Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Glasgow Councillors, MSPs and MPs

I have just sent my 'Glasgow's Golden Goodbyes' post to all Glasgow councillors, MSPs and MPs - along with the following message:

Next time someone tells equal pay claimants to be more 'reasonable' and compromise over their employment rights - just show them this post about the Exit Packages paid to senior council officials in Scotland's largest council.

We need to 'up' the level of outrage amongst the thousands of equal pay claimants  across Glasgow and one way individual claimants can help is to send an email to your own local councillor, MSP and MP.

Believe me it makes a real difference to the ongoing campaign, so keep me posted on what the local politicians have to say - even if they say nothing.


Glasgow's Golden Goodbyes

The next time someone tells a Glasgow equal pay claimant they should be more 'reasonable' and be prepared to compromise in standing up for their employment rights - just show them this post about the Exit Packages paid to senior council officials in Scotland's largest council. 

i am still waiting on answers to a series of freedom of information (FOI) requests on this subject, but as far as I know these huge sums of money had to be recommended by someone within the City Council (another senior official perhaps?) before being approved by a committee of elected councillors.


Glasgow - Council Bosses' 'Golden Goodbyes'

Here's a great story from Politics Home highlighting a scathing report from two parliamentary committees at Westminster which have accused bosses at Carillion of being "too stuffing their mouths with gold to show any interest in the welfare of the workforce".  

Now that's exactly how I feel about senior officials at Glasgow City Council who have walked away with eye watering Exit Packages worth £1.389 million (see post below dated 07/05/18) while low paid workers lower down the food chain have had to fight through the courts for 12 long years just to enforce their rights to equal pay.

You would think that Glasgow's MSPs might be interested in having a similar inquiry into what's been going on in Scotland's largest council.

Because not only have senior officials have been presiding over discriminatory, 'unfit for purpose' pay arrangements since 2007, several of their colleagues were granted big boosts to their pensions through the ward of 'added years'.

Just last year, Glasgow's outgoing director of finance, Lynn Brown, was gifted the sum of £120,000 to access her pension early.

Yet since then the City Council has come over all 'mean spirited' in negotiations to settle the long-running equal pay dispute with 12,000 of its lowest paid employees. 


Carillion bosses ‘too busy stuffing mouths with gold’ to prevent firm’s collapse, say furious MPs

By Matt Foster - Politics Home

The directors of doomed construction giant Carillion were “too busy stuffing their mouths with gold” to save the firm from its spectacular collapse earlier this year, a hard-hitting joint report by MPs has said.

More than 2,000 jobs have been lost since the construction firm’s collapse - Credit: PA

Carillion - which was mired in debt and owed billions to its suppliers - went bust at the start of the year, with more than 2,000 staff laid off so far.

The firm sank with one of the biggest pension deficits of any FTSE 350 company.

Ex-Carillion director says Brexit and snap election led to firm’s collapse

Downing Street lobby briefing on customs union and Carillion job losses

MPs accuse Carillion of trying to 'wriggle out' of pension contributions

A scathing joint report from two Commons committees brands the company’s collapse “a story of recklessness, hubris and greed” and blasts company bosses for misrepresenting the reality of the business as they ramped up dividends and treated long-term obligations like pensions “with contempt”.

The report accuses Carillion’s board of directors of being “both responsible and culpable” for the company’s failure, despite presenting themselves as “self-pitying victims” of “unforeseeable mishaps”.

The MPs tear into the company’s former finance director Richard Adams - who sold all of his shares just months before the firm’s collapse - and its “misguidedly self-assured” ex-chief executive Richard Howson over the company’s nosedive in fortunes.

They also dismiss former chairman Philip Green as an “unquestioning optimist” who failed to challenge bad decisions, and urge the Insolvency Service, which is probing Carillion’s downfall, to consider disqualifying the trio from serving as directors again.

Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field said Carillion’s collapse was “a disgraceful example of how much of our capitalism is allowed to operate”.

