From the Morning Star:
Watchdog failing ‘abused’ MPs’ staff
The parliamentary watchdog stood accused on Friday of failing to protect House of Commons staff from “abuse” by MPs, as well as “harming their interests financially.”
Representing the workers, Unite union said that it had written to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) to either review the way it deals with MPs’ staff pay or hand responsibility back to the Commons authorities.
As well as MPs’ expenses, Ipsa is responsible for processing the pay of parliamentary researchers and office assistants and provides MPs with model contracts for employment, including recommended pay bands. But the Unite parliamentary staff branch complained yesterday that the watchdog had not only failed to protect workers from poor treatment but its budget cuts had led to lower pay and redundancies.
Branch chairman Max Freedman said: “Ipsa has wilfully targeted staff in the aftermath of the expenses scandal.
“It has cut staff budgets, abolished bonuses – while paying bonuses for its own staff – and caused redundancies for many of our members.”
MPs’ offices are treated in law as 650 small businesses, with each member responsible for recruiting and employing their own staff.
But Unite denounced the arrangement as “archaic” and said it did not reflect the reality that staff were paid by Ipsa using money from the public purse.
The system had left 3,000 “vulnerable” workers with “woefully inadequate employment protection, next-to-useless disciplinary and grievance procedures and no rights to protect them from the whims of their sometimes appalling employers,” said the union.
Branch secretary Louise Haigh expressed disappointment in Ipsa’s handling of MPs’ staff.
“As a shop steward, I have represented some appalling cases of abuse and poor treatment at the hands of MPs and we really hoped that Ipsa would make the system fairer,” she said.
“Ipsa has already taken an interventionist role. We have asked that they either take this role to its logical conclusion and accept they are our employer or hand us back to the house authorities.”
An Ipsa spokesman said the watchdog “categorically rejected” Unite’s claims of two-tier staff pay and conditions.
He added: “We are currently hosting a public consultation on all aspects of the rules including on staffing issues. We would hope Unite will make a more constructive response to that.”