Sheila Gilmore: Cost of living crisis must end

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Families in Edinburgh are facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, and this is being compounded by rising insecurity in the workplace.

Recent figures show that the number of people feeling insecure at work has almost doubled from 6.5 million to 12 million since 2010. There are a number of factors at play here.

For a start there has been a rise in the number of employees on zero-hours contracts, with some figures estimating there could be as many as one million people now employed on them. Just last week I met a constituent who was waiting every week for a text message from her employer, a private homecare firm, to tell her what hours, if any, she would be working that week. This caused her budgeting problems from week to week. Luckily her daughter was now a teenager so short notice calls didn’t cause her childcare issues, but for others they do.

In addition, the number of people working part-time but who want to work full-time has risen by more than 350,000 to more than 1.4 million over the same period. And many of these people are paid the minimum wage which has declined in value by almost five per cent over the last four years. Finally, changes to the law have made it easier to fire workers instead of hiring them.

This is a shocking situation. While both employers and employees need flexibility, this shouldn’t mean people in Edinburgh lacking job security and struggling to afford the weekly shop.

That’s why Labour’s plans to deal with this issue are so important. We would ban zero-hours contracts where they exploit people, end the scandal of false self-employment, strengthen the minimum wage, and incentivise employers to pay a Living Wage through “make work pay” contracts.

Insecurity at work is a huge challenge and this will still be the case after the next election in May 2015, whichever party is in power. But only by taking real action will government have any chance of tackling the issue. And only then will people Edinburgh be able to earn their way out of the cost of living crisis.

Sheila Gilmore is the Labour MP for Edinburgh East