UNI joins with TUC in calling for UK government to act on zero hour jobs as UK plunges into poverty
A new report released this week by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 14 million people, more than one in five, are living in poverty in the UK. The report warns that poverty in Britain is at a tipping point with nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners living in poverty compared to five years ago.
Also this week the TUC released poll results which show that two-thirds of zero hours workers would prefer guaranteed hours, giving the lie to the argument that ‘flexible’ zero hours work suits most workers.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “The link between these two new reports is clear. Inequality is driving poverty and many of the new jobs available, such as zero hours, do not pay a living wage. Rising employment hides the reality of a mass rise in working poor.
The flexibility of zero hours is all to the benefit of those running the digital platforms while their workers are living a precarious existence. We see this across our services sectors where shop workers and security guards are expected to come in as and when required. If they do not toe the line they are kicked out. UNI wholly supports the TUC call for a ban on zero hours work.”
The General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady “Now’s the time for the government to ban zero-hours contracts, as they have done in other countries like New Zealand. Every job should be a great job – but far too many workers in the UK are being treated like disposable labour.”
It’s a similar story in both the Republic and Northern Ireland where the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) says that precarious and insecure work is now pervasive and has risen significantly in the last decade. Their report maintains nearly 160,000 people – or 8 per cent of the workforce in the Republic of Ireland – have significant variations in their hours of work, from week to week or month to month. It says some 7 per cent of the workforce – about 135,000 people – were in temporary employment in 2016. The result is that families are struggling to survive, not knowing what money will be coming in, and how to organise child-care.
Jennings said that the union movement and its allies are not sitting back and taking it and called on a united effort to fight against inequality and unfair work ranging from modern slavery to zero hours.
The UNI GS said that if inspiration were needed we should look to the United States where the Reverend William Barber, the ‘Moral Mondays’ founder launched this week a Poor People’s Campaign, a cross-racial coalition of Americans living in poverty, demanding better living standards. Barber is himself following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King who began the first Poor People’s Campaign some fifty years ago.
Jennings said, “Barber is laying down the gauntlet to demand peaceful change away from poverty, inequality, racism and xenophobia. We must take up that challenge not only in the UK and Ireland but across the world because we have a global crisis.”
Adding to the clutch of reports out this week challenging the neo-liberal austerity model, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) also released a report which underlines the necessity of building power of people who are marginalized in society as Martin Luther King demanded half a century ago.
Jennings concluded, “Martin Luther King said we must not give into silence – there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”