Monday, 22 January 2018

Pensions and Equal Pay

Stefan Cross explains the significance of Pensions and Equal Pay and the difference a pensionable settlement can make to equal pay claimants.


Pensions and Equal Pay (19/01/18)

I promised to provide some information about the importance of Pensions and Equal Pay and I've been trawling the blog site archive for good examples to share.

So here are a couple of posts which date back to 2016 and the fight for equal pay in North Lanarkshire Council where A4ES waged a successful campaign to have equal pay settlements made on a pensionable basis.

In the briefing note supplied to The Sunday Herald I explained the potential benefits to equal pay claimants and the figures involved relate to a relatively small number of individuals compared to Glasgow.

"The total lifetime benefit to the claimants (collectively) would be in excess of £10 million because of the increased lump sum and annual pension benefits - and these benefits are already enjoyed by equivalent NLC male workers, of course. The additional lump sum (tax free payments) to 2nd Wave claims, for example, is worth around £800,000."

Much more to follow in the days ahead - so watch this space. 


Pensions and Equal Pay (19/01/18)

Here are two posts from the blog site archive which explain the significance of the battle waged by Action 4 Equality Scotland to have people's equal pay settlements paid on a pensionable basis.

As I've explained before the unions originally advised their members that this could not be done, and were not part of the dispute which went all the way to Scottish Ministers before being resolved in the claimants' favour.

As usual the unions are trying to claim credit for something when all the real work and 'heavy lifting' has been done by A4ES.


NLC Update (12/06/16)

Here's great article by Tom Gordon in today's Sunday Herald which explains the fight over pensions and equal pay that is being waged between Action 4 Equality Scotland and Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council. 

The trade unions have stayed out of this battle for some reason, even though the payment of equal pay settlements on a pensionable basis results in huge benefits for the lowest paid council workers.

I plan to circulate the Sunday Herald piece around all North Lanarkshire MSPs and MPs with the aim of encouraging local politicians to join the campaign to knock some much needed sense into Scotland's fourth largest council.

Council ordered to pay pension costs of hundreds of women it underpaid

North Lanarkshire Council HQ, Motherwell

By Tom Gordon - Scottish Political Editor, The Sunday Herald

A LABOUR council is facing a £1million bill after trying to duck its pension duties to hundreds of female staff it previously tried to squeeze out of equal pay.

North Lanarkshire Council has been ordered to cough up after the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) found it tried to “obstruct” a fair deal for almost 700 women.

The 681 women were systematically underpaid for years by the council, earning lower wages than male colleagues doing jobs of equivalent worth.

Last year, after initially forcing the authority to give them back-pay through a tribunal, they reached a second negotiated settlement worth a further £7.1m, after being represented by equal pay experts Action 4 Equality Scotland.

However, their final salary pension deals remained below those of male counterparts, as their contributions were lower while they were underpaid.

According to recent local government pension regulations, all back-pay must be treated as “pensionable”, meaning bigger pensions and bigger lump sums for those affected.

It also means errant councils must top up their employer contributions to pension funds.

However in February North Lanarkshire tried to sidestep its duties to the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which covers the female staff, by claiming the women’s second round of back-pay was actually a form of negotiated “compensation” and therefore not pensionable.

The women’s lawyers appealed to the SPPA in March, pointing out the potential differences would be profound if the back-pay was not made pensionable.

Some of the North Lanarkshire women would be denied a pension rise of £1500 a year and lump sums of more than £4000, a lifetime difference of around £50,000.

The SPPA has now ruled the council “misconstrued” the law, and criticised its arguments as “confused and an obstruction to finding an equitable solution to the disagreement”.

It said the council must pay the income tax and national insurance on the second wave of back-pay as well as employer contributions, an estimated total of £1m.

Although the women would also need to make contributions of around £360,000, this should ultimately bring them £10m in higher pensions benefits.

The council now has until August 20 to decide whether to fight the decision by launching a costly judicial review at the Court of Session.

Elizabeth Cross, 67, from Gartcosh, who retired four years ago after a decade as a home support worker in North Lanarkshire, would be £28,000 better off under the SPPA ruling.

She told the Sunday Herald the council’s refusal to pay up was “terrible”.

She said: “It’s ridiculous. This is the second time down the road. They discriminated against the women that worked for them over equal pay and now they’re doing it again over pensions.

