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Zero-hours contracts: worst of employment practice

BECTU is opposed to zero-hours contracts.

5 August 2013

BECTU has welcomed the current debate about employers' use of zero-hours contracts and hopes that evidence of their abuse will lead to tighter regulation, if not an acceptance that they should form no part of the range of employment options open to employers.

From BECTU's point of view use of zero-hours contracts is most apparent amongst employers operating in the entertainment /leisure sectors.


Cineworld uses the contracts for its front of house staff; similarly Gala Bingo also engages staff on this basis. Both are employers with which BECTU has no collective bargaining rights for front of house workers, meaning the union has no scope to interject on their behalf.  However, the union provides substantial individual support to union members working front of house or in customer service roles for these employers. 

For BECTU, the contracts, used in their basic form, represent the worst of hiring practice, tying staff to employers without a guarantee of weekly hours and without rights to accrue holiday or sick pay precisely because there is no commitment on hours. Needless to say, workers who feel they have no option but to accept employment on this basis will have little voice in the workplace.

Commenting on the current debate, assistant general secretary, Luke Crawley said:

"Zero-hours contracts which put staff at the beck and call of the employer without any commitment from management to guarantee a certain number of hours and all-important income, represent the worst of employment practice."

Art house cinema chains, the Curzon Group and Everyman, also make use of zero-hours contracts meaning staff can find that they turn up for work only to be sent home again if management judge they are not needed. BECTU membership is growing amongst staff in both companies and formal recognition bids are being prepared. 

BECTU understands that staff on zero-hours contracts with Cineworld, Showcase Cinemas, the Curzon Group and Everyman do accrue holiday pay.

Better experience in Scotland

Glasgow Life (formerly the Glasgow City Council department responsible for the city's leisure venues) is in the process of transferring staff employed on a casual basis (ie with no contract at all) to zero-hours contracts. However in this example the employer will be making greater commitments to staff.

Negotiations with BECTU mean that staff on zero-hours contracts will benefit from the same rates of pay and other terms and conditions as permanent staff, including the right to accrue paid holiday and sick pay.

Holiday pay for these Glasgow Life employees will be based on average earnings in line with the TMA agreement covering theatres in the nations and regions; these staff will also receive advance notice of their working hours.  

Paul McManus, Scottish officer added:

"We also got Glasgow Life to agree that there needs to be a rolling programme to assess the working patterns of these several hundred workers so that we can move as many as possible from zero hours to a guaranteed hours contract."


The Ambassadors Theatre Group has also shown interest in the use of zero-hours contracts. Should these be introduced BECTU will have the right to negotiate improved terms on a theatre by theatre basis. 

Luke Crawley concluded:

"BECTU is opposed to zero-hours contracts which strip away employment rights. Anyone who says that staff welcome these contracts for their flexibility, is ignoring the mass of working people who want and need certainty in their working arrangements to provide for themselves and their families.

"In their most basic form these contracts work against fairness and decency in the workplace and we hope that their days are numbered."

BECTU is inviting any BECTU member who needs help in interpreting a zero-hours contract to contact us.

Where there is interest in challenging the practice, such as at Curzon and Everyman, we are helping members to organise; BECTU officials are also available to help new groups.  

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