A living wage for all

What Philip Milton fails to point out in his defence of zero hours contracts (“Zero understanding”, Opinion, August 28) is that Sports Direct have generously rewarded its permanent staff, who make up only five per cent of its workforce – while the remaining 20,000 part-time staff received precisely nothing.

As retired teachers we may be fortunate to receive adequate pensions – what we want is for the young people that we have had the privilege to teach over the years to be treated in employment as fairly as we have been.

We were demonstrating to highlight the appalling treatment of so many workers, including those at Sports Direct, who are on zero hours contracts.

It is estimated that over one million workers are now on these contracts. The system means that 20,000 Sports Direct shop floor workers are expected to be available whenever called upon, but gives them no rights to sick or holiday pay, no notice as to when their hours will be, no minimum number of hours per week, nor a bonus at the end of the year.

While in theory some may find the flexibility convenient, the vast majority have no alternative but to accept these exploitative contracts which primarily benefit the employer.

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These are not casual or seasonal workers but permanent part-time staff who end up with very little choice about when they work and are at the constant beck and call of their managers.

Most seasonal and casual workers usually have the opportunity to choose the shifts they work – these workers effectively have no flexibility at all.

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Philip Milton argues how ending these contracts would cost jobs – he probably said the same about the introduction of the minimum wage and would probably like to see a return to the days of widespread casual day labour.

In the 21st century we should be able to offer people decent minimum contractual terms.

We need to see an end to these pernicious forms of employment and the introduction of a living wage for all. Workers here in North Devon and across the UK deserve fair treatment and not exploitation.

Mark Cann and Ricky Knight

(via email)

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