As I mentioned to your reporter, I would be in a position to clarify the position of North Lanarkshire Council and I write to do so.
Firstly, there is an important distinction to be made. The controversy around zero-hours contracts centres on a binding agreement where there is no guarantee of hours to be worked and, crucially, the contract does not allow the employee to undertake any other work for any other employer.
Our position is that while we do have some employees who work on a casual basis – for example in catering for one-off events – those staff are entitled to work elsewhere. Indeed, many of them have other jobs within the council itself.
Those staff are afforded all the employment protections that go with it, including being paid, at a minimum, the living wage, which I am proud to say we introduced in 2011.
There are also statutory considerations, which include employing supply teachers, home support workers and leisure attendants in terms of safety ratios when our facilities are at their busiest. If a teacher is ill, we have to bring in a supply teacher. Using John Wilson’s narrow and nonsensical definition, this would be a zero-hours contract.
Ed Miliband is right to target businesses who exploit their employees by insisting that they wait for the phone to ring to tell them if they have any work that week but who do not allow those people to seek work elsewhere. I am proud to say that this council does not follow that practice.
James McCabe, Leader of the Council, North Lanarkshire Council