Zero-Hour Contracts & Agency Workers

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2014 Higher Education Service Group Conference
7 November 2013

This Higher Education Conference notes:

1)The brilliant win by Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) Wigan Hovis workers against zero-hour contracts and the mistreatment of agency workers.

2)UNISON’s view that “zero hours contracts are not compatible with developing a professional workforce delivering quality services”.

3)Under the UK’s regulations which came into force in 2011, agency workers are entitled to the same pay and conditions as permanent staff doing the same job after 12 weeks. However, the so-called “Swedish derogation” loophole offers agencies and employers a way out of this, as long as the agency directly employs individuals and guarantees to pay them for at least four weeks during the times they can’t find them work.

4)UNISON is backing the TUC in a formal complaint to the EU Commission that the UK is mistreating agency workers. The TUC has gathered evidence from workplaces where agency staff are paid up to £135 a week less than permanent staff.

5)UCU research showing that more than half of UK universities use zero-hour contracts, with more than 24,000 staff employed on such contracts across the UK.

This Higher Education Conference believes:

a)That zero-hour contracts and agency workers are being used to undermine full time workers’ pay and conditions.

b)That such practices have a damaging effect on our ability as workers in HE to deliver a quality service to students. Staff employed on these contracts have less continuity in the job, less opportunity to build up experience, and lower access to training and development.

c)A fight against such practices will be a fight for permanent jobs and equal pay.

This Higher Education Conference instructs the HESGE:

i)To conduct research into the prevalence of zero-hour contracts amongst Higher Education support staff.

ii)To work with the NUS and other HE unions to initiate a national campaign against zero-hour contracts and the misuse of agency staff in Higher Education. This campaign should use all methods available to us, up to and including industrial action where an employer fails to eradicate these practices.

iii)To encourage all Branches to raise the issue of zero-hour contracts with their local management and to produce information and advice materials to support this.

iv)To highlight and support all local campaigns against zero hour contracts and the misuse of agency staff.