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Jul 11th, 2014

Zero Hours: Meeting with Vince Cable

By Amy Lockwood

Yesterday evening, around 75 38 Degrees members gathered in central London to quiz Business Secretary Vince Cable on his plans for tackling abuse of people on zero hours contracts. Almost 2500 people watched the meeting live streamed on the internet. You can find a summary of the evening on the 38 Degrees twitter @38_degrees.

The evening started with a pre-meeting for 38 Degrees members, to chat about the progress of the campaign – which has been running for over a year – and to talk about what sorts of questions we might ask.

At 7pm, Vince Cable arrived and gave a short talk about his thoughts on how the government are taking action on zero hours contracts. He said that banning exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts will make a huge improvement for many people on zero hours contracts. But he also admitted that the government’s estimations of the statistics around people working on zero hours contracts could not be totally accurate.

After his quick talk, 38 Degrees members had the opportunity to question Vince Cable for 45 minutes. There were a huge range of questions. Karen asked Vince Cable a question about his plan to ban exclusivity clauses – how would this be policed in reality? When you’re not guaranteed any hours week-to-week, you are unlikely to feel secure enough to stand up to your employer and demand your rights.

There were also many more general comments from 38 Degrees members about how banning exclusivity clauses isn’t enough, because there are lots more problems, like the lack of sick pay, holiday pay, and ability to plan for the future. When Vince Cable rebutted the scale of the problem by saying that only 3% of the population are estimated to work on zero hours contracts, Richard replied: “it might be only 3% of people on zero hours contracts,but to those people, ability to get mortgage or pay rent is 100% important.”

Vince Cable didn’t give us any promises, but he did say that he wants to continue to listen to 38 Degrees members to shape the future of zero hours contracts. So watch out for more actions!

At the end of the meeting, Vince Cable was presented with a petition calling on him to make wider changes to zero hours contracts. It was signed by over 43,000 38 Degrees members. Overall, there was a strong sense of 38 Degrees members coming together on this issue – 75 members in the room, 2500 watching online and 43,000 of us who signed the petition.

And after the meeting, there was a feeling that we need to decide our next steps together. Many members stayed for a while to brainstorm ideas. There was an agreement that we need to gather more personal stories about being on a zero hours contracts. And also that we need to keep up the pressure to make sure Vince Cable doesn’t think we’re settling for his plans.

Comment below with your suggestions for the next steps we could take together:

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