Firms receiving public money should not be allowed to hire staff on zero-hours contracts, according to seven in 10 people in Wales.

Trade union Unison, which commissioned the survey behind those findings, said public opinion in Wales was strongly in favour of improving salaries and working conditions.

Zero-hours contracts mean an employer does not have to give workers a minimum number of working hours. Likewise, employees do not have to accept any hours offered by their company.

The latest estimated figures from the Office for National Statistics puts the number of UK adult workers on zero-hours contracts at roughly 978,000 - equivalent to three per cent of the British workforce.

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In Wales, Unison is now calling on the next government to end zero-hours contracts and strengthen working conditions across the nation.

Karen Loughlin, the union's regional secretary for Wales, said the pandemic had "allowed people to see the inequality in this country".

She added: "There’s a real hunger for change to make sure working people are treated more fairly."

The National Wales: People on zero-hours contracts in the UK to August 2020. Infographic by PA Graphics.People on zero-hours contracts in the UK to August 2020. Infographic by PA Graphics.

The Unison survey, conducted by researchers Savanta ComRes, also found:

• 90 per cent of respondents believed public-service workers should be paid a living wage of at least £9.50.

• 76 per cent of people agreed companies receiving public contracts must provide their workers with a company sick pay scheme.

• 72 per cent of respondents said firms on public contracts must give their workers a company annual leave scheme.

Ms Loughlin said the opinion poll "shows an overwhelming majority of Welsh people want action on abusive zero hours contracts" and workers being paid wages so low they are being "pushed into poverty" without basic securities like a sick pay scheme.

“The next Welsh government must match these ambitions," she said, adding that Unison was now calling on the parties standing in May's election to commit to a "social partnership act which brings employers, unions and government together to determine workplace policies".

The union said such an act would "place a duty on all public bodies to promote fair work including when they tender contracts".

Unison added: "This means everyone in the supply chain – including private contractors, earning the real living wage; an end to the abuse of zero-hour contracts and protection for workers’ rights."

Care worker Sian Stockham said the next Welsh government could "transform the lives of thousands of care workers in Wales and their families" if it took on the union's proposals.

"No-one can do the family budget on a zero-hours contract, and minimum wage pay means I must work two jobs to get by," said Ms Stockham. “Social partnership would help give care workers the status and career we deserve, and a pay rise to £9.50 an hour would give me a better work-life balance.

"I could spend more time with my grandson and occasionally treat myself to something special.”