TUC: Zero hours contracts are the tip of the iceberg

30 April 2015 Zero hours contracts are only one aspect of the employment crisis.

30 Apr 2015| News

30 April 2015

Zero hours contracts are only one aspect of the employment crisis.

As well as ZHCs, short hours and other forms of insecure work are an equally fast-growing problem.

According to the TUC, as well as 700,000 workers who report being on zero-hours contracts, there are another 820,000 UK employees who report being underemployed on between 0 and 19 hours a week.

In Re-regulating Zero Hours Contracts, Zoe Adams and Simon Deakin say that “Zero hours contracts are simply the most extreme example of new times of precarious work which are becoming widespread in Britain…associated with insecurity of income and low pay for workers, while in many cases being highly profitable for employers”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.

“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.

“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.

“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”

On International Workers Memorial Day A Channel 4 Dispatches programme, “The Secrets of Sports Direct” exposed the extent to which staff on ZHCs are abused and exploited. Watch it here

It is estimated that only 300 out of the 5,000 plus workers at the Shirebrook depot actually have contracts with Sports Direct. The majority on zero hour contracts with two employment agencies – Best Connection and Transline.

It showed how staff are threatened with a a ‘six strikes and you’re out’ disciplinary procedure. Strikes are received for long toilet breaks, excessive chatting and even having time off for sickness. Staff are also named and shamed over a tannoy for not working fast enough.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner commented: “Like a throw-back to the Victorian era, workers on zero hours contracts at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook site are being shamefully exploited and living in daily fear of losing their job.

“Mike Ashley and Sports Direct’s shameful business model which is built on low pay and exploitative zero hours contracts, where workers are treated with contempt, has no place on the high streets of 21st century Britain.

“Shoppers at Sports Direct need to remember this when they buy a cheap t-shirt or pair of trainers.

“Too often workers at the Shirebrook depot and across the retailer’s stores have been afraid to speak out. This culture of fear in Sports Direct needs to be confronted and the abusive workplace practices tackled.

“We would urge workers at Sports Direct to not suffer in silence, to join Unite’s campaign for decent work, to get in touch via the confidential number and together we can put dignity back into the workplace.”

For more information on zero-hours contracts, readRe-regulating Zero Hours Contracts