Families in Denton and Reddish are facing the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation. Prices are increasing, wages are falling and many hard-working people are seeing rising insecurity at work.
One of the worst examples is the exploitive use of zero-hours contracts. I’ve spoken to many people here who are employed on these contracts and they’ve told me of the struggle they and their families face on a daily basis.
Zero-hours contracts have gone from being a marginal, niche concept to becoming the norm in some areas and sectors under the Tory-led government. This week it emerged that the number of people employed on zero-hours contracts has trebled to 583,000 since David Cameron became Prime Minister. That is a shocking legacy of his time in office.
The government has overseen a rising tide of insecurity at work and ministers have been using inaccurate figures which hugely underestimate how widespread they have become.
In August Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna wrote to the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Chair to highlight concerns on zero-hours contracts. In response he admitted that the estimate of 250,000 employees on zero-hours contracts was “subject to the risk of an undercount” and asked the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to produce a new estimate, yet in October BIS Minister Jo Swinson cited the discredited 250,000 figure as the government’s estimate – less than half the ONS’ official new figure.
How can the government deal with the problem of zero-hours contracts when ministers can’t even grasp its scale? This is an appalling record from an out-of-touch and failing government.
Something has to be done to reduce the insecurity and stress caused by zero-hours contracts. That’s why Labour has announced plans to ban these contracts where they exploit people. Where the government has turned a blind eye, we will act.
The next Labour government will ban employers from insisting zero-hours workers be available even when there is no guarantee of any work, stop zero-hours contracts that require workers to work exclusively for one business and end the misuse of these contracts where employees are in practice working regular hours.
Both employers and employees need flexibility but this shouldn’t mean people in Tameside and Stockport lacking job security and having to be flexible about being able to afford the weekly shop.
Labour will always stand up for hard-working people. The next Labour government will tackle rising insecurity at work by ensuring that our community is properly equipped to earn its way out of the cost-of-living crisis.