Monday, 20 October 2014

Performance Pay

I'm not sure what performance bonus, if any, Iris Wylie received in 2013/14 as head of human resources in North Lanarkshire Council.  

But if Iris Wylie received a single penny it would be completely unjustified and a disgrace, if you ask me.

Because how can North Lanarkshire possibly believe it's right to reward senior managers with big bonus payments when the Council has made such a mess of equal pay?

A mess that council officials have been forced to admit at the ongoing Employment Tribunal in Glasgow although, as yet, no one has accepted responsibility or been held to account for a series on 'errors' and 'mistakes' in scoring and grading thousands of low paid jobs, including those of Home Care workers. 

Now North Lanarkshire's web site (see extract below) says that 21 chief officers outside the senior management team receive a performance bonus of between £4,684.68 and £9,485.11 which comes to between £98,378.28 and £199.187.31 a year.

What must other Council workers think, especially those still fighting for equal pay?

Other chief officers
Individual service delivery within each directorate is the responsibility of a Head of Service. There were 24* Heads of Service whose salaries in 2013/14 ranged between £17,076.98 and £94,580.19 plus performance-related pay between £4,684.68 and £9,485.11. The expenses reimbursed for this group in 2013/14 totals £1,245.65.
*There are 21 Head of Service posts but, due to promotion and retirement, a total of 24 people filled these posts in 2013/14.

North Lanarkshire Council (15 September 2014)

A number of readers have been in touch to ask if there is any further progress in the settlement talks with North Lanarkshire Council (NLC).

Well the current position is that discussions are still going on behind the scenes, but I am increasingly pessimistic that that these talks will produce a satisfactory outcome.

I suspect the reason that things are dragging on for so long is that the Council is still trying to undervalue many female dominated jobs even though North Lanarkshire has been forced to concede that so many of these jobs (e.g. the Home Carers) have been incorrectly 'scored' under the NLC job evaluation scheme. 

So, my view is that these cases will all be heading back to the Employment Tribunal where senior council managers, such as the head of human resources Iris Wylie, will have to face the QC who has been acting for the Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) clients, Daphne Romney.

Now I think it's fair to say that Daphne Romney has torn the Council's 'defence' apart and that's before she's had the opportunity to cross examine key figures such as Iris Wylie, who have an awful lot of explaining to do when they finally get into the witness box.

For example: 
  1. Who was responsible for committing all the 'mistakes' and 'errors' over the Council's job evaluation scheme (JES)? 
  2. How is it possible that so many 'mistakes' and 'errors' were made in scoring Home Carers' jobs, to name just one group.
  3. Why did the Council deny there was anything wrong for so many years and why has no one at a senior level been held to account?
  4. How did vital pay information regarding the JES go missing, why was there no back up of this data and who within the Council is responsible for what happened?
  5. How can anyone have confidence in the Council's ability to put things right when essentially the same group of senior officials are still in charge?
Maybe the best thing would be to call the Council's chief executive as a witness to the Employment Tribunal as well because the buck has to stop somewhere and Gavin Whitefield is head of the paid service in North Lanarkshire with a salary of £136,473 plus a 'performance' bonus of £11,039.20  

Performance Pay (1 September 2014)

Gavin Whitefield
Gavin Whitefield CBE, Chief Executive
The Chief Executive within North Lanarkshire is the council's chief policy advisor. He is the main link between council officials and elected members. He is responsible for corporate governance and seeks to ensure the co-ordination of the organisation and all its functions. Of primary concern to the Chief Executive is the overall direction and performance of the council.
Salary 2012/13: £136,473 (plus performance-related pay of £11,039.20
Good to Talk (15 March 2014)

Iris Wylie, as the North Lanarkshire's Head of Personnel, is one of the key figures in what has been going on within the Council in recent years - in terms of Single Status, Equal Pay and Job Evaluation.

As I've pointed out to readers in previous posts, Iris Wylie is well connected in terms of the politics of equal pay, having previously been the partner of Mike Kirby, the long-time convener of Unison in Scotland and now the union's regional secretary. 

Now I don't know if Iris and Mike are still on speaking terms, but what I do know is that the situation is North Lanarkshire Council is a disgrace, if you ask me, and that someone, somewhere must surely accept responsibility for the complete hash the Council has managed to make of things.

