Tagged: Zero Hours Contracts

Thatcherite policies ‘have made us sick’

‘Thatcherite’ policies have caused ‘epidemics’ in obesity, stress, austerity and inequality, according to a new book by public health experts.

The authors of the book, from Durham University, argue that the UK’s neoliberal politics, often associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, have increased inequalities and literally made people sick.

They suggest that the epidemics could have been prevented, or at least been reduced in scale, through alternative political and economic choices such as fairer and more progressive taxation, strengthened social protection and reduced spending on warheads.

The public health researchers are calling on the new Government to take drastic action to ensure a decent living wage, a fair welfare system and an end to privatisation within the NHS.

The book, ‘How Politics Makes Us Sick’, is due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on May 20.

The authors, Professors Clare Bambra and Ted Schrecker, show that the rise of precarious jobs and zero-hours contracts has led to an epidemic of insecurity and chronic stress, and austerity measures have widened the gap between rich and poor with destructive consequences for health.

 They also highlight scientific evidence connecting the epidemic of obesity, which has doubled in the UK over the last 30 years, with the epidemic of insecurity that followed the neoliberal transformation of labour markets.

The book points out that the rising economic inequality is resulting in a growing health gap between the most and least deprived ten per cent of local authority districts in England, which is now larger than at any point since before the Great Depression.

Co-author Clare Bambra, professor of public health geography and director of the Centre for Health and Inequalities Research at Durham University, said:

Our findings show that modern-day ‘Thatcherism’ has made us fat, stressed, insecure and ill. These neoliberal policies are dominating the globe and they are often presented as our only option but they have devastating effects on our health.

 “What we need is a political cure in the form of a revitalised and social democratic welfare state in which workers have a living wage, the welfare system means that people are not below the breadline, and the market is removed from our public services such as the NHS.”
Source – Northern Echo, 15 May 2015

Hundreds join Tyne and Wear May Day march and Rally in Newcastle

Around 300 people took part in the Tyne and Wear May Day March and Rally in Newcastle on Saturday.

The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ international May Day celebrations.

Back in 1890, the international demand was for an eight-hour maximum to the working day. This call united workers in the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and many other countries.

One of the organisers of the Tyneside event, Martin Levy, said:

“There’s a lot of people on zero hours contracts today who would love to get the chance to work eight hours.”

“The march is as relevant today as it was 125 years ago. It’s very important as a statement of the principles of the Trade Union and Labour movement – solidarity, fighting inequality and fighting for social justice.

“These issues don’t just go away.”

Speakers at the event included Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity; Ian Mearns, Labour’s candidate for the Gateshead constituency at the forthcoming general election and Andrew Murray, chief of staff of Unite the Union and deputy president of the Stop the War Coalition.

Professor Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, had been due to speak but had to cancel at the last minute.

His place on the platform was taken by Ann Schofield of the Tyneside Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Those taking part assembled at Princess Square then walked along Northumberland Street and then past St Thomas’s Church towards Exhibition Park, where the rally was held.

The Tyne and Wear May Day March, at Exhibition Park in Newcastle 

Music on the march was provided by the Backworth Colliery Band, while local musicians DrumDin (OK) and The Backyard Rhythm Orchestra performed at the rally.

Mr Levy added:

“This 125th anniversary of the very first workers’ May Day was an opportunity to make clear our opposition to austerity and privatisation, and to express solidarity with all those struggling for a better world, particularly the people of Palestine.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  02 May 2015

Zero-Hours Contracts Just The Tip Of The Iceberg For Low-Paid Jobs, Says TUC

Controversial zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid and insecure jobs, according to a new report published today.

An analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that in addition to the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a further 820,000 workers are underemployed – working between 0 and 19 hours a week.

The TUC says that whilst zero-hours contracts have featured heavily in the news, underemployment is blighting the lives of “hundreds of thousands of workers” struggling to make ends meet.

Workers on ‘short-hours contracts’ are typically paid a much lower hourly wage than other workers, the TUC says. The hourly rate for a short-hours worker is just £8.40, compared to an overall average for all employees of £13.20 an hour.

According to the TUC, short-hours contracts “give too much power to the employer” and allows them to escape having to pay National Insurance for their employees.

Like zero-hours contracts, workers on short-hours contracts can be offered as little as one hour paid work each week and have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.

