Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Second Class Employees

I received this from a House of Commons secretary this morning...

I was really excited to read on the Parliamentary intranet that the Speaker was holding two Carol Services in the State Rooms for staff. I applied for tickets and much to my chagrin was advised that this was just for staff of the House of Commons – NOT MPs’ staff. We are also excluded from Health and Safety and Occupational Therapy. Now I learn that there are proposals to cut further dining services and post office services when the House rises ‘as few MPs are around’. No thought is spared for the staff who work regular hours whether the House is sitting or not. I really do wonder why I bother.

I don't blame her. What is it that makes the parliamentary authorities think it can treat MPs' staff like this?

52 comments:

ChrisM said...

Just symptomatic of the cheap, petty world that the whole political class now live in. Driven, I think, by the complete lack of real world experience of it's participants.

scoreoutoften said...

"I sometimes wonder why I bother" - Maybe for the salary?
Millions of people work without the benefit of a canteen, post office or carol singing.
Come back to the real world Iain.

Sres said...

What a disgrace! What next, no HP Brown sauce in the canteen? What has parliament become!

Slow news day?

Douglas said...

Up and down the land contract workers will find themselves excluded from staff Christmas events and other workplace 'perks'. Its is a direct consequence of developing a 'flexible workforce'.

Given that MPs staff don't work for the House I am not surprised by that email. I am surprised that she complained about it though. She 'bothers' because she is not employed by the House by an MP who may not be in a position to employ her in 1600 days.

She really does need to get over herself.

Douglas said...

Up and down the land contract workers will find themselves excluded from staff Christmas events and other workplace 'perks'. Its is a direct consequence of developing a 'flexible workforce'.

Given that MPs staff don't work for the House I am not surprised by that email. I am surprised that she complained about it though. She 'bothers' because she is not employed by the House by an MP who may not be in a position to employ her in 1600 days.

She really does need to get over herself.

Right Hon. said...

Yet another person whining about their job. If you don't like it find a better one.

MPs have a whole range of perks that most 'normal' people don't get. It goes with the job and is some recompense for having sold their souls to the devil and divested themselves of all integrity.

DespairingLiberal said...

Oh, this is so awful. Poor things. I understand that crystal champagne and canapes are no longer available at subsidised rates as well (ghastly) and MP's secretaries no longer have taxis everywhere they want to go (including on holiday) at taxpayer's expense. (simply unbearable)

Next week: why the Haise should have gold-plated bathroom taps and a valet for wiping one's fingers after dinner.

(My word verification was fixgig)

Q said...

What is it that makes the parliamentary authorities think it can treat MPs' staff like this?

I agree. I went into Marks & Spencer the other day and asked them to apply my staff discount and give me tickets to the annual Staff Xmas Ball. You can imagine my surprise when they pointed out that I do not work for M&S and, accordingly, am not eligible for a staff discount or the Staff Xmas Ball.

What is the world coming to? It's political correctness gone maaaaaad!

Sres said...

@Douglas Christmas party? Those went by the book at my work 6 years ago, our only party is one that we organise ourselves out of our own pocket.

trevorsden said...

The notion of barring people from a Carol Service is totally bizarre. Well done Bercowe.

Scoreoutoften - the canteen is not free.

But the real eye-opener is the rich vein of crassness in the comments here. You sad bunch of gits. Here is someone with a commitment to working in parliament and all we see is you sad lot taking out your own inadequacies on her. Get some lives out there.

JMB said...

I would have thought the fairest way would be to have priority for House of Commons staff at the carol service but tickets available to others as well.

The House of Commons will probably have a responsibility to ensure that all persons working there have knowledge of Health & Safety, it might be easier to just train them themselves so they have a common standard (they might be able to charge the MPs for the service) otherwise they will need some system to check and audit that they have been trained.

It might be easier to keep down the costs of the canteens with more people using them.

Lady Finchley said...

