THERE are some 19,200 people in Bournemouth and Poole whose main job is on a zero-hours contract, research suggests.

The South West Trades Union Congress (TUC) says 7,440 of those workers face lower pay and higher health risks from being on the controversial contracts.

A poll for the TUC found two-thirds of those on zero hours contracts wanted an arrangement that guaranteed their hours.

Regional secretary Nigel Costley said: “Too many Bournemouth and Poole workers have to rely on insecure employment and the worst are zero-hours contracts. The vast majority of people on zero-hours contracts want out.

“The only flexibility offered is flexibility that works for employers.”

The polling found 23 per cent of zero hours contract workers regularly do night shifts, compared with one in 10 of the rest of the workforce. Night working has been linked to heart disease, shortened life expectancy and higher risk of cancer.

Zero hours contract workers were on average paid around £4.10 less per hour than other workers, despite 12 per cent of zero hours workers being supervisors and managers, the research suggested.

Sixteen per cent of zero hours workers did not have work every week. They worked on average 25 hours a week, compared with 36 hours for the average workers.

Low wages and the uncertainty about whether they would work next week has a significant impact on mental health, the TUC said.

Mr Costley added: “Zero-hours workers regularly work for low pay, including through the night, which puts their health at risk.

“Many also face the constant uncertainty of not knowing when their next shift will come – adding to their financial struggles.

“We need the government to stamp out these unfair contracts. Working people need solid jobs, with guaranteed hours so they can provide for a decent family life.”

Heart Unions Week, when trade union activists showcase what they do, is this year ramping up a campaign for a ban on zero hours contracts.

Union leaders are seeking to negotiate an end to zero hours contracts in workplaces where they have recognition.

The government is against banning zero hour contracts, arguing that workers such as students, carers and the retired benefit from the flexibility.

But business secretary Greg Clark unveiled a Good Work Plan last December that would lead to legislation allowing workers the right to request a more stable contract.