Zero hours contracts – bad for workers, services and the economy

Bernadette Lafferty
Bernadette Lafferty

#STUC16 The STUC will press the Scottish Government to work with trade unions to tackle the rise in zero hours contracts and casualised labour which undermine workers’ rights and their ability to organise.

UNISON young member, Bernadette Lafferty brought a young workers’ perspective to the debate, telling delegates that she herself had personal experience of working a job that had no defined hours and was paid the minimum wage.

“It meant that I was unable to live independently and struggled to afford basic necessities whenever I failed to get a decent amount of hours.

“This was made worse by the fact that there was no regular rota – so I could be working 40 hours one week, and 14 the next.

“I felt that I wasn’t living a fulfilled life, I was missing out on the experiences of being young due to the lack of financial security. This impacted in a really big way on my life because it meant I had no opportunity to go to college and develop a career or even just a more stable working life.”

Bernadette told delegates that there are many more young people out there who have been denied the same opportunities.

“It’s up to us in the trade union movement to support them as my union have supported me,” she urged.

“I can remember moving from a low wage precarious job in hospitality to a low wage precarious job in care and it was only when I joined the trade union that I developed the confidence to challenge bad employment practices rather than feeling that there was nothing I could do,” said Bernadette, adding that with much stronger union representation, she now has guaranteed contract hours and pay above the living wage.

She spoke about UNISON’s “great work” with the Ethical Care Charter which asks councils and other employers to sign up to the living wage and to end zero hours contracts.

“This is something that UNISON wishes to see across the board,” said Bernadette.

“As the motion says, we must disseminate examples of good practice in organising – such as the Better than Zero campaign – alongside continued pressure at Scottish government level to oppose the use of zero hour contracts and casualisation.

“Precarious work, zero hours contracts – these are not just bad for us, the workers, but for the quality of services – something that is heartbreaking in social care if the bad conditions mean a high turnover of staff looking after vulnerable people.

“Colleagues, these contracts are bad for workers, bad for services and bad for the economy.”

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