11 Jul 2013
July 11, 2013

Why Unions are Quiet on MPs Pay


‘People’, it’s being reported, are angry at MPs about their proposed future pay-rise.  This is in spite of the fact that most reports make it clear that, in response to pubic demand, MPs some time ago gave away their powers to set their own pay to a quango called IPSA.

Are the angry people thick? No, I don’t think so.  I think they feel that because we live in a democratic society, MPs can give away whatever powers they like to quangos but will always be held ultimately responsible for the decisions of such bodies.

So MPs have responsibility for their pay, but no power over it. Oops.

But people have to have something to get worked up about, right?  So perhaps being hate-objects is a kind of public service in itself.

But have you noticed that while lots of folk have jumped on the bandwagon in order to get their names on telly and in the papers, public sector unions have generally been careful not to be too opportunistic?

That’s because they can see what lies behind some of IPSA’s assumptions.

IPSA is reportedly, for example, proposing to cease allowing MPs to claim £15 for dinner during late sessions.  Why should the public pay for that?  Why indeed?  So why should be public be expected to pay for any public servant’s dinner when they’re away from home on public business?  If that seems a silly and small example, simply extend IPSA’s assumptions across the whole gammet of industrial relations issues covered by negotiations between trades unions and public sector employers.  IPSA does not negotiate with the people it pays and pensions.  IPSA does not accept employer-liability for MP’s staff for unfair dismissal or anything else, but control pay levels, contracts and conditions of service.  IPSA doesn’t believe MPs should be allowed to claim breakfast when they’re provided with a hotel room on the basis that MPs would be eating breakfast whether they were on business of not. MP’s aren’t allowed to claim the amount it costs them to get from their hotel room to their place of work.  In future MPs will, apparently, receive double the minimum redundancy payment but no more on the basis that any more is unfair on the folk who pay MP’s salaries.  And, of course, IPSA sets pay following wide public consultation.  Why?  Because it’s public money, of course and that’s only right.  Right?

Some of these examples are small and some aren’t.  But you can see where a Tory government might want to take the debate.  If it’s a virtue to reduce the cost of 650 MPs by bringing down what unions might call MP’s conditions of service, how much more of a virtue to do the same, applying the same assumptions, across the millions of public service workers?