Saying no to zero hours contracts

A protest in Ashton Lane, Glasgow, by the Better than Zero campaign
A protest in Ashton Lane, Glasgow, by the Better than Zero campaign

Imagine it is you. You’re out having a drink with a few friends when your mobile rings. You cringe. You know what’s coming. You look at the number on the screen. Yep, the boss!

You’d been looking forward to ... and saving up for ... this night out for weeks. Things have been quiet at work, not as many hours as you’d been getting used to, so money’s tight.

Campaign is run by young people for young people

Very tight. But you didn’t want to let your pals down. It’s been ages since you had a good night out together, they kept saying.

You think, if only you’d had time to have a drink you might have been tempted to tell him what he could do with his job. But you swipe your finger across the screen to accept the call.

“I suppose so,” you mumble.

Your friends look at you. “Work”, you say. They nod sympathy.

“If only it was just the money,” you think. It might be worth giving up those few pounds you’ll earn for a chance to catch up. But you know what a ‘No’ might mean ... you’ll go to the bottom of the pile when it comes to doling out hours and that could really hurt.

You’re only 24 so you don’t qualify for Osborne’s National Living Wage – but that didn’t stop your boss cancelling those free lunchtime sandwiches you used to get. He said he couldn’t afford to pay for both! At least he wasn’t standing on his yacht this time when he tried to explain this away on that TV programme!

You gather up your bag and coat.

“Better phone mum.” you think. “Let her know it might be the morning before you’re home, might need to wait for the buses to start up if they end the shift in the early hours.”

That’s the reality of zero hours contracts for far too many people nowadays, young and not so young.

It’s the type of thing that inspired one group of young people to work together in a fight that’s really all about dignity.

The Better than Zero campaigners say “We fight against zero hours, zero rights, zero respect workplaces.

Its mission statement describes the group as trade unionists, precarious workers and creative campaigners.

And it goes on: “We’re fed up of bad bosses who think they’re beyond reproach. We want to fight back against the bullies.”

The campaign has the backing of the Scottish Trades Union Congress but is run by young people for young people. They know they have a tough task ahead of them, but the evidence so far is that that isn’t going to put them off.

They use plenty of humour in their campaign, but they know this is no joke while unscrupulous bosses laugh all the way to the bank.

Members of the Better than Zero campaign will be talking about their efforts at a public meeting in Falkirk Trinity Church tonight at 7.30pm. For information contact Falkirk Trades Union Council at falkirktuc@blueyonder.co.uk.