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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 May 2018

100k more zero-hour contracts in just a year

Strike to win secure work!

Scrap zero-hour contracts! photo Mary Finch

Scrap zero-hour contracts! photo Mary Finch   (Click to enlarge)

Liat Norris, secretary, Usdaw North West Marks & Spencer branch (personal capacity)

The number of zero-hour contracts in Britain rose by 100,000 in just a year.

There are now 1.8 million zero-hour contracts, as exposed in the latest Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics. With many more on short-hour contracts of four to 12 hours, it's clear bosses are continuing their drive towards insecure work.

Bosses tell us workers appreciate the flexibility these contracts provide. The reality is this is flexibility only for the bosses.

When the average working week for someone on a zero-hour contract is 26 hours, it's clear workers are being taken for a ride; denied the basic rights fought for by the workers' movement.

Last year's Tory-commissioned Taylor Review into working practices made some minimal suggestions for improving the lives of zero-hour workers. This includes a higher minimum wage for non-contracted hours, and the right to request a contract that reflects hours actually worked.

But even these small demands seem too much for the bosses, so have been met with stony silence from the Tories.

At its recent annual conference, retail union Usdaw voted unanimously to campaign for all zero-hour contracts to be abolished, and to replace them with minimum 16-hour contracts except where workers ask for less. This would be a step towards reversing growing underemployment and insecure work.

However, these demands cannot just be words. We cannot expect to simply ask the bosses and their politicians nicely and hope they give in.

Workers need determined action from across the trade union movement to win these basic demands. The example set by the striking McDonald's workers should inspire all workers in industries plagued by short and zero-hour contracts to demand action against them.

We need to build a bold movement which campaigns for at least 10 an hour as a minimum wage without exemptions; which campaigns against all insecure working practices, to guarantee decent, well-paid jobs for all.

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