Tackling vulnerable employment and casualisation

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2015 National Delegate Conference
23 February 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference is deeply concerned that job insecurity, in-work poverty and workplace exploitation have become the hallmarks of the so-called economic recovery in the UK. While the growth of zero hours contracts has rightly attracted the public’s attention, they are only the tip of the ice berg. The proliferation of short hour contracts, false-self employment and the continuing exploitation of agency workers underlines the workings of a deeply unjust labour market where flexibility flows one way.

Conference notes new research by the TUC exposing the growth of vulnerable employment, and highlighting:

1)3.4 million workers working part time and wanting more hours, an increase of more than a million since the start of the recession;

2)The rapid expansion of self-employment, accounting for 44% of the net rise in employment since mid-2010;

3)The impact of term-time only working on support staff in schools;

4)The problems of unpaid travel time, unpaid stand-by time and ‘sleep-overs’ in social care;

5)41% of zero hours contract workers reporting that they were in temporary work because they could not find a permanent job, a rise from 19% in 2008;

6)Significant lower rates of pay experienced by workers on temporary, zero hour and agency contracts;

7)The disproportionate impact on women, black, migrant and young workers;

8)The vulnerability of workers in casual contracts to exploitation and mistreatment in the workplace including lack of access to basic employment rights.

Conference believes that low wages and insecure employment are fundamentally linked to the growth of in-work poverty and the increasing reliance by working people on in-work benefits, food banks and pay-day loans. Once workers on insecure contracts get into debt, it can be even harder for them to escape low paid, insecure work or to challenge bad practices in the workplace. Casualised workers struggle to secure access to decent housing or cheap credit.

Conference believes that action to tackle the casualisation of the UK labour market is desperately needed to restore decent jobs and decent pay and decent living standards in the public, voluntary and private sector. Significant progress would be made by:

a)Reforming employment status laws and rules on continuity of employment to ensure that all workers benefit from the same basic floor of rights at work;

b)Stopping the use of the ‘Swedish derogation’ or ‘pay between assignments’ contracts in Agency Worker Regulations;

c)Regulating not just the abuses of zero hours or short hour contracts but also measures to ensure that all who want them get a regular hours contract;

d)Extension of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority’s (GLA) remit to include other high risk sectors;

e)Increasing minimum wage enforcement by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), especially in social care;

f)Giving trade unions the right to make formal complaints and trigger minimum wage investigations without having to name workers;

g)Empowering the GLA and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to meaningfully enforce the law and pursue illegal practices by bad employers;

h)Improving workplace health and safety inspections;

i)Increasing access to workplace justice by scrapping employment tribunal fees in Great Britain.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to tackle these problems by a strategy to:

i)Influence government, the devolved administrations and other workplace regulators to have fair standards and resources for enforcement;

ii)Negotiate for public authorities to take genuine responsibility for their procurement practices and to have decent standards for in–house teams and contracted staff;

iii)Consider what the union can do at all levels to bring vulnerable and casual workers under collective bargaining coverage.