Monday, 29 January 2007

Job Evaluation - appeals and advice

Most (but not all) councils in Scotland have by now carried out a Job Evaluation (JE) exercise - which is what they were supposed to do almost 8 years ago, as part of the 1999 Single Status Agreement. Done properly, this JE exercise would have taken at least a couple of years at least and the results backdated.

But, as people now realise, the employers and the trade unions sat on their backsides until Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross came along!

However, many of the council have gone for a very cheap and cheerful version of what job evaluation is really all about - and have done it all in such a hurry that no one can have confidence in the outcomes.

Some of the major concerns are:

1 Jobs have not been evaluated individually

2 Jobs have been evaluated in large and artificial groups

3 Information has been deliberately withheld - for example the scores of all the jobs

4 Traditional male (bonus earning) jobs have been scored more favourably

5 The process has been based on secrecy and dodgy deals - not openness and transparency

6 The outcomes have not been agreed with staff or the trade unions

7 New grading structures are being imposed - even after clear NO votes from union members

If you have registered an equal pay claim you have protected your position - by taking a claim to the Employment Tribunals you are preventing the council from becoming judge and jury in its own cause - and that's what scares them because they have to answer for their actions.


Meantime, people should use the local appeals process to expose just how badly the councils have behaved - this may not overturn the initial decision (within the council), but it will provide valuable information to help with your Employment Tribunal case.

If you are in a trade union, you should insist that the union provides you with advice and support in relation to local appeals. Paying union dues means that you are absolutely entitled to the union's help in any local dealings with the council.

If the unions fail to give members advice and support, they will leave themselves open to further legal claims - so don't be put off by local officials and insist that the union does its job on your behalf!

We have issued detailed advice on appeals to clients in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Falkirk - and this information can be adapted for other areas as required

Employment Tribunals - latest hearing dates

Here are the latest hearing dates that have been arranged with the Employment Tribunals - others are still in the process of being finalised - details will be posted as soon as anything is confirmed

Perth & Kinross Council
7 February - Case Management Hearing

Clackmannanshire Council
22 February - Stage 1 Hearing

Dundee City Council
23 February - Stage 1 Hearing

Tayside Contracts
23 February - Stage 1 Hearing

Angus Council
26 February - Stage 1 Hearing

Stirling Council
1 March - Stage 1 and Case Management Hearing

North Ayrshire Council
1 March - Stage 1 and Case Management Hearing

Falkirk Council
6 March - Case Management Hearing

North Lanarkshire Council
12 March - Case Management Hearing

West Dunbartonshire Council
12 March - Case Management Hearing

East Lothian Council
21 March - Case Management and Pre-Hearing Review

Glasgow City Council
21 to 26 March - Pre-Hearing Review

Midlothian Council
29 to 30 March - Pre-Hearing Review

Falkirk Council
24 April - for five days - General Material Factor (GMF) Hearing
1 May - for five days - Unfair Dismissal Hearings

The Highlands Council
Pre-Hearing Review held on 30 January 2006 - awaiting written decision

South Lanarkshire Council
Awaiting confirmation of Case Management Hearing date/s

Renfrewshire Council
Awaiting confirmation of Case Management Hearing date/s

Edinburgh City Council
2 May - Stage 1 and Case Management Hearing

Don't worry if your council is not named in the above list - talks with the Employment Tribunals are taking place all the time - confirmation of new hearing dates will appear here as the details are agreed.


Finally, here's a brief explanation of some of the terms used to describe the various different kinds of Employment Tribunal hearing:

Case Management and Stage 1 Hearings
Deal with important procedural issues, identify test groups and cases, appoint independent experts (where necessary) and agree a timetable for future hearings

Pre-Hearing Reviews
Deal with disagreements between the parties or issues of principle to be settled - before cases proceed to a full GMF hearing

General Material Factor (GMF) Hearings
Deal with the real substance of the case - a full hearing of all the issues - where the employers have to defend the claim and present their defence

Unfair Dismissal Hearings
Deal with cases where the employer has served 90-days notice and/or imposed a new contract without people's individual or collective agreement

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Do I have an equal pay claim?

Lots of people still don't realise that they have substantial equal pay claims - equal pay is not just about manual workers - many APT&C workers have every bit as strong a case for equal pay - but the employers don't want you to know, as it will cost them money - and the unions are keen to keep people in the dark as well, otherwise their members will start asking what their contributions have been spent on all these years!

Here's a leaflet that's been prepared for Clerical Workers in Glasgow, but the same arguments apply elsewhere and for many other groups including: Classroom/Pupil Support Assistants, Nursery Nurses/Child Development Officers, Social Care Workers, School Janitors/Caretakers etc.


