THE Labour council where Ed Miliband announced his pledge to crack down on zero hours contracts has almost 800 workers employed using the controversial arrangement. Scotland on Sunday has learned that North Lanarkshire Council has 542 staff on zero hours contracts and another 253 who are employed by council-funded bodies.
The Labour leader said banning the “worst abuses of the system” would be one of his party’s priorities at a recent campaign event in Motherwell.
Miliband said zero hour contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantees of work, “have spread like an epidemic across our economy” and vowed to restrict use.
He said the contracts can offer “short-term flexibility for employers and employees” but that most employers do not use them because they are “incompatible with building a loyal, skilled and productive workforce”.
Last night Jim McCabe, the Labour leader of North Lanarkshire Council, stated that workers were employed on zero hour contracts to serve food at council receptions and events to help them gain experience and earn extra money.
The revelation prompted SNP MSP John Wilson to accuse Miliband of double standards and said it damaged his party’s pledge to crack down on the arrangement.
“It is total hypocrisy on the part of the leader of the Labour Party to launch a campaign for social justice at North Lanarkshire Council, which employs hundreds of workers on zero hour contracts,” Wilson said.
“Ed Miliband launching such an initiative at Labour-controlled North Lanarkshire that has failed to end the use of zero hour contracts sends out the wrong message to everyone campaigning for the end of zero hour contracts.”
Last week it emerged that nearly half of big companies in the UK use a total of 1.4 million zero hours contracts, a study from the Office for National Statistics found. North Lanarkshire Council is one of the most Labour-dominated authorities in Scotland with the party holding a decisive overall majority over the main opposition group the SNP.
However, the party has been accused of failing to use its influence to prevent North Lanarkshire Council workers being employed on zero hour contracts.
North Lanarkshire Council’s use of zero hour contracts was set out in an authority paper by human resources convenor councillor Stephen Grant – who also works for the Labour MP for Stirling, Anne McGuire.
McCabe, the Labour council leader, last night said he would ensure the numbers of workers employed on zero hour contracts was reduced.
He said: “You’ve told me something I did not know. I’m told that we had people on zero hour contracts in as much as we use them to give them experience.
“It’s work serving food at council functions, but where we can’t guarantee them hours.
“I don’t disagree with what he [Ed Miliband] said, but there are sometimes circumstances where we can’t guarantee 30 or 40 hours a week to people. We give them the opportunity to work elsewhere and they are not tied to the council.
“I’m going to want to know about this and if there are people in arms length bodies on zero hour contracts that will stop.
“This time next week we’ll know the position.”