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Zero-hours Contracts

Volume 586: debated on Wednesday 22 October 2014

Zero-hours contracts benefit many employers and employees in Wales, but we are committed to taking strong action against abuse by banning the use of exclusivity clauses.

I thank the Minister for that response, but does he not recognise the negative impact that zero-hours contracts have on family life, the well-being and mental and physical health of individual workers, and morale at work? Under this Government the number of zero-hours contracts has shot through the roof; what can the Minister do to reduce it?

Again, I am surprised by the tactic used by the hon. Gentleman. If zero-hours contracts are so wrong, why do Labour-run local authorities make active use of them? Furthermore, why do more than 60 MPs make active use of zero-hours contracts?

In welcoming the new Minister to his post, may I suggest that, instead of trying to do an impression of a jumped-up rottweiler, he should try to understand and recognise the reality of the miserable state of employment for far too many workers in Wales, whether they are on zero-hours contracts, are among the 150,000 who are underemployed and want to work more hours but cannot, or are among the 50,000 people who are being shoved off disability benefits and into a world of work that is mean, difficult and hard?

The abuse of zero-hours contracts is an important issue and that is why this Government are taking action to ban them. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned people in part-time employment. Only 19% of part-time employees are looking for full-time work. We will take strong action against those employers that are abusing zero-hours contracts, but zero-hours contracts are important to many people, such as carers, to encourage and facilitate their path back to the workplace.

Over 50,000 workers in Wales are on zero-hours contracts, with all the stress, insecurity and exploitation that that entails. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the trade union USDAW—the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—on negotiating annualised contracts for workers with some big retail firms in Wales, giving both sides flexibility but also guaranteed income levels for workers? Will he support Labour’s calls for employees who in reality work regularly to have an automatic right to fixed-hour contracts and the security that such contracts bring?

I do support the action taken by the union. After all, the last thing we want is the abuse of employees on zero-hours contracts. However, such contracts offer some people flexibility in the workplace. They offer a great opportunity to encourage more people back into work who would not otherwise be able to work.