Pool staff ‘are not on zero-hours’

News story
News story

BOSSES at a Wigan leisure provider have defended their use of temporary workers, denying claims they are using controversial zero-hours contracts.

Concerns had been raised about Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s (WLCT) method of employing swimming pool attendants on a casual basis “under the noses” of the council at the town centre’s Life Centre pool.

These members of staff are not employed on zero-hours contracts but on casual contracts. They are given specific shifts or hours to work depending on the reason for the cover.

WLCT spokesman

The Labour led Wigan Council chamber has vowed to crackdown on zero-hours deals that strip workers of many employment rights.

Although WLCT operates as an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) from the council, the association between the two means the use of zero-hours staff may have appeared hypocritical.

In attempts to allay any fears, a spokesman for WLCT said seasonal work is a part of the leisure industry and casual workers are able to “accrue rights”, a crucial differentiation.

They added: “These members of staff are not employed on zero-hours contracts but on casual contracts. They are given specific shifts or hours to work depending on the reason for the cover. Anyone employed in a casual capacity with WLCT is able to refuse the offer of work without any detriment to their employment in the future and are able to accrue relevant employment rights.

“Due to the industry we work in, we do have a particular pool of trained support staff who work across the business on a seasonal basis or when we require additional cover.”

Wigan has been a focal point for workers’ rights in recent years when staff at the Hovis bakery in New Springs went on strike about the use of zero-hours contracts.

Their agreement with company bosses, which saw a cutback in casual staff - was hailed as a victory for workers’ unions, with the staff receiving support from Ms Nandy.

In 2014 the town hall was blasted for “shocking hypocrisy” by former Tory Mayor Michael Winstanley for calling on borough firms to axe zero-hours agreements while employing 100 workers on similar terms.

These contracts have since been scrapped, the council has said. Speaking earlier this year, Coun Paul Kenny, the council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “Employees on zero-hours contracts do not have minimum hours of work or any sick, holiday or redundancy pay - meaning that they cannot predict their income from one week to the next.

“They can be fired with minimal notice and often struggle to get a mortgage or credit with banks because of the uncertainty of their employment.

“I’m pleased that we’ve removed the last of these contracts and we’ll be encouraging other employers to follow suit.”