The job cuts were prompted by reductions in departmental running costs (DRCs), the main component of which is staffing. Public service union PCS said it was yet to receive a 'valid explanation' as to why DRC cuts were necessary.
'The cuts are of the same order as those made by John Redwood for his own political advancement when he was Welsh secretary, and from which it took five years to recover. For staff, who have delivered for ministers a seamless transition following the merger of the quangos with the Assembly, this is a real body blow.
'Last year an all-party Assembly committee looking at the Government of Wales Bill recommended that WAG would require more policy staff to cope with increased workload linked to the additional powers conferred on the Assembly. Instead, staff numbers are being cut by 20%.
'We believe that the government's ability to successfully use the powers in the new bill to implement policies made in Wales is likely to be severely constrained if there aren't sufficient staff numbers to deliver on them. It also begs the question as to what is the point of scrutiny committees if their recommendations are so brazenly ignored?'
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, added: 'The Assembly cuts will be made despite compelling evidence to show that WAG is inadequately staffed to cope with current workloads.
'In the 2005 staff survey, 74% of staff replied that they regularly worked longer hours than they wished to do with 66% regularly working in excess of five hours above their contracted hours. In other words, Assembly ministers are receiving the best part of a day's work free of charge every week from two thirds of Assembly staff. The Assembly relies on the goodwill of staff to properly function, but these cuts will exacerbate an unacceptable culture of long hours working.'
The PCS, Prospect and FDA unions are consulting staff about protest activity in opposition to the cuts.