Right Hon and all the other ignoramuses - we are talking about staff here not MPs. Not only do staff get paid considerably less than the private sector but they work long hours and get constantly abused by the very constituents they are helping. Yes, it's a vocation but we also have families to support. The Carol Services are the icing on the cake and just an example of how MP's staff are treated - why should staff not have access to occupational therapy and health and safety? We don't even have a Human Resources department so if we have a grievance with our employer we are on our own. Why are we second class citizens?

What do the staff of the House do that entitles them to health and safety, occupational therapy and receptions in the Speaker's rooms?

And Despairing Liberal - we have never had taxis home no matter how late we work - I often get home at 10pm. Taxis on holidays? What drugs are you on?

Neil said...

Iain,

Whilst I do think that the house authorities treat MPs staff pretty badly compared to the MPs they work for and the other house of commons staff, I think there are some explanations for the issues raised by the email.

Firstly, MPs staff dont get occupational therapy because technically they are not employed by the authorities, but by their individual MPs. It is up to their MP to give them this support I think - rightly, or wrongly.

The same is also true (but slightly more difficult to argue) with the Carol Services. I imagine the authorities would argue that they feel they should put on an event for their employees.

If they were to open it to all staff, then I imagine they would have to put on a very large event, or do more than two carol services. I can imagine the posts from Guido about how taxpayers money was being wasted on carol services...

I am, however, sure there are ways that the authorities could have done this better to make MPs staff feel included.

................................. said...

What is it that makes the parliamentary authorities think it can treat MPs' staff like this? It's because when the House rises, most of those who make up the "Parliamentary authorities" aren't around, either, so it makes no difference to them.
The rest of us just have to lump it.

................................. said...

Incidentally, Sres: They took away HP Sauce ages ago - it's now some cheap crap which is inedible.

................................. said...

Oh and Neil: MP's staff are employed by IPSA, not MP's. Catch up mate!

Lady Finchley said...

Neil you are right, MPs' staff are considered to be directly employed by them but why should that mean we are excluded from Health & Safety. Occupational Therapy or even having a Human Resources department?

These Carol Services don't cost anything - would it be such a hardship to invite the people who keep this place going?

As far as the canteens go they are not and have never been free. The canteen close at 5 when the House has risen while we are all still working away. Surely it is not a hardship to keep one open. As far as the Post Office goes - the Parliamentary Estate is huge and we need to have post offices so that we can, shock, horror, probe, serve the constituents. We don't get formal tea breaks and most offices are only manned by one person so it is not practical for us to leave the building.

And thank you Treversden for talking such good sense!

Jamie said...

Isn't the Speaker in effect the employer of all of the house staff as chairman of the House of Commons Commission? While the staff of MPs may be the unsung heroes for constituents, I've always thought that the staff of the House must put in a huge amount of work to keep the wheels turning. And I thought that MAPSA were adamant that they wanted individual MPs to remain the employers of their staff. Membersand their staff can't have it both ways when it suits them.

Surely many staff of the House also work regular hours when MPs aren't around, but it probably makes sense to cut back on services that may be used less in these times of austerity...

Right Hon. said...

@Lady Finchley
Stop whinging and get on with your work! My taxes are paying your wages.

Brian said...

A Carol Service is an anachronism in this politically correct New Dark Age. Wouldn't it offend people of other "faiths"?
Didn't MPs secretaries bleat loudest that they shouldn't be civil servants during the Expences and Allowances Scandal? Note to Westminster Village: the rest of the country is still angry with you so stay on the naughty step until we say so.

Alex said...

Because they are members of staff working for MPs and not members of parliament or the staff of the House of Commons.

You have to draw the line somewhere.

Lady Finchley said...

You have it wrong - we were never given the opportunity to become civil servants - if only - then we would have some rights.

The reason MAPSA and many others did not want to be employed by the House was because they enforce archaic retirement rules and many MAPSA members are older ladies who would have been out of a job. At any rate the choice wasn't ours anyway.