Workers in the retail sector are the hardest hit by low-paid contracts. Nearly 250,000 people working in shops, supermarkets, warehouses and garages are trapped on short-hours – 29% of all underemployed workers. This compares to 16% in the education sector, 14% in food services and 12% of health and social care workers.

The TUC’s report shows that women account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of all workers trapped on short-hours contracts.

Zero-hours and short-hours contracts, along with low-paid and bogus self-employment, have reduced tax revenues and are harming the UK economy, according to the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.

“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.

“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.

“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”

The report also draws attention to a sharp increase in self-employment, which accounts for 31% of the net rise in employment since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average earning for self-employed people have fallen dramatically by 22% since 2008/09.

New figures published by Eurostat place the UK at 23rd out of 28 for its record on underemployment.

The figures show that UK underemployment is 31% higher than the EU average, which the TUC says is a sign of the Government’s failure to create high-quality jobs.

Frances O’Grady said:

“These figures show what a bad time British people are having at work compared with their European neighbours.

“We have a fragile recovery built on pumped-up house prices, instead of the strong foundation of good quality jobs with decent hours and wages.

“The current approach just isn’t delivering enough high quality jobs to meet demand and it’s leaving too many families struggling to get by on scraps of work.”

Source – Welfare Weekly,  27 Apr 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/zero-hours-contracts-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-for-low-paid-jobs-says-tuc/

Solution To Zero-Hours Contracts Is To Rebrand Them, Says Iain Duncan Smith

Zero-hours contracts should be rebranded as “flexible-hours contracts”, Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative work and pensions secretary, has said.

Duncan Smith said the zero-hours description was inaccurate and added to “scare stories” spread by Labour and the media.

He defended the contracts – which do not guarantee any hours of work for an employee – after the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, criticised the “epidemic” of zero-hours working arrangements in the UK since the Conservatives came to power.

Miliband has repeatedly said it is not right that employees get a text message late the night before to tell them whether they have any work in the morning.

He has pledged to ban “exploitative” zero-hours contracts and make sure people are given more secure contracts if they are working for an employer for three months.

But speaking on Sky News, Duncan Smith said:

“I think, with respect, the media and others have got this completely wrong, the flexible-hours contracts I’m talking about which are named ‘zero-hours contracts’, they are taken by people who want that flexibility. The reality is what we’ve had from Labour is a series of scare stories about these.”

Speaking later on the BBC’s World at One, he said he was “genuinely furious” with the Labour party for trying to whip up opposition to zero-hours contracts.

He also refused to outline where the axe would fall in £12bn of planned benefit cuts. Asked whether he would want to cut child benefit by rolling it into universal credit, the new single welfare payment, he said:

“That’s not on the books now. Of course, a future government may well want to look at that.”

Responding to the comments on zero-hours contracts, the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, accused Duncan Smith of “trying to dress up insecurity as flexibility” and suggested he was “living in a parallel universe”.

Labour argues the number of zero-hours contracts has tripled since 2010 but the Office for National Statistics cautions that this may be because of increased awareness about what they are.

In response, the Conservatives claim zero-hours contracts account for just one in 50 jobs and that only 2.3% of workers are on zero-hours contracts.

Duncan Smith and others in the Conservative party, including the prime minister, have argued that many people are happy on zero-hours contracts.

“We know first of all that people who do them are more satisfied with their work-life balance than those who are on fixed-hours contracts, interestingly enough and the average number of hours they work is not, as some people say, tiny numbers, it’s actually 25 hours work a week. So, a tiny proportion of the population is involved in that but overall more people in work, more people have that satisfaction of security, of a good wage packet that brings them and their families hope for the future.”

Esther McVey, the employment minister, has previously tried to rename zero-hours contracts as “enabling-hours contracts”.

Source – The Guardian,  17 Apr 2015

Fast food workers to protest against zero hours contracts in Darlington

Fast food workers will be calling for an end to zero hours contracts at a protest next week.

The Darlington Trade Union Council (TUC) is backing a global day of action on Wednesday, April 15 in support of fast food workers across the country.

Organised by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, the protest will see fast food workers calling for a £10 per hour minimum wage, and an end to zero hours contracts.

The action is also being supported by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Alan Docherty, the party’s parliamentary candidate in Darlington, said:

“The message is clear – join a union and get organised.

