Workers racked by 19% rise in zero-hour contracts

Daniel Smart, zero-hour contract worker

Over the last year, the number of workers on zero-hour contracts has increased by almost a fifth. Many workers, particularly young people, lead a life not knowing how much work they will get from each week to the next.

New figures by the Office for National Statistics show a rise in the precarious contracts from 624,000 to 744,000 last year. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Trade Union Congress estimates there are a further 820,000 people ‘underemployed’ – not getting enough hours.


Like many, I have experienced the anxiety of life on a zero-hour contract. Shifts were cancelled by text at the last moment. I have been forced to wait for emails saying a few hours here and there are available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

Worker can be pitted against worker in a desperate competition for shifts. Is this not the modern-day equivalent of waiting outside the factory gates hoping to be picked for a day’s work?

Perhaps the Tories’ three million apprenticeships promised over the next five years will give some consolation to young workers? It looks unlikely when these are overwhelmingly in low-skilled jobs – such as street cleaners and warehouse assistants.

This is a thinly veiled attempt to allow employers to undermine wages whilst massaging unemployment figures. Bosses can legally pay apprentices as little as £2.73 an hour.

The Socialist Party fights for guaranteed hours for all workers who want them. We also campaign for investment in useful jobs – and a £10 an hour minimum wage now, with no exceptions.