He fumed: “Same old story. Same old greed. A board of directors too busy stuffing their mouths with gold to show any concern for the welfare of their workforce or their pensioners. They rightly face investigation of their fitness to run a company again.”

Mr Field urged ministers to bring forward “radical reforms to our creaking system of corporate accountability”, adding: “British industry is too important to be left in the hands of the likes of the shysters at the top of Carillion.”


Rachel Reeves, chair of the Business, Energy and Industry Strategy Committee meanwhile trained her fire on audit firm KPMG, which vetted Carillion’s accounts for almost two decades before its collapse.

She said it and other members of the so-called 'Big Four' group of accounting giants - PwC, Deloitte and EY - should be "in the dock for this catastrophic crash".

Ms Reeves warned: "They are guilty of failing to tackle the crisis at Carillion, failing to insist the company paint a true picture of its crippling financial problems. The sorry saga of Carillion is further evidence that the Big Four accountancy firms are prioritising their own profits ahead of good governance at the companies they are supposed to be putting under the microscope.”

The committee is urging the Government to refer the accounting giants to the Competition and Markets Authority or risk “a crisis of confidence in the audit profession”.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey went further, however, calling for the “cabal of four big auditors” to be “broken up”.

She said: “Millions racked up in debt, thousands of workers losing their jobs and pensions, and supply chain business at risk of collapse, because not only did the corporate auditors fail to hold Carillion's misbehaving managers to account, but because the Government looked on in ignorance at the same time, proceeding to award contract after contract to a firm which had issued numerous profit warnings,” she said.

A government spokesperson welcomed the joint report and said ministers would “respond fully in due course”.

They added: “Our priority has been the continued, safe running of public services and to minimise the impact of Carillion's insolvency. The plans we put in place have ensured this. “

Glasgow - What We Know, So Far (07/05/18)

Here's what we know, so far, regarding my FOI requests on the 'Exit Packages' paid to senior officials of Glasgow City Council. 

Official 1
In 2010/11 the council's former chief solicitor (Ian Drummond) was awarded 'added years' which boosted his already generous pension pot by £250,000 according to my calculations

Total - £250,000

Officials 2 and 3
In 2013/14 two GCC officials left with Exit Packages worth £310,000 (in cash value) and with the pension boost of added years valued at £141,000.

Officials 4 and 5
In 2013/14 another two officials left with Exit Packages worth £380,000 (in cash value) and with the pension boost of added years worth £179,000

Total - £1,010,000 (£451,000 + £559,000)

Official 6
In 2016/17 the council's former director of finance (Lynn Brown) was 'gifted' the sum of £120,079 to allow her to retire early and access her pension early.

Total - £129,079

Now these officials were all in post during the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council and were part of the senior management group which fought tooth and nail to resist the equal pay claims of their lowest paid employees - all the way to the Court of Session which decided that Glasgow's pay arrangements are 'unfit for purpose.

Yet this small group of just 6 senior Glasgow officials walked away with Exit Packages worth £1,389,079 which is quite astonishing if you ask me, especially given their role in protecting the interests of all council employees - including those at the bottom of the pay ladder.  

Please note that Glasgow City Council is currently refusing to answer my FOI request regarding the role that senior officials played in overseeing and introducing the WPBR - on the grounds that it would cost more than £600 to provide this information.


Get Serious, Glasgow

As I write this post, settlement meeting Number 13 is about to get underway with Glasgow City Council, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to re-publish my thoughts on the evident 'lack of progress' that is being made in these negotiations.

Contrary to the claims of the Council leader Susan Aitken, serious negotiations with the claimants representatives have still to get underway which is why there is now a very real  prospect of returning to the Employment Tribunals - and of industrial action taking place over 'unequal' pay in Scotland's largest council.

Susan Aitken has been sending out a standard letter (reproduced below) in a effort to reassure claimants  that 'all is well', but this is simply not correct because if these talks were making steady progress no one would be contemplating industrial action or considering the need for taking all the claims back to court.

