Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Coming Clean in Glasgow



In the days ahead I plan to publish details about the pay of Glasgow City Council's 'comparator' and 'claimant' jobs - both before and after the introduction of the WPBR in 2007.

The purpose of this exercise is to highlight just how much less women were paid than their male colleagues - even when the women were on the same grade, a higher grade or palpably doing work of 'equal value' to the men.

To add insult to injury, the huge pay differences continued after the WPBR was introduced and when you look at things in the cold light of day, it's impossible to conclude anything other than the 'books were cooked' in favour of the male jobs.  

How else could Gravediggers, Gardeners and other male dominated jobs be capable of earning more than their women colleagues, both before and after Glasgow's new WPBR pay arrangements came into operation? 

As one of the judges, Lady Norris, put the point at the Court of Session hearing, the council clearly “looked after” the men well beyond the protection period. 

In which case, everyone needs to know precisely how the men were helped and what affect this had on their pay. 

Because Glasgow's women workers were clearly entitled to the same 'help' as the men and what happened to the men is the baseline for any settlement discussions.


Post of Gravedigger - prior to the WPBR

Pre-WPBR Grade - MW 4

Pre-WPBR Contracted Pay - £10,938.53

Bonus Pay - £8,503.80


Total Pay - £20,594.57

Now a Home Carer (MW5) was on a higher grade than a Gravedigger (MW4) before the WPBR was introduced, but the female dominated job was paid much less - and that is the historical basis of people's equal pay claims.

Men being paid much more than women for doing jobs that evidently carry less skill and responsibility.

Because you can't have a female dominated job that is fairly evaluated under an 'objective' job evaluation scheme (JES) and then pay the woman's job much less than a male dominated job which has been given a lower score and grade. 

But that is exactly what happened when Glasgow brought in its new WPBR/EDC pay scheme in 2007 and, of course, the big differences in pay between male and female jobs continue to this day.

  

First Minister and Equal Pay



A number of Home Carers have ben in touch to suggest launching a petition to help persuade Glasgow City Council to get its finger out over equal pay.

If you ask me, the current crop of senior officials are in this up to their necks and they have an obvious vested interest in dragging things out for years on end - by which time they will have all left the Council and/or retired on their final salary pensions.

So I've drafted some words below which people can use to build support amongst the City Council workforce and wider public.

In my view, the behaviour of Glasgow City Council is a national disgrace and it's high time that the Council's pay arrangements were brought out into the open

Nicola Sturgeon rightly condemned this 'foot-dragging' behaviour by Scottish councils back in 2016 and now she has the opportunity to do something about it in her own back yard.

The key point of the petition is that if Glasgow's officials are being deliberately awkward or if they are claiming not to have sufficient resources to 'come clean' over the City Council's pay arrangements, then the Scottish Government can send in some outside help.

No doubt this would help to concentrate minds and get to the bottom of things and explain just how the male jobs were 'looked after' by council managers and the trade unions once the WPBR/EDC pay scheme was introduced in 2007.      

Nicola Sturgeon's contact details are:

Email
FirstMinister@gov.scot
Nicola.Sturgeon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Twitter
@NicolaSturgeon 

Readers of the blog site can also help by spreading the word by 'Sharing', 'Liking' and 'Retweeting' this post on Facebook and Twitter - and by raising these issues directly with local councillors, MSPs and MPs.

Remember - many hands make light work and so the more people who get involved the sooner this business will al be over.

  

Glasgow and Equal Pay

"We, the undersigned, call upon Nicola Sturgeon to use her authority and influence as a Glasgow MSP and First Minister to bring about a speedy resolution to Glasgow City Council's outstanding equal pay cases.


"We note that the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, recently judged Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements introduced in 2007 to be unfit for purpose with Lady Norris (one of the judges) commenting that the City Council 'looked after' the interests of the men.


"We also note that while there is clear evidence of preferential treatment being given to male dominated jobs, council officials seem unwilling or unable to 'come clean' and explain the details of these secret pay deals and what effect they had on the pay of Gardeners, Gravediggers, Refuse Workers and so on.


