Council hits back at hypocrisy claims

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Tate Liverpool Pic © JThomas / Wikimedia Commons

Tate Liverpool. Pic © JThomas / Wikimedia Commons

Liverpool City Council has denied allegations of hypocrisy after condemning the actions of local employers who give workers zero or low-hour contracts.

In an article for The Guardian, the chair for the Employment and Skills Select Committee, councillor Barry Kushner, said the council employs 442 people on ‘standardised, flexible contracts’ and outlined hopes to launch a charter preaching good practice among local employers.

He defended the employment structure of the council along with that of Liverpool’s Tate art gallery which has been exposed as one such company employing staff on zero-hours contracts.

Kushner told JMU Journalism: “I think there are three tests for a zero-hours contract. Employees receive union agreed rates of pay or the same pay as permanent staff, the zero hours contract does not replace permanent staff, and employees can work elsewhere.

“There is nothing in principle wrong with a zero-hours contract. The problem is they are being abused by employers, as a way of reducing their core staff and saving money. The Council is taking a lead on the use of these contracts with the use of standardised worker agreements. They are agreed with the trade unions, and meet the three tests. As such I don’t think there is hypocrisy there.”

In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the Tate Liverpool has admitted to employing 25 people on zero-hour contracts. However instead of criticising the gallery, Kushner likened its attitude to that of the council.

“As the rate of pay seems consistent with the approach of the Council, I suspect it is the same with the Tate,” he said.

“What is worrying is the use of agency staff by the likes of United Biscuits and other large employers that means employees do not enjoy equal pay, are on low wages and do replace permanent staff. This is having a terrible effect on local residents, and is exploitative.

“We need legislation to close the loophole in EU law that allows this, to regulate agency contracts, and to have employment charters to recognise employers that do not treat their staff in this way.”

About Daniel Wright, JMU Journalism