Councillors “shocked” at Devon County Council workers on zero hours contracts
Labour councillors have said they are “shocked” at revelations that Devon County Council has almost 200 staff working on zero hours contracts.
The authority’s use of the controversial contracts, meaning employees are not given fixed hours for working but are employed as and when needed, is also said to be growing.
The county Labour group will put down a formal motion to the council at its next full council meeting in an attempt to cease the use of the so-called “nil hour” contracts.
Cllr Richard Westlake, the county’s Labour leader, said: “Zero-contracts go back to Victorian times when workers had to wait in line for bosses to cherry pick who they wanted to dole work out to and when, with no proper security or guaranteed income.”
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Research has shown that those employed on zero-hours contracts receive lower gross weekly pay, an average of £236 per week, compared to £482 for workers not on these contracts.”
Cllr Westlake added: “These contracts can have a devastating impact on people’s lives , from not being able to even rent a home to being unable to access tax credits , and also being declined for essential financial products.
“Erratic hours and wage packets mean landlords won’t consider taking on tenants and financial firms won’t touch anyone who doesn’t have proof of a regular income.”
Unions have criticised the increased use of the contracts as exploiting workers, who are left not knowing how much many they are likely to earn over any period of time.
Stuart Roden, South West organiser for Unison union, said: “When unemployment is still pretty high, it can be the only option for some people, particularly with people on low pay.”
The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed the county council has 179 staff on zero hours contracts in the current financial year.
The authority has 6,018 employees, meaning the figure on zero hours contracts is just under 3%.
The number has risen steadily since the contracts were first used in 2009/2010, when one only one council worker was employed with one.