Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Labour’s unimpressive ‘zero hours’ announcement

Labour’s announcement on zero hours contracts today as the Shadow Cabinet visits Scotland is supposed to be a demonstration of how much better the UK can be by staying together. Ed Miliband’s reasoning is that a border between Scotland and rUK would mean a ‘race to the bottom’ between the two countries, who would come under pressure from ‘powerful interests’ to ‘worsen wages and conditions for everyone else’.

It’s part of Labour’s ‘positive case’ for the union which the party wants to make today, and the reasoning does, if you’re a Labour type, make sense. The only spanner in the works is the policy that he’s announcing, which will hardly set the soul on fire if you’re a Labour type who has been expounding on the evils of these contracts.

Labour would give legal rights to employees to demand a fixed-hours contract when they have worked for the same employer for over six months (although they will not have a right to get the contract they ask for), automatic fixed-hours contracts for employees who have worked regular hours for over a year (unless they opt out), protection from exclusivity clauses or late-notice cancellation of shifts (employers will be forced to compensate staff for this).

This is as far as Labour feels it can go without damaging the labour market, which has demonstrated in the past years the importance of flexibility in keeping people in work when the economy is weak. But it’s not quite a revolutionary trumpet blast on behalf of those who have made the scary zero hours contracts sound like the worst thing that ever happened to workers.

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