Conference attacks increasing use of zero-hours contracts

In a wide-ranging composite motion on zero-hours contracts, the negative impacts on Black, migrant, women and LGBT workers were highlighted by several speakers.

Ash Dhobi for the national Black members’ committee explained how the increasing use of zero-hours contracts has a particular impact on Black and migrant workers.

Ali Prashar for the national LGBT group raised the issue of how LGBT workers can have to hide their sexuality or gender identity because of the fear of being discriminated against by being given little work on such contracts.

And on the other side of the coin, because of an assumption that LGBT workers don’t have family commitments, she said that workers can find themselves forced into working at times when they don’t want to work.

Paul Holmes for the local government executive said that, “when people start talking about ‘the new world’, they’re invariably talking about the 19th century”.

And he observed that, in the context of zero-hours contracts, there was no difference between getting work on the basis of being the first person to respond to a text from the employer and how dockers in Liverpool were treated in the Victorian era when they had to hope for a tap on the shoulder to signify they would get a day’s work.

Jane Gebby of the national women’s committee told delegates how zero-hours contracts were impacting strongly on women, adding that some people don’t realise what the contracts that they sign really mean, while many are used for women doing such valuable jobs as care work.

John Gibbons from Liverpool City described zero-hours contracts as “the most despicable tool that employers could have”.

Amid a raft of actions, conference called on the executive to campaign against the use of zero-hours contracts in local government and schools, and to work with the Labour Link and the general political fund to lobby MPs for safeguards to be introduced to improve the rights of workers on zero-hours contracts.

UNISON in local government

Campaigning for a living wage