Friday, 20 September 2013

Opposition to zero-hour contracts

Two Labour councillors will this seek support for a campaign to end zero-hours contracts, which see people ‘employed’ but with no guarantee of work or pay.

Joe Cullinane (Kilwinning) and Jim Montgomerie (Saltcoats & Stevenston) will present a motion to North Ayrshire Council expressing concern over the increased use of zero-hour contracts, after the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development recently produced a report that revealed more than one-million people are now working under contracts that fail to provide even basic employment rights.

The Labour councillors’ motion refers to zero-hour contracts being used in the public sector, particularly through the tendering of social care contracts, and points-out North Ayrshire Council employs 900 casual workers with no guaranteed hours, and has commissioned care services from over 50 providers which do not guarantee hours for staff.

Councillors will be asked to support an investigation into the use of casual contracts by the Council, and to “explore ways in which the Council can use procurement to ensure social care employees in North Ayrshire are guaranteed working hours”.  The motion from Cllr Cullinane and Cllr Montgomerie asks that a report on the issue of zero-hours contracts is submitted to a future meeting of the Council’s Scrutiny & Petitions Committee.

Last week, during questions in the Scottish Parliament, John Swinney MSP, the SNP Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, responded to concerns over zero-hour contracts, saying, “Employment policy is currently reserved to Westminster. However, the Scottish Government is actively considering whether issues around the use of zero-hours contracts can form a legitimate consideration for a public body as part of the public procurement process. The Scottish Government and its agencies do not directly employ people on zero-hours contracts.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party in England has been accused of hypocrisy in relation to its opposition to zero-hours contracts, after it was revealed the local authority employing most staff under the controversial terms was Labour-controlled Doncaster Council (2,759 workers).  Doncaster is located within the parliamentary constituency of Labour Leader Ed Miliband MP.

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