There’s lots of talk about zero hours contracts at the moment, most of it negative.
It’s clear that for some people they are useful and offer a flexible way of working around other commitments such as family or student life. For employers who, themselves, don’t have regular continuous contracts of work they are also useful as a means of bringing in additional help during peak times without the costly overheads of keeping people on during quiet times.
I myself work on a contract basis in engineering – on a week’s notice – so I’m effectively on a 40 hours contract.
On the flipside, there are employers who take advantage of this informality of contract and treat people poorly – using zero hours as a cheaper alternative to full time employment, or calling people in to work only to tell them there is no work when they arrive at the office or work site. This behaviour isn’t acceptable.
One often glossed-over fact is that zero hours contracts make up just over 2% of all jobs – so hardly an epidemic.
However, UKIP has been raising concerns about zero hours contracts for a long time. A year ago Nigel Farage recommended a tough new crackdown on them.
UKIP believes in a blanket ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts (i.e. a worker on a zero hours contract must not be banned from working for alternative employers).
That a minimum notice period of 12 hours must be given by a company as regards the next shift it needs a zero hours worker to do (there have been shocking cases of workers turning up on site in the morning to hear whether or not there is any work for them that day).
That after a year on a zero hours contract a worker should be entitled to demand a transfer to a fixed hours contract or permanent post.
However, UKIP believes small businesses should be exempted from this final point, as their low numbers of employees make it unreasonable to expect them to create permanent posts willy-nilly and the impact of forcing them to do so may be to kill off even the original zero hours vacancy.
Our key point however is as follows; the spread of zero hours contracts is another symptom of the over-supply of labour for working class jobs because of open door immigration from the EU.
Big corporate employers (and many smaller ones) have been able to bid down both pay and conditions because they know that workers can be found from the low wage economies of southern and eastern Europe who will accept inferior terms.
Unless we end freedom of movement across the EU we cannot help British workers to higher wages or better conditions of employment. Only UKIP are committed to doing this. The Labour party announcement today to pass a law that gives employees the right to a regular contract after 12 weeks of working regular hours, is an attempt to legislate against a symptom when the underlying cause is a labour market rigged in favour of the powerful – something it proposes to do nothing to change.