As ever, I am prepared to let bygones be bygones, for the greater good so to speak, because the important issue now is the shabby way the Council's low paid workers (mainly women of course) have been treated, and how that situation is going to be put right.

So if Iris Wylie and/or Mike Kirby would like to meet up with me to see what can be done, then I for one would be happy do so - I'm sure it would be good to talk even after all these years.     

Small World (1 April 2012)

I asked readers in North Lanarkshire for help the other day.

I wanted to know if people could help trace the background to the controversial North Lanarkshire Council bonus scheme - which has hit the newspaper headlines recently.

The one that seems to be restricted to only the most senior and highly paid officials - as far as anyone knows.

I asked readers if a reference (HR/IW) on the previously secret document - which has been dragged out of the council via an FOI request - might provide a clue.

Since then readers' suggestions have been flying in by e-mail and they all point in the same direction - that HR stands for Human Resources - and that IW stands for Iris Wylie, the council's Head of Human Resources.

Now that would make sense - why didn't I think of it before?

Because the name Iris Wylie is on the list as receiving a top-up or bonus payment of £5,758.56 - and HR is the obvious area of the council from which to seek advice on pay issues.

So who knows for sure? 

Maybe the council will explain the background properly and publicly - or maybe Iris Wylie will get in touch directly and fill in some of the the gaps in people's knowledge - which I'm happy to publish on the blog site.

I first met Iris Wylie years ago - but haven't seen her in the flesh for some time.

The last occasion I remember seeing Iris was at the Scottish TUC in Glasgow in 1999 - when she was 'stepping out' - so to speak - with the Scottish Convener of Unison, Mike Kirby.

Mike has since moved on from his role as convener and stepped up - so to speak - to become the union's regional secretary in Scotland - a full-time paid official in other words. 

Iris and Mike are both mentioned in a previous post to the blog site - one of the earliest posts in fact - going all the way back to April 2007. 

So it all just goes to show what a small world it really is - though that doesn't help to explain why a Labour council - yes a Labour council - would introduce a secret incentive pay scheme - or a bonus scheme for those at the top, as I think it should be called.

Especially one that rewards only the most senior council officials - and appears to exclude the vast majority of the workforce - many of whom are very low paid of course - and many of whom are still fighting for equal pay.

No wonder people are so cynical about politics and politicans these days - and that includes the politics of local government.

Surprising Result (2)

I double checked the figures I used recently calculate the level of union membership in Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board (GGCHB) and, as I suspected at the time, it turns out I was being more than a little generous.

Because according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK's population at the end of March 2014 stood at 64.1 million while the latest figures for Scotland from the NRS (National Records for Scotland) show a total of 5.328 million.

So this means that Scotland's share of the UK population is 8.31% rather than 10% which I assumed for the purpose of calculating the Scottish RCN membership from a total of 410,000 members across the whole of the UK. 

Which means than instead of 41,000 RCN members in Scotland the true figure is likely to be  around 8.31% of 410,000 or 34,071 instead of 41,000, as per my original calculation.

In turn, 23% of 34,071 equals 7,836 as an adjusted figure for RCN members in GGCHB and adding this to the number of union members who pay their fees by check-off (13,770) gives an overall total of 21,606 union members in GGHB.

Following the same pattern as before 39,300 employees divided by 21,606 union members = 55% of the core workforce (39,300) or 41% of the total GGCHB workforce (52,482) which includes bank staff.

Now that really is a big surprise because it confirms that trade union membership in GGCHB stands a lot less than 50% of the total workforce.

Union Membership (16 October 2014)

I had a look at the RCN's (Royal College of Nursing) web site the other day for some information about the union's membership figures and here's what the RCN had to say.

RCN membership

Get a huge range of benefits when you join the RCN, including protection and support in the workplace, professional development and the opportunity to shape future health care.

Join the RCN today and become part of the UK's largest nursing union.

What we do

The RCN is the UK's largest union and professional body for nursing. We currently have over 410,000 members who are nurses, midwives, health care support workers and students from across a range of sectors and nursing disciplines.

We represent nurses and nursing and we lobby government and other professional bodies to make sure our views are heard where it counts. Your experiences will help to shape the development of future nursing policy both in the UK and internationally.

So, if the RCN has 410,000 members at UK level, I think it's fair to put their numbers in Scotland at around 41,000 which I'm sure is on the generous side.

