By Pravin Jeyaraj
Scottish Labour has pledged to tighten public procurement rules so that any private sector employer who uses zero hours contracts cannot benefit from contracts with the public sector.
But, as attractive as the policy might sound, the party would be better off looking at the employment of zero hours workers within the public sector itself.
According to research carried out by Zero Hours Justice, local authorities in Scotland directly employ the largest number of zero hour contract workers, compared with other regions in the United Kingdom. The data was obtained via Freedom of Information requests to universities, local authorities and NHS employers, with a response rate of 94%.
The data revealed that, of 67,962 zero hours workers directly employed by local authorities in the UK, over 21,000 (31%) of them worked for Scottish local authorities. By comparison, the second highest number, 8048, worked for local authorities in the West Midlands, a share of just 11%.
Despite the predominance of zero hours contracts in Scottish local authorities, compared to the rest of the UK, most directly-employed zero hours workers in universities, local authorities and NHS trusts are in England. This is not surprising, given that England makes up for 82% of the population of the UK.
English universities and NHS Trusts directly employ 89% (40,129) and 74% (145,226) of zero hours workers UK universities and NHS employers respectively. By comparison, Scottish universities directly employ just 1% of zero hours workers in UK universities. Scottish NHS Trusts employ 8% of the zero hours workers in the NHS.
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