GMB commented on the latest ONS figures on contracts with no guaranteed hours - zero hour contracts, 2014.
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, said “There are nearly 700,000 workers each week that have no guaranteed hours of work while working on average 25 hours per week. What employers are offering workers has seriously decreased while workers often have little alternative but to accept what is on offer. Even skilled workers in the UK face being undercut while wages are stagnant or falling in real terms.
There are fundamental problems about Europe that we have to face up to. Whatever the European vision was on integration, harmony, economic advancement and political stability, what we currently have isn’t it.
The free movement of labour and the single market were to be balanced by the social charter where all the people of Europe would live in freedom and with those in the poorer economies, benefitting from the harmonisation of standards across all member states. There were to be standards on workers protection, TUPE, excessive hours, health & safety, information and consultation and so many others were meant to keep labour exploitation in check. That dream has been chipped away at for years. Right wing governments and employers have engineered massive change in the direction of the EU vision. Judgements in the European Courts like Viking and Laval were the green light to massive assaults on organised labour across Europe, but especially in the UK.
From Lindsey Oil refinery to food production we have seen workers recruited in certain member states by agencies and exploited. They were shipped in “literally” in order to undermine the terms and conditions of existing workers on those contracts. Both sets of workers have been let down by UK Government, the EU Commission and the European Court. On exploitation – don’t blame the exploited; damn those who exploit. This has been repeated up and down the country over recent years. And that is part of the discontent that UKIP turn into xenophobic rhetoric to win votes.
Look past the simplistic tag and face the challenge of exploitation. Let’s reach out to those migrant workers not attack them, but organise and protect them. Too many workers go to work fearful about exercising their basic rights. A new Labour Government working with the EU has to create a workplace without fear and equip the trade unions to enforce it. The challenge for Labour in government is to deal with exploitation and harassment of workers which it has ignored for too long. Collective rights are the key to unlock that challenge. Take away the shackles that enable trade union organisation and we will show what enforcement is all about.”