According to today’s Guardian, the Mayor is “under fire” because “40 people working at his City Hall headquarters are employed on zero-hours contracts.”
But despite the headline and opening paragraph’s attempts to link the Mayor personally to this ‘outrage’, the 40 staff in question don’t work for him but for subcontractors hired by the Greater London Authority.
The Mayor had no involvement in the decision to hire people on these contracts, but of course as a city we could resolve to ban contractors who use them from supplying our public services.
That would mean suppliers taking on permanent staff who didn’t always have work to do which in turn would likely push up the cost to taxpayers of buying the service or goods.
This isn’t necessarily bad, but it would be a move away from the current vogue of squeezing every last penny of value from public contracts and taxpayer funds.
The Guardian’s report is based on answers to two questions tabled by Labour AM Fiona Twycross and Green AM Jenny Jones at last month’s Mayor’s Question Time.
As well as the 40 subcontractor staff, the paper cites City Hall’s use of zero-hour contracts for the Mayor’s peer outreach team.
The usual and worthy objection to zero-hours contracts is that they place vulnerable and needy workers at the convenience of greedy employers while leaving them uncertain about how much they’re going to earn that week or month.
But it’s hard to see how those objections apply to the peer outreach team – a group of 15-25 year olds who help shape the Mayor’s policies by “sporadically“ feeding back the views and opinions of their age peers through consultation programmes.
Members are paid £8.80 per hour and, as young Londoners themselves, their efforts ensure City Hall serves them as well as it does other, often more organised and vocal, groups in the capital.
In his written answer to Jenny Jones, Boris adds that scheme members also ”gain experience and develop skills and confidence needed to progress in future careers” which seems a fair observation.
It’s perhaps also worth noting that the outreach team has been hired on zero-hour contracts ever since it was established in 2006 under Mayor Ken Livingstone, so this is nothing new.
Labour say they’ve asked the Mayor to “investigate how many staff at other GLA bodies, like TfL and the Met, are also on these contracts.”
Luckily we don’t have to wait for Boris’s response because he already provided the information to Jenny Jones in an answer which neither the Guardian or Labour bothered to cite.
Here’s the numbers as given by the Mayor:
No TfL employees have been employed on a zero hours contract from 2008 to 2013.
MOPAC defines a zero hour contract as an employment contract between an employer and a worker, which means the employer is not obliged to provide the worker with any minimum working hours, and the worker is not obliged to accept any of the hours offered. On that basis the MPS, MPA and MOPAC have had the following number of people on zero hour contracts in the last five financial years (all catering casuals);
There are currently no employees working on a zero hour contract.
LFEPA did not employ anyone on a zero hours contract at any time between 2008 and 2013.
So two of the Mayor’s agencies have never employed zero-hour staff on his watch and the third has reduced the numbers employed on them each year of his Mayoralty to the point of extinction.
That’s a long way from the portrait of Mayor Scrooge which the Guardian’s article and Labour’s statement strive so hard to paint.