Boris Johnson under fire over zero-hours contracts at City Hall
Workers including catering and security staff are on zero-hours contracts, which often mean no holiday or sick pay.
Boris Johnson, has come under fire after it emerged that 40 people working at his City Hall headquarters are employed on zero-hours contracts.
The workers, including catering and security staff, who are all employed by contractors that include OCS Catering, AOS and Servoca, are employed on the controversial contracts, which give workers no guaranteed hours. Many such deals also mean staff receive no sick pay or holiday pay but are required to ask permission before working elsewhere.
Fiona Twycross, a Labour member of the capital’s governing body, the London assembly, who forced the mayor to reveal the presence of the controversial employment practices within City Hall, said it was “disgraceful that Boris is allowing this pernicious employment practice to be carried out in City Hall on his watch”.
She added: “These zero-hours contracts mean that these members of staff have no guaranteed hours and therefore no guaranteed income from one week to the next. Boris has made much of his support for the London Living Wage, but what’s the point in paying someone a living wage if they have no guaranteed working hours?”
Johnson did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. But a representative said: “A small number of people employed by sub-contractors at City Hall are on zero-hours contracts, however we have no control over their contracts and their use is a matter of national policy rather than for City Hall.”
The spokesman said that the Greater London Authority, which the mayor leads, “does not generally use zero-hours contracts”.
However, he suggested they could be of benefit to “peer outreach workers”, a pool of young people who engage and gather the opinions of young Londoners on the mayor’s policies. The spokesman said: “Due to the fluctuating nature of the work, as consultation is only required at certain times and for certain projects, zero-hours contracts are used then.”
Rog Hatlen, chief executive of AOS, said his security staff working at City Hall on zero hours contracts were all guaranteed holiday and sick pay as well as the London Wage. He said “they are not at any disadvantage whatsoever.” However he said those staff were moving to fixed hours contracts imminently.
Johnson has consistently avoided comment on zero-hours contracts. When asked about them at the London assembly in January this year he referred to them obliquely, saying: “If you can keep some labour market flexibility you will help to keep people in employment.” He said he believed most strongly in promoting the London Living Wage, which encourages businesses to pay a higher basic wage than the national legal minimum in order to cover ordinary people’s basic costs.
Twycross said: “It is time Boris used his position as mayor to stamp out this practice and make sure contractors at City Hall are treated with dignity and respect. At a time when fares, energy, food and housing costs are all rising people need to be paid properly. Using shortcuts and shoddy working practices like zero-hours contracts must end.
“These are among the lowest paid people at City Hall and I have today written to Boris asking him to urgently review the situation and change these contracts. I have also asked him to investigate how many staff at other GLA bodies, like TfL and the Metropolitan police, are also on these contracts.”
Trade unions have been campaigning for greater controls on zero-hours contracts. Figures suggest millions could be employed in this manner in the UK.
After a Guardian investigation earlier this year, it emerged that companies including Sports Direct, Cineworld, McDonalds and even Buckingham Palace were using the controversial employment terms.