“We should get exactly the same pensions as the men. All the girls are raging.

“The council are lucky they still have any women working for them, the way they have treated us all. It’s disgusting what they’ve done.

"Everyone in North Lanarkshire should be kicking up about the money the council are wasting trying to get out of paying us what we’re owed.”

Lawyer Sarah Gilzean of HBJ Gateley, who represented the women’s case to the SPPA, said: “We think the SPPA decision is unequivocally in our favour.”

Stefan Cross QC, of Action 4 Equality Scotland, said: “I find it incredible that a Labour-run council has been fighting tooth and nail to deny low-paid women workers the right to equal treatment under the Local Government Pension Scheme. If North Lanarkshire had got its way, some of the council's lowest paid workers would have been penalised for the rest of their lives.

“We welcome the landmark decision of the SPPA and we are calling on North Lanarkshire to face up to its obligations, accept this decision and do everything they can to ensure the lowest paid council workers are able to maximise their pension benefits."

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “We note the decision of the Scottish Ministers in this case. We are examining the decision and will reach a view on our next steps in due course. However, the council remains committed to equality and has settled more than £100m of claims. We will continue to do so where these are justified.”

North Lanarkshire Update (14/06/16)

I've written to all MSPs and MPs in North Lanarkshire regarding the ongoing dispute over pensions and equal pay.

Because this a really big deal for the people involved and if you ask me, it's a disgrace that low paid workers are having to fight so hard to achieve equal treatment under the Local Government Pension Scheme.

North Lanarkshire's 'male comparator' jobs don't have this problem and nor do the Council's senior officials. 


NLC, Pensions and Equal Pay

Here's a post from my blog site about the ongoing dispute over Pensions and Equal Pay in North Lanarkshire Council.

I also attach a briefing note I supplied to Tom Gordon at the Sunday Herald which explains that there are, in fact, two categories of claimant, i.e. 1st and 2nd Wave.

North Lanarkshire Council has been dragging its feet over the 1st Wave claimants for more than a year and while the Council has until August 2016 to decide to appeal the 2nd Wave judgment, via a judicial review to the Court of Session, the right thing to do surely is to accept the SPPA decision and the principle of equal access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

I will be encouraging A4ES clients to contact their MSPs and MPs for support and if you require any further information on these issues, please drop me a note at:

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Briefing note for the Sunday Herald

1 Two categories of claimants exist - 1st Wave and 2nd Wave

2 The 1st Wave claims relate to the period prior to the introduction of new job evaluation based pay arrangements in 2007 - the 2nd Wave claims related to the period after the introduction of JES in 2007.

3 The 1st Wave claims have been adjudicated by a formal decision of the Glasgow Employment Tribunal in May 2015 - North Lanarkshire Council accepts that these claims can and should be made pensionable if the claimants wish so, but over a year after the ET decision the Council has still not actioned people's requests, having deducted employee NI contributions from claimants' awards.

4 The 2nd Wave claims have been achieved by a negotiated settlement (rather than an ET award) and this is the issue that was tested by the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA). NLC's position is that although the settlement represented 'arrears of pay' they should not count for pension purposes - and that position was rejected by the SPPA on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

5 A total of £218,000 in NI contributions was deducted from A4ES clients as part of the 1st Wave award, but only 35 of these clients would benefit from having their awards paid on a pensionable basis because of the final salary year pension rules and the fact that NI deductions are mandatory, even if the individual benefit derives no direct benefit from their NI contributions.

6 The 35 A4ES clients who would benefit from their awards being made pensionable have already had £27,000 deducted from their settlement awards but have gained no benefit from these payments even though some have been retired for years - NLC is required to pay an additional £65,000 but over a year later people are still waiting on the Council getting its finger out and pass both employees and employer contributions (£92K) to the Strathclyde Pension Fund.

7 Of the total number of 2nd Wave claimants 681 would benefit from their settlements being made on a pensionable basis - the total cost of this to the claimants would be £360,000 and to NLC £915,555 -  by way of additional NI employee and employer costs.

8 The total lifetime benefit to the claimants (collectively) would be in excess of £10 million because of the increased lump sum and annual pension benefits - and these benefits are already enjoyed by equivalent NLC male workers, of course. The additional lump sum (tax free payments) to 2nd Wave claims, for example, is worth around £800,000. 

