A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Labour MPs as employers

One of my pet hates is the small number of Labour MPs, who, despite belonging to a Party set up to represent the interests of working people, fail for whatever reason to treat their own employees properly in terms of issues such as pay, conditions or workplace rights. All Labour MPs should be setting an example as employers, not embarrassing the Party with the way they carry out this role.

Lynne Smith, who used to be active in Hackney South CLP before moving up to Bradford and becoming a councillor, has just had to fight a case at Employment Tribunal against her former employer Marsha Singh MP (Bradford West).

She won her case for unfair dismissal.

Perhaps the PLP could play a more active role in ensuring high standards as employers are kept to by all Labour MPs, and providing a central pool of management advice to help MPs deal with situations they are not trained to manage in a way that does not put them on the wrong side of employment law.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who has worked in parliament either has direct experience of an appalling boss, or has friends who have.

I dont have the stats to hand, but MPs must have one of the worst records for losing employment tribunals, and that doesnt count the cases that get sorted out early by the heroes who run the parliamentary T&G branch.

It isnt just the Labour MPs tho - not that that excuses it! - but MPs of all parties. I actually think that the nats have a good system, whereby they operate as a group, and researchers work for the group, not an indivudual. Not sure how that would work for a party the size of the PLP, but something has to change.

10:30 am, November 13, 2007

Blogger Dave Cole said...

I would add that this includes unpaid internships.

10:35 am, November 13, 2007

Blogger Merseymike said...

This doesn't appear to be about workplace conditions or pay, but a falling out between two people over a local issue.

I've known it happen elsewhere. The problem is that usually employees are those also involved in a local party which leaves plenty of room for such hostilities.

10:45 am, November 13, 2007

Blogger Hughes Views said...

Many MPs will have had no previous experience as employers and in their tiny offices won't have the benefit of HR departments etc. to assist them. I agree that parties, or maybe Parliament, should offer more training, advice and support.

12:05 pm, November 13, 2007

Blogger Dave Cole said...

Hughes - the need for more support for Parliamentarians also applies in IT.

3:10 pm, November 13, 2007

Blogger Andy Howell said...

They don't need experience as employers - just a bit of humanity,

I've a few friends who've been treated dreadfully by their MP employers. The kinds of problems they've had don't require any special knowledge at all to treat people with respect, see them through illness, etc.

8:27 pm, November 13, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the parliamentary T&G branch? hurray for Stuart Watkin!

11:23 pm, November 13, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

I agree with Hughes Views on the relevance of MPs mostly having no previous experience as employers.

I think this supports Luke's suggestion that MPs' parties (of any and all persuasions) take a more pro-active or supportive stance with MPs on being an employer.

In the part of my work that includes providing development and governance advice to to voluntary and community sector organisations I find the same issues.

I regularly come across what are described as "employment" issues, or "employees' performance problems", when the problem turns out to be the voluntary board members. They simply have no experience or awareness about what it takes to be an acceptable (never mind progressive) employer.

It can be difficult to address these problems because, of course, the board members are usually well-intentioned people very committed to what they are doing.

I'm afraid that I often have to resort to 'fright tactics'. This consists of case examples of similar organisations where the board has ended up with adverse publicity and costs when an aggrieved employee is forced to take an Industrial Tribunal action.

2:54 pm, November 14, 2007

Blogger Mary said...

In Hackney South we have an annual appraisal process for our MP. One area discussed each year is the performance of the MP as an employer - since both the CLP and our MP are aware that there is no other external oversight in this regard.

Suffice it to say that Meg rates very highly in this regard, giving considerable care and attention to the training and career development of her staff team.We feel that this appraisal is an excellent opportunity for the party chair and MP to sit down and confidentially discuss performance in a range of areas.

3:19 pm, November 14, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Mary said that is a good example of how things can work, respects to all concerned and it should be an exemplar for others :)

11:29 am, November 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reply to Hughes Views, MPs may be small employers, but, unlike other small employers, they have access to unlimited free advice from the House of Commons personnel department.

From what I've heard, Marsha Singh was asked during the tribunal if his staff had contracts of employment and he said he didn't know!

2:43 pm, November 15, 2007


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