Labour party debate on zero hour contracts

20 August 2013 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU is taking part in a debate on zero hour contracts with shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna today. The union said it was pleased the Labour party is looking to gather information on the controversial contracts.

Research released earlier this month suggested that there could be around one million workers in the UK on zero-hours contracts - a marked increase on recently revised estimations from the Office of National Statistics of just 250,000*.

While many of the recent headlines around zero hour contracts have focused on the low paid service sector, education is the sector second most likely to employ workers on zero-hours contracts.

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.

The department for business, innovation and skills (BIS) is currently conducting a review of zero hour contracts, which UCU will be contributing to.

UCU president, Simon Renton, said: 'The Labour party should be applauded for seeking further information on the murky world of zero hour contracts. UCU is currently conducting its own research to get a better grasp on just how prevalent they are in our colleges and universities, which we will share with Labour and the government.

'Employers cannot hide behind flexibility as a defence for their continued use. The flexibility is very much a one way street. 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.

'Zero-hours contracts are the unacceptable underbelly of further and higher education as staff are denied full employee status and key employment rights. Students miss out on a lack of continuity and often receive reduced access to staff employed on minimal hours.'