Today, the PCS (with a bit of support from Youth Fight for Jobs and the NSSN) staged a demo outside the Tate Modern as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of staff in the culture sector. Unsurprisingly, museum staff are often young, poorly paid and on zero hour contracts. Though the bosses and the Institute of Chartered Personnel & Development (CIPD) would have you believe that this is what their staff wants, in reality these contracts are inherently tied up with poverty pay, no flexibility and bullying and union busting.
A Unite survey showed that only 16% of those surveyed on zero hours would like to stay on the contracts and is it any wonder? Staff hours can vary from week to week, never knowing what shifts they will get and will have to often work whatever they are given, even at short notice. With the average weekly pay of zero hours contracts roughly less than half the national average and you cannot top up your pay with additional hours in another role, leaving many in the position of struggling to make ends meet. On top of this, cross your manager and face having your hours withdrawn until you are forced to leave the company, creating an atmosphere of fear amongst staff to cross their employers. We also know that these contracts disproportionately affect young people, with over 37% of all zero hour contracts are for 16-24 yr olds and the number of young people on these contracts doubling since 2005, with the actual numbers believed to be much higher.
Zero hour contracts are exploitation full stop and it’s time to put an end to for flexibility for the employer and demand flexibility for the employee. We need to kick these schemes out of our work places and fight for contracts that guarantee a minimum level of hours on a living wage with proper sick and holiday day. The only way we can achieve this is through recruiting young workers into trade unions and organising them on the shop floor, campaigning and taking action where necessary to get the fair deal for staff.
In the culture sector, the PCS Culture Group is organising to do just that across London and the Young Members Network will be looking to support this across the coming months where ever possible. So if you’re a young member in a museum and sick of your working conditions, join us, get involved and help us fight back against exploitation.