Talking to his constituents last year Ed Balls railed against so-called zero-hours contracts, launching a stinging attack in the Morley Observer & Advertiser:
“Just in this area, thousands are working with this kind of contract. It puts a real strain on working families and cause huge anxiety and uncertainty. Each week they don’t know whether there will be enough work to feed their kids or pay for childcare.
I want to see this issue looked at properly and action taken so that these kinds of contracts are the exception rather than the rule. It’s no way for Britain to compete in the global economy in the 21st century. Anyone who’s affected and wants me to look into their case should get in touch by emailed firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 253 9466.”
The Sun today reveals that Balls has employed four workers on zero-hours contracts in the last year. Indeed, out of the 62 Labour MPs who employed parliamentary staff on zero-hours contracts in 2013, the Shadow Chancellor was one of the biggest users. His spokesman Alex Belardinelli is trying to spin away the screw-up by arguing: “on advice of IPSA we use their casual contracts solely to allow us to pay living wage to interns & students on temp placements”. That doesn’t even make sense; temp contracts can of course specify hours. Nor is IPSA advice mandatory, if they told Balls to send his staffers up the chimneys would he do that too? Balls tells his constituents to give his office a ring if they have been affected by zero-hours contracts. Chances are the phone will be answered by someone who is on one too…
Fortunately, the Shadow Chancellor has a defender in the Institute of Directors:
“The fact that so many students and young people are employed by Labour MPs in this way further undermines the calls from the far left to ban such contracts all together. Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed and the Labour policy on Zero Hours Contracts is now pretty sensible. Just don’t tell Oxfam…”
A welcome change in policy…