Councils using zero hours, casual staff and the work programme

Kate Belgrave /   June 29, 2015 at 8:36 PM 17,655 views

This post lists the results of an FOI I recently sent to councils to get a rough idea of how many people councils employed on zero hours contracts or zero hours-type working arrangements and how many councils were using the work programme. When I was writing several years ago about workfare in the US, I found that Rudy Guiliani had replaced paid and unionised public sector workers with people on New York’s workfare programme to cut wage budgets. It’s worth keeping an eye on trends here as large numbers of paid staff are cut from the public sector. I’m also interested in the number of casual staff that councils use. The numbers in this post are basic and I post them as a rough guide. Other people may want to use them as a starting-point for asking for more questions about employment arrangements at their local authorities and in different services provided by their authorities. It’s definitely interesting to note the sorts of jobs that people must work on zero hour terms and/or as casual workers. This is a complex area: councils outsource a lot of services and workers, and employ a variety of people, including full-time employees, part-time permanent staff, short and long term contractors, agency staff (some of whom stay for significant periods) and a lot of casual staff (people who work when required). Some arrangements for casual staff aren’t really too different from zero hours working, but you’ll see councils below arguing that the difference is substantial because people working on casual arrangements aren’t on call as such and are free to pursue other work. In fact, there’s plenty of room for unscrupulous employer behaviour in both and there’s plenty of that around. I do think it’s worth making the point that there are many working arrangements which are extremely detrimental to workers and can be as problematic and appalling for people as zero hours employment (and there certainly are appalling cases of that). Employers have a lot of blunt instruments at their disposal and they are using them at the moment. That’s one of the reasons why people are taking strike action at workplaces all over the country. I’ve written a lot, for example, about careworkers whose wages and leave allowances, etc, were smashed when their jobs were outsourced to the private sector (that, as is often the case, was at least in part a story about the short-termism of TUPE and the ease with which employers are able to circumnavigate it). I’ve also written recently about housing and residential supporter workers who will lose as much as £8k a year as their employers drive their wages to a market minimum. Their problem is that their organisations are competing for contracts in a cut throat funding environment and wages and conditions aren’t protected during the tender process. (In one case, the problem also was that their senior managers were rewarding themselves handsomely while expecting staff to take pay cuts). Then there other problems: employers not paying carers for travel time between jobs for example, or outsourced workers not being paid agreed rates, or not being paid at all in some cases (people in cleaning work used to come into our union branch a lot for help with that). People in these situations aren’t always on zero hours contracts – many are full-time or part-time permanent staff – but their incomes are still very tenuous and becoming more so, as incomes do in an employer’s market and when union membership is low (numbers are up, but still well below peak years). There’s an awful lot going on here – in addition to employer exploitation of people who are on zero hours arrangements – that Labour and unions should commit to targeting if they are really going to do anything. I have my doubts. I suppose I need not mention that I saw a fair bit of outsourcing and consequent wage cuts and destruction of conditions on Labour’s watch back in the day. Unscrupulous employers who are looking to cut wages and bully a workforce have a lot of tools they can use and will have even more as this government slaughters employee rights. Lot of people on zero hours, though, as you’ll see from the list. Anyway – ten to start. More to upload as this will take a while (update – more than ten now): Bedford: Zero hours: 54 people, employed in Adult and Community Services and Children’s Services Work programme: 6 people in Adult & Community Services. Provider: The former Sheltered Placement Programme. The council says it “also employed a significant number of individuals on the Future Job Fund Programme when that was running.” ————– Blackpool: Zero hours/casuals: 315 “casuals” who are employed on an “as and when needed” basis. This figure does not include Schools These people work in Adult Services, Childrens Services,,Built Environment, Democratic Services, Human Resources, Communication and Engagement, Leisure & Operational Work programme: “We are currently delivering the Work Programme under subcontract to A4e. None of our customers are on placement within Blackpool Council. However, there are 2 other Work Programme providers locally, A4e and Inspire2Independence. It is possible that they may have contacted departments directly and agreed to place            their customers into unpaid work placements.” —————- Brighton and Hove: Says the council: “No individual within Brighton & Hove City Council is considered to be employed on a zero-hours contract. However the council does have a wide variety of casual workers who work hours on an ad hoc basis across service areas where additional capacity or cover is needed for seasonal work or staff absence. There is no ‘mutuality of obligation’ with casual workers and consequently there is no expectation that the council would offer work or that individuals would accept it if work were offered. Consequently, there is no ongoing contractual relationship. If we used zero hours contracts, there would be an on-going contractual relationship with these individuals even when they are not working. However, in reality there is no real difference between the two and the terms “zero hours” and “casual” are used interchangeably in employment cases in tribunals. In view of this, we are providing you with information relating to casual workers who undertook work for the council during the three month period, May to July 2013.” During this period, 1254 casual workers were engaged. This figure excludes casual workers who may have been engaged by schools. The demand for casuals to perform various roles fluctuates but the main areas are: Care (‘Care Crew’ is a bank of casual workers) (this intriugues me – what conditions do these people work in I wonder). Administration (‘Admin All Areas’ is a bank of casual workers) Brighton Centre & Royal Pavilion – security and setting up of events/shows Contact Supervisors – they provide supervision for visits between children and parents Libraries Hostels & Supported Accommodation Electoral Services – electoral roll, poll clerks etc Seafront lifeguards ————- Cheshire West and Chester: Zero hours:  28 people – 11 in Children’s Services, 3 in Growth and Prosperity, 13 in Localities and 1 person in Strategic Commissioning. ————- Devon: Zero hours: 73 people who “are a mixture of intervention workers, support workers, porters & care assistants.” ————— Essex: Zero hours: From the council: “1,764 zero hours ‘as and when staff’ employed by ECC (as of 29 July 2013). ‘Zero based hours’ employees may work across all departments in ECC. Casual, zero based employees are normally sessional workers and ad hoc employees. This would include sessional tutors, casual bar employees, models for life classes, ad hoc seasonal staff (country parks), peak relief employees, registration/exam invigilators, instructors and learning support assistants.” More details of job roles here (this list has included roles over the last few years like Administrative Assistant, Administrative Co-ordinator, Administrative/Clerical Assistant, Adult Social Care Social Worker, Advanced Practitioner, Answers Direct Assistant, Answers Direct Officer, Archive Assistant, Area & TASCC Youth Worker, Area Youth Worker TYD): ———– Gateshead: The council says that the numbers in this response from the council includes: “a number of casual employees who are part of the council’s long-standing approach to resourcing one-off events, seasonal work, and absence and emergency cover. Some casual employees work for the council infrequently and have no obligation to accept work offered and the council is under no obligation to supply work. If they work for us more than once, each period worked is treated as a separate period of employment. Others work on a more frequent basis but not enough to have an established pattern of work and are classed as zero hours casuals. They now have now been given continuous service recognised w.e.f. 1 June 2013, entitling them access to additional employee benefits, including the pension scheme. Other employees who were previously engaged on casual contracts, but who were in fact working quite regularly, have been moved from their casual status and appointed to substantive posts on the establishment. As a result, the number of employees on zero hours contracts has reduced recently.” So – zero hours/casual: 1291 as at 6 September 2013 Working in: Access & Inclusion, for Adult Care providers, Children &Young People Service, Catering & Cleaning, Schools, Children and Families and Young Offenders, Communities & Neighbourhoods, Facilities Management, Libraries & Arts, Legal and Corporate Services, Raising Achievement, Libraries, Arts and Culture Register, Sport & Leisure, Transport Services/Strategy. ————— Halton: Zero hours: Two staff on zero hour contracts “who were TUPE’d into the council in April 2013 and who are being offered permanent contracts.” Work programme: Four people working at the council as work programme placements. One person in Vehicle Maintenance and 3 working in Meals on Wheels. Work programme providers: Ingeus and A4E ————– Rochdale: Zero hours: Nobody employed on zero hours contracts, says the council. There are casual workers working for the council who are only paid for the hours they work. ————– St Helens Zero hours: No workers on zero hour contracts. There are “casual” or “relief” employees who the council says work when: “a. where service must be provided at set staffing levels and there is a need to cover permanent staff short terms absences, eg residential care services, leisure services, etc. b. where the demand for the service fluctuates and there may be short term needs to cover increased demand, eg youth work, play schemes, sports/leisure facilities, adult learning services, etc. The true definition of a zero-hours contract relates to the situation where a worker is not guaranteed work but has to be available for work at certain times and is obliged to work any hours that are offered. The council does not employ anyone on this basis. This contrasts with the situation where a worker is not guaranteed a set number of hours, does not have to be available at specific times and can choose whether or not they wish to accept any hours offered. In this situation individuals are usually offered a place on a pool and there is no obligation on either the council to offer hours of work, or for the workers to accept any hours they are offered. At St Helens we refer to this as casual or relief employment, but are aware that such arrangements are often confused with zero-hours contracts.” The council had the following casual employees: June 2013 502 of 7189 employees (6.98%) March 2013 574 of 7257 employees (7.91%) These figures include employees in schools. ————– Stockton on Tees: Work programme: 6 people, all working in Cleansing. Work programme providers: Job Centre Plus, DISC, Shaw Trust, Probation Service. ——— South Tyneside: Zero hours: Says the council: “As at 1/4/2013 there were 284 assignments with zero hour contracts, excluding schools.” They work in roles across the council in each strategic group – Business and Area Management, Children, Adults and Families, and Economic Regeneration.” ———- Telford and Wrekin: Zero hours: People employed on zero hours contracts/zero hours working arrangements: 40 Job titles of people on zero hours contracts: Adult & Community Learning Tutor, Classroom Music Teacher, Music Development Officer, Specialist Music Instructor ————– Trafford: Work programme: 2 people working in ETO – Groundforce. Providers: Shaw Trust and United Response. ————– Warrington: Zero hours: People who work on zero hours contracts: 202 contracts currently. Areas in which contracts are/have been used include: Assistant Chief Executive Directorate – Coroner Services, Registrars Of Births, Deaths, Marriages, Children & Young People Directorate – Access & Assets (school catering), Children in Care Division, Learning & Achievement Division (home tutors), Environment & Regeneration Directorate – Public Protection Services, Operations (which covers cleaning, street services, golf club), Transportation Service, Neighbourhood & Community Services Directorate – Adult Social Care Provision, Community Engagement Team, Intermediate Care (residential care and home support), Sport & Physical Activity Engagement Courtesy of Kate Belgrave

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