WHETHER staff at the National Assembly should have free parking could cause an enormous headache for Rhodri Morgan. Plans to make Assembly staff pay for the use of an underground car park could end up wrecking two of the Assembly Government's key initiatives.
Furious civil servants are threatening to withdraw all "goodwill" from Assembly bosses after being told they will have to pay £12 a week to park their cars under the old Welsh Office in Cathays Park, Cardiff. The car park, with 400 spaces, has been free since the building went up in 1979.
If staff goodwill is withdrawn, it will be difficult to implement the merger of three major quangos with the Assembly Government. The WDA, Wales Tourist Board and the training body Elwa.
It will also jeopardise plans to relocate staff to new Assembly Government offices in Aberystwyth and Llandudno.
On Wednesday, members of the PCS union employed by the Assembly Government in Cathays Park meet to discuss a hard-hitting motion, which deplores the plan to impose the charge from May despite a petition by 1,150 staff.
The motion says, "Imposing charges will be detrimental and unfair on staff based at Cathays Park, since there are no immediate plans to introduce charging elsewhere. Charging will not apply to Assembly Members or Ministers.
"Our lowest paid members will find it particularly difficult to afford the charges. At £2.40 per day it would work out at £528 per year, which is 4% of the salary of those at the minimum of the Team Support grade.
"While supporting the Assembly Government's Green Travel aims, this meeting believes that these can be better met by initiatives such as giving more incentives to car-sharing, increasing financial assistance to improving public transport, and pursuing park and ride facilities with Cardiff City Council and other major employers."
The motion calls on management to withdraw the charging proposal and negotiate - otherwise goodwill will be withdrawn followed by protest action including:
A ban on the use of private cars for official business;
Contracted hours only to be worked;
A campaign of protest activity including a lunchtime demonstration outside the Assembly building in Cardiff Bay; and,
Representations to Ministers and Assembly Members.
Jeff Evans, the head of PCS in Wales, said, "This is a difficult time for Assembly staff who feel they are being battered from all angles. There are individuals in Cardiff who have been shackled to posts earmarked for relocation to Merthyr, Aberystwyth and Llandudno with no promise of a post at the end of a process. There are several hundred Assembly staff who, because of the merger with the quangos, have had to apply for their own jobs, with, in many cases, a lack of clarity about their future role.
"On top of that, management are now imposing car parking charges replacing a free facility which staff have had since 1979. The charges will apply to the staff only - Ministers and Assembly Members are exempt!
"The imposition of car parking charges is the straw that broke the camel's back. Assembly staff have constructively engaged in the huge structural changes taking place, despite the disruption and uncertainty this creates. Their reward for their goodwill is a kick in the teeth.
"Assembly management are in serious danger of losing the support of staff which would have serious repercussions for the merger and relocation projects."
An Assembly Government spokeswoman said, "We are still in discussions with the trade unions about how and when any changes would be introduced.
"This is part of our overall Green Policy which aims to encourage staff to car share and use public transport. The views of all staff have been listened to and will continue to be listened to."