London Assembly Member for City and East London John Biggs highlights his concerns about zero hours contracts

John Biggs, who has pledged to get rid of Mayoral advisors

John Biggs, who has pledged to get rid of Mayoral advisors - Credit: John Biggs

In the comment section (Docklands & East London Advertiser, August 14) Archant London editor-in-chief Malcolm Starbrook argued that zero hours contracts might be a good thing. I agree that for some they might. But for many they are not.

Zero hours contracts – with no guarantee of work – condemn many to a life of uncertainty: Will I get paid this week? For how many hours? What about next week? The week after?

Such employees have very little power over their lives.

For some – like care workers – pay often doesn’t include travel time. So they aren’t paid as they travel from client to client. This means such employees often effectively earn less than the minimum wage. For many workers on zero hours contracts we, as taxpayers, pick up the cost of employers ‘savings’ in the benefit payments for which low-paid workers have to apply. Not such a good thing from several directions!

In our city there are many well-paid jobs but many insecure and low-paid ones too.

These jobs may be fine as a stepping stone for young people, or second earners with no need for steady work, but they are no foundation for supporting a family or even paying a London rent.

I know we live in an age of cuts and austerity, where there are tough choices to be made, but when we make savings by cutting the security of the low-paid, those are in my view the wrong choices. And if, for example, it’s your parents who need care, they should get it from people with dedication.

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One of the great things about our carers is that, in spite of the low wages and insecurity, most are dedicated and caring people. But we should not live off their goodwill.

I just don’t think that’s civilised.

And so, if I become Mayor, we will review and phase out zero hours contracts.

We owe it to ourselves, as a decent community, that everyone doing valuable work is properly valued.