At best there is likely to be two more settlement meetings before the process is interrupted by the summer holiday season and it will not get underway again until mid August, by which time we will be approaching the ninth month of 'negotiations' and the anniversary of the Court of Session judgment which condemned Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay scheme as 'unfit for purpose'.

So now is the time for Scotland's largest council to 'get serious' about delivering  equal pay and replacing the WPBR because if this sham process continues, there will be consequences.


A number of Glasgow readers have shared an email from the City Council leader, Susan Aitken, which is reproduced below for easy reference.

If you ask me, Susan Aitken has set out a clear position which can be fairly summarised as follows: 

1 The Scottish Government has no role to play
2 Everyone agreed on a year's worth of meetings
3 Council officials are not employing delaying tactics 
4 Elected members are overseeing the settlement process 
5 A process is also underway to 'address' the WPBR, pay and grading 
6 The Council has delivered, halted the litigation and brought Cordia back 'in-house'
7 The Council will continue making progress towards settlement in the months ahead

So allow me to respond from the perspective of the claimants.

1) The Scottish Government does have an important role to play and has in the past allowed other councils to access additional borrowing 'consents' to help them meet the costs of equal pay. Glasgow has a much bigger problem than other councils in Scotland because it is the largest council, by far, and also allowed this long-running equal pay dispute to drag on for so long.

2) No one agreed that negotiations would last a full year, and there is no reason they should take so long, but the real problem is that after all these months there has been so little progress to report - which is why the trade unions have decided to consult their members about taking strike action if the situation doesn't improve. 

3) Council officials are still fighting old battles and refuse to accept the unanimous judgment of the Court of Session which condemned Glasgow's pay arrangements as 'unfit for purpose'. Council officials insist they acted in good faith over the WPBR, yet refuse to explain their role in the WPBR's introduction in 2005/07. At one stage, officials even threatened to impose a 'interim settlement' which had not been negotiated or agreed with the Claimants.

4) Elected members may well be 'overseeing' the process but they seem to be getting fed a very one sided and partial view of the big issues from senior officials. There has been no dialogue between the Claimants Representatives and Elected Members - the Claimants offered to brief Glasgow councillors earlier this year (on their perspective), but this offer was declined.

5) The highest civil court in Scotland unanimously judged Glasgow's WPBR to be 'unfit for purpose' and the Claimants clearly won the argument that the 37 hour 'rule', for example, is blatantly discriminatory along with many other WPBR practices. Yet council officials (and perhaps the politicians?) still argue that the onus is still on the Claimants to persuade the City Council that the WPBR needs to be replaced.   

6) The Council made the right decision in halting the litigation, but this has been replaced by a 'slow boat to China' settlement process in which there have been no serious negotiations. Council officials do not accept the Claimants' comparators and do not accept that overtime working or holiday pay have been operating for years on a discriminatory basis. Cordia has been brought back in house which is a good thing, but the officials leading the settlement negotiations created this 'monster' in the first place - and allowed Cordia to treat its workforce as second class citizens.

7) 'Steady progress' is council speak for 'moving at the speed of a glacier'. I've been involved in the equal pay settlement process in lots of other Scottish councils, but I have to say that Glasgow lacks a sense of urgency, purpose and direction. So the omens are not good, unless the process becomes 'turbo-charged' and the council gets serious about compensating the claimants and replacing the WPBR.      


Glasgow - Bog Standard Replies (21/05/18)

The daughter of one of Glasgow's equal pay claimants wrote a very personal and passionate letter to the leader of the Council about her mum's long fight for equal pay - and here's what Susan Aitken had to say in reply. 

This is the response my daughter has been given by Susan Aiken

I have been very consistent in saying from the outset of this process that settling an issue that has existed for over a decade would most likely take several months to complete. That is the view of ALL of the parties round the negotiating table – the Council, the trade unions and the private lawyers Action for Equality – and ALL of them agreed to schedule meetings until the end of this calendar year at least. That is a timetable that has been agreed since the beginning of the negotiations and was confirmed in the paper that was taken to Council committee to agree a halt to the litigation.