GLASGOW & EQUAL PAY

A message from Action 4 Equality

  1. Clerical workers in Glasgow have always been highly skilled and hard working, but very low paid
  2. Despite all the fine words about equal opportunities and equal pay - for many years Glasgow's clerical workers have been paid much less than unskilled male manual workers, such as refuse collectors and road sweepers
  3. The council and the trade unions (Unison/GMB/TGWU) are both jointly responsible for this terrible mess although they like to point the finger at each other, instead of admitting just how much they have let people down.
  4. In 1999, they agreed to sort things out for once and for all - then sat on their backsides for the next 6 years!
  5. Before Glasgow's Pay and Benefits Review - many unskilled male council workers earned @ £20,000 a year
  6. After Glasgow's Pay and Benefits review - many unskilled male council workers will still be earning @ £20,000 a year - and will do so for many years to come
  7. Clerical workers in Glasgow always do badly out of these job evaluation exercises (in Glasgow this is being called a Pay and Benefits Review)
  8. Glasgow's clerical workers have substantial equal pay claims - even after the Council's Pay and Benefits Review - which are worth up to £5,000 per year, backdated for 5 years, and for as long as the current pay discrimination lasts

The position in Glasgow is repeated across Scotland - lots of people with substantial equal pay claims have been deliberately kept in the dark by the employers - why else is a nursery nurse paid so much less than a council tradesman?

The trade unions keep quiet as well because the truth is that they have been asleep on the job - and they are now worried that their own members are holding the unions to account by suing for the money low paid union members have lost, as a result of the union's negligence and poor advice.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) - 2

Can I sue the trade unions?
Yes, if you are a trade union member - you must also be pursuing a claim against your employer as well. The reason being that the unions deliberately kept their members in the dark over equal pay for many years - and when the going got rough, they often sided with the council employers and helped to cheat their own members out of the back pay they were entitled to receive.

How much is a claim against my unions worth?
It depends on individual circumstances and how the trade union behaved. For example, an employee in Glasgow City Council who accepted a one-off cash payment of £8,000 - would now have a claim worth over £30,000. So, that individual would have a claim for all the money they lost - £22,000 and rising all the time - because of the union's awful advice or its failure to give any advice at all.

What is a comparator?
A comparator is another worker on the same or a lower grade than you - but who is being paid more than you - despite the fact that the difference in pay (between the two jobs) seems difficult or impossible to justify. The underlying equal pay principle is that differences in pay between jobs must reflect real differences in skills and responsibilities of those jobs. Put simply, how can a carer be worth thousands of pounds a year less than a refuse worker? In some cases, people's grades are not the benchmark being used, but whether women workers are doing work of equal value to the higher paid men - this is the case for lots of nursery nurses (child development officers) and clerical workers, for example

How big is the pay gap?
This varies from council to council, and job to job. But a typical Home Carer's pay (on full-time hours) would have been £12,500 a year - yet a male refuse driver could be earning £18,000 to £20,000 a year - so the pay gap in this case could amount to over £7,000 a year. Likewise, a Nursery Nurse (Child Development Officer in some areas) earns around £18,000 a year - while a council joiner or plumber earns about £25,000 a year. Despite the fact that a nursery nurse is so much better qualified and has more responsible job!




Councils - strapped for cash?

Councils are always trying to pretend that they are strapped for cash - which is the excuse they normally use when trying to wriggle out of their obligations on equal pay. Yet, for the second year running, Glasgow City Council has announced a ZERO increase in council tax. In other words, Glasgow has plenty of money and its council tax won't increase by a single penny in 2007/08.

Glasgow did the same thing just over a year ago. In the run up to Xmas 2005, the council (aided and abetted by the unions) tried to 'buy out' people's equal pay claims on the cheap - by offering one-off cash payments instead of the back pay employees were really entitled to receive.

The council said it had no money, every last penny was being put to good use - they said, the cupboard was bare when it came to equal pay. But a few weeks later - surprise, surprise - the council was so well off that it could afford to announce that Glasgow's council tax would not have to increase at all in 2006/07.

Every other council in Scotland increased the council tax last year - Edinburgh had the smallest real terms increase of all the remaining councils at 2.14%. The truth is that Glasgow could have raised millions to help pay for equal pay had it introduced a similar modest rise in the council tax - which all the other councils managed without causing public disorder and riots in the streets.

The truth is that politicians can find the money to suit their own priorities - a big pay increase for teachers or for elected councillors can be justified - but when it comes to equal pay for the lowest paid workers - the councils' say they can't afford it or there will have to be redundancies and/or cuts in services.

Last year, in 2006, councils were roundly criticised in the Scottish Parliament for hoarding £1.4 billion in council reserves - more than enough to meet their equal pay obligations several times over!

So, the moral of the story is - don't be taken in by these crocodile tears and fairy tales about being strapped for cash. They are, quite simply, untrue.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Glasgow - new contracts

DON'T PANIC - AND DON'T BE BULLIED

There have been lots of calls in the past 24 hours from workers in Glasgow - who are worried about signing the new contract proposed by the council. The trade unions are again doing the council's dirty work by refusing to give their members proper advice - and sitting on the fence.

The first point to make is that the council has to give you proper notice of any contractual changes - this is often referred to as 90 days notice. But the council hasn't even given people 90 days notice as yet - and if it does, you will have 90 days to think things through and seek the advice you need before responding.

The council is trying to get away with introducing these changes - without following the requirements for 90 days notice.

