SCTS falling foul of ban on zero-hour contracts
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) has been accused of violating a Scottish government agreement that prohibits the use of zero-hours contracts, which are often exploitative.
In a report viewed by The Herald for 2021/22, 26 staff members at SCTS were found to be on zero-hours contracts. However, the service has since confirmed that the figure has been reduced to 16.
In November 2018, an agreement endorsed by Scottish ministers and unions aiming to “recognise that security of employment, work and income are important foundations of a successful life” stated that zero hours contracts “will not be used…”
SCTS had 34 staff on such contracts in the financial year 2015/16.
It said it had extended an offer to shift all zero-hours staff to part-time contracts, and those still on zero-hour contracts “have exercised their right to do so”.
The court service added that “we are clear zero hours contracts must only be used for ad hoc provision where it would not be feasible to have a permanent employee to provide cover…”
SCTS mentioned that they are “working closely with our recognised union, the PCS, on this matter”. PCS said, however, that continuing with zero-hours contracts is a clear breach of their agreement.
PCS national officer Cat Boyd said: “PCS do not support zero hours contracts and we have a long-standing agreement with Scottish ministers to prevent their use. SCTS are currently in breach of our agreement and have said they would reassess their position since March 2021. It’s unacceptable this has taken over two years to address and we want them to fix this harmful practice now.”
The Scottish government’s fair work agreement highlights how “ministers expect employee and industrial relations to be carried out…” and emphasises that associated organisations are “expected to comply with the principles set out in this agreement as a matter of consistency, fairness, equality and good practice…”
Sasha Josette, from the Zero Hours Justice campaign, commented: “Scottish government ministers have repeatedly said they do not support the use of zero hours contracts yet here we see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, which is a taxpayer funded agency of the Scottish government, openly advertising for legal advisers who will be employed on zero hours contracts. Zero hours contracts are bad for workers and bad for our public services. The Scottish government must ensure its rhetoric is matched by reality and that they use all of the powers they have to ban zero hours contracts in our public services.”
A spokesperson for SCTS said: “Employees may be offered work on an ad hoc basis when we have exceptional resourcing needs, often in remote areas to enable us to provide our services. In line with the Fair Working Agreement, employees on zero hours contracts are free to accept or decline any work offers.”
A Scottish government spokesperson commented: “The terms and conditions of Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service employees are a matter for the SCTS.
“The Scottish government firmly opposes the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts and other types of employment that offer workers minimal job or financial security, but we do not have the power to take action to limit their use as employment law is reserved to the UK government.”