Zero hours contracts: whose side are you on?

Zero hours contracts: whose side are you on?

More and more employers are crossing a line on zero-hour contracts – and it's up to all of us to do something about it.

Around one million workers, mostly working in the retail and hospitality sectors, are on zero-hour contracts. That's almost certainly someone you know.

These workers aren't guaranteed any hours and they’re often unaware of their basic employee rights, because many of the employers don't advertise them.

Together these workers form a pool of 'on-call' staff, who must be available for when bosses need them at the drop of a hat.

Some say that this kind of work can offer flexibility. If workers were given a choice about what type of contract they’d like to be on, this might be a fair argument. 

But for most, the balance of power lies squarely with the employers. 

This is Sarah – we've changed all the names in this video – who used to work for a fast food company.

"If you raise a complaint or point out that your legal rights aren’t being observed you face not getting any hours the next week."

So much for flexibility!

Here's Jimmy:

"Texts were sent to between 20 and 50 zero hour workers. We must all turn up or we will not get text again for weeks – but yet only one will actually get the hours and it will be the first to arrive."

Turning workers against each other – by making them desperate, fighting for hours, punishing them by taking those hours away – is what this is all about.

"I was 8 months pregnant doing 12 hour shifts.”

This is Jane, who worked at a bread producer.

"I would finish my shift at 12 midnight and had to start again at 6am the next day.  When I asked my manager about my health and safety I was told I was a 'bolshie' and I was threatened with the sack."

Yet Jane, like the hundreds of thousands of others on zero-hour contracts, does have rights.

At the very least, if she's on call but not actually working, she's entitled to the national minimum wage.

Asking for annual leave isn't a favour to be handed out as a gift by generous bosses – it's a right fought for by unions years ago. The same goes for work-related travel, too.

In the last decade the number of zero-hour contracts has doubled. Even ministers from the coalition government have admitted their surprise at just how common they’ve become.

Yet it's not individual workers, struggling to get by, who are going to help rescue those stuck in this unfair trap.

It's only by campaigning together that we can stop this.

Tweeting, protesting, boycotting – whatever it takes to persuade companies – many of them big household names – that when it comes to zero-hour contracts, their abuses are way over the line.

So tell them. Tell them we won't put up with our friends relatives and neighbours being ripped off to make them more money.

Let them know whose side you’re on.




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