A process has been put in place to allow discussion and negotiation on each of the issues and that is ongoing. There has been considerable progress on several areas.

Claimants’ representatives, rightly, called for more political oversight over this process as this had been lacking over the past decade – and welcomed it when it was set up. This means that Council officers report in to both a group of senior SNP Councillors, and a cross-party group of Councillors about progress and take direction about the way to move forwards. This is the correct approach which will ensure we all get to where we want to in a manner which ensures that the settlement is fair.

There is a parallel process in place to address the issue of a new pay and grading scheme for the Council and the first meeting has taken place.

The SNP administration has consistently delivered progress on equal pay over the past year. When I became Leader of the Council, legal action was still ongoing; there was no negotiation process or even informal talks; and there was no commitment to harmonise terms and conditions for Cordia staff. Now, less than a year later, litigation by the Council has been halted by a unanimous vote of a Council committee; there are formal negotiating meetings taking place on a fortnightly basis and the Council negotiators also meet me and other senior councillors every two weeks; and we have budgeted and formally agreed to bring Cordia staff back into the Council and harmonise their terms and conditions.

I have been clear in my commitment to deliver pay justice for women council workers like your Mum since before the election and I continue to be so. The story of the past year has been one of steady progress towards a negotiated resolution, backed by the democratic process of the Council. This will continue over the coming months until a resolution to this long standing injustice has been found, and we have a clear way forward to ensure it never happens again.

Kind regards,

Councillor Susan Aitken
Leader of the Council
SNP Councillor for Langside

Now this is essentially the same 'standard' letter the leader's office has been churning out for weeks and I should know because I responded to its contents, point by point, in a post dated 3rd May 2018 which us reproduced below for easy reference.

I have to say I am shocked at the 'bog standard' nature of the Council leader's response, not just because it paints a very one sided picture of what has been going on in Glasgow, but because it's so completely dismissive of a young woman who has put such thought and effort into standing up for her mum.

Let's hope that, on reflection, Susan Aitken takes the time and trouble to write a nicer, more personal and considered reply.


Glasgow's Fight For Equal Pay (16/05/18)

Here's a fantastic letter that the daughter of a Glasgow equal pay claimant has written to Susan Aitken, Leader of the City Council, and Nicola Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside and Scotland's First Minister. 

Now this young woman clearly has a gift for words and I understand that she's still at school - where she's been studying women's rights and democracy, would you believe!

Well she has a very  bright future ahead of herself, if you ask me.

And I only hope the politicians are listening carefully to what she has to say - because her words and the passion of her argument over equal pay would put many a Glasgow council official, elected councillor, MSP and MP to shame.

Now that's what I call standing up and speaking out.


Hello, good day Mam.

This is the daughter of MC.

I was wondering if when I'm older this will effect my generation as I watch my mum complain about this it starts to annoy me even more knowing that my mum and loads of other mothers aren't getting payed the right wages all of yous act like its not a big thing when it clearly is.

As you see you are taking mothers and fathers away from there children as there parents have to do overtime so they can make decent wage to live, many mothers and fathers wish they could see there kids at night but sometimes in a day all in all I'm lucky if I see my mum for an hour because I come in the door then she's gone. 

Think back to when you were younger would you like it if you only saw your mum or dad for an hour if lucky? 

Anyways I would like to say get this sorted soon because before you know it they will all be out on strike and yous will have no one to turn back to but for now remind the council they have lost the battle and should just deal with it and give out the money they seem to be able to pay other council workers the right amount.

So why not pay our mothers and fathers the right wages. When at Christmas time your sitting with you kids and family having a lovely time while our parents have to rush there food just to watch there kids open a few presents while you sit there watching your kids the whole day having fun. 

Not complaining on the job my mum does because I know my mum likes her job just annoys me and probably a lot of other children my age that there mums and dads don't get payed the right wages for what they do. 

I know that you promised you would sort this for them as this was one of your manifesto commitments to sorting equal pay. 

I hope that you keep to your promise and get this sorted as I can't bear seeing my mum and other parents complaining and feeling let down by the leader yourself on witch you promised to sort I look forward to hearing from yourself.

