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Government must act to halt rise in zero hours

Government must act to halt rise in zero hours

01 August 2013

Unite, Britain's biggest union, says urgent action is needed to stop the growth of the zero-hours culture as new figures show the use of these contracts is 25 per cent higher than previously thought.

A new report from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) has shown that 250,000 people in the UK were on zero-hours contracts at the end of last year. The increase is due to a change in the way the figures are calculated.

Unite believes that in general zero-hours contracts are unfair, creating insecurity and exploitation for many ordinary people struggling to get by. They are one of many forms of underemployment blighting the British economy. Employers use them to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, or other benefits enjoyed by employees and agency staff.

Unite members report that in low paying sectors, such as docks, retail, catering and social care, where such precarious work is increasingly becoming the norm, these arrangements serve to trap workers in poverty and exploitation.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said:

"The growth of zero hours contracts is blighting this country. A quarter of a million working people do not know from one day to the next if they will be working or earning. How can they improve their lives if this is all the government has to offer?

“The revelations that 90 per cent of Sports Direct workers are on zero hours has alerted the public to this growing problem. Plus our evidence shows there is no part of the economy which is safe from this practice. There is no doubt that pressure is going to build on this government to act to end this pernicious practice.

"The government should not wait to be convinced. There needs to be an urgent change in the law to stop employers exploiting workers by trapping them in a life of insecure work and poverty."

ENDS

Contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Notes to editors:

Zero-hours contracts loosely cover a range of contract arrangements that mean workers have no guaranteed weekly hours or income, only being paid for the hours that they do work.

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