A “devastating” number of North East people are struggling to get by on a zero hours contract, a union has warned.
The TUC has published report which estimates there are 52,000 people – enough to fill Newcastle United’s home ground St James’ Park – in the region employed on the controversial contracts, something it says is “deeply damaging for society”.
The study, called The Decent Jobs Deficit, also reveals those on the casual contracts are earning around £300-a-week less than those on a permanent contract.
The report shows average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are just £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers.
The research also reveals that zero-hours workers are five times more likely not to qualify for sick pay as a result of their lower wages.
The TUC says 39% of zero-hours workers earn less than £111-a-week – the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay – compared to 8% of permanent employees.
Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary of the Northern TUC, said:
“We estimate over 52,000 North East workers are employed on zero hour contracts which is a devastating number of people experiencing insecurity, and lack of basic workplace rights such as sick pay.
“Research from our region shows that this type of work can be disastrous for family relationships as it increases pressure on people often in quite desperate situations with no alternative.
“Such exploitation by employers is deeply damaging to society and for the economy since insecure work limits access to basic goods and services such as renting a flat.
“The Coalition might claim we’re in recovery but one reason why income tax revenues are down last year is because too many new jobs are low paid, insecure and with insufficient hours. We need a strategy for decent jobs with fair pay and an alternative to exploitative zero hours contracts offering people rights and respect.”
The report comes as the TUC begins a week of campaigning.
A quarter of zero-hours workers work a full-time week and one in four (23%) work over 35 hours a week, compared to two-thirds (60%) of other employees.
One in three report having no regular amount of income and were nearly five times as likely to have differing amounts of weekly pay compared to staff with other kinds of work arrangements.
The report also reveals women on zero-hours contracts don’t make as much as their male counterparts, earning £32-a-week less, on average, than men employed on the same kind of contracts.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The growth of zero-hours contracts, along with other forms of precarious employment, is one of the main reasons why working people have seen their living standards worsen significantly in recent years.
“It is shocking that so many workers employed on these kind of contracts are on poverty pay and miss out on things that most of us take for granted like sick pay.
“While it is good to see employment is rising, if the UK doesn’t create more well-paid jobs with regular hours we will continue to have a two-tier workforce where many people are stuck in working poverty.
“The increase in casual labour also helps explain why income tax revenues are falling which is not only bad for our public finances but for society too. The lack of regular hours and income makes it difficult for households to pay bills and take on financial commitments such as rents and mortgages.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Dec 2014