AGENCY workers serving MPs, staff and guests at several House of Commons bars and restaurants are losing out on the same tips their colleagues get paid.
Service charges paid by debit and credit cards are distributed equally among permanent staff in addition to their wages, the House of Commons Commission confirmed yesterday.
But contracted catering workers are denied shares of tips because they are not on the Commons payroll system and so “there is no mechanism for these to be paid,” Lib Dem MP Tom Brake said in response to a question from Labour’s Tulip Siddiq.
The Commons controls the amount of staff it hires during peak and down times by using a “flexible resource” of agency workers, he added in response to a question by shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant.
Mr Bryant said: “Agency workers on flexible contracts are some of the most marginalised workers, and living in a city as expensive as London it just isn’t right that they aren’t getting their fair share of tips.
“Parliament should lead by example and stop paying agencies a fortune for staff, bring them in-house and make sure all staff get tips.”
Agency staff accounted for 8 per cent of spending on workers last year — up from nearly 3 per cent in 2009-10 — due to “a growing banqueting and events business through income generation initiatives.”
A Commons spokesperson said: “Currently, card-generated tips are distributed with payroll to permanent House of Commons catering staff pro-rata according to hours and venue worked; current payroll administrative arrangements make it difficult to allocate card tips to non-permanent staff as they are paid directly by their agencies and there are considerable variations in the hours they work.
“However, agency staff do benefit from cash tips, and the House of Commons Catering Department will be looking at the existing system as part of their business plan for the year to see if improvements can be made.”