9 I have spoken with two A4ES clients who are willing to be interviewed and have their photos taken - W who is a 1st Wave claimant and C who is a 2nd Wave claimant, both are retired.

10 Action 4 Equality Scotland has been pursing this issue on its own up until now, i.e.. without any support from the trade unions, although hundreds of union members stand to benefit from the recent SPPA ruling as well. 

I'll give you a ring later today to discuss how you want to proceed and I can provide further comments via Stefan Cross QC and Sarah Gilzean at HBJ Gateley, the solicitors acting for A4ES clients.



The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow

Now here's something you don't see every day - a wonderfully spirited, honest and frank opinion piece on the subject of equal pay.

Catriona Stewart doesn't exactly pull her punches in The Herald as she points out that many of Glasgow's equal pay claimants have two and even three jobs to make ends meet; others work lots of overtime to boost their income and to add insult to injury they are then paid less than traditional male council workers for doing their additional hours.

So Catriona hits the nail on the head when she says that Glasgow's women must not be blackmailed into accepting less than they are due because of the cost to the City Council.

No one wants to see cuts to council services although Labour's Frank McAveety and the SNP's John Mason were both quick to raise this prospect as a way of 'qualifying' their support for righting this great wrong.

'I'm all in favour of equal pay. but not if it costs too much', has been a common refrain down the years often from people who regard themselves as good trade unionists and socialists.

As Catriona Stewart says, the City Council's lowest paid women workers have been fleeced once and they are not about to let that happen again.

'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me' as the old saying goes.

Catriona Stewart: Glasgow's equal pay women must not be asked for more sacrifices

By Catriona Stewart @LadyCatHT - The Herald

The banners are defiant. Equal Pay or We Walk Away.

Of course, these women can't and won't walk away - and that is really at the heart of the issue.

On Wednesday a Glasgow City Council committee voted to end more than a decade of litigation over equal pay for low-paid, predominantly female staff, and move to negotiating a settlement instead. The council was making a decision on whether or not to appeal a Court of Session ruling allowing thousands of women to make claims against the authority to the tune of, well, a sum no one can accurately name although it is thought to be as much as £500 million.

More than 10,000 employees and former employees claim a workforce pay and benefits review (WPBR) in 2006 discriminated against those working in roles such as caring, cleaning and catering: predominantly female jobs. It was a deliberate disguising of the pay reassessment to look like equality while protecting salaries of male workers through bonuses and benefits not available to their female counterparts.

The previous Labour administration has daundered up, down and around instead of paying these women what they are owed, adding, according to the new SNP leader Susan Aitken, £20m a year to the final bill this council will face.

Labour leader Frank McAveety, who had the audacity or the chutzpah, depending on your stance, to congratulate the women following Thursday's vote, raised concerns in the meeting about the negative impact on jobs and services if the council pays out. He's right: the city is in a hole.

The SNP administration is already waving the victory in Labour's face, expecting us to be awed and humbled that they have enforced equality legislation passed nearly 50 years ago.

Listening to the women talk following the vote, the women who carry our city, who keep it running, there was a distinct air of excitement and anticipation. The payouts are coming, they hope, the changes to terms and conditions that will make their wages fair are on their way too.

No wonder there's excitement: some of these women are working two, even three, jobs to make ends meet.

There is an upbeat Erin Brockovich feel to the whole thing. Despite the excitement, the situation is far from over. What happens now is the lengthy and difficult process of negotiating how much workers are to get. To be clear, this is not extra cash. This is money that should have already been in the pockets of these women.

But if the women are paid in full it will severely impact council services. The losers will be the citizens of Glasgow - though we can hardly feel sorry for ourselves, having unfairly benefitted for years from the labour of underpaid women.

There may be cuts and redundancies to foot the bill. When 4000 women workers at Birmingham City Council won their equal pay claim in 2010, the city council skittered about making a settlement for a few years and then complained in 2014 it might have to sell off the NEC to cover the costs.

No one wants to see Glasgow City Council pawning its jewellery. But guilt must not be allowed to be a factor in the negotiations. It is not the responsibility of these women to take a hit and accept less than a full settlement in the interests of supporting the city.

