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.
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
A stepfather’s impassioned plea to end the use of zero-hour contracts has become an internet hit after his stepson was forced leave his rented home when he could no longer cover the rent.
Stephen Thompson wrote an open letter to his stepson’s employer, JD Wetherspoon, after the family was forced to buy the kitchen worker a new pair of shoes so he could walk to work without getting his feet wet.
And since he posted the letter on Facebook a few days ago, he has been inundated with similar tales from other people who are struggling under the financial burden of a zero-hour contract.
With more than 12,000 likes and 13,000 shares, the post has attracted the attention of people from across the country.
Mr Thompson, who works at a university as a social entrepreneur-in-residence and community engagement coordinator, says he was shocked at how far reaching the problem was for people trying to find secure work.
“My stepson is in 40s and trained for three years to be able to work in catering,” he said.
“I never realised how common the problem was with zero hour contracts, people who just want to work take these jobs but their futures are never secure.
> And this is a large part of the problem – so many people who ought to realise what is going on in this country seem oblivious to it. Mainstream media barely reports it, of course, but even so … and you might at least expect someone who works as a community engagement coordinator to know what’s going on in that community.
Still, he does now, and has done something positive about it.
“When I wrote the open letter, I never expected the response that I have received. I have read some real horror stories in the last few days.
In his letter, he writes:
“He is “employed” on a zero-hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. He got into trouble with his rent and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment for this.
“He now lives two miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear.”
And he has contacted his local MP Alex Cunningham to garner his support for the abolition of zero-hour contracts.
“I believe it is time to end the widespread use of zero-hour contracts.”
A Wetherspoon spokesman said:
“Wetherspoon does operate flexible contracts for its hourly paid staff.
“The company operates in a seasonal sector and offer flexible hours to meet demand. Pub managers try to give staff the hours they want.
“Rotas are produced by the manager and published to employees at least two weeks in advance.
“Wetherspoon probably offers more hours per week than any other pub company.”
To read the letter visit facebook.com/Stmedia/posts/10152912900027184
Source – Northern Echo, 03 Jan 2015