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400 council workers on zero hour contracts in Gloucestershire

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 24, 2013

Zero hours protesters (file pic)

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MORE than 400 workers in Gloucestershire are on zero hours or casual contracts with local authorities.

Figures obtained by the Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act show 431 council workers are working - but on contracts which don’t guarantee hours.

The working arrangement hit national headlines earlier this year with unions claiming they mask unemployment figures, and some employers saying they give both firms and workers flexibility.

Gloucestershire County Council has 180 people directly working for it on the contracts.

That includes 50 celebrants and registration officers, 49 library assistants, 35 social care workers, 20 cycling instructors and 26 people in unspecified roles.

Councillor Ray Theodoulou, cabinet member for finance and change, said: “Like many other businesses, we use fair contracts for temporary workers when we need extra staff.

“For example, for roles like marriage celebrations where we don’t always know how many people we’ll need on a given day, flexible contracts help us meet that demand.

“We don’t force people to take work exclusively from us or stop them taking other jobs, and if they turn down a position we’ll still consider them for future opportunities.”

In a statement, Gloucestershire County Council said: “The council does not use any of the zero-hours contract types which place onerous obligations on the worker but no obligations on the employer.

“The council does (and has done so for many years) make use of what are described as ‘relief worker contracts’, which do not have fixed/specified hours.

“There is traditionally an increase in demand for marriage ceremonies in the summer months, so having additional, relief celebrants available to the council allows the organisation to manage this demand and meet the needs of our customers.”

The number of zero hours workers at Gloucester City Council is coming down. In 2010/11 there were 135, the following year 98, and last year 80.

The council said their roles include assisting with catering, events, museum access and Shopmobility.

Stroud District Council does not have what it calls zero hours workers but has 115 engaged on casual contracts - there is no obligation on the council to offer work to the individual and no obligation on the worker to accept what is offered.

“The council does not operate 'zero hour' contracts, whereby the worker is obliged to be available and to accept the work when it is offered,” said the council in a statement.

A Gloucester City Council spokesperson said: “We now have less than 80 zero hours employees and only use them to assist in areas of variable public demand. We discuss our requirements with them in advance wherever possible.”

Tewkesbury Borough Council said it has 56 casual workers but none on zero hours terms.

Cheltenham Borough Council has employed casual workers but could not say how many, while Forest of Dean District Council has no zero hours workers.

Cotswold District Council has zero hours contracts with 12 workers, who do jobs including lifeguarding, sports coaching and working in leisure centres. However those employed on those contracts can refuse work when offered.

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