Wretched terms and conditions

Brighton and Hove-20130808-00294There is a lot of talk at the moment in the UK media about Zero Hours contracts for employees. Seemingly – and to the surprise for some of the UK’s lawmakers – many high profile firms offer these contracts as standard. For example, MacDonald’s and Burger King Hamburgers, Mike Ashley’s  Sports Direct clothing retailer (Ashley also owns Newcastle United football club), Domino’s Pizzas. Less high profile is how certain private firms that provide public services such as home helps for the elderly and handicapped use Zero Hours contracts for their ’employees’ who are paid only for their contact time with ‘clients’ and not for travel time, fuel, etc; nor are they afforded national insurance contributions. Moreover, Zero Hours workers do not know how many hours they may be working from week-to-week. This builds in immense uncertainty and affects negatively things such as credit ratings. There are over 1 million British workers on these contracts according to a recent poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.

Oddly, Mike Ashley seems to be able to pay his footballers well and on long contracts. I assume footballers are well represented by agents who earn for themselves a nice percentage of any footballer’s transfer fee – a good case for organised labour if ever I heard it.

Now here is my link. I have been for many years a satisfied customer of Charles Tyrwhitt menswear. Until now. My last online order – few sale items including some shorts it being summer – was confirmed with the message that my order will be delivered by Hermes Couriers.

Hermes is a German company, part of the Otto group (German readers will know aboutHermes_Europe_van Otto), that came to the UK in 2000 in what seems to have been a joint-venture with Speedlink. Its business model is based on sub-contracting the delivery to ‘self-employed’ drivers. My attention was brought to this company by chance watching a TV documentary made by Germany’s national broadcaster ARD. (http://programm.ard.de/TV/daserste/ard-exclusiv–das-hermes-prinzip/eid_281066630812527)

This sub-contracting was found to involve sub-sub contractors all earning progressively less as the parcels moved down the food chain. The sub-contractors are effectively paid piece rates, often having to work very long hours to deliver the requisite number of parcels to cover costs. When the man or woman from Hermes arrives at 2100 it is not because it is convenient, but rather that the sub-contractor needs the delivery to make a living.

Hermes_PacketHere is the package (left) that arrived from Hermes a couple of days ago. Fortunately in this box is a shirt, tie and a pair of shorts. On the whole not fragile. One must ask, however, what kind of operation is it that does this to a humble box of clothes? Actually, we do not need too much imagination.

So, what I thought was a reputable retailer – Charles Tyrwhitt – uses a disreputable courier to squeeze out profit. Oh, and while we are at it, those very same lawmakers who are so surprised at Zero Hours contracts want to privatise the Royal Mail – a state-owned parcel service that has organised workers who earn a living wage.

Credits:

Hermes van: Musikmichi1407

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1 comment so far

  1. […] Charles Tyrwhitt, great shirts. I’ve written about this company before because of its use of Hermes couriers. Now it turns out that its boss, Nick Wheeler is also a […]


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