Figures reveal 28,000 of people in the North East on zero hour contracts for their main job

A total of 28,000 North East workers are on zero hour contracts for their main job.

The figure amounts to 2.3%, or one in 43, of the region’s workforce. However campaigners say it could be much higher.

According to the Office for National Statistics, nationally the number stands at 697,000 which represents a 100,000 leap in the past 12 months.

And because workers often have more than one job, the number of employment contracts offering no minimum hours rose from 1.4m to 1.8m in that time.

The ONS said the near 30% UK increase might not be as a result of a surge in zero hours contracts being offered but due more to increasing recognition of the contracts by staff when asked by researchers about their employment terms.

 However the government has been accused of allowing a low-pay culture to grow unchecked by fair pay campaigners, the trade unions and the Labour party.

Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer for the Northern TUC, said:

“When we’ve been campaigning on quality employment issues we find that a lot of people who are on a zero hour contract aren’t even aware that they are on them.

“Work from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has indicated the number of people with no guaranteed hours could be several times higher than others have traditionally picked up.

“Zero hours contracts are not defined in law and while this might be problematic for the statisticians they prove even more of a headache for the workers employed through this form of work.”

The ONS figures revealed people on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time.

More than 34% of people on “zero-hours contracts” are aged 16 to 24, a figure in the North East that looks set to rise.

And 34% of people on them want more hours though, according to the ONS, this could be linked to a higher proportion of “zero-hours contract” jobs being part-time.

Some of Britain’s largest employers offer zero-hours contracts including JD Wetherspoon, Burger King, McDonald’s and Sports Direct owned by Newcastle United’s billionaire boss Mike Ashley.

Even Buckingham Palace has offered the contracts to staff working in the summer when the Queen’s main residence is open to the public.

Mr Foster added:

“Many people on these contracts need and want more hours and greater certainty but instead find themselves at the beck and call of employers and in quite a vulnerable situation.

“Working people need to be able to look forward to the future and a real economic recovery relies on greater confidence – but zero hours contracts simply don’t provide that.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015

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