Assistants accuse MEPs of U-turn over staff rules

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.28, 12.7.01, p4
Publication Date 12/07/2001
Content Type

Date: 16/07/01

By John Shelley

PARLIAMENTARY staff say MEPs have betrayed them by backtracking on plans to make their employment more transparent.

The assistants claim members have "re-interpreted" their commitment to publish a list of all their staff because of pressure from those MEPs who improperly use their €12,000-a-month assistants' allowance. As a result the list, which is due to come out next week, will be incomplete they say. "Obviously some members have got something to hide otherwise they wouldn't have put on the pressure to re-interpret the rules," said Guillaume McLaughlin, a member of the European Parliamentary Assistants Association's executive committee.

For the assistants, publication of the list is a vital step towards increasing awareness about their working conditions and problems over their legal status. A study last year revealed that more than a quarter did not have proper work papers and over half had no medical insurance. MEPs have since been asked to provide proof of employment contracts, social security and insurance details for their staff.

The assistants say the publication of a complete list of aides would draw attention to widespread fraud and misuse of taxpayers' money. They claim that some MEPs employ family members as assistants, while others allegedly take the cash and illegally funnel it to their political parties.

Assistants say the list is destined to be incomplete for two reasons. Firstly under the rules drawn up by MEPs, aides themselves can opt not to appear in the document. "This opens the door for members who are bad employers, and there are some of them, to pressurise their assistants into not appearing," says McLaughlin.

Secondly, the list will be drawn up from records of assistants who have a pass to enter the Parliament building: many aides, especially those who are based in their bosses' member states, do not have one. "The point behind this is transparency and accountability. It only seems logical that if you are being paid for by the European taxpayer then you should have to appear on the list," said McLaughlin.

Aides are also worried the row is a sign of things to come when assistants apply pressure for a full statute and more extensive employment rights.

Parliamentary staff say MEPs have betrayed them by backtracking on plans to make their employment more transparent.

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