Skip to main content

Zero-hours contracts: Unions demand total ban as Vince Cable announces clampdown on exclusivity clauses

Tinkering Lib Dem Business Secretary claims change will 'ensure people get a fair deal'

Unions urged an all out ban on zero-hours contracts yesterday as Con-Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable tinkered around the edges of the exploitative practice. 

Mr Cable has announced a “clampdown” on exclusivity clauses imposed by bosses which bar staff from working elsewhere — even if they aren’t getting enough hours to earn a decent wage. The contracts have been forced onto an estimated 125,000 workers by “unscrupulous” employers.

The Lib Dem minister claimed his initiative would “ensure people get a fair deal” while allowing students and older people to benefit from “flexibility” offered by the contracts. 

He added: “We will also work with unions and business to develop a best practice code of conduct aimed at employers who wish to use zero-hours contracts as part of their workforce.”

But trade unions representing some of the 1.4 million workers subjected to zero-hours contracts said Mr Cable was ignoring the core problems of zero-hours working. 

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Far too many employees have no idea from one week to the next just how many hours they’ll be working or more importantly how much money they’ll earn. 

“This makes managing households budgets stressful and organising childcare very difficult indeed.”

The contract’s far-reaching consequences also leave workers “unable to get credit, loans, mortgages or rental agreements,” explained Unison leader Dave Prentis. 

Mr Cable won cheers from bosses for watering down the conclusions of his six-month consultation over the controversial contracts. 

The British Chambers of Commerce, which stopped the living wage commission from calling for a legal ban on poverty pay earlier this week, led applause for the Lib Dem. 

“Maintaining the UK’s flexible labour market is crucial to keeping unemployment down,” crowed director John Longworth.

“Zero-hours contracts are vital for a successful jobs market, but they must be fair and work for all parties.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner spelled out the “zero sum” reality for workers struggling to get by.

He said: “The only winner is the employer and these measures do nothing to tackle the insecurity or uncertainty of zero hours contracts.”


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 8,332
We need:£ 9,668
12 Days remaining
Donate today