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Council takes firm stance against zero hour contracts

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Council takes firm stance against zero hour contracts

DUMFRIES and Galloway Council is set to step up its opposition to zero hours contracts and further protect employment rights for people.

The local authority is seeking to be accredited as a silver member of the Zero Hours Justice Scheme, which will demonstrate the council’s commitment to ethical employment contracts – and create sustainable and regular employment opportunities for individuals.

The Zero Hours Justice Campaign, founded and funded by philanthropist Julian Richer, has been endorsed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

It provides free help and support for zero hours workers who cannot access advice anywhere else, and promotes an accreditation scheme to recognise employers who either do not use zero hours contracts at all, or at least implement them in a more ethical and responsible way.

By applying to become a silver member of the scheme, Dumfries and Galloway Council will commit to never employing anyone directly on a zero hours contract, as well as actively encourage any third-party contractors, providers, or agencies to phase out the use of zero hours contracts.

The matter is due to be discussed at the council’s economy and resources committee on Tuesday where councillors are expected to rubber stamp the bid to join this accreditation scheme.

A report, due to be tabled at the meeting by the council’s HR manager Stewart Clanachan, reads: “Our assessment concludes that the council will meet the criteria to be a silver employer and does not have, nor does it apply a zero-hour contract policy to those engaging in work for the council.

“Over 85 percent of employment contracts are permanent and 15 percent are fixed-term contracts which demonstrates the council’s commitment to providing meaningful, sustainable, and regular employment for individuals.

“The council’s employment arrangements are compliant with employment law. Our commitment to providing regular and specified hours is demonstrated through our practice and our people benefit from all the terms and conditions offered by the council, including regular income, job security (some fixed-term contracts are time-limited by nature) and other employment benefits including access to pension schemes.

“The council has a ‘casual worker policy’ in place which is an agreed policy framework with the trade unions designed to recognise that some services will rely on an urgent and immediate pool of people available to respond to short-term staffing challenges and where the level of demand is uncertain.

“The distinction between casual workers and those on a zero-hours contract is a term called ‘mutuality of obligation’. The council is not obliged to offer work to a casual worker and a casual worker is not obliged to accept work when it is offered to them.

“This is fundamentally different to a zero-hours contract. When a casual worker arrangement is in place the worker is treated in the same way as all other employees and is regarded as an essential part of service provision.”

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