One Twitter post opens the floodgates on the reality of zero-hours contracts in Tory Britain

Better Than Zero campaign group
Brian Finlay

On 17 November, academic Dr Steve Garner took to Twitter to ask a question about his son’s new job. He was “horrified” about how his son’s new employer was treating him. And he asked if his son’s experience of working at a warehouse was “common”:

Garner seemed to describe the reality faced by some workers on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs). So this tweet opened up the floodgates for people to talk about the reality of life on ZHCs in Tory Britain.

ZHCs and employment conditions

A report by the House of Commons Library describes ZHCs to be:

A type of contract used by employers whereby workers have no guaranteed hours and agree to be potentially available for work… They may be used by companies seeking labour flexibility and by workers seeking flexibility around their other commitments.

As reported by the Office for National Statistics, between October and December 2017, there were 901,000 people on ZHCs, which made up 2.8% of all employed people in the UK. And the workers employed on ZHCs tended to be “young, part-time, women or in full-time education”.

But ZHCs have a bad reputation for being exploitative, particularly in relation to income insecurity and on the employees’ mental health. Due to potential bad publicity, some businesses are reluctant to use them. Moreover, most political parties want ZHCs banned, or at the very least heavily regulated.

“It was incredibly insecure”

Garner’s tweet attracted people to share their own experiences of life on ZHCs.

One respondent explained:

One reply mirrored the working arrangements described by Garner:

And another called it a “regression to the 1930s”:

One Twitter user, meanwhile, asked why the BBC was not doing more to highlight this phenomenon:

But trade unions, pressure groups, and politicians across opposition parties are aiming to end this exploitation.

The “record high exploitation” must end

Trade unionist and lawyer Peter Stefanovic said:

Barrister Jo Maugham QC also took a swipe of the Tory government:

Labour MP and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner suggested:

And the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett responded by saying:

The reality of work in Tory Britain

In Tory Britain, the reality for those on ZHCs may reflect the experiences of Garner’s son. Therefore, it might be wise for those MPs in government to be more critical when congratulating themselves for low unemployment figures.

Maybe this Tory government should consider the quality of jobs for young people – rather than allowing and perpetuating these types of contracts. Whilst the government is at it, it should legislate a fairer National Living Wage for the young workers who are most likely to be on ZHCs.

Opposition parties must continue the fight to end this exploitation. At the same time, the Tory government should listen to the plight of young workers like Garner’s son and make work fairer for all.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Join a trade union and fight against ZHCs.

– Support pressure groups like Better Than Zero and McStrike.

Write to your MP to highlight this issues of ZNCs.

Featured image via: STUC1/YouTube

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