USSA abolishes zero hours contracts

By Natalie Barton

The University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA) has made the decision to ban the use of zero hours contracts for its staff beginning immediately.

This will ensure that all staff within the USSA will be guaranteed a minimum number of hours to work as well as paid leave and sick pay.

Zero hours contracts had previously been used for casual and catering members of staff at the Union but the Students’ Association – one of the largest in the country – feels that providing their staff with better working conditions and an improved quality of life should remain a top priority.

USSA President, Gary Paterson, said: “Zero hours contracts are the shame of our society; by stealing the rights and securities of students who often have to take whatever work they can get, whilst giving them only unstable work in return. This exploitation is of no benefit to students, so I am proud to say that USSA will no longer entertain the use of zero hours contracts.

“Many of our casual staff are students who require flexibility and security; we can provide both without the need for zero hours contracts.”

Mary Senior of the University and College Union said that there is no need for these ‘exploitative’ contracts which should have no place in publicly funded institutions.

She said: “Scotland’s excellent academic reputation is unfortunately being built upon the disgraceful exploitation of hundreds of temporary staff, with universities using the fierce competition for permanent jobs to create a no-rights culture for teachers and researchers.”

Zero hours contracts have always been controversial. The contracts mean that employers are able to offer workers no hours one week and too many another but can also prevent employees taking on other work. It is estimated that 1.4 million workers are on zero-hours contracts in the UK.

Earlier this year, Business Secretary Vince Cable called for exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts to be abolished.

Research for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found that the ‘form of employment has been unfairly demonised and over-simplified’.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, said: “Our research shows that the majority of people employed on these contracts are satisfied with their jobs.”

However, Paterson disagrees with this: “We believe that zero-hours contracts should become a thing of the past. If we can do it, so can other businesses and organisations. We challenge the university and other public bodies, as well as our wider society, to follow suit.”

Additionally, the USSA will hire seven students for a living-wage paid internship, focusing on community organising, campaigning on campus, and developing environmentalism within the University.

Paterson continued: “For those who can’t afford to work for free they will never be able to do an internship and build up their opportunities for the future; I don’t think that is right or fair, and we want the university, public sector, and the rest of society to do better.”

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