It is so often the women who are asked to make sacrifices for the sake of the smooth running of families and of society. It is the women who pause their careers to take on childcare. It is the women who pause their lives to take on caring roles when a family member is ill or elderly.

What they will be asked to do now is to sacrifice money they are owed for the sake of the city. To be reasonable. Having been fleeced once while carrying the city on their backs, they will be asked to accept a second fleecing to ensure the services they already provide are safe.

Of course there is a balance to be struck. For many it will more important to have some money in their pockets now rather than a full payout years down the line. For others it will be the principle of the thing. For none must it be about making sacrifices.

They have made sacrifices. It is now up to the city to reward them fairly.

"Disingenuous Claptrap"

Image result for push me pull you + doctor dolittle images

The Labour Party's official position on Brexit is that the UK should leave the EU and its Single Market, but must continue to enjoy all the benefits of being a member of the EU and operating inside the Single Market.

Now that's like saying you plan to stop being a member of a trade union, but at the same time you demand to retain all the benefits of being a union member.

No trade union worth its salt would put up with that kind of nonsense, yet this is the official 'have your cake and eat it' policy of the official opposition at Westminster.

So little wonder John McDonnell was accused of talking 'disingenuous claprteap' when Jeremy Corbyn's biggest supporter trotted out this line again yesterday on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme.

Read the report below from Politics Home and visit its web site which has a video of John McDonnell making a fool of himself on the BBC.

87% of Labour Party members support continued membership of the EU Single Market and 78% of party members support a second referendum on the final Brexit terms.

'Disingenuous claptrap' indeed - well said Ian Murray.

'Disingenuous claptrap' - John McDonnell sparks Labour backlash with single market comments
By Kevin Schofield - Politics Home

A former Labour frontbencher has accused John McDonnell of talking "claptrap" after he suggested the UK could continue to enjoy the same benefits of European single market membership even if it quits the free trade agreement.
John McDonnell was interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show - Credit: BBC

Ian Murray, who was Shadow Scottish Secretary, hit out after the Shadow Chancellor defended the party's decision to reject permanent membership of the single market after Brexit.

Other pro-EU Labour MPs also made clear their opposition to the party leadership's stance, as the party's splits on Brexit once again burst into the open.

Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr McDonnell said: "We would like the benefits of the single market. That's subject to negotiation ... It would not be the same single market, but access to a single market."

But Edinburgh South MP Mr Murray posted on Twitter: "What utter disingenuous claptrap. The EU has made it clear that you can’t be in a single market with “all the same benefits” without participating in “the” single market. If you want all the same benefits you have to be in it."

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle suggested Mr McDonnell was on another planet.

Former Shadow Cabinet member Chuka Umunna also made clear his opposition to Labour's official stance.

A Labour source said: "Across the movement there is deep unhappiness at the party's position."

Nearly 50 Labour MPs defied Mr Corbyn last week to back an amendment to the Government's EU Withdrawal Bill calling for the UK to remain in the single market.

former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie said: "There’s a growing number of Labour colleagues who feel so strongly about the threat of Brexit austerity that they will - with regret - break the whip to defend the interests of their constituents. When it comes to the single market I hope our frontbench will get off the fence before long."

Labour and Brexit (19/01/18)

48 Labour MPs rebelled against the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (a serial rebel himself) whose softly, softly tactics in the House of Commons are paving the way for the Conservative Government to impose a hard Brexit.

Meanwhile 87% of Labour Party members support continued membership of the EU Single Market and 78% of party members support a second referendum on the final Brexit terms.

Corbyn needs to wake up and start practising what he preaches by listening to the views of ordinary party members rather than his own kitchen cabinet.

Jeremy Corbyn hit by fresh Brexit rebellion as Labour MPs defy whip on single market

By Emilio Casalicchio - Politics Home

Jeremy Corbyn was hit by a fresh Brexit rebellion tonight as dozens of Labour MPs backed calls to keep the UK in the single market and customs union after it quits the EU.

Like the Tories, Jeremy Corbyn has insisted the UK must quit the single market and customs union after Brexit - Credit: PA Images

A cross-party amendment to the Government’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill was rejected by the Commons by 322 votes to 99.

But some 48 Labour MPs voted for it against the orders of their party leader to abstain.