“In the USA fast food workers have organised successful strikes and won. Members of my party have been instrumental in winning victories that have brought about a $15(£10) per hour minimum wage.

“This was first enacted into legislation in Seattle and now several more cities and states have followed. We can do the same here.”

The protest will take place outside Queen Street Shopping Centre from noon.

Source – Northern Echo, 08 Apr 2015

Zero-hours contracts have nothing to do with flexibility and everything to do with dodging tax

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from the Spectator

London, United Kingdom. 3rd August 2013 -- People hold placards in Oxford St London protest against use of zero-hours contracts for more than 85 percent of Sports Direct workforce.

London, United Kingdom. 3rd August 2013 — People hold placards in Oxford St London protest against use of zero-hours contracts for more than 85 percent of Sports Direct workforce.

Could you live on a zero-hours contract? David Cameron was forced to admit, during his grilling by Jeremy Paxman, that he couldn’t. But 1.4 million Britons do. Some out of choice, some through necessity. But the latest attempts by the main parties to tackle the injustices of zero-hours contracts fail to get to the heart of the problem – which has nothing to do with a need for ‘flexibility’ and everything to do with dodging tax.

Many of us might be horrified at the thought of not knowing when our next pay cheque will be coming and how much it will be, but large numbers of people on zero-hours contracts are perfectly happy without that job security.
Surveys…

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Hilary Benn shares memories of Durham Miners’ Gala – but says Labour cannot commit to funding the event

Labour figure Hilary Benn has told of fond childhood memories attending Durham Miners’ Gala, but admitted a Labour Government could not offer money for the under-threat event.

The Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, whose much-admired father Tony Benn was a fierce defender of the miners during Margaret Thatcher’s time in power, recalled the magic of the Big Meeting when he watched banners pass the County Hotel balcony.

But he said his party, which was founded by the union movement, could not offer cash to back the Big Meeting.

The event was founded by the Durham Miners’ Association and has a long and rich history as a celebration of the region’s heritage.

Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles seized on the chance to criticise Labour and accused them of failing to “respect their roots”.

The Gala’s future is uncertain as the association is struggling to find fresh funds, organiser, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association Dave Hopper told the crowd in 2014, though it will go ahead on Saturday July 11.

Hilary Benn, who followed his father into a career in Parliament and is campaigning to be re-elected in Leeds Central, said he shared Mr Hopper’s fears for the event.

“One of my earliest childhood memories was my dad taking me up to the Gala,” he said. “There must have been about 11 of us on the famous balcony of the County Hotel, including Harold Wilson.

“We watched the banners go past the hotel in the procession. I was struck by how it was a great day of trade union solidarity and it is a great Labour tradition.”

But it is a sure signal of just how tough times are that the Labour Party can’t offer any money towards the event.

He said: “The Labour and trade union movement have always been big supporters of the Gala, and we will do all we can to support it, but we can’t make specific spending commitments.”

The Miners’ Gala was first held in the city’s Wharton Park in 1871.

Numbers grew strongly during the miners’ strikes to attract huge crowds of as many as 300,000.

Though the North East mining industry is a shadow of its former self, the Big Meeting continues to pull thousands of visitors.

Lodge banners are marched through the city and hundreds gather at a field near banks of the River Wear in what is a proud celebration of the North East’s heritage.

Tony Benn was one of the great figures of the left that have spoken at the event.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband has told colleagues he will give a speech this year, sharing a stage with long-serving parliamentarian Dennis Skinner.

The association said it was left with a £2.2m legal bill after losing a six-year court battle on behalf of former miners who have osteoarthritis of the knee.

Critics, including Labour’s North Durham candidate Kevan Jones, however, say the association had £6m in its accounts when it was a union in 2007.

Mr Pickles said a Conservative Government would not offer any help but insisted the party’s plan to create jobs would see more people support the event.

Mr Benn said one of the things the unions, many of which will be represented at the Gala, will fight is the rise in zero-hours contracts which grew four-fold under the Coalition government.

Mr Pickles, however, said: “As it is predominantly Labour Party and trade union members involved you would expect them to respect their roots.

“What we can promise is more jobs and more prosperity and more pounds in people’s pockets.”

Source –Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 06 Apr 2015

Labour Pledges To End Dependency On Food Banks With Welfare Reforms

A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”.

Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.

They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.

Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.

A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.

Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.

Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.

It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.

The plan is a clear statement from Labour that it considers welfare reforms to be the biggest single driver of food bank use, a connection the government has always strenuously denied.

The shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, Maria Eagle, will say in a visit to a London food bank on Wednesday:

“The Tories’ attitude to the relentless rise in hunger in Britain speaks volumes for who they stand up for. They refuse to accept any responsibility for it, despite the fact their policies are making it worse.

“Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”

Numerous studies by charities and academics in the past 18 months have linked welfare reform, austerity and the shrinking of the welfare safety net to the rise in poverty and food bank use. Food banks were practically unknown in the UK five years ago, when the coalition was formed.

However, ministers have insisted there is no robust evidence that social security policy has triggered the rise in food bank use. The welfare minister, Lord Freud, argued that food bank use had expanded because charity food parcels were “free”.

The Trussell Trust, which runs 420 food banks across the UK, is committed to reducing the number of people needing to use them, but its policy is to keep a “safety net” service in place in each major town.

Source – The Guardian, 25 Mar 2015

Six-point motion to scrap zero-hours contracts for Hartlepool Council workers

Twenty-two Hartlepool council workers are employed on zero hours contracts.

The number has emerged as proposals were made to scrap the deals, with five of the workers also said to be employed on other contracts with the authority.

A motion was put forward to the full council, urging it to carry out a review of the arrangements it has with workers, as well as its contractors.

It set out how within six months a series of points should be adopted, including a right to request a minimum mount of work and compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice.

Putting Hartlepool First member David Riddle, who was among those to sign the motion, said the six bullet point suggestions were taken verbatim from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s proposals to scrap the contracts.

The motion set out that the contracts “are incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce,” with Councillor Riddle stating they made it hard for households to plan finances.

He added he had been employed on zero hours contracts himself and took on staff using the deals in his own work.

He said: “There might be 20-odd people in that situation, but that’s 20-odd too many.”

It was also backed by fellow Putting Hartlepool First members Geoff Lilley, Steve Gibbon and Kelly Atkinson and backed by Independent Jonathan Brash.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher proposed an amendment to refer the matter to the council’s monitoring officer for a robust appraisal to be carried out of the policy ahead of further discussions, with members agreeing.

The Labour member said discussions had been held with trade unions and some posts within the council needed an element of flexibility among the workforce.

Councillor Paul Thompson, independent, said:

“This will be expensive, that’s why employers use them, because they know it will cost them more money.

“I know the Labour Party wants to abolish them nationally and I don’t always agree with Ed Miliband on occasions, but this is one such occasion and I agree with him.”

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  10 Feb 2015

Hartlepool Councillors Call for ban on zero-hours contracts

A group of Hartlepool councillors are calling on the authority to act on zero hours contracts which leave workers open to being exploited.

Hart councillor David Riddle, of the Putting Hartlepool First Party, has submitted a motion to the council for it to lead by example and carry out a review of all staff and contractors who may be employed on the contracts.

Councillor Riddle said:

“The number of people on zero hours contracts has significantly increased in recent years.

“It makes it very difficult for households to plan a budget from month to month or even week to week.

“Families are then faced with impossible choices concerning bills, buying food and just keeping a roof over their heads.”

The union Unite says zero hours contracts are on the rise nationwide having almost doubled in the last five years.

The latest data shows around 1.4 million people are now employed on the contracts, but the union adds the real figure may be up to 2.7 million.

Unite says the contracts mean workers have no guaranteed weekly hours or income, and are only being paid for the hours they do work.

Workers do not get the benefits such as holiday pay, pensions and being free to work for other employers.

Coun Riddle added:

“As a ward councillor, it’s impossible for me to ban zero hour contracts.

“That would be a decision for the Government. However, we in Hartlepool can lead by example and ensure as many people as possible within our town are protected.

“The contracts need to provide more safety and assurance for the employee than is currently the case.”


The motion will be debated by councillors at a Full Council meeting, on Thursday, February 5.

It calls for a review of all Hartlepool council employees, contractors, subcontractors and organisations who have gained council tenders or money who are on zero hours contracts.

The motion also asks the council to implement six key principles within six months.

They include workers not having to be available outside contracted hours, have a right to compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice and having the right to ask for a minimum amount of work after six months.

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  30 Jan 2015

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