HC Deb 18 January 1996 vol 269 cc697-8W
Mr. Frank Field

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if she will make a statement on the dispute within the Employment Service which began on 30 November 1995; and what action she plans to take to negotiate a settlement. [9911]

Mr. Forth

Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service Agency under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from M. E. G. Fogden to Mr. Frank Field, dated 17 January 1996: The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the current trade dispute within the Employment Service; responsibility for pay bargaining was delegated to the Agency in January 1994. The Agency is in dispute with the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA) over the 1995/96 pay award to those of our employees in grades represented by that union. These ES people have been paid increases, with effect from April 1995, of between 2.8% and 5.5%, depending upon their individual performance in the year ending March 1995. The majority of them received pay rises of more than 3.7%. These pay awards were in addition to a 2.3% increase, also paid in April, for this group of employees as a consequence of CPSA agreement to a new pay structure for the grades in question. Whilst we regret the decision taken by the CPSA to call for industrial action amongst some of its members working in the Agency, we have been clear from the outset that the pay award for 1995/96 will not be improved. The pay award is fair, and is set at a level that is all the Agncy can afford. We have made very real efforts to reach a settlement with the CPSA, both before the dispute started and since. This included my agreement that talks should take place under the auspices of ACAS. Those talks were called off when the CPSA decided not to adhere to the agreement we had reached that it would order its striking members back to work before the talks started. The Employment Service remains committed to finding an early resolution to the idspute to enable us to resume our normal level of service to the job seekers who use the 47 offices currently affected by strike action. Communication channels with the union, therefore, remain open. But that does not mean we are in a position to improve upon a pay award which is both competitive and at the limits of what we can afford. I hope this is helpful.