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Steve Turner is the Assistant General Secretary of trade union Unite(Reuters)

The government's refusal to address the growing scandal of zero-hours contracts is creating a climate of fear, intimidation and insecurity among a growing sub-class within our society.

Struggling with rising bills and with little hope of better things to come, theirs is a future far removed from the 'cosy suburbia' of 'City gents' and government ministers.

This week's interim report by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs select committee adds yet more weight to the growing evidence that zero-hours contracts are taking our workplaces back to the Victorian era and spreading like virus.

Recent research by the social survey company Mass1, involving 5,000 families, underlines how employers are exploiting zero-hours contracts to avoid paying even basics like holiday and sick pay.

Just over a third said they didn't get holiday pay and shockingly, 77% said they didn't receive any sick pay.

The idea put forward by some employers and politicians that the majority of workers like zero-hours contracts is a lie. The same research found that just 13% of people would stay on a zero-hours contract if they were given the choice.

For the vast majority, these contacts mean horrendous insecurity. People cannot raise a family or get on in life when they never know from one day to another if they will earn a wage.

It is a scandal of our times, denying workers access to simple things like mortgages, renting a home and even getting a mobile phone. Things that are often taken for granted.

Like a throwback to a darker age, these contracts are the modern day equivalent of when bosses on the docks would tap men on the shoulder and hand them a brass tally.

The brass tally would mean a day's work and food on the table, but today instead of brass tallies people are waiting by their mobile phones. If the text doesn't come through, or if they don't text back quick enough, they too lose out on a day's work.

In this day and age it is obscene that decent people, struggling to make ends meet are staring into a future little better than their forefathers.

Britain is the seventh richest nation on the planet and we have to ask ourselves is it right that companies who can well afford to pay a decent wage and provide secure work refuse to do so? And instead, profit from the uncertainty and misery of zero-hours, low paid labour?

An economy built on the back of insecure work and exploitation will not deliver a sustainable recovery. The government's failure to reign in this pernicious form of employment is allowing the scourge of zero-hours to flourish and it is the wallets of the wealthy that are bulging from this inaction.

As the evidence mounts we need action against the misery of zero contract hours. We need to restore workers' rights to end the exploitation by rogue employers and return to collective bargaining to stop bosses using zero-hours contracts to drive down wages.

If we don't we will be allowing the clock to be turned back and the dark world of insecure low paid work will become a permanent fixture for more and more people struggling to make ends meet.

Steve Turner is the Assistant General Secretary of trade union Unite