Labour leader Ed Miliband has condemned the “Victorian conditions” that people are subjected to under the use of zero-hour contracts, promising to cut down their use if Labour wins the next election.
Miliband says that there is a “massive problem” in the UK, with as many as one million people working for companies on zero-hours contracts.
With no guarantee of hours, shifts cancelled at short notice with no compensation given, and sometimes clauses telling workers they could not work for any other company, Miliband said the contracts were providing “frankly, Victorian conditions at work”.
“Zero-hour contracts have spread like an epidemic across our economy.”
“The government’s own figures say they have increased three-fold since 2010 and some estimates suggest there are one million people on these contracts across the UK including at least 90,000 here in Scotland.”
Although he acknowledged that they provided “short-term flexibility for employers and employees” but said that some workers he had spoken to were left unable to feed their families with no wages coming in one week to the next.
He also said that their use was “incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce”, condemning the Tories for refusing to act on the abuse of workers in this way.
Business secretary Vince Cable attacked zero-hour contracts at the Lib Dem party conference last year, saying that the use of these contracts were “abuses in the system”. However, formal action is yet to be taken by his department to crack down on these abuses.