behemoth Walmart) with 1.9 million workers, “1.5 million of whom work for franchises” – a tactic that enables McDonald’s to perpetuate contractual labor and amass superprofits.

McDonald’s rampant practices of hiring workers with low salaries, few benefits and no security of tenure – as well as its rabid resistance to labor unions – to ensure bigger profits have prompted even the venerable international dictionaries Merriam-Webster’s, Random House Webster’s and Oxford English to coin or list the word “McJob” to denote a “low-paying” or “low-quality” job.

McDonald’s anti-worker and anti-union practices have also been widely imitated and intensified by both global and local brands in the fast food industry, including its American competitors Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, among others, as well as homegrown fast food restaurants led by Jollibee.

The country’s top fast food chain, Jollibee is also notorious for its low pays and routine use of “endo” – acronym for “end-of-contract” workers or those with short-term and unprotected work contracts, which are also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from having permanent or regular employment status.

The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

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