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End zero-hours exploitation – Fight for a living wage and trade union rights

By Steven Manley – Youth Fight For Jobs member

I had the misfortune to have a zero-hour contract in the summer of last year. The job was advertised as “fruit picking” in my local paper. However, I was given a different job husking strawberries, a job I wasn’t capable of doing due to my low muscle tone.

I had informed my line manager of this and that didn’t stop them dismissing me for a lack of productivity, In total I made £100 from this job, only £10 more than I received when I was on Job Seekers Allowance.

Employees were regularly under scrutiny from line managers who would threaten staff with dismissal each day in a bid to increase productivity. It didn’t, and the high turnover of staff was evident.

Many of the staff said they were unhappy with the conditions of the job and the way they were treated by those in charge. I wanted to leave but knew that walking out from this job would have an effect on my benefit so I was forced to put up with it.

The on-call arrangement of zero-hours contracts means that you don’t know from one week to the next what hours you are working. Statistics show that 6 in 10 people on zero-hour contracts are low paid.

This proves that these jobs fail to provide a decent standard of living for working class people and additionally can have an effect on the wellbeing.

The trade union Unison’s report on zero-hour contracts highlighted the fear faced by employees, no clear definition of employment rights, lack of a weekly income, employees being vulnerable to abuse employees working beyond agreed hours.

Figures also show that since 2010 the numbers of people on zero-hour contracts have continued to increase and are being used by companies like Asda, Tesco, Sports Direct, McDonalds and Subway and are widespread in the public sector as well.

The use of zero-hour contracts is capitalism’s way of punishing and exploiting working class people. They exist to bolster a system based on sustaining the wealth of the rich and the powerful.

The Con-Dem government say that a recovery is taking place in Britain and that things are improving for people, but the massive growth in zero-hour contracts shows how far out of touch they are with the reality for millions.

Youth Fight For Jobs and Socialist Party Scotland is demanding an end to zero hour contracts. We are campaigning for a living wage of £10 an hour and proper contracts with a guaranteed weekly hours and trade union rights for all workers.

If the bosses system can’t afford such modest demands we need to build a movement to break with capitalism and build a socialist alternative that would genuinely meet the needs of the working class.