Now the GGCHB (Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board) says that its provides health care services to over 1.2 million Scots or around 23% of Scotland's 5.32 million population as recorded by the National Records of Scotland in 2013.

23% of 41,000 = 9,430 and in my view represents a generous estimate of the RCN's membership in GGCHB and adding this figure to the number of union members who pay their fees by check-off (13770) gives a grand total of 23,200 union members in GGCHB.

In turn 39,300 employees divided by 23,200 union members = 59% of the core workforce (39,300) or 44% of the total GGCHB workforce (52,482) which includes bank staff.

Now that's a real surprise because it suggests that trade union membership in GGCHB stands at only 50% or so of the total workforce. 

Surprising Result (6 October 2014)

I sent an FoI request a little while back to Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board (GGCHB) about the number of trade union members who pay their membership fees by 'check-off' or Deduction at Source.

Now the reply that came back was very interesting, but before going on to look at some of these issues in more detail here are the original FoI enquiries and subsequent answers from GGCHB.   

1. Please confirm the total number of employees employed by GGCHB? 

NHSGGC employs 39,300 core staff. However we also employ ‘bank’ staff in nursing, admin and other staff groups. These staff may work on an ad hoc basis, or as and when required. Some bank staff may choose not to work for periods of time yet will still be registered on the staff bank. The total number of staff on the payroll including all bank staff is therefore 52,482. 

2. Please confirm the total number of employees who pay union contributions through the 'check-off' system which is also known as 'Deduction at Source' (DAS)? 


3. Please confirm the total number of employees who use DAS to pay their union contributions to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)? 


4. Please confirm the total number of employees who use DAS to pay their union contributions to Unison?


The first thing that struck me is that the level or 'density' of union membership looks to be much less than I expected because Unison, which always claims to be the largest union in the NHS, has only 11,335 members out of a total workforce of 39,300 or 52,482 if you count all bank staff.

So to put this in percentage terms Unison represents 29% of core staff in GGCHB or 22% of all staff including bank staff.

Now it could be that some of the bank staff pay just one union contribution as a member of core staff, but even so it probably means that Unison represents only around 25% or so of the GGCHB workforce.

The RCN have traditionally operated a direct debit system of collecting membership fees which explains why this 'nurses only' union (Royal College of Nursing) doesn't seem to use the check-off facilities in GGCHB.

But even if the RCN had the same number of members as Unison (which is a big 'if', if you ask me), then this would still leave an awful lot of NHS workers not being a member of any trade union at all.

Because the majority of NHS workers pay their union fees via DAS or checkoff and those 13,770 employees represent 35% of the core workforce or 26% of the total workforce including bank staff.   

All of which suggest that the levels of union membership (across all the trade unions) must struggle to get much beyond 50% which comes as a real surprise to me, I have to say.

So I must go back to GGCHB with some follow up questions. 

Palpable Nonsense

The RCN's knee-jerk reaction to a speech by Jeremy Hunt demonstrates how deluded the trade unions can be at times. 

Because the greets health scandal of modern times, the premature deaths of up to 1200 patients and intolerable standards of care at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, occurred at a time when NHS resources were increasing significantly, year on year.

So the RCN's argument that mistakes and errors are down to 'understaffing' is completely laughable, if you ask me and Dr Peter Carter should be ashamed of himself for peddling such palpable nonsense.   

NHS errors costing billions a year - Jeremy Hunt

The Royal College of Nursing says mistakes are the result of understaffed wards

Basic mistakes in hospitals in England cost the NHS up to £2.5bn a year, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to say.

And the NHS could afford to hire more nurses if the errors were cut out, Mr Hunt will claim during a speech in Birmingham on Thursday.

Cost is incurred through problems like medication errors, avoidable infections after surgery, and litigation.

But a spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said mistakes were the result of understaffed wards.

In his speech Mr Hunt will describe these kind of mistakes as "expensive and wasteful" at a time when hospital trusts are trying to save money.

'Picking up the pieces'

He will say: "I want every director of every hospital trust to understand the impact this harm is having not just on their patients, but also on their finances.

"And I want every nurse in the country to understand that if we work together to make the NHS the safest healthcare organisation in the world, we could potentially release resources for additional nurses, additional training, and additional time to care...

