Universities urged to eliminate zero-hours contracts

Pressure is growing for Scottish universities to scrap zero hours contracts completely.

Recent research saw 79 per cent of Scottish university staff were on these contracts, compared with an average of 53 per cent in the UK.

A spokesperson for The University of Edinburgh told The Student that they “stopped using ‘hours to be notified’ contracts at the end of last year”.

Edinburgh’s record in zero hours employed was supported by Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, who told The Herald that although “there has been some progress with Edinburgh University”, the situation overall “continues to be an embarrassment”.

A total of 700,000 people, around two per cent of the British population is said to be on zero hour contracts.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has said that “zero hours contracts cause poverty, stress and family breakdown – they don’t suit the majority of people on them”.

Her comments were made in a pre election debate held and organised by The University of Glasgow.

Sturgeon and the SNP have put a rejection of austerity measures at the heart of their election campaign. Sturgeon said in a speech at her party’s conference that she completely rejected “cuts that tear at the very fabric of our society, penalise the poor, threaten our public services and stifle economic growth.”

Figures gathered show that the number of zero hours contracts overall has increased by 400,000 over the last year.

In the prime ministerial pre-election interviews held last week, Jeremy Paxman highlighted zero hours contracts as a concern for the public. In defence of his government, David Cameron said that “some people like a zero hours contract […] for example students, because they like the flexibility”.

When asked if he could live on a zero hours contracts, Cameron admitted that he couldn’t. He highlighted however that his government had outlawed “exclusive zero hours contracts” which previously only allowed people to take up zero hours contract at a time.

A study into the contracts revealed that over a quarter of all those surveyed were unsatisfied with the contract they were offered.

Managers of the Trussel Trust, a foodbank network with over 400 institutions across the UK, has pinpointed zero hour contracts as the main reason for the rise in poverty.

Speaking to The Daily Record, Ewan Gurr, the Trust’s manager in Scotland said that the “the number one driving factor for people presenting at food banks is low income”.

A recent poll published in The Daily Express suggested that over 80 per cent of citizens want an end to zero hour contracts.

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