UCU talks zero-hours at Labour summit

The University and College Union is among those invited to a Labour Party summit to discuss the controversial issue of zero-hours contracts.

August 20, 2013

Organised by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, the 20 August event involved employee and employer representatives.

It was aimed at gathering information on the use of zero-hours contracts, which offer workers no guarantee of the hours they will work.

Research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development earlier this month found that the education sector, including higher education, was the second most likely to use the contracts.

In total it suggested that there could be around one million workers in the UK on zero-hours contracts.

The UCU said zero-hours contracts for lecturers in colleges and universities denied staff the financial security or stability to operate on a month-to-month basis and limited students’ continuity with their teachers.

Simon Renton, the UCU president, praised Labour for seeking further information on “the murky world of zero hour contracts”, adding that the union is conducting its own research on how prevalent their use is in colleges and universities.

The flexibility offered by such contracts is “very much a one way street,” he argued. “Without a guaranteed income, workers on zero-hours contracts are unable to make financial or employment plans on a year-to-year, or even month-to-month basis.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is currently conducting a review of zero-hour contracts.

The Labour Party said the summit was designed to discuss growth of zero-hours contracts and what steps can be taken to tackle their abuse and improve practices.

It added that Mr Umunna had written to Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, to raise concerns that official figures do not reflect the true scale of their use.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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