"More resources should be invested in improving patient care rather than wasted on picking up the pieces when things go wrong."
Mr Hunt wants hospital trust directors to understand the financial impact of harm

A recently-published report commissioned by the Department of Health (DoH) described what it termed as "preventable adverse events" rather than mistakes, as costing the NHS "a significant amount of money".

It estimates the cost of such mistakes to be between £1bn and £2.5bn a year.

Last year the NHS spent £1.3bn on payouts after being sued by patients over care errors.

Four areas of poor patient safety highlighted by the DoH include falls and trips, bed ulcers, urinary infections caused by poorly fitted catheters, and deep vein thrombosis, which together cost an estimated £200m a year in extra care.

Mr Hunt's words will mark the start of a poster campaign warning staff about the financial problems basic errors cause.

'Not enough staff'

The health secretary is due to argue that it would be wrong to set targets or "issue a new ministerial decree" in an effort to cut out such problems - instead he favours a "cultural change" to make hospitals safer.

But Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the government needed to invest in more staff before patient care can be improved.

He said: "Falls and preventable conditions such as pressure ulcers happen when there are not enough staff on a ward to care properly for every patient, not because nurses are unaware that these things should be prevented."

Labour have also argued that under the coalition government nursing numbers had fallen, and billions wasted on reorganising the NHS, which has resulted in care problems becoming more likely.

Patients' Voices (5 June 2014)

Scotland's health minister, Alex Neil, made some sensible proposals the other day about strengthening the voice of patients in the NHS.

Now who could see anything problematic in that, but here's a terribly defensive response from one of the main health unions, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which sounds to me as if patients (or their families) say anything critical then the staff and the unions expect to consulted about what happens next.  

Commenting on the announcement from Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil MSP that he will bring forward proposals for a new system of listening to, and promoting, the patients’ voice RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe said:

If we are to achieve an NHS in Scotland that truly focuses on patients, we need to listen to their concerns and give them the means for their voices to be heard. That’s why we supported the introduction of Patient Opinion into our NHS last year. We believe that all patients should be able to feedback their views on the care they receive, both positive and negative, so health boards and the Government can use this constructively to improve and change how things are done.

“At the same time, staff must also have a voice and be listened to. Patients’ views can affect already demoralised staff, who are trying to do their best under pressure. Health boards must therefore listen to what patients are saying and then listen and support staff to make the necessary changes to improve how care is delivered. Both patients’ and staff’s feedback and concerns are important and must be heard locally and nationally, if our NHS is to become ‘world class’.”

Now this seems like a whole load of baloney to me because the NHS is one of the most highly unionised areas anywhere in the public sector and the staff already have a very strong voice and ability to express their views.

And as events at Mid Staffordshire Hospital have shown there have been terrible cases of neglect and poor standards of care within the NHS, so the problems are not always about staff working under pressure.

To my mind it's complete humbug to argue that "patients' views can affect already demoralised staff, who are trying to do their best under pressure" because what that sounds like to me is people getting their excuses ready without even listening to what patients and their families have to say.      

Here's what Alex Neil had to say about his own proposals by the way and it doesn't seem to me that there's 

“But let me be clear – there is absolutely no complacency and we will go on striving for improvement while staying true to the founding principles of our NHS.

“That is why we must do more to listen to, and promote, the voices of those we care for. We need the voices of our patients, those receiving care and their families, to be heard in a much clearer and stronger way. The introduction of Patient Opinion has provided a new and vital way to gather views.

“However, we will not stop there. That is why I will be bringing forward proposals for a new system of listening to, and promoting, the patients’ voice. I have tasked Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Health Council to develop these new proposals. 

“Their task is straightforward – develop a system that means we do more to truly hear the voice of patients.”

Nothing in that to get worked up or all defensive about if you ask me, but the RCN have form in this area as you can read below.

Voice For Service Users (5 March 2013)

Trade unions are experts at lots of things - especially at telling other people what to do and how to do it.

But in my experience trade unions are seldom keen to accept any critical assessment of their own performance or the kind of independent scrutiny - which operates routinely in many other areas of public life.

I wrote a post last month about the lack of leadership from the trade unions during the care scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust - in particular the largest nurses union, the RCN.

Here's what the independent Francis Report into Mid Staffs had to say about the RCN:

Royal College of Nursing

1.98 At Stafford, the RCN was ineffective both as a professional representative organisation and as a trade union. Little was done to uphild professional standards among nursing staff or to address concerns and problems being faced by its members.

