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STUC 2014 Dundee

Outlaw zero hours contracts for the benefit of citizens and service users as well as workers

Jane Aitchison

“We should be tackling the issue of zero hours contracts not just as workers and trade unionists but also as citizens and service users,” UNISON’s Jane Aitchison told delegates, as Congress condemned their use as exploitative, and one-sided in favour of the employer.

In a composite from the EIS, UCATT, UCU and the CWU, Congress pledged to campaign with affiliates, civic bodies and supportive political parties to outlaw the use of such contracts across the public and private sector, including the Scottish and UK Governments.

Jane pointed to UNISON Scotland’s “Time to Care” document, which showed that only 10% of respondents were on zero hours contracts, “Now there’s a union dividend right there,” said Jane.

“But zero hours contracts are worrying and exploitative on many levels. Not only are they about keeping the wage bill down, they are also being used as a means of disciplining the workforce.

“We’ve had many reports from members on zero hours and nominal hours contracts about their fear of raising issues with their employer. Because if they do suddenly their shifts dry up.

“Needless to say this has a chilling effect on what people will do to stand up for themselves.”

She warned however, that it doesn’t just stop workers raising issues about their own welfare, but of those they are tasked with caring for too.

“Whether the right level of care is being provided , what clients’ needs actually are - as opposed to the level of care the employer decides fits with the contract they have with the local authority – these are the sort of questions that will go unasked because of fear on the part of the workforce.

“Congress we have had people tell us that they would be scared to raise issue of abuse for fear of what would be done by way of exclusion from work.

“If we are serious about providing high standards of care for our elderly and vulnerable, it can’t be delivered by a workforce too afraid of being cut off from work to raise the issues of standards and quality.

"If we want to put an end to the scandal of the 15 minute care visit - then we need a workforce being paid for the work they are doing.

“And if we want a workforce that will provide the care for our elderly and vulnerable that we’d like to see then we need a workforce that is earning enough money to properly care for themselves – and we won’t see that unless and until the issue of zero hours contracts is tackled,” said Jane.

Date 14 April 2014

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