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Oppose the rise of ‘zero hour’ contracts

Sports Direct face a legal challenge

Sports Direct face a legal challenge

The number of people on “zero hours” contracts has risen sharply since the 2008 financial crisis. Analysts note that this coincides with larger number of UK workers in part-time and low-wage jobs.  The office of national statistics say that far more people are working on these contracts than previously estimated. 250,000 people were employed on zero hours contracts last year – 50,000 more than expected.

The ONS says even today’s figures may be well below the true numbers: the government said last month that 300,000 people could be employed on such contracts in the social care sector alone.

Why should we be concerned? Because the contracts allow employers to hire staff “on the lump” and which require people to be on call for work on the company’s whim, are spreading across the economy. The contracts The number of people on “zero hours” contracts has risen sharply since the 2008 financial crisis. Analysts note that this coincides with larger number of UK workers in part-time and low-wage jobs.  The office of national statistics say that far more people are working on these contracts than previously estimated. 250,000 people were employed on zero hours contracts last year – 50,000 more than expected.

The ONS says even today’s figures may be well below the true numbers: the government said last month that 300,000 people could be employed on such contracts in the social care sector alone.

Why should we be concerned? Because the contracts allow employers to hire staff “on the lump” and which require people to be on call for work on the company’s whim, are spreading across the economy. The contracts deny employees rights to redundancy pay and pensions, while preventing them taking up other work.

The Solidarity Trade Union say these arrangements “trap workers in poverty and exploitation”.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity declared: “The rise of zero-hours contracts  is one indication of the free rein given to employers by a succession of ‘business-friendly’ governments, both Labour and Tory – and how workers have suffered as a result”.

Zero-hours contracts have no place in our workplaces and should be outlawed”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These updated figures from the ONS still underestimate the true scale of zero hour working, which has spread like wildfire throughout our economy.

“From Buckingham Palace to Sports Direct zero hours contracts are cropping up everywhere and the government’s oft-mentioned review must lead to proper regulation to prevent their continued misuse.

“Employers cannot be allowed to take advantage of the current economic climate to employ people as cheap labour.”

According to UNISON, almost every council in England (97%) uses contracts which do not guarantee care providers any work from one week to the next.

The terms of employment will come under scrutiny in a legal challenge, funded by campaign group 38 Degrees against retailer Sports Direct, which has 20,000 staff on zero-hour contracts.

Zahera Gabriel-Abraham, 30, of London, will be ­represented at a tribunal by barrister Elizabeth Day from law firm Leigh Day.

David Babbs, executive director of 38 Degrees, said: “We’ve had a huge response from our members on this issue and more than 13,000 people have chipped in to help fund Zahera’s case.

“If we’re successful it would mean Sports Direct and many other companies would be forced to review their employment practices. There is clearly something wrong if a million people are on these contracts.”

Last month, the Employment minister Jo Swinson told MPs that three officials at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills had begun an investigation into the use of zero hours contracts.

Their report is due to be published after the Westminster summer recess.

Editorial note: you can donate to the legal challenge against Sports Direct here

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