Labour holds zero-hours summit – but its councils still use it

Former Gurkhas protest against zero hour contracts
Former Gurkhas protest against zero hour contracts

By Adam Bienkov

Labour was accused of hypocrisy today, after it organised a summit on zero hours contracts despite claims some of its local councils still use them.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna is due to host a summit on zero-hours jobs later, with businesses, trade union leaders and employees invited.

He said that the Conservatives had failed to "treat this issue with the seriousness which it deserves" and accused David Cameron of overseeing "the rise of insecure Britain".

However, Labour were accused of hypocrisy as Labour councils across the country continued to come under attack for employing people on zero-hours contracts.

Earlier this month six Labour councils in London were reported to be employing people on zero-hours either directly or indirectly.

Two of those councils yesterday denied using the contracts.

In a statement Labour-controlled Greenwich Council admitted they "on occasion use casuals on a sessional basis" but insisted that "these casual workers are under no obligation to accept the hours offered; this is an entirely voluntary arrangement and there are no restrictions on them having employment with other employers".

They added: "This is different to zero hours contracts which have as part of their definition that those workers agree to be available as and when required."

Labour-controlled Merton Council also denied employing people on zero-hours.

"We don’t force people to work for us exclusively without being able to work for any other employers," said cabinet member for finance councillor Mark Allison.

The Conservatives said Labour was trying to redefine what was meant by a zero hours contract.

"The Labour party have got themselves into a terrible mess and are now trying to redefine what a zero hour contract is," leader of the Conservative group on Greenwich Council Spencer Drury told Politics.co.uk.

"If you're employed on zero hours, with no holidays and pension entitlements then that is a zero hours contract."

A poll last week found considerable support for a ban on zero-hours contracts. Pollsters YouGov found that 56% of the public support a ban on zero-hour contracts, with just 25% opposing one.

However Labour today resisted calls for an outright ban, saying that their "flexibility works for some".

The row came as a group of former Gurkhas threatened to go on strike over new contracts placing them on zero hours.

The former members of a Gurkha regiment are employed by Serco to train current army recruits at the Risborough Barracks in Folkestone, Kent.

They were in last ditch talks to avert a strike last night.

Comments

Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.

Newsletter update
wa