Visual Archive: Precarity of Life

Precarity is now a shared social feeling. In the UK, the adoption of zero hour contracts have added more uncertainty and anxiety towards the job market. I used to be on a zero hour contract. Being on a zero hour contract means that if you’re ill, there is no sick pay. If you need time for the family, there is no holiday pay. If there is no work for you, there is no pay. The British government boasted about the adoption of zero hour contracts, claiming that they benefit flexible people like students as they can work around their hours of study. The problem with zero hour contracts is in the name, you’re contracted zero hours a week. This means that if the institution or company you work for has no work for you at that time, then you don’t work. You live under the control of the company to work when is best for them, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid, if you don’t get paid, you can’t pay bills, if you cannot pay bills that increases stress and anxiety.

Jeremy Corbyn(2016) highlighted the precarity of zero hour contracts in 2016, ‘Zero hours contracts are not allowed in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain. It seems we’re the odd one out.” Although this highlights the social problems that go along with zero hour contracts, the UK is not completely alone. Countries like Norway and Sweden also have introduced zero hour contracts. Despite this the list of counties in the European Union that have banned or disregard zero hour contracts is much longer than the countries that do. With Britain’s exit from the European Union and the loss of European laws and legislation, it’s worrying to think that concepts like zero hour contracts could become more frequently used.

My experience working on a zero hours contract was relatively positive until illness struck. In 2016 on returning from a work experience placement in Costa Rica, I became ill with a stomach parasite, which required me to take an extensive period off work. During this time I had little to no contact with my employer and of course no income to pay my bills or buy medication. This was extremely problematic and damaging as the pressure and guilt of being off from work made my recovery longer than expected. After returning to work and picking up someone else’s job role on top of my own, I though I’d gained loyalty from my employer and proved my worth and value to the institution. On the 10th of April 2017, I received a call, not from my employer, but from a colleague. With no warning, no notice, I was told that I was no longer needed for the institution and they had no work for me for the foreseeable future. My world in that instant crashed before me, how was I going to pay for me masters degree now? I needed that job to see my way through university, I needed that job to pay for my tuition fees and for money to live on. In this moment I am living in a constant state of precarity, I have four months to find a job and gather together the money I need to pay off my tuition. Loosing my main source of income has not come without it’s difficulties, the increase of uncertainty has led to my anxiety attacks to increase more than they ever have done before. After talking with my psychotherapist, the increase in my anxiety has become so much that medication like my only option to regain control over my mind and my situation. The most precarious thing of all is that the institution that honoured me such a opportunity and retracted it, is the same institution in which I study, promotes wellness and such critical thinking. C’est la vie.

McKinney, C. (2016). Zero hours contracts: is the UK “the odd one out”?. [online] Full Fact. Available at: https://fullfact.org/law/zero-hours-contracts-uk-europe/ [Accessed 9 May 2017].

 

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