Richard Leonard says SNP must take action on zero-hours contracts

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Labour leader Richard Leonard has called on the Scottish Government to “drive up” working conditions after new figures showed one in 12 young workers is employed on a zero hours contract.

Labour leader Richard Leonard has called on the Scottish Government to “drive up” working conditions after new figures showed one in 12 young workers is employed on a zero hours contract.

Richard Leonard. Picture:  Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Richard Leonard. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

While only 2% of workers aged 25 to 64 are employed on such contracts, research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) indicated that rose to 8% for those aged 16 to 24.

The figures, which cover the period October to December 2017, showed 71,000 people on zero hours contracts, without guaranteed hours or income as a result.

Labour said the real total could be higher, as the figure was based on self-reporting, and would only cover those who are aware of what type of contract they have.

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Mr Leonard said: “Our economy isn’t working for young people who find themselves more likely to be stuck in insecure, low paid work.

“A UK Labour government would ban zero hours contracts - but there are important steps that could be taken in Scotland right now. “

The Scottish Labour leader demanded public cash should not be awarded to companies who use zero hours contracts.

He also said: “The SNP government should remove zero hours jobs as a ‘positive destination’ in its surveys of school leavers, even if it makes it more difficult to spin the numbers. An insecure contract is not a positive destination for our young people.

“Crucially, we need to end the taxpayer funded exploitation of workers on public contracts. The Scottish Government spends £11 billion on public procurement every year supporting thousands of jobs - this money should not be going to companies who use zero hour contracts.

“This is the people of Scotland’s money - we should be laying down the rules and using it to drive up working conditions.”

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But a spokesman for Economy Secretary Keith Brown stressed the proportion of people on zero hours contracts was lower in Scotland than either England or Wales.

He said: “This is yet another embarrassing boomerang attack from Labour, which only points out the progress Scotland is making under the SNP against the much poorer performance of Labour-run Wales and Tory-run England.”

The spokesman added: “No one should ever have to take a zero hours contract, and as a result of the SNP’s work in government the number of people on zero hours contracts in Scotland is lower than in Tory-run England or Labour-run Wales where 3% of contracts are zero hours, compared to only 2.7% in Scotland.

“In fact the estimated number of people employed on a zero-hours contract in Scotland fell by 6,000 last year and is falling faster than in the rest of the UK.

“Our work to support young people in the labour market, prepare them for work and equip them with the skills the economy needs has also led to a 40% reduction in youth unemployment four years ahead of schedule.”