8 Aug 2013

Labour councils use staff with zero hours contracts

Labour has come under fire after it was revealed that thousands of Londoners are working zero hours contracts for councils controlled by the party.

Six Labour-run councils in the capital are using workers with no guaranteed hours: Tower Hamlets, Brent, Ealing, Merton, Newham and Hounslow.

There are 546 people on zero hours contracts at Newham council, the borough where Ed Miliband spoke out against exploitation of vulnerable workers.

The revelation follows a legal challenge being brought against retail giant Sports Direct where all part-time staff are on zero hours contracts.

Labour claimed yesterday that more than one in 10 workers want to do more hours but are caught in an “underemployment crisis”.

Research commissioned by the party showed that 330,000 more people are underemployed in the UK than in 2010, including 200,000 with children.

The party placed the blame on David Cameron, with Shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms claiming: “David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis is being made worse by a surge in underemployment under his failed Government.”

Estimates have put the number of public sector staff on zero hours contracts at over 200,000, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

According to a CIPD survey the number of people on zero hours contracts could be as many as one million across the UK.

A Labour statement today conceded that “flexibility can be important for some employees” but added the party would hold a summit this month with people on those contracts and employers that use them.

“When the House of Commons returns, Labour will take the first opportunity to call a debate and vote on the action that needs to be taken,” the statement read.

“We have recognised that in too many sectors and companies, including in the public and voluntary sectors, this way of working is becoming the norm.”

A freedom of information request by trade union Unison found that 97 per cent of use homecare contracts that don’t guarantee care providers work from one week to the next.

General secretary Dave Prentis, warned the growing number of zero hours contracts calls into question Government unemployment figures.

“It is clear that many people working on these contracts are not included as unemployed even if they have no work at all – at the very least we have hundreds of thousands who are under-employed.”

He added: “This plays havoc with the benefit and tax credit system”.