Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/809/18536
Cost of living crisis: Scrap zero-hour contracts!
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.
See www.youthfightforjobs.com for updates
- Between May 2010 and January 2014, food prices increased by 15%, social housing rent by 15%, energy costs by 35% and public transport by 17%.
- The Resolution Foundation calculated that the minimum wage is now worth £1,010 a year less than in 2008.
- 1.2 million workers are paid the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour or no more than 5p above it, and a further 1.4 million earn no more than 50p an hour more.
In The Socialist 30 April 2014:
Socialist Party election campaigning
International socialist news and analysis
International workers' day
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