GUEST COLUMN: Zero hours contracts can’t work, by Coun Sonya Ward, leader of Mansfield Labour Group

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In the last few weeks employment conditions have been in the news again.

The billionaire Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has refused to attend Parliament to discuss the working conditions of his staff, and has now been issued with a formal summons to attend Westminster on Tuesday June 7 to answer MPs’ questions.

In areas like Mansfield, we need more employment opportunities, but to thrive most people need more than zero hours contracts, they need decent, fairly paid, reliable employment.

We hear a lot from big business about how zero hours contracts suit workers.

In some cases they may do, but for many people they are too unpredictable. It’s not a way of working that suits most people who want to rent or get a mortgage, or who want to bring up a family.

Most people need to know how much money they will earn each week, in order to be able to plan and budget.

Zero hours contracts are a way of working that suits the interests of big businesses, not workers.

While I welcomed the Tories’ decision to increase the minimum wage—which they are now calling the ‘living wage’, although it does not reach the level recommended by the Living Wage Foundation—the Government must ensure that this increase actually benefits workers.

There are claims that the DIY giant, B&Q is proposing to stop paying time-and-a-half for Sunday working, to reduce the rate of pay for Bank Holiday working, and to remove staff bonuses, meaning many staff may well be worse off after the changes, not better off.

Working people living in poverty is a scandal, and it 
is one that must be addressed.

Last year, the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed that two thirds of children living below the poverty line were from working rather than unemployed families.

We know that child poverty can have long lasting effects on children’s wellbeing.

It impacts on how well children tend to do at school and in later life, on their health and their achievements.

In Mansfield, around one in four children live in poverty, and this is a statistic that must be changed for Mansfield and district and its people to flourish.

We cannot accept businessmen dismissing requests from Parliament when they are asked to attend to discuss their employment practices, and we must continue to challenge them to treat their workers with respect and fairness.