"We call upon the First Minister to help ensure that Glasgow City Council's pay arrangements are fair, open, honest and transparent going forward - based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.


"To that end we also call upon the First Minister to send in Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission (Scotland's public spending watchdog) to work with the City Council leadership to uncover, as a matter of the highest priority,how the higher paid groups of male workers were 'looked after' when the WPBR/EDC pay scheme was introduced in 2007."  


  



The Fight for Equal Pay (19/04/16)

Image result for made in dagenham + images


The Herald reports that Nicola Sturgeon plans to get tough with council bosses who are dragging their feet over equal pay, if she is re-elected in next month's Scottish Parliament elections and returns as First Minister.

Now that's a welcome development if you ask me, because I've been campaigning for months for the Scottish Government to take an active interest in the terrible mess that many Scottish councils have made of their pay arrangements and obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

I can't be the only person to find it ironic that Scotland's First Minister 'in-waiting' delivered her message to the STUC because, as regular readers know, the trade unions have been part of the problem in respect of equal pay with their slavish support for the Labour Party and Labour-run councils, along with their short-sighted focus on protecting the interests of traditional male jobs.

So who knows, maybe Nicola Sturgeon is keeping up with events bias the blog site which is all the more reason to step up the pressure on councils like Glasgow and North Lanarkshire to do the right thing, put an end to this sorry saga and resolve all of their outstanding equal pay claims.

Read the full piece in The Herald via the internet link below.



http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14435796.Nicola_Sturgeon_vows_to_get_tough_with_council_chiefs_over_pay_equality_for_women/

Nicola Sturgeon vows to get tough with council bosses over pay equality for women

Nicola Sturgeon vows to get tough with council chiefs over pay equality for women

By Daniel Sanderson - The Herald

NICOLA Sturgeon will today warn council chiefs that she is ready to hit them with tough new penalties if they continue to drag their feet over wage equality for thousands of female workers.

The First Minister, in an address to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee, is expected to announce that if she is re-elected next month she will explore sanctions that the Scottish Government could impose on town halls if they refuse to honour equal pay obligations.

It is understood that the feasibility of imposing fines on local authorities through their financial settlement will be considered, if they fail to resolve disputes by a deadline of April next year.



North Lanarkshire Update (16/03/16)


Some people say that politicians can't get directly involved in the fight for equal pay in Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council.

But this is nonsense, of course, because there are countless examples of Scottish politicians getting stuck into an issue even when it involves an 'independent corporate entity which is entirely separate from the Scottish Government'.

Take the Farepak scandal, for example. 

Readers may recall that Farepak (a private company) went bust in 2006 leaving thousands of people out of pocket in the run up to Christmas, as their savings went down the drain.  

Yet the fact that Farepak was an 'independent corporate entity' didn't stop politicians of every stripe and political party queuing up to get their tuppence worth in and demanding that something must be done.

Here are a few extracts of the press coverage that Farepak collapse attracted over the years and as is plain for all to see the politicians didn't exactly hold back with their public comments, criticism and calls for action.

What is needed in North Lanarkshire is a 'call to arms' if you ask me, a demand for action inside and outside the Council so that senior figures are held to account for the terrible mess that's been made of the Council's pay arrangements over the years.



SNP urges aid for Farepak crash victims

The Scotsman - 24 December 2014

THE SNP today issued a Christmas Eve appeal to the UK Government for compensation for Farepak families, who are still waiting for reparation four years after the collapse of the Christmas savings club.

Work and Pensions spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable, asking why 20,000 Scottish customers who lost their money in 2006 are still out of pocket.

She said: "The UK Government bent over backwards to bail out the banks, and is rightly compensating customers of Equitable Life but hasn't found a single penny for the Farepak families.

"It is four years since Farepak collapsed, but that nightmare of Christmas past is still being felt by many low-income families.

"It is simply disgraceful that, years after the company collapsed, customers are still waiting for their money back."


The Daily Record - 
16 July 2012

Labour’s Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, has written to Cable to demand answers over the collapse of the case.

