Zero hours contracts back to dark days of ‘flexpoitation’

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Latest figures on zero hours contracts expose the hand- to-mouth existence of millions of people behind the UK’s vaunted ‘jobs miracle’.

Many people in Rotherham and the Dearne Valley are subjected to these zero hours contracts and casualisation that is modern-day slavery, where working people do not know whether they will be able to earn a crust for their families from one day to the next.

It is ‘flexploitation’ of the worst kind that takes us back to the dark days of the private pit and dock owners.

The official figures shows an increase of the use of zero hours contracts to 1.8 million people.

These figures make an utter mockery of the government’s claim to have inspired a ‘jobs miracle’.

What the official figures do not reveal is that we also have record levels of self-employment in this country. Combined with this, the increase in zero hours jobs exposes a labour market where insecure work is becoming an employment model of choice.

The prevalence of zero hours work in bigger employers indicates that this rise is not so much about employers trying to weather the downturn, but more about businesses enjoying the freedom this form of employment affords them from the fundamental rights and decent wages that ought to accompany responsible employment.

An economy based on low-paid insecure work shuts people out of the economy – you cannot hope for a home or save for the future when you don’t know if you will have a wage, let alone what it will be. Such employment will not deliver the sustainable recovery we desperately needs.

We need urgent, meaningful action to rebalance our economy. A ban on zero hours contracts and the return of collective bargaining must be the basic first steps to put a floor under the ever-falling living standards for millions in this country.

Ged Dempsey

Unite the Union Executive