Zero-hours contracts: the battle between flexibility and ethical management at McDonalds

August 8, 2013

Zero-hour contracts have become a trending issue as companies such as McDonalds balance efficiency against corporate social responsibilities

As happens, one firm is picked on in the media to illustrate a broader issue. In the case of zero-hours contracts, this week [August 2013] the firm is McDonalds.

The article in The Independent notes:

McDonald’s has admitted 90 per cent of its UK employees are on zero-hours contracts. The admission indicates the fast-food chain is potentially the largest zero-hours employer in the UK’s private sector, with 82,800 contracted staff not guaranteed work or a stable income.

The controversial practice requires employees to be available for work when it is required but, as they are contracted for 0 hours a week, employers are under no obligation to use them or pay them a set wage. This allows businesses not to pay staff during quiet periods, but ensures they are available to work at short notice when required.

UK Politicians have reacted to McDonald’s admission by calling for it to offer affected staff a new contract with a minimum hours guarantee.

The concept of a zero-hours contract appeals as an efficiency device. Organizations are able to pick and choose workers and avoid paying for slack times. Indeed, the notion of slack is worth considering. Economists have argued that slack is unproductive time, the enemy of efficiency. Innovation theorists in contrast have argued that slack time is vital for innovation. How can an organization develop a creative culture without time to ‘play with the future’. The appeal of Taylorism is that slack-time is reduced, even eliminated, in theory. Fordism, became its exemplar. Thus, modern management from its inception may be seen as approving the principle of zero-hours contracts.

From a different perspective

From a different perspective, behavioural scientists have long concluded that worker dissatisfaction eventually contributes to other losses in productivity through demotivated workers, militancy, and an increased tendency towards that economic sin, free-riding or exploiting fellow-workers to minimize personal effort.

Zero-hours contracts became politically interesting in the UK this year [2013] as a survey by The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development claimed that a million workers, around four percent of the working population could have such working arrangements.

Interesting, the practice is more common in the voluntary and public sectors than in private industry.

Zero-hours contracts were initially introduced in hotels, restaurants and shops, but their use has spread to the public sector because of spending cuts. The number has reached almost 100,000 in the National Health Service, while new figures show more than 270 government staff are on such contracts. Unison, Britain’s second biggest union, called for them to be outlawed. Its general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain. Not knowing from week to week what money you have coming in to buy food and pay your bills is extremely nerve-wracking.”

Good or bad for workers?

It has been argued that the arrangement suits some individuals. I am less convinced the argument can be extended, as it has become, to entire categories such as students.

Good or bad for employers?

The greater enthusiasm shown in the public sector figures suggests that private organizations are more cautious about the arrangements. I found this unexpected at first sight. Are for-profit outfits more concerned about their workers? Or might it be they are more aware of hidden responsibilities owed to the zero-hours employees, yet to be tested in law.

Why there are no gay football players in England

April 30, 2013

Jason CollinsOf course there are. The more interesting question is why there is so much reluctance for any of them to declare their sexuality, at a time when American businessmen are saying that in sport at the moment “it pays to be gay”

This week, Jason Collins, an American basketball athlete spoke up and revealed that he was gay. It was treated as a monumental event. At very least it is an act of leadership, bravery or desperation.

The Daily News reported:

Jason Collins is the first active athlete in a major American sport to announce that he is gay, but ESPN radio’s Jared Max says he won’t be the last. Collins has been rightly applauded as a civil rights pioneer who will embolden other closeted athletes to stop hiding their sexuality and start living honest lives. By simply being who he is, he will also become a role model for all those kids who struggle with depression and self-doubt because of their sexuality.

It wasn’t that long ago when homophobic athletes felt free to share their anti-gay attitudes with the rest of the world. Teammates remained silent, unwilling to make waves in a macho world where homosexuality was perceived as weakness. But a new generation of athletes, ones that grew up in a world where actors, politicians, business leaders and professionals are openly gay, has taken over the nation’s stadiums and arenas, and many of them are more concerned about their teammate’s ability to turn a double play than who he is dating. There’s been a big change in front offices, too. Giants co-owner Steve Tisch was among the NFL executives and players who submitted a brief in support of gay marriage to the United States Supreme Court.

The attitude of sponsors, too, has radically changed in recent years. Nike has been eagerly anticipating the first active player to come out. Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts – who came out two years ago himself – told Bloomberg News earlier this month that Nike officials made it clear to him in a recent meeting that they would fully embrace the first gay athlete in major sport.
That’s why we are likely to see more players come out in the very near future: It will pay to be gay. Companies that cater to gay men and lesbians will shovel sponsorship dollars at athletes they believe will help their businesses grow.

Collins’ announcement, of course, won’t end homophobia any more than Jackie Robinson eliminated racism when he broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. “It won’t be all rosy,” Max says. “The part of the world that is ignorant won’t change overnight. But this is a victory for closeted athletes. It’s a victory for us as Americans.”

Irony in a supportive article

I could not help noting some accidental irony in what was a thoroughly supportive article in which one sports analyst quoted as saying that “[T]he entire National League East could come out by Memorial Day and receive far more cheers than jeers.” [The entire league. That would be a surprise]. The article also noted that “Nike officials made it clear [to Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts – who came out two years ago himself] that they would fully embrace the first gay athlete in major sport [who would come out].

Meanwhile in the UK

In the UK, there have been gay athletes who have declared their sexuality, but only at the end of their careers. In football, a vociferous section of the fans will use any form of abuse that might rattle an opponent. The most noxious racist chants are being legislated out of the game. But a gay player may still feel that the American belief that “It pays to be gay” comes at a considerable personal cost.


On the other hand, in another sport loving nation, McDonalds, an Olympic sponsor is embroiled in a gay discrimination case

McDonald’s tests PayPal’s mobile payments system

August 21, 2012

McDonald’s is partnering PayPal in a trial in France, with plans to roll-out the innovation within two years

According to Reuters, McDonald’s is testing a mobile payments service featuring PayPal at thirty of its restaurants in France. The report has a McDonald’s spokeswoman confirming the France tests, and saying that a PayPal demonstration at a conference was part of a booth that features “technology coming within the next 24 months or so.”

PayPal is racing against start-up organisation Square Inc and other technology companies to become the mobile payments service of choice as consumers increasingly use smart phones to make purchases in shops, restaurants and other retail locations.

Square Inc struck what could be its most important partnership to date last week when it teamed up with Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee chain.

PayPal, [owned by eBay Inc] has signed up more than 15 retailers, including Home Depot and Office Depot, but adding a partner the size of McDonald’s, with over 30,000 restaurants, would be a big win.

The Apotheosis of Apps

Increasingly, Smart phones are looking as one of the most powerful drivers of innovation of the decade. In terms of impact, the iconification of Apps may one day be seen of itself as a major innovation, while smart-phones will be considered a game-changing alpha innovation for the way business is transacted globally