She said: “This decision is yet another kick in the teeth for those who lost out as a result of the Farepak collapse.

“More than five years on, savers have yet to receive a penny of their money back or see those responsible held accountable.”


22 Dec 2008

Glasgow East MP, John Mason, has issued an eve of Christmas appeal calling for the UK Government to bring forward compensation for Farepak families, who are still waiting for reparation two years after the collapse.

Comparing the UK Government’s response to bailing out the banks with Farepak, Mr Mason has written to Gareth Thomas, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Consumer Affairs, asking why 20,000 Scottish customers – including hundreds of Glaswegians – are still out of pocket two years later.


SNP call for major Farepak probe

BBC News - 17 November 2006


Farepak customers have been fighting to win compensation

The Scottish National Party has called for a criminal investigation into the collapse of the Christmas savings company Farepak.More than 150,000 customers lost an average of £400 each when the company went into administration in October.

Stewart Hosie MP, the SNP's Treasury spokesman has written to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He asked him to consider launching a criminal investigation after the Swindon-based firm collapsed.


Stewart Hosie MP, SNP's Treasury spokesman said: 

"Press reports would indicate that large sums of savers money were salted away to Farepak's parent company EHR and that Farepak continued to request and receive money until very shortly before it folded.

"I hope that the DTI will pursue a criminal investigation."

First Minister and Equal Pay (15/03/16)


A good number of readers took up my suggestion of writing to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to highlight the scandalous track record or Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council in relation to equal pay. 

Now I have a lot of time for Nicola Sturgeon, but I think it's fair to say that people feel rather underwhelmed at the First Minister's official response from a civil servant on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Here is the 'guts' of what the civil servant had to say:

"Councils are independent corporate entities and entirely separate from the Scottish Government. Their powers are set out in statute and, as long as they act lawfully, it is up to each local authority to manage its day to say business. This includes decisions on pay and conditions of employment of council staff. They are accountable to their own electorates, not the Scottish Government, and Scottish Ministers have no general powers that would enable them to call on a council to account for its actions. I would also add that the GMB is an entirely independent organisation and the Scottish Government has no power to intervene in union matters.

"The Scottish Government is keen to see the resolution of all equal pay claims. That is why in August 2014 the then Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Economic Growth, John Swinney, agreed to a request from COSLA for more flexibility to deal with equal pay claims, by allowing councils additional time to plan for the funding of equal pay payments, and to use capital receipts to fund the cost of claims. However, it is up to any individual council to decide whether to take up this offer.

"You may like to know that in December 2014in the Scottish Parliament, Marco Biagi MSP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, said that he thought the delays in settling equal pay disputes was unacceptable, and that he would continue to challenge this. However, as Mr Biagi also said the Scottish Government has no formal power to intervene in this matter."

Now this is typical "Yes Minister' stuff which faces both ways at the same time if you ask me, with a general message of concern and support while emphasising that the Scottish Government has no formal power to intervene over the mess that Scotland's fourth largest council has made of equal pay.

Now as everyone knows, that is a statement of the bleedin' obvious, as they say, because  no one is expecting Nicola Sturgeon or other Scottish Ministers to step in and take over day-to-day responsibility for the running of North Lanarkshire Council. 

But as I pointed out to the First Minister in my own letter dated 28 November 2014 I believe that is is possible for the Scottish Government to investigate North Lanarkshire Council's behaviour under The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012.

My full letter to the First Minister is reproduced below in the blog post titled 'Food For Thought' dated 17 February 2016 although this extract focuses on the key provision of Clause 11.


"My purpose in raising these matters with you, as First Minister, is to invite the Scottish Government to use its powers under the Equality Act to launch an investigation into North Lanarkshire Council's behaviour. My reading of The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 suggests that the Scottish Government can intervene and is able to do so under Clause 11 of the Statutory Instrument which says:

"Duty to consider other matters

"11. In carrying out its duties under these regulations, a listed authority may be required to consider such matters as may be specified from time to time by the Scottish Ministers." 

