Unite has slammed suggestions that nearly a million zero-hour contract workers be given the “right to request” fixed hours as “useless”.
Responding to reports that a government inquiry will back giving workers a right to ask for fixed hours, the union said such a move would do nothing to combat the use of exploitative zero hours contracts and called for them to be banned.
The employment rights and practices review, led by former Tony Blair policy chief Matthew Taylor, will acknowledge that some workers are being exploited, according to the BBC.
The Royal Society of Arts boss, who was commissioned by Theresa May, is expected to recommend a “right-to-request” fixed hours, similar to the way those on fixed contracts can request flexible hours.
He is thought to have been influenced by evidence given by the Confederation of British Industry, who are backing the idea.
However, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said a recommendation for “right to request” would be wrong.
He said, “Merely giving workers a ‘right to request’ fixed hours will not stop exploitative bosses or curb the use of zero hours and short hours’ contracts.
“It is a totally useless measure which will continue to see workers denied the security of knowing how much they earn from one week to the next. Workers shouldn’t be reduced to begging for more hours like Oliver Twist and should instead have the security of guaranteed hours.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said a “right to request” would mean “close to zero action on zero hour contracts”.
‘No right at all’
“A ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. To make a real change, we should turn this policy on its head. Everyone should be entitled to guaranteed hours, with a genuine choice for workers to opt-out, free from pressure from their boss,” O’Grady said.
“And anyone asked to work outside their contracted hours should be paid extra on top of their usual wage. All parties should be upfront about what is on offer to working people trapped in insecure work this election – and stop hiding behind a review that will report after voting is over.”
There are around 900,000 workers on zero-hour contracts according to the latest statistics – compared to just 143,000 in 2008.
The rise of insecure work also corresponds with a rise in in-work poverty, with Cardiff University research published yesterday finding that a record 60 per cent of people living in poverty in the UK reside in a household where someone is in work.
“With a shocking 3.8m people experiencing in-work poverty it’s high time that work in this country paid and the misery of insecure work was eradicated,” Turner said.
“An incoming government must act to end the abuse of zero hours and short hours’ contacts by following the lead of New Zealand by banning them. It must also strengthen workplace rights as part of a package for decent work to give workers security in the workplace and make work pay.”