SNP's use of zero-hours contracts speaks volumes about their values – Jackie Baillie
The pavements have been pounded, the leaflets letterboxed, the posters posted, the longest by-election campaign in living memory is coming to a conclusion. Yesterday, as these words were being written, democracy was at work in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.
After all the speeches, interviews, greetings and handshakes, it was over to the voters to set the course of politics in their own constituency and across Scotland for perhaps years to come. While the result was not due until the early hours of this morning, Labour candidate Michael Shanks has shown our party’s values in action: decency, intergrity and a promise to deliver for the constituency which I know he will keep if elected.
The contrast between Labour’s hunger to serve and the SNP’s broken, haphazard, incompetence in government has been on show throughout the campaign. As with most big projects, it's the details which tell the story. Labour’s volunteer army answered the call to campaign in their droves while the SNP shamefully relied on zero-hour workers to hand out leaflets.
Leafleting doors is not the most glamorous aspect of political campaigns but it helps if you are committed to the cause or if not, at least paid a fair rate for your efforts. One of those hired for the SNP campaign allegedly told a local resident: “I don’t support the SNP, I’m just getting paid to hand this s***e out. It’s a zero-hours contract as well.”
The practice is not illegal but it sure is insulting to voters and workers. It runs totally counter to what people across Rutherglen and Hamilton West have been asking for: security in work, secure family finances, and fairness in exchange for hard work. The SNP has blasted zero-hour contracts as "exploitative" but when confronted with the evidence on the ground all that rhetoric was exposed as baloney. Voters know the difference between cheap talk and principles.
Labour will make work pay. We will ban zero-hours contracts, the bogus laws on self-employment, and the sharp practice of fire and rehire. That’s what the doorknocking and campaigning are all about. Labour in power will tackle low pay with a minimum wage linked to the cost of living.
We will end the qualifying period for basic rights like parental leave and sick leave entitlement. People will qualify for these rights and protections against unfair dismissal from day one. Why does this matter? A higher percentage of workers in Scotland now rely on zero-hours contracts than in any other part of the UK.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that, from October last year to March this year, the number of Scots on zero hours rose from 94,000 to 105,000. That means 3.9 per cent of the Scottish workforce do not know from one week to the next, from one day to the next, what hours they will work or whether they will have work.
We can’t afford the insecurity that brings to people’s lives. People need dignity in work, not the exploitation of zero-hours contracts used by the SNP for their own by-election campaign. For far too long people have been let down by two incompetent governments that don’t speak for them. Now is the time for judgment.
Jackie Baillie is MSP for Dumbarton, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and her party’s spokesperson for health
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