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On-call shifts: Latest corporate shame

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POSTED April 4, 2013 9:26 p.m.

Step right up, folks, and take your chances in the Amazing New American Workplace. Constantly high unemployment! Low wages always! No employee bargaining power! A corporate paradise!

This paradise has enriched the already-rich investor elite and rewarded top executives with multimillion-dollar pay packages. It also lets corporations treat the masses of people in today’s workforce like Kleenexes: Just use ‘em and toss ‘em – after all, they’re cheap, plentiful... and disposable.

Indeed, taskmasters-in-suits have now redefined the term “hired” to mean that you’re tethered to a corporation full-time, but you actually work and get paid for only the few hours a week when the boss calls. This nefarious practice, known as “on-call shifts,” is all the rage among national retail chains. Such giants as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, and Urban Outfitters require employees to work without set schedules and to be available to have their strings yanked at any time, day or night, even on weekends, with as little as two hours’ notice. Likewise, if customer traffic in a store is slow, retail workers who got dressed up, battled the morning commute, and reported on time, can simply be sent away after an hour or with no pay for their lost hours.

A recent survey of some 400 retail employees in New York City found that only 17 percent have a set schedule. Those with no set hours, also have no set income and no life. If you’re at the beck and call of the boss, what do you do with your children, how do you make a doctor’s appointment, what if you’re taking a class or trying to work a second job?

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