Same pay for the same job – is that too much to ask?
The TUC is putting the issues of low pay, poor job security and increasing living costs in the spotlight with Fair Pay Fortnight. Here is a contact centre worker’s personal account of being employed on a flexible PBA contract…
I read and hear a lot about zero hours contracts in the news, about the struggle people face to exist from one week to the next because they don’t know what hours they will be given and how much they’ll be able to earn that week. I share these worries because I have them too.
I’m not on a zero hours contract, but on a pay-between-assignment (PBA) contract – a permanent employment contract that pays workers when they are not working.
That sounds brilliant doesn’t it? Well, trust me: it’s not. PBA contracts typically only guarantee employees one hour of work a week. I work in a BT contact centre. I was hired by Manpower, a workforce recruiter for BT, and have been on a PBA contract for six years. The majority of people I work with are under-30 and nobody sees this as a job for life. I’m constantly looking for jobs that will offer me more security as being on a PBA contract shuts lots of doors in your face.
Even after 12 weeks of employment, agency workers on PBA contracts are not be entitled to the same pay as permanent workers. Even though I’m doing the same job as my colleagues, I get paid less than them and don’t have the same benefits. I don’t work any less hard, but because of my PBA contract I don’t qualify for equal treatment.
The main political parties have pledged to “reform” the use of zero hours contracts, which is welcome, especially to the estimated two per cent of the country’s workforce currently on them. But this is only the tip of the iceberg – what about the increasing number of us on PBA contracts? Surely, penny-pinching employers will try to maintain their “flexible” workforces by shifting these workers on to PBA contracts if the politicians come good on their promise?
Aside from trade unions – including my union, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) – and the TUC, the plight of workers on PBA contracts has largely been forgotten. For me personally, there is a small shard of light at the end of the tunnel as BT has committed to offer permanent contracts to agency workers with over 24 months service and without any outstanding warnings related to conduct, sickness, late attendance or performance.
PBA contracts are a real scourge on society. During the TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight, we are trying to make the issues we have with PBA contracts evident. There are many, but the most serious is the pay disparity between my colleagues and “temporary” contract workers like me.
The CWU is committed to exposing and closing the clever legal loopholes that are being used by employers to deny agency workers hard-won rights to equal treatment. Perhaps those hoping to be elected to government in May should be making the same commitment.