Zero Hours Contracts Cancer Will Have Spread To 1 5million British Workers This Year Unions Claim
Zero-hours contracts 'cancer' will have spread to 1.5MILLION British workers this year, unions claim
The “cancer” of exploitative zero-hours contracts will spread to 1.5 million British jobs this year, warn union bosses.
High-street giants such as Pizza Hut, JD Wetherspoon, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Sports Direct and McDonald’s all use the unfair deals.
The controversial contracts mean staff can have no minimum hours of work or any sick, holiday or redundancy pay.
Workers do not know from week to week how much they will earn. They can be fired with minimal notice and very few rights to claim unfair dismissal.
More than one in ten employers are using such contracts, which are most likely to be held by women, young people and pensioners. In hospitality and social care businesses an estimated one in five is on such a deal.
Zero-hours workers are unable to get mortgages or credit with banks and other lenders because of the uncertainty of their employment and income.
The number of people on restrictive deals has increased from 134,000 in 2006 to, according to the Office for National Statistics, 250,000 in 2013.
ONS figures from autumn last year put the number at 622,000. Workers often have more than one zero-hours job.
SWNSCollapsed: Sports Direct employee Guntars Zarins
Unions believe these figures are an underestimation. If they continue to grow at this rate the number of such deals may hit 1.5 million by the end of the year.
It found many earn less than the living wage – £7.85 a hour for the UK and £9.15 for London – and fail to qualify for statutory sick pay as they earn less than the £111-a-week threshold.
One zero-hours worker was so scared of calling in sick that he collapsed at work from a blood clot on his brain.
Latvian Guntar Zarins, 52, of Mansfield, Notts, who worked at a warehouse in Bolsover, Derbys, is now out of a coma after an operation.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, said of the contracts: “Just like a cancer, it is hard to stop them spreading – as soon as one employer starts, others follow.”
Unite union leader Len McCluskey warned: “Increasing numbers of workers face a new year of working harder and getting poorer thanks to the explosion of insecure working and exploitative zero-hours contracts.
"The Government’s refusal to address the growing scandal of zero-hours contracts has created a growing sub class of insecure, low-paid employment.
“An economy built on the back of insecure work and exploitation will not deliver a sustainable recovery or an economy that benefits the many.”
GettyOpening hours: A JD Wetherspoon pub
Critics of the pay deals spoke out as pub chain JD Wetherspoon, which has 80% of its workforce – about 24,000 staff – on contracts with no guarantee of work, faced threats of a customer boycott.
The chain is creating 15,000 jobs and 200 new pubs over five years.
The dad of a worker at Wetherspoon’s Thomas Sheraton Hotel in Stockton-on-Tees used his Facebook page to condemn its “grindingly low wages” and said he would be boycotting its bars.
In an open letter to the firm, Steve Thompson said his stepson earned barely enough to feed himself and had a walk two miles to work – sometimes for a one-hour shift – as he could not afford public transport.
He said: “The only way he can survive on such grindingly low wages is by getting benefit top-ups,” he said. “Clearly your business model requires the public purse subsidies your employees’ wages.”
On Saturday his posting had attracted over 12,000 Facebook “likes”, with many people describing their own working conditions.
FacebookProtest: Dad Steve Thompson”s criticism of JD Wetherspoon has attracted 12,000 “likes”
“From the messages I’ve received it is plain this appalling treatment of staff is not limited to Wetherspoons,” he wrote.
Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has vowed to stamp out abuse by rogue employers but has ruled out a total ban, saying the deals work for students, older staff and single parents who value flexibility.
Labour say the changes do not go far enough.
It has pledged to outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people and workers will get a fixed-hours contract if they are working regular hours for a year.
The British Retail Consortium spokesman, which represents high-street chains, said
its members used zero-hours responsibly to provide “flexibility” to staff and employers.
A BRC spokesman said: “The BRC supports steps to ensure zero-hours contracts are used in an appropriate manner by all employers and that there is adequate protection for individuals on these types of contracts.”
But Spencer Thompson, senior economic analyst at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: “The increase in zero-hours contracts is part of a wider UK trend towards greater job insecurity.” He said these deals create problems for the individuals involved but they also have wider implications.
Famous names: These companies all exploit zero-hours contracts
“Workers in insecure forms of employment are more likely to move in and out of jobs so they are more likely to rely for periods of time on unemployment benefit such as jobseeker’s allowance. This increases the welfare bill.
“They are also less likely to be offered or to take up training opportunities, reducing the supply of skills in the economy.”
He said zero- hours workers generally earn less per hour, so reducing the UK’s tax revenues.
“A better situation would be one in which more employers invest in permanently employed staff who are paid higher wages.”
JD Wetherspoon defended the pay deals, claiming increased regulation would put up the price of a pint.
It said its staff are still entitled to holiday and sick pay, rotas are done two weeks in advance and there are staff discounts.
Spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.
"The company operates in a seasonal sector and offers flexible hours to meet demand. Wetherspoon pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.
Pizza Hut said some temporary staff in its pizza delivery business are hired on zero-hours contracts but that this is run as an independent franchise.
A spokesman said: “Pizza Hut restaurants and delivery outlets do not offer zero-hours contracts and we have no plans to change our hiring practices in the future.”
Case study: “Rota swaps make me ill”
Home care worker Corrie has had a zero hours contract for nearly four years – and says it is making her ill.
The 48-year-old mother of two earns £6.80 an hour – just above the legal minimum wage of £6.50 an hour – and is often expected to work two shifts a day.
She must clock up between 50 and 60 hours a week or face losing most of her income because she is terrified that her employer, a national company, will reduce her hours to almost to nothing if she asks to do a single shift instead of a double.
“It is absolutely horrendous. We are treated like slaves,” said Corrie, of Sellafield, Cumbria. “But if you complain they cut your hours back to nothing.”
Zero hours workers like her are reluctant to speak out and so we have changed Corrie’s name to protect her.
She added: “You are constantly getting rota changes. It is absolutely disgusting. It has made me ill with exhaustion.”