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Miliband urged to act on zero hours

Labour leader Ed Miliband will be questioned about a looming strike by public sector workers and pressed to tackle abuses of zero hours contracts when he speaks to a union conference today.

Mr Miliband will address the GMB, which has cut funding to Labour by £1 million amid controversy over the party’s reforms to its historic links with unions. GMB general secretary Paul Kenny urged Labour to bring forward policies to help workers, such as giving them improved employment rights, boosting pay and tackling the rising number of zero hours contracts, which don’t guarantee work from one week to the next.

Delegates at the union’s national conference in Nottingham booed shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves earlier this week when she said that some people preferred zero hours contracts. Mr Kenny said Mr Miliband should “kiss the badge”, in a reference to footballers expressing support for their team. “Our members will want to hear positive action to end the scandal of zero hours,” he said.

“We also expect support for the looming strike by public sector workers who have suffered under the coalition.” The union will this week start balloting hundreds of thousands of council workers for strike action in protest at a pay offer worth 1% for most employees.

A yes vote will lead to a strike on July 10, which the GMB predicted could involve up to two million public sector workers involved in separate disputes, mainly over pay and spending cuts. Members of Unite and Unison in local government are also being balloted for strikes, while teachers, civil servants and firefighters are involved in long-running disputes with the coalition.

Firefighters in England and Wales will walk out for 24 hours today, and again on June 22 a dispute over pensions and retirement age.

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