BetterThanZero supports workers to fight bosses who use zero-hour contracts and other precarious working conditions. The campaign started with a focus on the hospitality sector and is now active wherever there is precarious work. As a precarious workers you are at the mercy of your boss until you stand together and take action.

If you are looking for advice on what you’re legally entitled to, like minimum wage or holiday pay or breaks, then take a look at our Resources page. Print these off and hand them out to your colleagues.

If you want some specific advice about your ‘terms and conditions’ i.e. what you have agreed, with your employer, to do for a wage, then get in touch and join a trade union.

What is precarious work?

Precarious work is employment where some of your conditions are insecure, such as your contract, pay, shifts and schedules. You’re often at the mercy of your boss, who can change your conditions at will. Precarious workers lack control over their contracts, time, and income, and find it more difficult to come together to pursue common interests. Zero-hour contracts, which guarantee no hours, are a good example of precarious work. You can read more here.

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What can we do about precarious work?

Precarious workers can come together to advance common interests, such as more pay, secure contracts, stable schedules, and freedom from harassment. Power comes from workers’ collective commitment in a workplace, sector, or industry. If employers will not bargain, unions can take collective action – such as strikes, stunts, or sabotage. Find out how to take action.

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I’m worried I’ll get into trouble trying to get better wages or conditions in my work, what should I do?

Joining your trade union and contacting BetterThanZero is only the first step, but through this you will get support to learn how you and your colleagues can negotiate effectively with your employer.

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How do I know it will help?

Working collectively with the rest of your colleagues is the only way anything will ever change – precarious workers have demonstrated this for many centuries. Read more here about how we practice and learn together.

For more than 100 years workers have organised in unions to win shorter working days, weekends, paid holidays, parental leave, and the minimum wage. Recently, workers across Scotland, through BetterThanZero and their trade unions, won paid transport home when working late, payment of unpaid tips, and an end to unpaid volunteering. Find out about our campaigns

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Will my employer know if I join a union?

You have no duty to tell your employer you are in a union, and you can join a trade union on direct debit so your employer won’t know that you’ve joined … until you and your colleagues start putting your demands to them.

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What is a trade union?

A trade union is an organisation of workers who have come together to achieve common goals, such as better pay, more secure contracts, and good working conditions. The power of a union comes from the collective commitment of its members in a workplace, sector, or industry, who elect representatives to bargain with employers. If employers will not bargain, unions can take collective action.

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Is BetterThanZero a trade union?

No, BetterThanZero is not a trade union. It is a campaign that targets exploitative bosses, supports workers resisting unfair and insecure work, and encourages people in precarious work to join trade unions.

When people contact BetterThanZero with a workplace issue, BetterThanZero puts them in touch with the right union, for example Unite for bar staff, BFAWU for fast food workers, BECTU for television runners, and so on.

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Can I join a trade union?

Everyone, regardless of job, title, age, or status has a fundamental legal right to join a trade union. It is illegal for your employer to forbid you from joining, discourage you from joining, or in any way penalise or treat you less favourably for being a member.

Where you work makes a difference to which trade union you should join.

For example, if you work in a bar then you might want to join Unite the Union’s hospitality branch. However, if you work in fast food, then you might want to join the Baker’s Union.

A list of trade unions can be found here. If you are unsure which union to join, or there is more than one union operating in your sector, please feel free to drop us a message via the contact us page.

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What rights do I have as a union member?

You have a right to access trade union services, legal advice, support and representation are protected by law.

You have a right to be accompanied by your union representative in grievance and disciplinary meetings. You also have a right to request that your employer recognises your union and enters into a collective agreement with you

Most importantly, you also have the right to come together with colleagues, to choose a ‘steward’ or representative, and to bargain with your bosses.

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What is a collective agreement?

A collective agreement is where an employer recognises a trade union as the collective voice of its workers and agrees to follow a set of procedures, including a process for settling pay and other conditions of work.

This process includes the right for workers to elect a trade union representative who will negotiate terms and conditions with the employer, on behalf of all workers, instead of workers simply being told what they’re pay and conditions are.

You can negotiate on anything – from your hourly rate of pay, to time off for education, to what kind of soup is served in the canteen. The world’s your oyster!

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What if my employer won’t recognise a union?

While most large companies have union agreements, some employers will resist this. An employer can be obliged by law to enter into a collective agreement where over 50% of staff join or where a secret ballot of staff is held and the majority vote Yes.

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Are there any good employers?

Any employer can have good and bad qualities.

But without you and your colleagues uniting together on your demands, then there’s no equality of arms and your employer is likely to try and make more money out of keeping you divided. This is true of any employer – they have one overriding interest, often set by law, to make as much money as they can.

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Nothing on our site or provided in any response to an individual enquiry constitutes legal advice or is intended to give rise to a legal relationship between BetterThanZero/STUC and any individual. Specialist legal or other advice should always be sought and taken in relation to your specific circumstances. The contents of our site and any correspondence with individuals are intended for general information purposes only and you should not rely on them as definitive in relation to your situation.