Employees of the House get benefits and perks that MPs' staff can only dream of. And they wouldn't have jobs if it weren't for MPs and their staff.

And Rt Hon - you can stick it where the sun don't shine.

P. Stable said...

I wonder how many of the moany researchers work for MPs who spend a great deal of time attempting to portray public sector workers as lazy, overpaid layabouts.

Cynic said...

Why would anyone who was sane want to attend a party hosted by the Bercow's?

For some things the price is just too high

apricotfox said...

Q's comment...LOVED IT! V funny.

Brian said...

@Lady Finchley: I didn't presume that secretaries would transfer into the Civil Service without the standard recruitment procedure.
As for
"Employees of the House get benefits and perks that MPs' staff can only dream of. And they wouldn't have jobs if it weren't for MPs and their staff"
Please remember that the sixty million pay for the 660 to rubber stamp Eurolaws and make vanity EDMs using our taxes.

Sean Haffey said...

What with one thing and another, even when the MPs aren't in the House, there must be a thousand or more people working on site.

Surely that would make it worthwhile to keep the facilities open?

Lady Finchley said...

Brian, nobody hates EDMs more that MPs' staff, I can assure you.

But do think of this - without MPs, their researchers and PAs, there would be no need for catering staff, postal workers, clerks, building maintenance workers etc or indeed the entire building so I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss us.

Lady Finchley said...

Yes, Sean you would think that wouldn't you. Unlike MP's staff who work right through the summer, the rest of the House workers work shorter hours or take their holidays so they are not as badly affected. Still, there are enough of them there to ensure that at least one canteen stays open well into the evening. Strangely enough, constituents still want replies and still need assistance throughout the summer and various half terms - if we are here to provide the service then we should at least be considered.

Unsworth said...

"What is it that makes the parliamentary authorities think it can treat MPs' staff like this?"

What on earth makes you believe that these people can actually think?

This is exactly the sort of appalling management which has been exhibited for decades, now. Personally I put this latest shambles down to the malign influences of the Bercows. There's a very clear disconnect between management and the shop floor - witness the missive to you.

However, I think the lady does herself no credit. Many of us have to endure crass management and petty privations - yet we seem to survive. I do think that the staff can sometimes get an overinflated sense of their importance and value to society. How do their working conditions compare with those in, say, Helmand?

Lady Finchley said...

Unsworth - I agreed with you until the last sentence but this is not just a matter of getting invited to a Carol Concert - it is symptomatic of the shitty system. How would you like to be told you couldn't have a fan for your sweltering office because only MPs get fans? Or when they came around to clean the MPs' phones but not ours? Why in the Mother of Parliaments is the union not officially recognised? Why do MPs' employees have no Human Resource Department so if we have a problem with our boss we're defenceless? Why does Health and Safety not apply to us? Why shouldn't our kids have a creche? We have less job security than the House employees - our jobs are in danger with every Election. Yes, I know we are individually employed by MPs but it is not practical to have a separate system - we should be under the House's umbrella.

And some of the nasty comments here demonstrate that most people have a mistaken idea of what goes on. Employees of MPs are far from privileged and we just want to be on an equal footing with other workers in the House. And being invited to the Carol Concert would have been a nice start.

Lady Finchley said...

And Unsworth - I wouldn't be so quick to blame the Bercows - all this has been going on for years.

Brian said...

@Lady Finchley: Using your logic let's all become MPs in order to get out of the recession and end unemployment. Or MPs and their staff could take a 25% cut to help reduce the rate of growth of the national debt. Most people outside the Westminster Village place expenditure on MPs and their staff below even international aid and EU danegeld in terms of value for taxpayers' money.

Overtiredandemotional said...

The point that most commentators miss on this issue, and others, is simple fairness. Stick two groups together in an environment and treat one more favourably, and you will engender a sense of grievance.

