LAST week, in a Welsh debate in Parliament, I had the chance to talk about what life is like for constituents on zero hours contracts.
Unison’s definition of zero hours contracts is “where a person typically undertakes to be available for work but the employer does not undertake to provide any work and only pays for the hours worked”. It is estimated around 75,000 workers in Wales are being employed in this way.
While for some people this kind of work arrangement is convenient as they want to work flexibly, others find themselves trapped.
For example, the constituents who talked to me about how difficult it is to provide for their families when some weeks they may be offered 18 hours work yet other weeks get nothing. Especially when they have the struggle of trying to find childcare when work is offered at very short notice, and being afraid of having to turn the shift down and not being offered future shifts. Yet they have to be available exclusively to that employer with no other options.
We all welcome the news that unemployment is falling in Wales and it goes without saying that we all want growth in the economy and more people to get into good employment. Good being the operative word.
The Coalition claim that more people are in work masks the reality of the job market for many I speak to.
There’s been a rise in people working part-time because they can’t find full time work and a higher proportion of minimum wage jobs in Wales. Last week we heard that there is a rise in workers turning to self-employment out of desperation not choice, and finding themselves earning on average 40% less than a typical employee.
The Labour Party has made it clear that if we get into government we will ban exploitative zero hours contracts, and stop employers using these contracts for jobs with regular hours. We would also stop employers requiring zero hours workers to be available on the off chance they might be needed, or to work exclusively for them.
Thank you to all of you who have responded to my request for information about how the Stagecoach bus route cuts will affect you. John Griffiths AM and I are continuing to press these issues and have a meeting with Stagecoach next week. Your views are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org