Senedd Commission in dispute with union over cost-of-living payment
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
A £1,500 cost-of-living payment for Senedd staff is insufficient to end a dispute with a trade union, a report has revealed.
The Senedd Commission – which runs the Welsh Parliament’s estate and provides support for MSs – remains in dispute with the PCS Union.
A finance committee scrutiny report published on Friday October 20 warned that the pay award has led to significant in-year reductions to the commission’s budget.
Appearing before the committee earlier this month, Ken Skates, the Senedd commissioner for budgets, provided details of the cost-of-living payment for staff.
He said two payments, totalling £1,500, would be made for each staff member below director level in October and February, which will cost the commission £825,000.
Mr Skates told MSs the impact would be “felt right across the organisation” with savings having to be found elsewhere and a targeted recruitment freeze in place.
He stressed that key priorities including Senedd reform have been protected but said the commission has scaled back spending on training, events, travel and other areas.
A further £315,000 worth of savings are yet to be identified in the 2024/25 draft budget.
Jayne Smith wrote to the committee on behalf of the PCS Union on October 11, raising concerns that next year’s draft budget risks underfunding the institution.
She said: “This will lead to in-year difficulties for the commission in terms of recruitment, projects, other types of expenditure and maintaining service levels for members. The agreement reached so far has resulted in the pausing of action but is not sufficient to end the dispute.”
The industrial officer added: “PCS has long been ready to negotiate a settlement that would mitigate the real-terms decrease in the pay of commission staff and bring the ongoing dispute to an end.”
The PCS Union has called for a £3,000 payment next year.
Mr Skates said this would amount to 4% of the commission’s operating budget before ring-fenced funding for specific programmes.
“At the level that’s been requested, the cost would be way in excess of £1 million, which we simply wouldn’t be able to find,” he said.
“And so we’d be in a position where we would have to request a supplementary budget.”
A commission survey found staff well-being compared favourably with 70% feeling fairly paid against an industry average of 66%.
However, one respondent said: “The lack of action by senior management to increase pay in recognition of extraordinary inflation is disheartening.”
Commission staff will receive a 3% rise in 2024/25 after a 2.4% pay award this year.
Members’ salaries and related costs – which are set by the independent remuneration board rather than the commission – will increase by £1.3m, up 7.5% on 2023/24.
Commission staff and members are on different terms. Staff are in the middle of a long-term agreement, negotiated with PCS, whereas members’ pay and expenses are decided annually through the remuneration board’s determination.
The latest determination shows MSs receive a base salary of £69,958 a year, with certain office holders such as the first minister, cabinet members and committee chairs receiving an additional top-up of £9,000 to £83,000 a year.
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