Unite’s parliamentary branch expressed ‘deep concern’ today (Friday 10 November) over the lack of staff ‘voice’ in a working group proposed by leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom MP to tackle harassment, bullying and abuses of power in parliament and the constituencies.
Replying to a letter dated 9 November from the leader of the House of Commons that outlined the process and composition of the working group, the branch warned that the make-up of group, of 10 parliamentarians and two staff representatives, would lead to staff having ‘no confidence’ in the group’s results.
The branch, replying in a letter sent to the leader of the house today, also expressed alarm at the unrealistic timeframe given for the submission of ideas on how an independent grievance system might work. In her letter the leader of the House of Commons requested ‘ideas’ by the ‘end of play’ Friday.
The exchange of letters comes on the same day as the Unite parliamentary branch launches a petition calling for trade union recognition of parliamentary and constituency staff. Hosted on the TUC’s Going to Work site, the petition can be signed here.
The Unite parliamentary branch letter to Andrea Leadsom MP in full is as follows:
Dear Leader of the House,
Thank you for your letter of 9 November with your invitation to join the working group on tackling the pervasive issues of harassment, bullying and abuses of power in Parliament and the constituencies.
Our members are deeply concerned and angry at several elements of this proposed process that must be changed if staff are to have confidence in the results. We raised the importance of this process being staff-led in writing and in meetings with both you and the prime minister and were encouraged by your commitment to take this on board.
However, the composition of the group was agreed by political leaders at a meeting without staff representation and then presented to us as a fait accompli. We recognise that it has been carefully balanced for political views. But this is not a political issue. It is an industrial issue about protecting staff and our members view the working group as comprised of 10 employers and two members of staff.
Staff do not have confidence that employers can take the lead in fixing this broken system. Self-regulation has failed for years.
Unite’s parliamentary branch is clear that this must be a staff-led process, and either the numbers of staff be balanced on the group or an outside expert body such as Acas be asked to review the whole system and make independent recommendations for a new system.
Further to your request for other ideas of “how an independent grievance system might work,” Unite has clear recommendations, but the timeframe of close of play today is not realistic since we only received your email last night. We would request an extension to the timeframe you propose.
Once again, this demonstrates the need for staff to be at the heart of discussions around our welfare and reinforces our calls for union recognition for parliamentary and constituency staff.
Staff need this system to be fixed to ensure a safe, decent and respectful workplace. Unite is committed to working to ensure this. We have no faith that the working group as currently constituted can achieve this vital change and would respectfully ask that you reconsider its composition.
Unite Parliamentary and Constituency Staff
For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.