Page last updated at 06:37 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Labour, Plaid AMs to miss debate due to picket line

A plenary session on March 9th was postponed due to PCS strike action.

An assembly debate is due to go ahead in the Senedd building later - in the absence of both government parties.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said Labour and Plaid members "would be very concerned" about crossing picket lines of striking PCS union members.

The decision not to attend has been criticised as "silly posturing".

The Tories called it "absurd" and will debate a motion with the Lib Dems that the assembly government's programme is not delivering for Wales.

All assembly government business was moved to Tuesday's plenary session.

Civil and public servants across Wales plan to walk out for a third day of strike action on Wednesday in an ongoing dispute over cuts to redundancy terms.

Labour and Plaid refused to cross the picket line: From BBC Democracy Live

The strike, called by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), follows a two day strike earlier in March which led to a plenary meeting being postponed. It will again involve jobcentre staff, tax workers, courts staff, driving examiners and Welsh Assembly Government staff among others.

First Minister Mr Jones said: "The whole Labour group and indeed the Plaid Cymru group... would be very concerned about crossing a picket line.

"Speaking as far as the Labour party is concerned, its something that is ingrained in party thinking, that you don't cross a picket line."

Speaking as far as the Labour Party is concerned, its something that is ingrained in party thinking, that you don't cross a picket line
First Minister Carwyn Jones

A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said Plaid's AMs supported the right of the PCS union to withdraw labour during this dispute and would not be crossing their picket lines.

He said the Plaid group would write to Gordon Brown's UK government urging an immediate return to negotiations with the union.

'One Wales' debate

In the assembly government's absence Conservative and Liberal Democrats will debate a wide-ranging motion that the Labour-Plaid administration's 'One Wales' agreement "is not delivering for the people of Wales."

Welsh Conservative Leader Nick Bourne criticised the first minister's stance, accusing him of "silly posturing", and said for his group it would be "business as usual".

He said: "He's pushed himself into a ridiculous corner... it's absurd. It looks like he's afraid of coming in as first minister...

"We weren't elected to start skulking around the Bay carrying out business from cafes.

"I think it's farcical but I think they're making themselves look silly and if they want to do that it's up to them."

The chamber.
Labour and Plaid members aren't expected to attend the Weds March 24th plenary session.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams called for all Labour and Plaid members who refuse to cross a picket line to disclose whether they have asked the fees office to deduct sums from their pay as a result.

She said: "It is easy for Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs to cancel assembly business but people will rightly expect that as a matter of principle, if they refuse to cross the picket line to work, they should forgo part of their salary in proportion to the amount of time they spent not working, just like everyone else who was on strike."

'Work hard'

In response, a Plaid spokesperson said it was clear Lib Dems think the only work AMs should do is turn up to plenary sessions.

He said: "The fact that Plaid AMs have not crossed picket lines does not mean they have been on strike.

"Plaid AMs work hard on behalf of their constituents whether they are in the national assembly or working elsewhere."

Labour AM for Caerphilly Jeff Cuthbert said the Lib Dems were being "wilfully misleading".

He said: "They know as well as anyone that Labour AMs will be working tomorrow, as we did during the previous strike action, but we will not be crossing the picket line."

The first minister said assembly government business originally planned for Wednesday had been tabled during Tuesday's plenary session instead.

He said: "I think it is right to say that it's important that there is a settlement to this dispute.

"It's also important to say that if this were to become a regular feature then of course there would be some serious problems in terms of the way the public would perceive it."

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