Letter to the Whitstable Gazette, August 14th 2014

I was pleased to read the letter a fortnight ago from Gordon Mowatt, Managing Director of Morrison’s Local, in which he says that remarks in my column a few weeks back were “simply factually incorrect.”

I’d described the jobs on offer in the new Morrison’s store, due to open in Whitstable in the near future, as “a variation on zero hours contracts”.

I stand by that statement.

Many of the jobs on offer are 8 hours a week. Mr Mowatt is disingenuous when he says that the reason for this is to “attract people to work in retail.” The fact is that people were forced to attend interviews by the Job Centre whether they wanted to work part-time or not and, had they refused the work, they would have been subject to sanctions.

I have a letter in front of me which lays out the conditions of employment. The weekly schedule can be altered at any time by the company and may include early mornings, evenings and weekends, it says. This is, in effect, a variation on the zero-hours contract and, while there is no overt exclusivity clause mentioned, it would take a particularly tolerant second employer to want to take anyone on whose hours were so flexible that he couldn’t say when he would be able to work from one week to the next.

Perhaps Mr Mowatt would like to show me a copy of the contract to see if there is an exclusivity clause or not?

The rate of pay for new employees is £6.50 an hour. That is the minimum wage, and while it is true that after a probationary period pay will go up to £7 an hour, that is still a paltry amount for anyone with a family to have to live on.

In case you don’t know it, Whitstable is an expensive place to live: almost comparable to London in some respects.

According to recommendations by the Living Wage Foundation, people need at least £7.65 an hour to live on, £8.80 in London.

If the jobs on offer are so good, Mr Mowatt, why don’t you pay the living wage?