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'Sorry we missed you' - a must-see for anyone who doubts the need to ban zero-hours contracts

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This Friday, Ken Loach’s new film ‘Sorry we missed you’ is released in cinemas across the country. 

But unlike a lot of films we see at the cinema, this isn’t fantasy or fiction, it’s real life. It’s an honest and heart-breaking insight into the real experiences of thousands of zero-hours contract workers across the North East.

The film, set in Newcastle, follows the lives of two parents, Ricky and Abby, who both depend on zero-hours contracts to support their family. It highlights the day to day struggles they face and the harsh reality of insecure work: the uncertainty, the lack of control, the low wages and the continuous battle to get by.  

We’ve all heard the argument from the big bosses that zero-hour contracts offer flexibility and choice to the worker, that they put the worker in control and can even offer a positive work life balance. But the experiences we hear from zero-hours workers themselves, and the characters within the film, tell of a very different reality. A reality where workers feel obliged to work whenever they are asked because if they don’t, they could lose out on future work. A reality where the boss has all the power and the worker has none.

Research commissioned by the TUC shows that many workers are not on zero-hours contracts through choice and many would prefer a different type of employment all together. In fact, many zero-hours contract workers are only doing this type of work because it is the only type of work available.

This doesn’t sound like the flexible and desirable utopia the gig economy is often painted out to be.

But it’s not just about flexibility. As depicted in the film, zero-hours contract workers also lose out on the basic workplace rights many employees take for granted.

The previously mentioned TUC research also showed that sixty-three per cent of zero-hours contract workers don’t receive maternity or paternity pay, seven in ten won’t receive redundancy pay if made redundant and just under half said they don’t get holiday pay.

And on top of all of this, workers on zero-hours contracts also lose out on pay, with the average hourly pay rate of £7.70, compared to £11.80 for those on alternative contracts.

It’s hard to imagine how this lack of basic workplace rights can offer anything but insecurity and uncertainty.

Every worker should be able to plan ahead and pay their bills. Every worker should have the right to a contract that guarantees the hours they work and the conditions they need for a decent working life. No working family should have to experience the strain and struggle that Ricky and Abby do.

That’s why the TUC is calling for an outright ban on zero-hours contracts. And if you have any doubt for the necessity of this call, then I urge you to go and see ‘Sorry we missed you’. 

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