So if you ask me, Scottish Ministers (whether Nicola Sturgeon or local government minister, Marco Biagi) do have the power to call North Lanarkshire to account, for example, by requiring the to explain how the Council made such a mess of its pay arrangements for the past 10 years and more.   

In other words it's very much a case of 'game on' and the key thing now is to persuade NLC politicians, local and nationally, that the behaviour of North Lanarkshire Council deserves to be placed under and independent scrutiny.

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update



GMB members Glasgow must be wondering if history is repeating itself over the terrible mishandling of their equal pay claims against the City Council.

Because the issue of the GMB restricting its members claims to only three years first came to light in North Lanarkshire Council back in 2015 and the union's new regional secretary, Gary Smith, promised to launch a full investigation into exactly what went wrong.

Since then nothing further has been said publicly at least and there's no sign of the union sharing with its members the 'complete assessment of the legal strategy pursued by Digby Brown'. 

Bute surely if the GMB believes Digby Brown to have been at fault, the union should be demanding that their former lawyers compensate those who have lost out.

On the other hand if the GMB itself is found to have 'dropped the ball', surely the union has an obligation to put things right. 

  

NLC Update (15/10/15)


A kind reader has passed on to me details of a letter from the GMB to union members in North Lanarkshire - the following two paragraphs caught my attention immediately:

"I (Gary Smith) have launched a full investigation into the North Lanarkshire case and a complete assessment of the legal strategy pursued by Digby Brown in relation to our equal pay cases in all of Scotland. If claims need to be amended, they will be, and if we have received the wrong advice we will take action to protect our members' position.


"In the meantime, if you are a GMB member and you have a case with Digby Brown, we will be happy to transfer it to a different firm if you are unhappy with the current placement. Please contact our GMB law firm - UnionLine - at pi@unionline.co.uk or call them on 0300 333 0303, If you would like us to relocate your case. UnionLine is a legal firm owned by the union and operates on a not for profit basis."


Now it seems obvious to me that the GMB must have lost confidence in Digby Brown, but in the recent members' meetings I've attended the GMB explained that a national policy decision was responsible for restricting its members claims to only 3-years.


But now the GMB appears to be blaming Digby Brown although I fail to understand how members can be invited to transfer their equal pay claims elsewhere (to another law firm), without being told, first of all, what has gone wrong in relation to their claims Digby Brown.


So the following questions need an urgent answer, if you ask me:


1 Will the results of the GMB's investigation be shared with union members in North Lanarkshire?


2 Does the GMB now accept that its legal advice was wrong?


3 Will the GMB be sharing this legal advice with the members affected?


4 Will the GMB confirm that settlement proposals were put directly to North Lanarkshire Council by, or on behalf of, the GMB trade union? 


The sooner we have an independents complaints procedure for trade unions in the UK the better - because this is a perfect example of the difficulty that ordinary union members often have in holding big union bureaucracies to account.


Glasgow and Equal Pay


Here's a leaflet from A4ES which will be appearing in the Glasgow press in the days ahead.

The text of the leaflet highlights the fact that because the Council's job evaluation scheme (JES) and WPBR pay arrangements are 'unfit for purpose' - existing employees who have not already registered an equal pay claim can do so now.

Also, anyone who has left the City Council's employment within the past 5 years is now able to register a claim.

And everyone who has been with A4ES from the very beginning will see their claims go back 10 years, ie. all the way back to 2007 when the WPBR pay scheme was first introduced.

The City Council's ALEOs are covered by this decision including: Glasgow Life, Glasgow Housing, City Parking (Glasgow) LLP, Cordia (Service) LLP, City Building (Glasgow) LLP, Glasgow Marketing Bureau Limited, ACCESS LLP, Community Safety Glasgow, Jobs & Business Glasgow and City Property (Glasgow) LLP.  

 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Breaking News!

Image result for breaking news + images

A group of Home Carers from Glasgow got in touch with me last week to suggest that we find a way of enlisting the support of Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

"Now that's a good idea", I said to myself at the time.

Because Nicola is a local Glasgow MSP, of course, and in the past has spoken out as First Minister about the need for Scottish local councils to stop dragging their feet and settle all the outstanding cases.

