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By Debbie le Quesne

Zero hours: Time for councilors and MPs to come to our aid

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I cannot escape the zero hours debate. Everywhere I turn there seems to be someone with an opinion.

Think tank – I hate that expression – The Work Foundation, based at Lancaster University, is saying the review Business Secretary Vince Cable has called for is “inadequate”.

The criticism was made as it launched a report questioning the “unreliable” official labour market statistics that put the number of workers on zero-hours contracts at just 250,000.

As research was published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which suggested there could be a million people on zero-hours contracts in the UK, Mr Cable announced a review into the use of such arrangements.

Under zero-hours contracts, workers are given no guarantee of hours from one week to the next.

“There are vast numbers of workers who are unaware they are on zero hours contracts,” Work Foundation’s Ian Brinkley, who wrote the report, was quoted as saying in the online, heavyweight International Business Times.

“The investigation announced by Vince Cable is inadequate . . . A fuller investigation would enable accurate analysis and such data would help devise effective policy measures and map out best employer practice to protect workers most vulnerable to potential abuse,” he adds.

Yes, we do need a measured, sensible approach

here have been calls to ban zero-hours, but the Work Foundation says this would be wrong.

Zero-hours arrangements can offer much needed flexibility of employment and a safe ‘get-out-of-jail’ card for employers which are unsure of future work schedules.

But there’s something very wrong here. How, as a society, have we allowed this to develop and where will such working practices lead us? What happened to fairness and rights and is this emerging trend just a sasnitised way of figuratively sending young boys up chimneys?

The Work Foundation report notes that 60 per cent of care workers were on zero-hours contracts in 2011/12 compared with 50 per cent in 2008/09.

I am between a rock and a hard place with this issue.

As an association we need to support those members who are struggling and some my well adopt zero-hours working practices to survive.

My solution involves the perceived worth of care industry employees and providers. We offer training aplenty, advice, support and engage more and more the community in developing and raising the standards of care.

We support education initiatives and care career structures.

But we need more. As we press for our worth to be recognised and for the purse strings of Parliament to be loosened, we need those who represent us – councilors and MPs – to understand the care sector and what invaluable work it does. We need them on-side and they need to be made aware of their social responsibility in this matter as our representatives.

Reality tells me these people haven’t clue what we are going through.

Guess what’s going on the WMCA campaign list. . .

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