Lowestoft Coalition Against the Cuts and Waveney Trades Union Council supported the TUC-organised Decent Jobs Week outside Lowestoft’s Sports Direct. There are now over 1.4m people working on Zero Hours Contracts, counted as a job but with no guarantee of work or pay. These “employees” can be called in to work or simply be left sitting by the phone. Employers needn’t give notice or dismiss these employees: the work will simply fade away. How can employers justify imposing these conditions which make a normal family life impossible? The hugely profitable Sports Direct employs 20,000 workers. 17,000 have no guarantee of regular hours. Are these big, profitable and established firms, which include Argos, Amazon, McDonald’s and JD Wetherspoon, really unable to structure their business so that those employees who want regular work get it?
Zero Hours Contracts are only part of employers’ drive to casualise the workforce. Astonishing figures from the TUC show that one in every forty of the net jobs added to the economy between 2008 and 2014 has been a full-time employee job. 26 in every 40 have been part-time. Locally CareUK is downgrading working conditions in care homes it recently acquired from Suffolk County Council. In spite of regulations which are meant to guarantee that workers retain their conditions if they are transferred to a private employer CareUK is cutting pay by nearly £2 per hour. The great majority of present care workers will not be transferring to Britten Court, CareUK’s new home in Lowestoft. BirdsEye employs agency staff on what are effectively zero hours contracts; many outsourced WaveneyNorse workers are the same. Is this the right way for our councils to treat their employees by outsourcing work so that others will cut pay and conditions, which they do?
Waveney TUC and LCAC wants more commitment and decisive action from political parties and from trade unions. The casualisation of work is another symptom of growing inequality in British society and it is set to get worse.