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House of Commons Workers Must Submit to Pay Freeze

Three disgruntled members of staff at the House of Commons, who had their remuneration frozen for more than two and a half years due to Government cuts, have failed to convince the High Court that they have a contractual entitlement to regular, automatic, pay rises.

The three men, two of whom worked in the House of Commons library and the other as a statistical researcher, were amongst more than 1,000 Parliamentary workers whose pay had not been increased since the Chancellor in June 2010 announced a freeze on civil service remuneration in an emergency budget.

Employed by the House of Commons Commission, the statutory body responsible for managing the House’s services and administration, their contracts of employment entitled them to remuneration ‘broadly in line’ with the home civil service. Their letters of appointment stated that their progression through the relevant pay bands would be on an annual basis, dependent on performance.

Their lawyers argued that, on a correct interpretation of the letters of appointment, the relevant parts of the Parliamentary staff handbook and collectively negotiated pay agreements achieved in the past, they were contractually entitled to have their pay ‘progressed’ annually.

However, in dismissing their claims, the Court found that their arguments were inconsistent with express contractual provisions contained within the handbook which provided a mechanism for the negotiation of pay rises and changes in terms and conditions with trade unions.

Those provisions were clearly at variance with the automatic right to pay progression contended for and there was nothing within collective agreements reached in the past which gave the men a contractual entitlement to year-on-year progression payments.

The handbook stated that workers’ salaries would ‘fall somewhere between the minimum and maximum of the band and the rate at which you progress up the band is subject to satisfactory performance’. However, the frequency of progression and the financial value of progress were not specified.