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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 April 2014

Cost of living crisis: Scrap zero-hour contracts!

Becci Heagney
Protesting against zero-hour contracts in Lewsham, photo Jim Jepps

Protesting against zero-hour contracts in Lewsham, photo Jim Jepps   (Click to enlarge)

Last month, 1,500 people queued for hours outside a West Midlands Aldi store in the hope of being one of 40 'lucky' applicants to get a job. They would have the 'opportunity' to work 20 hours for 7.95 an hour.

Far from it being the case that 'getting work pays', the majority of households in poverty have at least one person working. The current legal minimum wage is only 6.31 an hour. And one in five workers earn less than the 'living wage' (8.80 in greater London and 7.75 elsewhere in the UK) and even that isn't enough to actually live on.

Wages on average, when you take out bonuses, have increased by 1.4% over the last year. Inflation, based on the more accurate RPI figure, is at 2.4%. With food prices rocketing by 30% over the last few years it's no surprise we're feeling this 'cost of living' crisis.


Low pay is a part of this. However, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research has found that the main cause of poverty is 'limits to the hours of work available'.

While the government boasts that unemployment has decreased, the murky world of underemployment grows. 1.42 million people working part-time actually want full-time hours.

Zero-hour contracts epitomise the increasing insecurity that many workers face. No guaranteed hours means no guaranteed income and no guarantee of being able to pay bills or put food on the table. Some contracts promise two or four hours a week, which offers no more security in reality.

Labour's proposal of giving a part-time job to those who have been unemployed for more than two years does not even begin to scratch the surface. Any serious attempt to tackle the cost of living crisis needs to start with scrapping zero-hour contracts completely and the implementation of contracts which offer decent hours. Flexible working can be useful for many people but the flexibility should be determined by the workers, not the bosses.

Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) has campaigned against zero-hour contracts and for a 10 an hour minimum wage. We've held protests outside the guilty businesses that profit from this kind of exploitation and suffering. Now we're linking up with the BFAWU bakers' union and others in the Fast Food Rights campaign, getting workers organised to fight for an end to job insecurity.

The next day of action on 15 May is a particularly important step towards this as it involves a strike by US fast food workers and protests in 30 countries. Workers organising collectively for better pay and conditions is the real solution to the cost of living crisis.

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In The Socialist 30 April 2014:

Socialist Party election campaigning

Vote for a working class voice

Getting under Labour's skin in Southwark

Your financial support is vital

Election Appeal: 2,148 raised so far

International socialist news and analysis

USA: reviving working class traditions

Ukraine: skirmishes threaten wider conflict

Socialist history

A South Wales miner remembers

International workers' day

May Day 2014 - Step up the fight for a socialist world!

May Day: Remembering Bob Crow and Tony Benn

May Day greetings in The Socialist 2014 - pdf

Socialist Party news and analysis

Cost of living crisis: Scrap zero-hour contracts!

UKIP - a pro-cuts party for the 1%

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

United against the far right in Brighton

Save Leicester Race Equality Centre

Fighting Library cuts in south Wales

Newsnight - socialist teacher demands right of reply

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Socialist Party workplace news

Defending pensions, jobs, pay, services... Back the strikes!

Workplace safety: It's big business as usual

Usdaw conference - fighting democratic union needed

Care UK strike: Miliband shows workers can't rely on Labour

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