Council’s plan for zero hour contracts

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Town Hall in Liverpool. Photo: Ida Husøy

Town Hall in Liverpool. Photo: Ida Husøy

Liverpool City Council plans to set a charter on the number of zero hour contracts in the city.

The proposal has been made after a report published by the council’s Employment and Skills Select Committee examined national concerns over zero hour contracts.

The report states that concerns have been raised by the national media, trade unions, government ministers and opposition politicians about the increase in the use of zero hours contracts and similar low hour contracts, as a way of keeping pay low, and creating poor terms and conditions.

Councilor Barry Kushner, the chair of the Employment, Enterprise and Skills Select Committee said: “I think the charter will raise the issues of zero hour contracts, but changes need to be made in European law, and government regulation of the contracts need to be in place to make an impact.”

“There is a loophole in the law called the Swedish Derogation that allows employers to pay agency staff less than permanent staff, this needs to be closed. Agency employees wave their right to equal pay, but this is a time where they are most vulnerable, as they are in need of a job. There needs to be better representation of the employees, this needs to done through a trade union.”

“Agency workers should enjoy the same rights as other workers, such as equal pay and sick pay.”

The report states Action 4 Employment (A4E) informed the committee that there are currently 6,553 vacancies in Liverpool, 52%, or approximately 3,400, of which are agency jobs.

It also found that the majority of agency workers are not part of a trade union, with overall union membership declining in the past 20 years to 14% of the workforce. This leaves workers with no way of collectively negotiating pay increases and better terms and conditions.

Labour councillor Nick Small recently took to the party’s website to defend the council’s use of zero hour contracts.

He said: “It’s right that Labour councils should lead the way on this and set a good example to other employers.  In Liverpool City Council we’ve got a small number of directly employed staff on zero hours contracts.  These are specific jobs like sports coaches, sessional tutors and events staff.”

“Other councils don’t employ these staff directly; they use agencies.  Instead we choose to employ these directly with the City Council to give these workers the same strong rights as every other council worker.”

About Josie Timms, JMU Journalism