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One thousand Brighton and Hove City Council workers on ‘slave labour contracts’
Hundreds of public sector workers are employed under zero hour contracts – only under a different name.
Despite members of the Green-led Brighton and Hove City Council condemning zero hour contracts as “modern day slave labour”, the local authority has confirmed there are hundreds of employees working under similar conditions.
Now senior councillors have admitted they will be taking a “close look” at the council’s 1,000 casual workers, who have no guarantee of shifts or work patterns.
Many are low paid members of staff who provide care to vulnerable adults or work at the council-run Brighton Centre.
Admitting “zero hour arrangements are another way of describing casual contracts”, council bosses claim they ensure “flexible cover for essential work”.
But union bosses said they had real concerns that long-term serving members of staff were receiving less employmentprotection than colleagues onmore secure contracts.
Alex Knutsen, of Unison, said: “There’s not a lot of difference between the two.”
Mark Turner, of the GMB, said: “These are the lowest paid of the workforce who are on minimum wage and no employment protection.
“They should seriously look at this.”
Zero hour contracts, which meet the terms of the Employment Rights Act, create an on call arrangement between employer and employee.
When asked, a council spokeswoman said it had no staff employed on the deals.
But union representatives claim there are hundreds of people on “casual” deals, which operate on a similar basis and are directly through council’s payroll.
Earlier this week, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that up to 4 per cent of the UK workforce were on zero hour contracts.
But the figure is likely to be higher in Brighton and Hove because of thenumberof people employed in industries such as tourism.
Green councillor Alex Phillips described the practice as “modern-day slave labour”.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “These contracts have no place in the 21st century and should be banned.”
Catherine Vaughan, the council’s executive director of finance and resources, said: “The council, alongside other local authorities, use casual workers to provide flexible cover for essential work.
“We are currently finalising a review to ensure the best possible arrangements are in place.”
Deputy council leader Ian Davey said although there appears to be “no strict definition of zero hours contracts” there was a “clear distinction” between the long standing arrangements used by the city council where staff are employed on casual contracts to help meet short term needs and the zero hours contracts used by other employers as an alternative to permanent contracts.
He added: “Casual staff employed by the council are free to take other jobs, and often do, and are under no obligation to take the work on offer.
“This is in sharp contrast to those employers who expect staff to be available at all times and to take whatever work is on offer.
“They also qualify for holiday pay and can receive training alongside permanent staff.
“We are currently taking a close look at how we employ our casual staff to ensure that we are engaging them in the most appropriate and effective manner possible.”
A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “At any one time Brighton and Hove City Council has around 1000 active casual workers to cover around 500,000 hours per year.
“Individuals are defined as active if they have worked at any point over the preceding twelve weeks.
“If a casual worker has not worked at all for a period of twelve weeks they are removed from our HR/payroll system.
“Often casual roles/shifts are actually undertaken by individuals who also have a contract of employment with Brighton andHove City Council, but it is important that we distinguish between the two.
“Casual workers are entitled to join the Local Government Pension Scheme.”
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