Thank you for taking your time today to read this

Yours sincerely

MC's daughter

PS Since I wrote this post I hear that MC's daughter received a very disappointing reply in the shape of a 'standard' letter from the Council leader Susan Aitken. 

I've only had a very quick look at this letter, but it seems the same, or very similar, to one that the leader's office released several days ago. I'll have a more detailed search later today and have more to say on the blog soon.

Riddle me this, Glasgow? (11/05/18)

Ask yourself this question, Glasgow - then answer it as honestly as you can.

"If equal pay settlement negotiations with the City Council are making such good progress, why do the trade unions (Unison and GMB) think it necessary to consult their members on industrial action?"


Get Serious, Glasgow! (03/05/18)

Lots of readers have been in touch with comments and questions about the industrial action ballots in support of the fight with Glasgow City Council for equal pay - here's what Stefan and I had to say on Facebook.

Hi Mark

What is the opinion of A4ES on the Strike Ballot papers issued to all Unison members. 

Would striking be recommended by yourselves?


Hi J

It's a consultative ballot rather than an official strike ballot, at this stage, and the purpose is to test the level of support for taking industrial action, if the City Council continues to drag its feet over settlement negotiations and replacing WPBR. 

So I would certainly encourage people to vote Yes!

Because by doing so they will send a strong message to the Council to 'get its finger out'! 

Mark Irvine

Hi Mark 

That's exactly my thoughts as well. So fed up with the council and their delaying tactics and not progressing with the actual settlement negotiations. 

Thanks for the clarification. 



several folk have asked how I would vote in the ballot.

Easy - YES!

why? :

1 time to stand up and be counted

2 it has already made the council sit up and take notice. The threat of an imposed interim payment has been taken off the agenda for the moment and the council are finally looking at our proposals seriously

3 the council read out a prepared statement objecting - I will cover this when I have exact wording. Your industrial and political weight is making all the difference. We need to keep this up

4 a consultative ballot commits us to nothing but shows we’re serious. There’s a long way to go to an actual strike. This is just the first essential step.

5. The council literally laughed at suggestion they will produce counter proposal by 22nd. There is still no sense of urgency from the officers. They need to get serious. The ballot will help.

Your biggest weapon is your solidarity. 

Keep it up.

Stefan Cross


More Breaking News!

Well, I received a quick reply from 'T' in response to my post about SNP MSP Humza Yousaf and the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

He doesn’t even answer his emails or reply to tweets about equal pay

Now if this is correct, I think it is only fair to draw the situation to the attention of the wider public.

So if any readers have been in touch to ask Humza for support or to explain his views in relation to equal pay - the WPBR, its discriminatory 37 hour 'rule' or the role played by senior officials over the introduction of the WPBR - then please let me know what Humza has had to say.

I'm sure the good people of Glasgow will be interested, even if he has had nothing to say. 


Breaking News! (22/05/18)

Humza Yousaf speaks out!

Not about the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council, you understand, but over some obscure row in the Scottish Labour Party.

Here's what Humza had to say on Twitter earlier today:

Jim Crow-esque tactics by Scottish Labour in Pollok. Disenfranchising Labour members to vote in selection contests because they have 'Asian-sounding names' all to rig the ballot for the Corbyn candidate @Cllr_Matt_Kerr - shocking stuff!

Now I don't know if Humza has intervened at the request of the complainers, but I would very much like to hear from any equal pay claimants in Humza's Glasgow Pollok constituency who may have contacted their local MSP for support in the ongoing fight for equal pay.  

Because I would expect a local Glasgow MSP to show the same enthusiasm for holding the City Council to account over issues such as the WPBR's discriminatory 37 hour 'rule' or the role played by senior officials in introducing the WPBR - as Humza has shown in the internal affairs of the Labour Party in Glasgow.

So if any Glasgow readers can help, please drop me a note, in confidence of course - markirvine@compuserve.com 

In the meantime, here's a link to Politics Home and the story that Humza is trying to fire up.