They are paid from the same pot, working in the same building and, broadly, serve the same system.

I do not know if this lady is right, but her annoyance at petty unfairness is both inevitable and understandable.

Ed the Shred said...

I'm sorry, but I'm a bit dim on all this. Why is there a distinction between House of Common's staff and MP's staff anyway? Surely all of these staff, as well as MPs themselves, are simply serving the voters (and taxpayers) and all should be treated equally. Why should a 'line be drawn' anywhere?

Lady Finchley said...

We should take a 25% pay cut, Brian? Do let me know what constituency you live in so you can go on the pay no mind list.

Tell that to the family that was a week away from being homeless,the elderly man whose care package was being cut and the young carer who desperately needed respite - just three of the many hundreds of cases we helped in the last year. And multiply me by 600. You really don't have a clue, do you?

Lady Finchley said...

Yes, Overtiredandemotional and EdtheShred - that is exactly the point. This goes far beyond an invitation to a Carol Concert. It is the utter disregard with which MPs staff are treated and the unfairness of it all. And Parliament should be setting an example.

Roger the Shrubber said...

Oh my GOD! How dreadful... Missing out on a Carol Service in the middle of London.. Take to the barricades because they wouldn't consider holding any of those across the road from HoP, would they!

Working for Asda a decade ago, the only Christmas celebration was a £20 Asda voucher, and a mass Xmas party. I should have demanded a Carol Service as a condition of me taking their employment offer up..

Brian said...

@Lady Finchley: You just don't get it do you? Who passed the laws that caused the problems you claim to have solved? Parliament. Who sets the tone for the country? MPs. Why should Westminster be protected from the recession and debt crisis? And I and my colleagues could have more than matched your success stories when I worked as a Personal Advisor in JobCentre Plus so don't claim to be specially useful. However, I was made redundant by Brown's government to save money. Let's hope the money saved from my former salary is not subsidising the Parliamentary canteens.

Lady Finchley said...

Roger the Shrubber - you should learn to read properly. This is not about a Carol Service but about the inequality of services for MPs' staff at the House of Commons.

Lady Finchley said...

Brian I don't think you could ever surpass my success stories nor the ones of the other hardworking caseworkers - many of us who have won official recognition for our work. Jobcentre Plus, eh? How many NHS cases have you intervened in? How many statements for autistic pupils have you helped to secure? How many elderly people have you helped to retain their continuing care? How many benefits have you helped reinstate that your employer mistakenly cut? How many child tax credit payments have you obtained for desperate parents? Hmmm? I thought not. Jobcentre Advisors - now that's a laugh - nobody I know has ever been helped by one.

And MPs' staff did not make the laws so we shouldn't be punished. Catch yourself on, will you?

Right Hon. said...

@Lady Finchley
Surely the enormous job satisfaction is recompense enough?
I don't remember Mother Theresa complaining about the unfairness of not having someone to clean her phone.

Lady Finchley said...

Rt Hon - why don't you feed your family on job satisfaction - see how far it gets you.

Unsworth said...

@ Lady Finchley

Nobody is forced take a job in the Houses of Parliament, are they? If things are as awful as you wish to portray then there's a very simple answer. It's no use hiding behind the concept that such work is a vocation, it simply is not.

If all the staff agree with your stance then presumably there will be a very high turnover and innumerable vacancies. Is this so? I think we all know that is not the case. And, were it true, do you not think that the management would be getting told to do something about the state of affairs in a very big way by the users of such services?

Perhaps your views are based on your own particular circumstances. However, as I have indicated, there are worse jobs. If the union is not up to dealing with the management effectively so be it. They are your representatives and presumably elected by you and your colleagues. If the union is sufficiently representative it is illegal not to recognise it.

Your jobs are in danger every election? Deal with it. I know many people who have infinitely less job security and who would kill for the kind of security you describe.

Brian said...

