Liberal Democrat run council employs 300 people on zero-hour contracts

Cornwall Council has been using more than 300 people on zero hour contracts, it has been revealed this week.

Cornwall Council has been employing more than 300 people on zero hour contracts, it has been revealed.

There are also an additional 150 people on zero hour contracts in schools in Cornwall and the council’s engineering company, Cormac.

Cornwall Council has said that they will review the situation and have even acknowledged that zero hour contracts do “not provide the same financial stability and security as employment contracts.”

Zero hour contracts are a controversial employment arrangement in which the employee has no set hours, but can be called on by the employer when they need someone to fulfil a job. They have proved controversial because of the uncertainty they hold for workers, the irregularity of employment and the fact that they often lack privileges such as maternity leave or sickness pay.

There has been a huge increase in the use of zero hour contracts in recent years. Statistics from the ONS show that the number of people employed on zero hour contracts has more than doubled in the last eight years. Other research shows that there could be as many as 1 million people on zero hour contracts.

Stuart Roden, South West organiser for Unison union, responded to the revelations in Corwall by saying:

“Zero hours are effectively slave labour and the worst kind of exploitation for those forced into this kind of employment as they, demand staff to be totally subservient and to be available 24-7 but without any guarantee of income.

“It means that employees cannot obtain normal credit arrangements or mortgages and property rental become problematic as they have no proof of regular income.”

However, Jeremy Rowe, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Cornwall Council, said the contracts enabled the council to respond to varying demand for council workers.

“Cornwall Council has approximately 300 members of staff on zero hours contracts. These staff are employed mainly within three areas – registration services, adult education and the music service – where they enable the council to respond to fluctuating demand for services and avoids relying on agency workers.

“While some workers appreciate the flexibility provided by a zero hours contract, we recognise that the fluctuating nature of the contracts does not provide the same financial stability and security as employment contracts with defined working hours.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.