Britain’s biggest union has got embroiled in a row over a breach of data protection rules in the House of Commons in trying to recruit MPs’ staff as members to push for a strike. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has ordered the data protection officer to “actively pursue” Unite the Union’s parliamentary staff representative after she used the Parliament email database without the necessary permission to contact MPs’ staff in a bid to recruit new members and organise a strike.
Leeann Clarkson, who works for Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris, had contacted MPs staff members about the campaign to get a pay increase of the highest rate of inflation plus 2 percent.
But according to correspondence seen by Express.co.uk, the Speaker believed that it was a breach of data protection rules.
In an email to one complainant, Josh Ryder, assistant to the Speaker’s Secretary pointed out that Unite does not have an agreement in place as a recognised union for bargaining.
He said: “The House of Commons recognises the FDA, Prospect, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and GMB for the purposes of collective bargaining relating to the pay and terms and conditions of staff employed by the House of Commons.
“The House and these recognised unions have a facilities time agreement which sets out the principles, guidance and procedures regarding the facilities available to employees of the House of Commons Service who are accredited representatives of these recognised unions.”
He added: “These facilities are not available to be used for the purposes of planning or implementing industrial action.”
While he noted that there was a memorandum of understanding with Unite, the union is not recognised for pay bargaining.
He went on: “No agreement is in place with Unite regarding the use of Parliamentary facilities including accommodation, ICT and telephony.
“There is therefore no lawful basis or agreement that exists that permits Members’ staff acting on behalf of the union to use data on the Parliamentary network (Members’ staff email addresses) for their own purposes.
“If this was something that Unite wanted to pursue, we would have to look at setting up some form of agreement with them which is compliant with data protection responsibilities.”
He added: “Following concerns raised by other recipients at the time, our Data Protection Officer has been in contact with the sender about the use of the personal data for these purposes and is actively pursuing the matter.”
Mr Morris, who Ms Clarkson works for, is also chair of the Unite the Union Parliamentary Group.
In her email to MPs’ staff, Ms Clarkson used the threat of industrial action and the pay campaign as a recruiting tool.
She wrote: “As you may have seen, the Unite Parliamentary Staff Branch has passed the attached motion to IPSA.
“Pay for MPs’ staff has been cut in real terms since IPSA took over our budgets and pay scales, while workloads have continued to rise. Our immediate pay demand therefore remains for RPI +2 percent.
“Going forward, we are also asking for a similar holistic pay review to that which was conducted in 2020. That review found we needed a 13 percent budget uplift. However, unlike then, any recommended uplift must automatically be applied to existing staff salaries as now exists for yearly reviews.
“As stated in our letter to IPSA we will meet again on 17th February, when dependant on their response members will vote on a motion to ballot for industrial action.
“MPs as the employer must be the focus of the ballot but they will not be the target of the campaign.
“It is regrettable that IPSA have not negotiated over the pay that staff need and deserve at a time of soaring cost of living that has led to this situation.
“We are asking MPs to join our call for a review as we target our action at IPSA, they can do that by signing EDM 832.”
She went on: “To make the administration of the ballot simpler, if you work for an MP and are not in the Unite Parliamentary Branch (for example, you might be in your local voluntary sector branch) please move your membership across to the Parliamentary Branch.
“This can be done by emailing the branch Membership Officer….with your full name, the name of your employer, your membership number, and address.”
She added: “Finally if you want to join the campaign and the fight for better pay then join Unite today.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Morris’ office for a comment from him or Ms Clarkson but received no reply.
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