Zero hours and Black workers

Back to all Motions

2018 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
26 February 2018

Recent news has reported that the number of people that are unemployed has hit a record low. What these statistics do not report is that a large proportion of this is due to the increase in zero hours contracts.

Employers have increasingly been turning to zero hours contracts as part of the general attack on staff terms and conditions. Under these contracts, an individual typically undertakes to be available for work but the employer does not undertake to provide any work and only pays for the hours worked.

We are aware that some individuals choose these contracts in order to meet with family commitments; as flexible contracts that takes personal responsibilities such as taking care of children or elderly relatives into consideration are not available. However for many other vulnerable workers, of which many of them are Black workers, this is not a choice. We know that within the Water and Transport sector, zero hours contracts are being used with ancillary workers post.

A large number of zero hours contracts affect the low paid and majority of these are Black workers who are disproportionately affected. For these workers, zero hours contracts have a negative impact in a number of ways:

There is no guaranteed level of regular earnings;

1. the need to be available for work when required by the employer hinders the ability of staff to take up other employment;

2. the variability of earnings throws into doubt an individual’s eligibility to claim various state benefits;

Zero hours contracts have also shown themselves to be more open to abuse than regular permanent contracts.

Uncertainty about hours offered each week can lead to fear among staff about complaining or raising issues concerning any aspect of the job or service.

This motion calls on the Water, Environment and Transport Service Group Executive Committee to:

a. Undertake a survey of branches nationally to enquire how many Black workers on zero hours contracts have taken on a second job.

b. Consider ways to promote the values of trade union membership and Black members self-organisation and produce a basic guide for workers on know your rights