One million workers being ‘degraded’ by zero hours contracts


First day conference business. Photo: Steve Forrest / Workers' Photos

First day conference business. Photo: Steve Forrest / Workers’ Photos



UNISON yesterday vowed to increase its efforts to challenge the use of zero hours contracts.

The union will lobby MPs for the introduction of safeguards that will improve the rights of workers on the controversial contracts. And it will campaign against the use of them altogether in the provision of health services.

These were among a number of commitments made in Brighton, during a conference in which the “insidious rise” of zero hours contracts has become one of the running themes.

The union believes that one million people are now working on zero hours arrangements, which have come to symbolise a wider concern that the labour market is moving towards less secure and more exploitative forms of employment.

Black workers, migrant workers, women and young people are particularly prey to such contracts.

Ash Dhobi of the national Black members’ committee told delegates that in the current climate it was “no surprise” that so many employers were turning to the contracts, which effectively allowed them to “cherry pick” the most vulnerable people when enlisting their workforce.

The result was “degrading, undermining and discriminating” against workers. 

Mr Dhobi said that his own wife was currently on a zero hours deal. “She can’t plan anything. She never knows when the organisation will call her, or how much work she will be given.

“We’re reasonably OK, because I have full-time job and can help with the basics. But there are many families who don’t have a second wage coming in. They are the ones taken into poverty.”