1) 1.4 million Britons now on zero hour contracts
Official statistics released on Wednesday revealed there are now 1.4 million people on zero hour contracts in the UK. More than one in ten employers use these casual employment contracts, and they are mostly found in the retail, care and service sectors.The figure has increased rapidly since 2010 and has more than doubled in the last year.
Zero hour contracts do not provide a minimum number of hours, and no holiday or sick pay which is leaving an ever growing number of people without job and financial security week to week. Defenders of the contracts say that they can be used well and work for certain jobs, however, the increase in their use is normalising these contracts in further sectors and can be used as a way of disempowering the employee and keeping wages low. We spoke to Giselle Cory from the Resolution Foundation a little while back about the issues surrounding increased use of zero hour contracts:
“Labour market flexibility is on the one hand a very good thing, and for some people zero hour contracts will be perfect, but for a lot of people we know they’re not. So for people who perhaps have responsibilities at home, young children for example, and are on zero hour contracts where they need to be available for work all the time, but don’t know what hours they’re going to get that week, it’s very difficult to manage their lives – both manage their budget but also manage their childcare and make sure they can get to work if they’re needed. For those families, when they have no option but to take these zero hour contracts, they’re left in a quite miserable and precarious position because they have no security day-to-day or week-to-week.
“[Some employers are] in effect, using these contracts as a management tool, when that’s not what they’re intended for and that’s a great imbalance of power between the employer and the employee.”
Pressure now mounts on Vince Cable to act on providing better job security during the ‘recovery.’ Cable has also commissioned his own study into the contracts, the findings of which will be published shortly.
2) Sanctions are ‘damaging’ and have ‘no positive impact’ say Jobcentre advisers
The coalition government introduced a new benefit sanctions regime in 2012 as they believed the old system was too soft. However, 70% of Jobcentre staff that responded to a PCS survey said that sanctions “had ‘no positive impact’ in influencing jobseeker behaviour” and “three quarters had noticed an increase in the number of claimants being referred to food banks as a result of their benefits being cut.”
Sanctions have increased dramatically in the last two years. In statistics released a couple of weeks ago, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found jobs, raising questions on the legitimacy of the sanctions where there are no opportunities or jobs for people.
The news also supports what was said by the 2 Jobcentre advisers we interviewed last week. You can read their accounts here.
3) Green Party push Lib Dems into 5th place in Euro election polls
“Green Party of England and Wales ahead of the Lib Dems in the Euro election polls, and David Cameron has confirmed he will have a live TV debate with Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett – Green Party Leader. That’ll be the first time a woman has appeared in these election debates.”
4) UKIP have to cancel freepost address after receiving bricks and faeces
UKIP have had to cancel their freepost address after they were sent unwanted and unpleasant packages at their own expense.
After the freepost address was circled online, many took to sending bricks to the political party in order to charge them with hefty postage fees. Others sent leaflets and phone books, but after receiving blood and faeces the party decided to cancel the address.
— UKIP Bexley (@UKIPBexley) May 3, 2014
Polls suggest that UKIP may do well in the European elections on 22nd May. To find out all you need to know about the party – check our lowdown.
In other UKIP news, Farage will once again appear on Question Time this week, prompting a petition calling on the BBC to stop giving the leader of the UKIP party disproportionate airtime. The petition says:
“Despite leading a party with no elected Members of Parliament, Nigel Farage has appeared on the BBC’s foremost political discussion programme more often than any other British politician: 14 times since 2009. This utterly disproportionate airtime runs contrary to the BBC’s duty as a public service broadcaster to provide balanced coverage.”
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass