Parties clash in living-wage row
Reporter: Alex Carey and Robbie MacDonald at Oldham Council
Date online: 03 April 2014
ZERO-HOUR contracts and the living wage sparked debate between Oldham’s Labour and Lib-Dem councillors last night.
The two parties were at odds over the wording of a motion proposed by Labour’s Councillor Jenny Harrison to raise the profile of the Oldham Fair Employment Charter — aimed to ensure workers are paid at least what it costs them to live.
Lib-Dem councillors felt the motion’s “enough is enough” stance on zero-hour contracts — workers with no set or guaranteed hours — was too strong and that in certain cases such contracts are beneficial.
Councillor Howard Sykes, leader of the Lib-Dem group, said: “In some work environments zero-hour contracts are a good thing. They are used as a way of fitting working times around the employee for what best suits them. A number of businesses offer zero-hour contracts in a responsible and ethical manner.”
But Labour Councillor Dave Houle said: “If people on zero-hour contracts don’t get work they don’t get any money and this cannot be allowed. Oldhamers deserve better than that.”
Questions were also raised over what Labour’s motion meant by the “living wage” and whether that was Oldham’s local cost of living — £7.11 per hour — or the national estimate of £7.65 per hour.
Councillor Sykes added: “The living wage is a concern for me — we all know people should be paid the national figure but we feel this will not happen.”
Councillor McMahon said: “This council will be paying the national living wage by 2015 and will do it in the right way.”
The parties agreed that the council will write to the borough’s three MPs and ask for support in promoting the Oldham Fair Employment Charter.
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