A group of 16 mainly young council staff employed on what is to all intents and purposes zero hours contracts were described as “not significant enough” to warrant a debate at the full meeting off Falkirk Council held on 25 June.
Former SNP Group Leader, David Alexander, has been fighting the case of the staff who were graduates of the council’s Employment Training Scheme.
The SNP member first raised the issue several months ago at a meeting of the Performance Panel when he asked the council to outline the number of graduates who were not found a permanent post for only to be advised that all graduates of the training scheme were found full time employment.
Further enquiries made by the former council leader disclosed the fact this was not true and instead of being offered full time employment 16 young graduates of the training scheme were languishing in a pool of casual labour with no guarantee of work but withall of the restrictions on the individual of zero hours contracts.
The Labour Party has recently claimed it was opposed to Zero Hours Contracts where staff were not assured of any work but are considered by the Department of Works and Pensions to be in employment and therefore not entitled to claim benefits or terminate the contract.
Councillor Alexander wanted both change and an explanation as to why opposition Councillors had been mislead on the whole issue of the employment of these young people.
However, despite conceding that the full council meeting was where all previous issues relating to the terms and conditions of the Refuse Collection Service and other groups such as Home Helps Provost Reid ruled out debate by claiming the Training Graduates were “not significant enough” to warrant a debate at full council.
When questioned on what number the group becomes significant enough to warrant debate the provost who has been a UNISON official could not answer although when pushed he did admit to having sole discretion on what would be debated at council meetings.
This stance was attacked by Councillor Alexander who described Provost Reid as “a Labour poacher turned Tory Gamekeeper” on the issue and accused the provost of stifling debate due to political embarrassment at the contradictory stance on what is effectively zero hours contracts.
Councillor Alexander said,
“Provost Reid gives the impression of being an amiable and mild mannered chairman of Falkirk Council.”
“However, the reality is that Mr Reid has been the worst offender for abusing the powers of the chair I have seen in the 27 years I have served as an elected member in that chamber.”
“I am particularly angry at the treatment of these young people who are victims of the Labour duplicity of saying one thing while doing the opposite. Provost Reid can run from this reality but he can’t hide.”
“The young people who have been mislead and mistreated deserve better than Provost Reid and his colleagues are clearly prepared to offer”
Zero Hours Contracts Falkirk Council claims to be an “ethical employer” and has claimed that it does not support the concept of “Zero Hours Contracts.”
However, some of the workforce such as those who qualify as graduates from the “Employment and Training Opportunities (ETO)” into the Refuse Collection Service enter on a retained as required basis. This means that graduates remain in the employment of Falkirk Council face all the restrictions imposed on individuals by the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) with no guaranteed hours; this is effectively Zero Hours Contracts by another name.
Council therefore requests a report from the Chief Executive with a breakdown and numbers and groups of employees who have similar terms and conditions to the next meeting of Falkirk Council so that members may take a balanced and informed view on how these employees can be best protected.
Proposed by Councillor Alexander