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Zero hours jobs leap

The rise of insecure work
Duncan Milligan, Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

At least 744,000 jobs in the UK come with zero hours contracts, a 20% rise in the last year alone, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.


The TUC estimates there are another 820,000 UK employees who are in jobs on hours which vary between zero and 19, but with guarantee of work.


Taken together, there are now at least 1.5 million jobs with no guaranteed pay or hours of work.


Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner said the figures are the “tip of an insecure iceberg” and “do not include short hours contracts and the wider rise of insecure, precarious work across the economy.”


TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are a stark reminder of Britain’s two-tier workforce. People employed on these contracts earn £300 a week less, on average, than workers in secure jobs.”


Steve Turner singled out retailer Sports Direct which, the union says, accounts for nearly a fifth of all zero hours contracts in the retail sector. Another 3,000 agency workers are employed at the company’s Shirebrook depot where they earn just over the national minimum wage.


The company is expected to come under fire for its employment practices and use of zero hours contracts at its annual general meeting next week.


Turner added: “Companies like Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct are basing their whole business model on the use of low paid zero hours contracts with people not knowing from one week to the next whether they will have work.


“This shameful business model and rise of insecure work across the economy is taking us back to the Victorian era and should have no place in 21st century Britain.


“The continued rise of zero hours contracts underlines how government claims to be on the side of working people are nothing more than lip service.


“The government’s inaction is creating a nation of workers trying to eke out a living on low paid insecure work who are desperate for a permanent job that pays a decent wage.


“If the government is serious about being on the side of working people then it should stop trying to weaken trade unions who have been at the forefront of exposing the abuse of zero hours contracts and act to tackle the scandal of insecure work.”


Research published by the TUC shows that those on zero hours contracts earn £300 a week on average compared to those in more secure work. Average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are just £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers.


And those on zero hours also miss out when it comes to a range of rights. Two-fifths (39 per cent) of zero-hours workers earn less than £111 a week – the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay – compared to one in twelve (8 per cent) permanent employees.


The zero hour’s culture hits younger workers hardest. One in three of those on zero-hours contracts are aged between 16 and 24.


Unite’s Decent Work for All campaign highlights the key ‘Fight for 5’ demands for young workers: a living wage; safe and secure work; guaranteed hours; training; collective union representation.


You can find out more here


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