1.99 A prime reason for this was a lack of effective representation from elected officers on site. Further, the support avaialable from RCN officials at a regional and national level was limited.

1.100 The RCN is not, of course, a regulator but a combination of a professional representative body and a trade union. However, it does represent a group of qualified professionals and seeks, as it should, to promote high standards of service and conduct. The evidence reviewed in this report suggest that the RCN has not been heard as might have been expected in pursuing professional concerns about the standard of care.

1.101 It appears there is a concerning potential for conflict of intersst between the RCN's professional role of promoting high quality standards in nursing, and its union role of negotiating terms and conditions and defending members' material and other narrow interests.

Ouch! - was probably the intitial reaction of the RCN to such devastating criticism of its role at Mid Staffs - and I suspect that the other NHS trade unions behaved in a similar fashion.

The lesson to learn is that NHS trade unions cannot champion the cause of services users and their families - who need a strong voice of their own to balance the many vested interests which control the NHS.

What's needed in the NHS and elsewhere in the public services is more People Power - and less control by the senior managers and bureaucrats who run the show at the moment - sometimes for their own selfish ends.

Hospital Trip Advisor (4 February 2013)

I am beginning to think that Dr Peter Carter - the chief executive of Royal College of Nursing (RCN) - is losing the plot.

The leader of the country's largest nursing union was in the papers at the weekend - making some rather extraordinary claims about poor standards of care in the NHS - and here's what Dr Carter had to say:

“Will there be another Mid Staffs? Yes, sadly there will be. There are 1.2 million people employed in the NHS and there is a hospital in every town. It would be foolish to say everything in the garden is roses.

Mid Staffs cannot be an isolated incident. The fact is, the service is under huge strain. Trusts are not thinking intelligently about how they deliver care and are simply cutting the numbers of frontline staff. Our members have a personal and professional responsibility to raise concerns.

The vast majority of patients still get good care, but that is no consolation to those who don’t. Mid Staffs has got this massive profile now, but there have been many others like it . . . Bristol Royal Infirmary, Basildon, Alder Hey. The report into Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells [where hundreds of patients died after an outbreak of the superbug C-difficile] is painful to read. On the wards there were beds that were eight inches apart ... what the hell were the managers doing, but also what was going on with the nursing culture? There was a culture of bullying and intimidation.

If the board had spent time walking the wards, talking to patients and staff, just doing their jobs, they may have saved hundreds of lives.

You wouldn’t expect staff at Kwik-Fit to get by with a bit of TLC and a bit of common sense. These are old people ... their bones are like porcelain, their skin is like tissue paper. They need highly skilled specialist care. The idea that four or five unskilled staff can take care of 30 elderly patients is nonsense.”

Now these comments come in advance of the report on Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust - where poor standards of care said to have caused up to 1,200 unnecessary deaths between 2005 and 2008.

So the first point to be made is that the scandal of Mid Staffs happened at a time of plenty for the NHS - which means that, broadly speaking, resources and money were not any part of the problem.

The second point I would make is that the NHS is one of the most highly unionised industries in the UK - and the RCN is one of the largest, most influential trade unions - with lots of RCN members in senior management and leadership positions.

In which case I fail to see how it can sensibly be argued that Trust's board members were somehow responsible for saving hundreds of lives - when there were all these staff around who were paid, some of them very generously as well, to look after patients.

I happen to think it would be a good for NHS board members to interact more with patients and their families - but surely this would be much more practical if the regulatory bodies in the UK made more unannounced inspection visits - and actually asked patients and families for their views on the standard of care received.

My mother died five years ago after and before she passed away my mum was a frequent visitor to her local hospital where - I think it's fair to say - that some of the care she received was very poor.

But no one asked my mum what she thought of her care - nor any of her family - which strikes me as very odd in this day and age - because feedback from patients and families is the obvious way to highlight underlying problems.

To paraphrase Dr Carter's own analogy - I think I receive much better customer care from Kwik-Fit than my dear old mum did at times - from her local NHS hospital.

A former health secretary in the last Labour government - Alan Milburn - came up with an interesting idea recently with his suggestion that the NHS needs an equivalent of Trip Advisor- so that patients and their families can provide useful feedback after a hospital visit.

People power meets patient power - now that really ought to be part of the answer.