Government accused of paying ‘lip service’ to working ...

Government accused of paying ‘lip service’ to working people following rise in zero hours contracts

02 September 2015

Britain’s largest union Unite accused the government of paying lip service to being on the side of working people as official figures out today (Wednesday 2 September) showed a 19 per cent rise in zero hours contracts over the last year.

The shock figures showing that there are at least 1.5 million jobs with no guaranteed hours, come ahead of next week’s annual general meeting of Sports Direct where the retailer is expected to come under fire for its employment practices and use of zero hours contracts. 

75 per cent of staff across the retailer’s UK stores are on zero hours contracts, with Sports Direct accounting for a fifth of all such contracts in the retail sector, with a further 3,000 agency workers on zero-hour contracts at its Shirebrook depot, earn just above the minimum wage.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “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. These figures are the tip of an insecure iceberg – they do not include short hours contracts and the wider rise in insecure, precarious work across the economy. 

“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 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.”


For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.