So, I have drafted a petition with the aim of using this to build support amongst the Council workforce and the wider public.

Visit the blog site tomorrow to find out what the petition is all about and what you can do to help in the ongoing campaign in Glasgow.

    



The Fight for Equal Pay (19/04/16)

Image result for made in dagenham + images



The Herald reports that Nicola Sturgeon plans to get tough with council bosses who are dragging their feet over equal pay, if she is re-elected in next month's Scottish Parliament elections and returns as First Minister.

Now that's a welcome development if you ask me, because I've been campaigning for months for the Scottish Government to take an active interest in the terrible mess that many Scottish councils have made of their pay arrangements and obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

I can't be the only person to find it ironic that Scotland's First Minister 'in-waiting' delivered her message to the STUC because, as regular readers know, the trade unions have been part of the problem in respect of equal pay with their slavish support for the Labour Party and Labour-run councils, along with their short-sighted focus on protecting the interests of traditional male jobs.

So who knows, maybe Nicola Sturgeon is keeping up with events bias the blog site which is all the more reason to step up the pressure on councils like Glasgow and North Lanarkshire to do the right thing, put an end to this sorry saga and resolve all of their outstanding equal pay claims.

Read the full piece in The Herald via the internet link below.



http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14435796.Nicola_Sturgeon_vows_to_get_tough_with_council_chiefs_over_pay_equality_for_women/

Nicola Sturgeon vows to get tough with council bosses over pay equality for women

Nicola Sturgeon vows to get tough with council chiefs over pay equality for women

By Daniel Sanderson - The Herald

NICOLA Sturgeon will today warn council chiefs that she is ready to hit them with tough new penalties if they continue to drag their feet over wage equality for thousands of female workers.

The First Minister, in an address to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) in Dundee, is expected to announce that if she is re-elected next month she will explore sanctions that the Scottish Government could impose on town halls if they refuse to honour equal pay obligations.

It is understood that the feasibility of imposing fines on local authorities through their financial settlement will be considered, if they fail to resolve disputes by a deadline of April next year.



Glasgow Update - Truth, Reconciliation and Equal Pay



Here's a thoughtful opinion piece from The Herald newspaper in which Marianne Taylor argues that the new Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, ought to be given a proper chance to 'fix' the long running scandal over unequal pay in Scotland's largest council.

I completely agree, I have to say.

Because as Marianne points out the claimants in this case have been 'utterly screwed over' by the very people who were supposed to be protecting their interests which includes the trade unions, of course, as well as senior managers and elected politicians who were running Glasgow City Council during this period. 

"These are women who have been consistently let down - let’s be honest, utterly screwed over - by both their employers and those supposed to be looking out for them. First came the institutional discrimination of the successive council administrations that rigged the structures to ensure they wouldn’t have to pay women as much as men doing work of equal merit. Then there were the unions that colluded with this position to protect the interests of their mainly male memberships, that encouraged women to settle for less."

A series of Labour administrations going back to 1999 are largely responsible for this mess and they were aided and abetted by Labour supporting trade unions, in the best  traditions of Tammany Hall, who colluded with senior managers to 'look after' the interests of higher earning groups of male workers - at the expense of much lower paid women workers.


The trade unions agreed to the introduction of the WPBR pay arrangements back in 2007 yet now try to claim credit for challenging the City Council's controversial pay scheme in the Court of Session - they have no shame, if you ask me.

The preposterous GMB did not even support the successful challenge in the Court of Session which was led by Action 4 Equality Scotland, of course, but the GMB union now tries to pretend it has been fighting the good fight over equal pay since Day One.

Complete nonsense, of course, because the GMB and other trade unions had previously 'screwed over' Glasgow's women workers by encouraging them to accept miserable offers of financial settlement back in 2005, having kept them in the dark for years about the huge differences in pay between traditional male and female council jobs.

So Susan Aitken does deserve a proper chance to put things right, but this can only happen if there is now openness and transparency about how the men were 'looked after' by a succession of managers, politicians and trade unions.

