Labour MEPs Demand an End to the Scourge of Zero Hour Contracts and Call for Decent Work and Better Working Conditions

Yesterday in Strasbourg, Labour MEPs, along with their European colleagues, marked World Day for Decent Work (WDDW) by calling for an end to the scourge of zero-hour contracts. As Labour MEPs we have campaigned against zero hour contracts since its practice first became common.

WDDW has been organised since 2008 by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to bring workers all over the world together to call for decent work and better working conditions.

Millions of Europeans are struggling in precarious, short-term jobs without clear prospects. Accordingly to figures released by the Office for National Statistics in April 2015, nearly 700,000 people in the UK were on zero-hour contracts in their main job.

By allowing zero-hour contracts we are allowing a low-pay culture to grow unchecked and forcing workers to live a hand-to-mouth existence. As well, working in such precarious conditions can often prevent people from qualifying for a mortgage and force low paid workers into debt with loan sharks.

Zero-hour contracts are a feature of some of Britain’s largest employers including high street giants such as Sports Direct, McDonald’s, Burger King and Domino’s Pizza. Young people are regularly paying fares to work to be sent home with no hours and no pay.

The ONS notes that those on zero-hour deals are more likely to be women, students in full-time education or those who work part-time. They are also more likely to be aged under 25, or 65 and over.

The excuse of labour market flexibility is frequently trotted out as a rationale for zero hour contracts, but this is simply not good enough. We are marginalising a large group of workers and some of our most vulnerable citizens. One of the most shocking examples I have witnessed in the North West was in Bolton where women were turning up to a private employer on a Friday afternoon to find out if they had any hours the following week. What did those women do? They cared for people with dementia – truly shocking for those workers and the people they care for.

Zero-hour contracts prevent people from having any form of financial security. It is completely unfair for workers to not know how much work they will get from week to week. These workers don’t have zero rent, their bills don’t magically disappear, they still have to put food on the table for their kids. How can they budget? How can they plan?

Labour MEPs will continue to demand EU action to tackle these abusive zero-hour contracts to give workers more financial stability and security. We believe that if you work regular hours, you should have a regular contract. This is why we are working to end exploitative zero-hours contracts right across the EU.