Branch’s disappointment over Speaker’s lack of support for staff

From ePolitix:

The Speaker made no mention of working conditions for people other than MPs

John Bercow has been attacked for ignoring the “dark age” employment conditions of the people who work in Parliament.

Yesterday the Speaker published his submission to the consultation being run by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) on how its expenses scheme should be reformed in the face of widespread criticism from MPs.

He was highly critical of the regime and said MPs had many “legitimate grievances”. He said it was stopping them from doing their jobs and was damaging their family lives.

But the parliamentary staff union which represents MPs’ staff has said it was “disappointed” to see he made no mention of the working conditions for people other than MPs which it said were from the “dark ages”.

Louise Haigh, the secretary of the union, said MPs already received help with employment matters while conditions for staff were like those in the “dark ages”.

“It is staff who have no human resources support, from either the House authorities or Ipsa,” she said.

“The only support for staff is the trade union branch, if they are members, and both the House authorities and Ipsa refuse to formally recognise the branch so even we are limited in the help we can provide.

“At the moment grievances and disciplinaries are heard by the MP themselves, which is deeply unfair as in most cases it is the MP who brings the disciplinary action against the staff member or who has the grievance brought against them.

“This would be unheard of in most other workplaces, but in terms of employment practices Parliament is well and truly stuck in the dark ages.

“The review is the last opportunity for Ipsa to remedy this undesirable situation and give staff of MPs the same protection as other workers.”

The union welcomed the Bercow’s recognition that Ipsa’s decision to take employer pension contributions from staffing budgets has meant a real term cut for many MPs and staff.

Under the previous regime, pension contributions made on behalf of MPs
employees were paid from central funds and did not impact on MPs staffing budgets.

The Ipsa scheme requires MPs to meet pension costs from their staffing expenditure budget and this has been increased by just over £4,000 per year to reflect this.

A number of MPs have complained that this is insufficient to meet the increased costs, leaving them worse off in real terms.

But Haigh said Bercow’s suggestion that relocating staff off the parliamentary estate would be an effective way to make savings was simply a cover for planned House of Commons budget cuts.

“The suggestion that some staff should be reallocated out of Westminster to make savings in the staffing budget has more to do with the House of Common’s severe Savings Programme and desire to sell off buildings then it does the very real concerns of those unfairly impacted by the Ipsa’s scheme,” she said.

The House of Commons have already announced plans to cut the cost of Parliament by over £20m by 2015 including reducing staff costs, selling property and charging for tours of Big Ben.

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