Because if Glasgow is going to have 'truth and reconciliation' over equal pay - the truth part has to come first.

  


http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/15540585.Marianne_Taylor__Give_Susan_Aitken_the_chance_to_tackle_Glasgow_s_equal_pay_fiasco/?ref=twtrec


Marianne Taylor: Give Susan Aitken the chance to tackle equal pay fiasco

By Marianne Taylor - The Herald


Herald & Times staff portraits - Marianne Taylor Photograph by Colin Mearns

I FEEL sorry for Susan Aitken, I really do. Think about it. You win the leadership of Scotland’s biggest local authority on a platform of being a new broom to sweep away the stale complacency of Labour’s near 40-year tenure. You’ve spent your political life railing against gender and class inequality, and now you have the opportunity to show genuine leadership on how Glasgow City Council progresses these issues.

Then the curve ball no one expected lands in your lap, and only a few months into the job you’re being accused of standing in the way of the very equality you strive for, accused of preventing thousands of low-paid, working class women from getting the equal pay they deserve. It must hurt like hell.

Following Glasgow City Council’s decision to seek permission to appeal the recent court ruling granting equal pay for thousands of female employees, that’s exactly the position Ms Aitken finds herself in.

It comes after two rulings at the Court of Session around the council’s 2007 pay regrading exercise, which was designed to close the gender pay gap but has now been been ruled discriminatory, thus opening the door for thousands of current and past female employees to make claims, potentially costing the council hundreds of millions.

This figure sounds vague, I know, but make no mistake, it’s the sort of amount that could bankrupt a big city authority already creaking under the pain of austerity and, like its peers (who, incidentally, settled their equal pay claims) facing big cuts from central government. As a Glasgow council tax payer, I’m genuinely worried. Will there be any services left if, as the lawyer representing many of the women contends, the final bill reaches £500m? Could we really find ourselves in a situation where low-paid women have to be made redundant to ensure other low-paid women get back pay? What a hideous reminder of how difficult it is to resolve the discrimination and inequalities of the past, even when you want to.

But it’s surely not as hideous as the prospect of those at the centre of the claim not getting what’s owed to them. These are, after all, women who do the under-paid and under-valued work many of us would balk at, the home carers struggling to make the lives of our elderly relatives more liveable, while struggling to make ends meet themselves.

These are women who have been consistently let down - let’s be honest, utterly screwed over - by both their employers and those supposed to be looking out for them. First came the institutional discrimination of the successive council administrations that rigged the structures to ensure they wouldn’t have to pay women as much as men doing work of equal merit. Then there were the unions that colluded with this position to protect the interests of their mainly male memberships, that encouraged women to settle for less. The GMB recently faced legal action from its own members over this very point, with many workers feeling they had little choice but to go to no-win-no-fee lawyers.

It’s little wonder the Glasgow women involved are outraged – they fully deserve to be. Think how many payday loans may not have had to taken out to put food on the table over the years if the small but significant extra sums due in the first place for had been forthcoming. Think of the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants that might not have been necessary to quell the stress that accompanies working poverty.

Many of these women will also have been done over by the state with regard to pensions if they were unlucky enough to be born in the 1950s; this latest delay by the council on equal pay must seem like the final insult.

But I would urge them and their representatives - in some cases unions that contributed to the problem in the first place - to show patience, hold fire on the protests for now, and take Ms Aitken’s commitment to ending the injustice and settling up at face value.

I believed Ms Aitken when she wrote in the Herald last week that seeking leave to appeal the decision is a procedural move aimed at buying the council time to work out where to start the process. I believe her when she says the previous Labour administration not only did not expect to lose these cases, but made no preparations for the outcome the council now faces. Shame on them.

We should accept this situation was not the fault of Ms Aitken or her party. As I’m sure she is well aware, however, no new council leader can keep blaming the previous administration forever; Ms Aitken must find a way to honour the commitment she has made to women so let down by so many for so long, without bankrupting the city in the process. And do so in a timely fashion.