@Lady Finchley If you're as good as you claim to be, why haven't you and the other secretaries sorted out the Carol concert problem already.
By the way, I have never met anyone who received more than an "I dympathise with your concerns and have passed your letter on to the responsible Minister, etc" letter from the MP, mostly illegibly signed pp.
I'm glad you've never seen a grown man burst into tears after thanking me for my help in helping him return to work after over six months' unemployment following a breakdown. You don't deserve to. End of conversation.

Lady Finchley said...

Well Unsworth, here was me thinking you weren't like the rest of the ignoramuses on this thread. Silly me. FYI there is a high turnover here but some people do stick it out. And Brits being Brits they just don't DO anything about it - just grumble among themselves. Nobody said it was an awful job - what I did say is that MPs' staff work in less than ideal conditions and because we are MPs staff people like you think it's okay and that you are entitled to take a pop.

As for you Brian, you really do revel in your ignorance don't you. I am not here to trade war stories with you - what is it - who's the bigger saint? No wonder they found you surplus to requirements.

Unsworth said...

@ Lady Finchley

"because we are MPs staff people like you think it's okay and that you are entitled to take a pop. "

Garbage. I'm taking a pop because you're so far up yourself that you cannot even begin to acknowledge the awful privations that others endure each and every day - and compare your relatively good lot.

It certainly didn't look like "less than ideal" from where I'm standing. Did you actually say that? If so, where?

And who are "people like you" and "the rest of the ignoramuses on this thread"? Do you want to persuade - or to antagonise?

Right Hon. said...

@Lady Finchley
What a spiteful thing to say re: Brian being made redundant... but just ignore me your ladyship, I'm just an ignoranus.

Lady Finchley said...

That's right, Rt Hon - I'm spiteful. When somebody attacks me I attack right back and in spades. You, Unworth and the rest of your ilk feel entitled to take pot shots at MPs' staff because to you we are guilty by association. Not once did I say we were suffering privations - all I did was point out that in the Mother of Parliaments, which should be setting the example for employers, is guilty of allowing less than satisfactory conditions for employees of MPs. We have tried, God knows we tried, to get our point across but we are repeatedly ignored and the MPs do not stand up for their staff either.

If any other employee had spoken of this you all would have rallied to the cause but because we work for MPs we are accused of being corrupt - like where did Despairing Liberal get the idea that secretaries (what a quaint old word) get free taxis and on vacation too. Utter crap which you all are only too willing to believe.

Do you really believe that its okay for us not to have a Human Resources Dept so that if we have problems with our bosses we can be supported? MPs mistreat employees a lot more than you think. Do you really believe it is okay for employees to swelter or freeze and then be told they can't have a fan or a heater because only bosses get them? Do you believe it's okay not have the Union officially recognised so that it is basically toothless?

Then to make it worse you negate all the good work that we do. Believe me nobody does this job unless they have dedication yet all most of you on this thread have been deriding and downright insulting. But then again, we are used to this - we are roundly abused by constituents and random members of the public on a regular basis because they can't say it to an MP. And you think this is okay? Shame.

Right Hon. said...

Absolutely shameful working conditions Lady F... you should take the matter up with your MP.

Lady Finchley said...

My God, how many times do I need to say this - MPs for most part, don't give a thought to their employees' needs. We are just supposed to get on with it. It would have been better if we had been made employees of the House rather than individually employed but MPs rightfully did not want the House to inflict employees on them. It should be perfectly reasonable for MPs to make their own recruitment decisions but for all employees to be employed by the House - we are administered by them anyway. Unfortunately at the time of the consultation the MPs were more interested in making sure they could still hire their wives and children than in their other employees. Pure and simple.

Unsworth said...

Frankly this discussion is now complete parody of rational debate. It's clear that Lady F feels aggrieved - in a remarkably big way - but is unable or unwilling to acknowledge (possibly, understand) any others' views. A dialogue with the profoundly hearing impaired is always going to be fraught...