Zero-hour contracts have hit the headlines with a bang. One million workers – more than four times as many as previously thought – are on zero-hour contracts. For those unlucky enough to be counted in this statistic, there are no guaranteed hours, no guaranteed work, and no guaranteed pay.
You can be called up by your boss at a moment’s notice and expected to be in work. Boots, one of the many high street chains using zero-hour contracts, had the cheek to tell staff with no guaranteed hours that they may be asked to work abroad!
Zero-hour contracts make it impossible for us to plan our lives. You don’t know one week to the next how much work you will have, how much you will get paid, whether you’ll have any work at all. 14% of people on zero-hour contracts say they do not earn enough to live.
Race to the bottom
Zero-hour contracts aren’t just a nightmare for the workers suffering under them – they are part to the race to the bottom, driving down pay, terms and conditions of all workers. You can’t get any lower than zero-hours!
We’re returning to the dark days when dockers and other workers would face the humiliation and uncertainty of lining up before a potential day’s shift, hoping to be picked for work by the boss.
Almost three million workers are out of work in across the country (one million of them aged 16 to 24). But this latest scandal proves that the real unemployment figure is a lot higher.
In the 1980s, the Tories changed the way unemployment was measured 20 times to disguise the true cost of Thatcher’s vicious policies. Today, companies’ use of zero-hour contracts allows the government to claim many more people are employed than have the security that used to come with having a job.
Under pressure, big business politicians like Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, and various Labour Party figures have joined the chorus criticising zero-hour contracts. But what sets Youth Fight for Jobs apart is that we have a real strategy for action to make zero-hour contracts a thing of the past. If the trade unions organised zero-hour contract staff, including through strike action, we could have a united fight to win decent contracts, with guaranteed hours, on a living wage for all.
24-hour general strike
Youth Fight for Jobs is joining the National Shop Stewards Network lobby of the TUC on Sunday 8 September in Bournemouth to call on the trade unions to name the day for a 24-hour general strike to stop austerity.
A 24-hour general strike could unite all workers against the Con-Dem cuts. It could inspire even currently non-unionised, zero-hour contract staff at Sports Direct and other companies to fight back too.
The demands of such general action should include a decent job with a proper contract for all those able to work. This would win overwhelming support from ordinary working-class people, who don’t want to see another ‘lost generation’ thrown on the scrapheap.