Clearly, the Scottish Government may have to help in some capacity; Nicola Sturgeon will, after all, be under pressure to honour her own rhetoric on equal pay. More importantly, however, Scotland cannot claim to be a modern, progressive nation until it rights this wrong. Glasgow’s working women deserve this much and more.




Glasgow Update - History Repeating Itself



In 2013 South Lanarkshire Council (Labour run at the time) finally admitted defeat in an 8-year long battle over its highly secretive pay arrangements.

For years the Council denied it had an 'equal pay problem', but this bogus claim was shown to be nonsense by both the Employment Tribunals and the UK Supreme Court where South Lanarkshire lost a landmark Freedom of Information case.

The similarities with Glasgow are striking because the local trade unions in South Lanarkshire also actively discouraged their members from pursuing equal pay claims against the Labour council, having 'looked after' the interests of the former bonus earning male groups when new pay arrangements were introduced in 2004.

Here's what The Herald newspaper had to say about the implications of the UK Supreme Court case in July 2013:

".....budgetary concerns cannot be allowed to trump the interests of justice. 

"Where there is the suspicion that women have been discriminated against by being paid less than men for doing similarly skilled jobs, every council has a duty to investigate and right any wrongs that emerge, promptly." 

If you ask me Glasgow is now in the same position as South Lanarkshire and the real issue is 'fairness and justice' - along with the rights of thousands of low paid women workers in Glasgow who have been cheated and robbed of their just desserts for years.

  


Herald Editorial - 30 July 2013

Council budget concerns should not trump justice



SO South Lanarkshire Council has lost its Supreme Court bid to allow it to continue withholding information relating to pay scales.

Does the council leadership truly believe this legal battle amounted to £100,0000 of public money well spent?

It is very difficult to see how. The local authority, which is currently fighting a £10m back- pay claim from 1500 female staff, must have known there was a high probability of losing. After its arguments had been rejected first by the Scottish Information Commissioner and then by the Court of Session, there was clearly a substantial risk that the Supreme Court too would rule against it, but the council ploughed on regardless. Now it faces a huge legal bill at a time when money is tight.

South Lanarkshire council tax payers could be forgiven for being angry. Such a sum of money would make a significant difference to any number of cash-strapped services funded by the council. This is the council, after all, that has warned 120 jobs are at risk as part of a £12m cuts package. Its legal costs are hefty and South Lanarkshire should not have risked incurring them; instead, it should have agreed to hand over the information when the Scottish Information Commissioner ordered it to do so. 

It is not only the council's unwise decision to risk wasting money pursuing the case to the Supreme Court that is at issue. It is also the fact of having proved itself so unwilling to be open about the information in question in the first place.

South Lanarkshire is not the only council to have faced equal pay claims. Many others have had to face up to their obligations. Whichever council it may be, it is not hard to understand the dismay councillors and officials must feel at the thought of potentially having to fund costly pay-outs to some workers at a time of fiscal retrenchment, but budgetary concerns cannot be allowed to trump the interests of justice. Where there is the suspicion that women have been discriminated against by being paid less than men for doing similarly skilled jobs, every council has a duty to investigate and right any wrongs that emerge, promptly. 

Where South Lanarkshire is concerned, its vehement attempts to block publication of pay banding information that might reveal whether women have been discriminated against, leave it open to the suspicion that it is less interested in rooting out examples of sex discrimination than in keeping its bills down. That is what will infuriate workers and rightly so. The current spate of sex discrimination claims being brought against councils are about trying to put right a long-standing wrong. Councils perceived as resisting what is right, will be judged, by employees and by voters, as acting dishonourably.

The equal rights campaigner Mark Irvine has called on South Lanarkshire council leader Eddie McAvoy to resign, as being "ultimately responsible" for this waste of public money. The council certainly has questions to answer about the decision to push this serially unsuccessful case so far.

What The Papers Say (4) - 30 July 2013

South Lanarkshire Council loses pay scale disclosure challenge


A council had no right to withhold information on its salary scales from an equal pay campaigner, the UK's highest court ruled following a £100,000 legal battle.
Action 4 Equality Scotland campaigner Mark Irvine wanted to know if South Lanarkshire Council had paid more money for jobs traditionally done by men, and had asked the council for details about its pay scales in May last year.