EXCL Jeremy Corbyn facing rebellion as Labour MPs launch bid to keep UK in customs union

SNP chief brands Jeremy Corbyn 'utterly pathetic' over Brexit stance

Dozens of Labour councillors call on Jeremy Corbyn to pledge Brexit rethink

Mr Corbyn suffered a similar rebellion in December when some 64 Labour MPs backed a separate bid to keep the UK in the customs union after Brexit.

One of tonight's rebels, former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie, said: "There’s a growing number of Labour colleagues who feel so strongly about the threat of Brexit austerity that they will - with regret - break the whip to defend the interests of their constituents. When it comes to the single market I hope our frontbench will get off the fence before long."

The single market amendment tonight - during the report stage of the bill - was tabled by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and was backed by the Lib Dems and Greens.

SNP MP Peter Grant said: "Today was a huge test for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party – and they failed miserably. Instead of voting with the SNP to prevent a devastating hard Brexit, Labour instead chose to sit on the sidelines, allowing the Tories to edge ever closer to the cliff-edge – putting the jobs, incomes, and living standards of millions of people at risk."

Like the Tories, Mr Corbyn has insisted the UK must quit the single market and customs union after Brexit, although he has said Labour wants Britain to maintain tariff-free access to the European market.

The Labour leader faces a battle within his own party on the issue - with 87% of Labour members wanting to remain in the single market according to a recent YouGov poll.

The Government won every vote tonight and a set of amendments tabled by ministers went through without a vote as the EU Withdrawal Bill faced its latest parliamentary hurdle.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "From the beginning our approach has been to work constructively with MPs from across the House wherever possible to improve the bill.

"This is a critical piece of legislation that aims to maximise certainty for individuals and businesses after our exit.

"We are looking forward to working with peers as the bill enters its next stage of scrutiny in the House of Lords at the end of this month."

Labour Has a Real Cheek! (20/01/18)

I didn't catch the Scottish Labour Party broadcast the other night in which Richard Leonard spoke about his enthusiastic support for equal pay.

But a reader drew the broadcast to my attention and we had the following email exchange.

Hi Mark

Have you seen Richard Leonard’s Labour Party Broadcast tonight - it’s as though Labour are claiming credit - they have always fought for Equal Pay - I’m gobsmacked!


Hi L

I'm afraid to say the Scottish Labour Party is totally without shame!




My Brass neck of 2017 Award did of course go to the Scottish Labour Party for an unbelievably shameless speech by a Scottish delegate to the UK Labour conference in Brighton.

So it comes as no surprise that Richard Leonard is up to the same kind of tricks and readers will recall that Richard (a former GMB union official) failed to speak out when the chips were down in Glasgow City Council last week.

All we heard then from the Scottish Labour leader in the run-up to Thursday's crunch meeting on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow was the sound of silence.


Brass Neck of 2017 (29/12/18)

Image result for brasso + images

I have to admit that my 'Brass Neck of 2017' award was a very close run thing - with Frank McAveety, the GMB union, John Mason MSP and the Scottish Labour Party all in the running.

Until recently, John Mason was a strong favourite for his insulting and ridiculous comments about equal pay claimants in Glasgow 'paying' for their own employment rights to be upheld.

But the MSP for Shettleston has since been rebuked and taken to task by the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitkenwho has confirmed this is not the view of the SNP led administration. 

So the award goes instead to the Scottish Labour Party and a delegate from Cunninghame North CLP, Joanna Baxter, for this completely shameless speech to Labour's annual conference 2017 in Brighton. 


Glasgow - Height of Hypocrisy (26/09/17)

How's this for shameful and shameless behaviour from a Scottish delegate to the 2017 Labour Party conference in Brighton.

The truth is that the pay arrangements judged to be 'unfit for purpose' by Scotland's highest civl court, the Court of Session, were put in place by a Labour run council in 2007 with the support of the local Labour supporting unions: the GMB, Unison and Unite.

The new SNP led Glasgow City Council have some way to go in clearing up this mess and if you ask me, they should not have sought leave to appeal the unanimous Court of Session decision because the council's WPBR pay arrangements are indefensible.

But the old-fashioned Labour and trade union left has been 'part of the problem' over equal pay for years and it's the absolute height of hypocrisy for them to try and lay the blame in Glasgow at the door of the SNP.