So, there is no need to panic or to get all worked up at this stage - if and when the council issues 90 days notice, we will be able to see what they have to say and this will allow us to issue detailed advice about what to do. This has already happened in Falkirk Council - and all that's happened is that Falkirk Council has dug a deeper hole for itself - by exposing the council to further legal claims

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

The role of the unions

There are still some good union reps out there - I know because I speak to them all the time - but far too often the unions are prepared to do the dirty work of the employers.

In many areas, the compensation offers made by employers were negotiated with the unions - who then tried to frighten and bully their own members into signing away their equal pay rights. That is why they are being sued and held to account by their own members.

Stefan Cross has succefully sued the GMB union in the Alan v GMB Employment Tribunal case - where the union was found (unanimously) to have collaborated with the employers against their own low paid union members.

So, the times are changing - and union members are beginning to understand that their union owes each and every individual member a 'duty of care' - so you can't just be fobbed off with with a lot of union gobbledegook and told that the officials know best.

Union members are entitled to proper advice and a professional level of service - a clear written explanation of your rights, for example, and how to enforce or protect them. Ask for the union's legal officer to advise you - since the local officials are often:
  • part of the establishment
  • caught up in local party politics
  • part of the problem
In any event, don't put up with a second rate service - you are entitled to a great deal more

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) - 1

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions - more will be added as time goes by - if you have a query, just send it in.

What happens to my claim if I leave my job?
Your claim continues with all the rest - the only difference is that it freezes at the point your employment ends because you can't keep adding service to your claim, once you are no longer employed.

Can I sue the trade unions?
Yes, if you are a union member. The unions sat on their backsides for years - cynically keeping their members in the dark - and they are still striking deals that discriminate against their lowest paid (mainly women) members.

Is it only women workers who can claim?
No, male workers have claims as well. For example, Janitors have the same claim as Home Carers (though the unions don't tell their members) because they are on the same old manual worker grade (Grade 5) as the Refuse Driver - yet the driver is paid thousands more than his two colleagues.

What's going on?

Here is a quick update on a variety of topical issues - some local, others national in character

Job Evaluation


Employers are now doing what they agreed to do back in 1999 - evaluate all jobs to ensure that they are treated fairly and consistently, and in a way that removes pay discrimination. However, many of them are trying to do this on the cheap or in a way that still favours the traditional, higher earning bonus earning jobs. So, the end result is that many people continue to have equal pay claims for years into the future. If you are affected by a new grading structure, insist that your trade union provides advice and support in relation to local appeals - that's what you are paying your union dues for!

Glasgow City Council - pay and benefits review
Glasgow is trying to bully its workforce into accepting a new set of conditions of service. The package has not been agreed with the trade unions - which shows what a rotten deal it is and why people should be very wary. Our advice is not to sing the new contract. The council will impose the new conditions on those who refuse to sign - so everyone will end up on the same conditions by April. But it is better for the council to impose the deal than for people to accept the new terms voluntarily. This puts you in the strongest possible position in terms of your ongoing equal pay claim. So our advice is - DON'T BE CHEATED BY THE COUNCIL BULLIES!

Fife - single status ballot

Fife Council and the unions put a new pay and grading structure to the workforce in a secret ballot that was conducted before Xmas 2006. People voted by a clear majority to throw the package out, (as did workers in North Lanarkshire) but apparently the council is planning to introduce it anyway - despite the democratic vote. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of people in Fife who are disgusted with the council and with their trade unions - and the union members are beginning to fight back. People's contracts of employment can be changed only with their individual consent or under a collective agreement with the trade unions. In this case, the unions in Fife seem prepared to ignore the views of their own members and side with the employer. No wonder so many union members are suing their own trade union.

Admin & Clerical workers

The employers and the unions are keen to keep people in the dark about their rights to equal pay. Admin & Clerical workers are one of the biggest neglected groups - but have very strong claims. These jobs have been undervalued and underpaid for years because they are traditionally done by women. A skilled clerical worker is paid thousands of pounds less than a unskilled male worker. For example, a council refuse driver is paid @ £20,000 a year (on full-time hours) while many Admin & Clerical jobs are paid around £15,000 or less - and that wages of the male workers are to be protected for years into the future.



Friday, 19 January 2007

Equal pay news

First of all, a happy and prosperous New Year to everyone fighting for equal pay in 2007!

Later this year, we will start to see the first Scotland claims being decided in the Employment Tribunals - the first cases have already been listed for Falkirk Council in April and May 2007 and these will determine the merits of the case not just procedural issues. Hearing dates for other employers will follow and details will be posted here as soon as they are confirmed.

The purpose of this site is to bring news about equal pay developments across Scotland and to help answer, as quickly as possible, all the many questions that come flooding into the Action 4 Equality office on a daily basis - by phone, letter and e-mail.

The site is interactive - so you can make a comment or ask a question that may be of interest to other people. I will aim to post new information on the site on a weekly basis, or more often if necessary.

The best way to contact Action 4 Equality Scotland is:

  • By phone: 0131 667 7956 (leave a brief message if you get the answerphone)
  • By e-mail: markirvine@compuserve.com
  • By post: Action 4 Equality Scotland, 1 St Colme Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6AA

Best wishes


Mark Irvine