The council refused claiming disclosure would breach the Data Protection Act, and ultimately took the Scottish Information Commissioner to the Supreme Court in London after the Commissioner said Mr Irvine had a right to the information.
The council also accused the Commissioner of "a breach of natural justice" because he did not copy its officials into all of his correspondence with Mr Irvine and two MSPs who were following the case during the course of his investigations.

Supreme Court deputy president Lady Hale today dismissed the council's arguments, and ruled that the Commissioner was right to back Mr Irvine's request for information.

The ruling states: "The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the council's appeal.

"It holds that the Commissioner was entitled to reach his conclusion that disclosure of the information should be given by the council to Mr Irvine, and that there had been no breach of the rules of natural justice when the Commissioner did not copy the correspondence to the council."

The cost of the entire legal action is approximately £100,000, according to South Lanarkshire Council.

The Commissioner has spent £67,836 defending its ruling to date, although its costs have still to be finalised, bringing the total cost to the public purse so far to around £168,000.

The council said it is "disappointed" by the Supreme Court's decision but will now release the information "as soon as is practical".

The council had originally dismissed Mr Irvine's request as "vexatious", a legal term meaning burdensome, frivolous, annoying, disruptive, harassing, unreasonable or disproportionate, according to Commissioner guidance.

This was "principally because of Mr Irvine's blog for Action4Equality Scotland and his connections with the solicitor representing equal pay claimants against the council", the Supreme Court said.

The council later withdrew this claim and substituted it with a refusal on the grounds that it would breach the Data Protection Act (DPA), which protects the confidentiality of personal data.

It argued that "Mr Irvine had no legitimate interest in disclosure of the information and that disclosure was not necessary for the purpose of his legitimate interests".
However, the Commissioner ruled Mr Irvine did have a legitimate interest "given the considerable sums of public money involved and the fundamental issues of fair and equal treatment".

Furthermore, he could find no grounds to support the refusal on the grounds of DPA and subsequently asked for the information to be released.

The Supreme Court backed this decision today, stating: "As the processing requested would not enable Mr Irvine or anyone else to discover the identity of the data subjects, it is quite difficult to see why there is any interference with their right to respect for their private lives."
Current Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew, who took over the post from Kevin Dunion last year, said: "I am pleased that the ruling by the Supreme Court supports our own carefully considered conclusions on this case.

"While the relationship between FOI and data protection law can be complex, the Supreme Court's ruling confirms the robustness of our approach and is a clear guide to how similar cases should be handled by Scottish public authorities.

"Importantly, the ruling also means that the requester can, at long last, receive the information to which he is entitled."

In a statement on the Action4Equality website, Mr Irvine said: "After three long years, justice and common sense have finally prevailed - although no thanks to South Lanarkshire Council which has wasted over £200,000 of public money fighting this case.

"The council originally dismissed my request as 'vexatious' but now it is one of Scotland's largest council's which is left looking rather silly and, after this decision, with egg all over its face.

"The council and its political leadership have lots of questions to answer over this debacle and the terrible waste of public money involved.

"The wheels of justice turn very slowly at times, alas, but today they finally caught up with South Lanarkshire Council which should hang its head in shame."

Council leader Eddie McAvoy said: "I am very disappointed at this outcome, and all the more so because we were told repeatedly by our legal advisers that our case was sound and that there were good grounds for the council's arguments.

"Given the judges' ruling, I have instructed officers to release this information as soon as is practical."

A council spokeswoman said: "This judgment is disappointing. We have never denied this information to people with a legitimate interest in it, where it is necessary and warranted, and that's why it has been provided to those representing employees and ex-employees in tribunals.

"However, we have been acting on legal advice that, if we released it to a third party, we could be in breach of the Data Protection Act by disclosing information which could be used to identify specific people and their salaries.

"Given that concern and our legal advice, it was clear that these arguments had to be heard in the highest court in the land. Indeed, the judges make it clear that they took our arguments seriously and believed our case was worth putting before them."