Tuesday, 27 March 2007

GLASGOW - STOP PRESS - NEW CONTRACT

Glasgow City Council has issued another letter to those employees who have not signed up to the new contract - mainly people who are pursuing an equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Our advice up till now has been NOT to sign the new contract - because this could potentially compromise your ongoing equal pay claim.

But having looked carefully at the details of the latest letter, the council is now saying that the new terms will be imposed on all employees from 1 April onwards, which puts a different complexion on things.

In effect, the council is now forcing the new terms on everyone - whether they like it or not - and this gets round the dilemma of people signing up on a voluntary basis.

SO - FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF ANY DOUBT - YOU CAN NOW SIGN THE NEW CONTRACT WITHOUT COMPROMISING YOUR ONGOING CLAIM!

Monday, 26 March 2007

Budget Blues

Budgets are all about making hard choices.

Whether it's the government of the day, a local council or the NHS - budgets involve a process by which an organisation considers spending priorities for the future and then allocates the resources needed to meet those priorities.

Simple, really.

The budget for the Scottish Parliament has doubled in the past 10 years - and so government spending allocated to the NHS and local councils has roughly doubled as well - with councils able to raise even more money locally via the council tax, which has increased by 68% since 1999.

In 2006, Scotland's councils were publicly criticised for building up massive reserves of £1.4 billion - money which could have been spent on services or to reduce council tax bills.

In 2007, the latest government budget has also allocated the Scottish Parliament an extra £1.8 billion over the next three years - over and above the spending which is already in the pipeline.

How this enormous sum will be spent is anybody's guess at this stage, but what it does explode is the myth that councils and the NHS don't have the money they need for for equal pay!

Council and NHS budgets have rocketed since 1997 - there problem isn't a shortage of cash - the powers that be have simply decided that equal pay is not a big enough issue and they have decided to spend their money (public money) in other ways.

Now some groups have done very well out of these increased budgets - consultants and GP's in the NHS are much better paid. So are Scotland's teachers, who benefited from a landmark pay deal in 2001 which increased their pay by almost 25%.

Needless to say, these deals have been struck at great cost to the public purse - but without breaking either the NHS or our local councils' piggy banks!

The real problem is not a lack of cash - just a lack of political will to deal with an issue that's been staring them in the face for a generation.

By the way, Gordon Brown's latest budget has removed the 10p tax threshold that he introduced himself only a few years ago - to help the lower paid, he said, at the time.

The result is that everyone earning less than £17,500 a year will be worse off - which, sadly, means most people with an equal pay claim.

Funny old world.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Union Speaks with Forked Tongue

Not for the first time, the unions in Glasgow are speaking with forked tongues.

The GMB is proclaiming a great victory for Home Care Coordinators who have been partially successful in an appeal about their new grades - introduced after a local pay and benefits review (more commonly known as a job evaluation scheme).

As ever, the reality is very different from the GMB's propaganda.

Home Care Coordinators had been placed on the same grade as the people they supervise - and so were getting no recognition for the additional responsibilities required in their jobs, which job evaluation is supposed to be all about!

After winning on only one ground of appeal, there has been a slight improvement in their pay scale which now runs from £16,359 for a new entrant to £17,883 for an experienced worker - even though both are required to carry out the same duties and deal with the same range clients!

But, what the GMB fails to say is that even the highest paid Home Care Coordinator is still well below the present pay of a council refuse driver and certain grades of gardener - who are both on a lower grade than the Home Care Coordinator, yet still earn much more - well over £3,000 a year more in some cases. How crazy is that?

Glasgow City Council (with the craven support of the unions) has agreed to protect the much higher earnings of the male workers for years to come - having held down the pay of the women workers for many years. But, significantly, neither the council nor the trade unions are arguing that the pay of the women should be increased to the same level as the men.

So, even after the local job evaluation exercise relatively unskilled male workers will be paid more than women workers whose jobs carry much greater responsibility.

The size of the pay gap is well known to the GMB, TGWU and Unison - and the unions are lying through their teeth when they say they don't know how much more the men earn.

Why? Because the unions negotiated the bonus schemes in the first place - and their local stewards know the earnings of their male colleagues down to the last penny. The unions could give their women members this information in a heartbeat - if they wanted to - but they don't because it would show just how culpable they are for deliberately concealing the size of the pay gap from their women members all these years.

The best answer from the Home Care Coordinators is to continue their fight for equal pay with the men - whether at the bottom or top of the new scale. All Glasgow's Home Care Coordinators have equal pay claims, even after the pay and benefits review, worth somewhere between £7,000 - £11,000 over the three year protection period - and a great deal more if pay protection for the men goes on indefinitely, as it might well do.

While the unions are keen to blow their own trumpets - their women members are not getting the advice they deserve.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Glasgow City Council

The following statement has been agreed following recent talks with Glasgow City Council:

"Discussions have been taking place with Glasgow City Council officials about a possible settlement of the equal pay claims submitted on behalf of clients of Stefan Cross.

No agreement has been reached, as yet, and more talks will be arranged in the near future.

In the meantime, the Pre-Hearing Review dates for the Glasgow cases (originally scheduled for 21 - 27 March) have been postponed.

Both sides have agreed to make no further public comment beyond the terms of this brief written statement."

We will provide a fuller explanation as soon as we are able to do so - and details will appear here on this web site - so watch this space.

Life at the Top

Glasgow City Council's chief executive, George Black, has been receiving a terrible press following the announcement of a £30,000 bonus which he gets paid for acting as the chief returning officer in the May 2007 elections.

The £30,000 is on top of his CEO salary of £154,000 and is fully pensionable - so it will add to his retirement lump sum and is worth an extra £15,000 for life - assuming maximum service in the pension scheme.

Now acting as the chief returning officer in the elections is a big responsibility, but whether it's worth £300,000 of public money (£15,000 x 20 years) is another question altogether. Seems a hell of a lot to pay someone who's still doing their day and getting handsomely paid into the bargain.

Now It should be said that George Black is a decent, hard working and honourable individual who has made a significant contribution to the City of Glasgow - but he hasn't negotiated this nice little earner all by himself. Oh no!

It's down to an agreement reached with the Scottish employers and CoSLA (Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities) - other council chief executives around Scotland are entitled to similar payments, although they are keeping their heads well and truly down - and leaving Glasgow and George Black to take all the flak in the media.

But it does have to be said that the whole business leaves a bad taste in the mouth - especially when you consider how badly low paid workers have been treated in their struggle for equal pay.

The Scottish employers and council bosses should hang their heads in shame at the hypocrisy involved.

Latest hearing dates

Here are the latest case management hearing dates agreed with the Employment Tribunals (ET) - please note that these arrangements are sometimes subject to change at very short notice. So, anyone wishing to attend a particular hearing should phone the relevant tribunal office to confirm the details in advance.

26 March
Clackmannanshire Council - Glasgow

28 and 29 March
Midlothian Council - Edinburgh

11 April
West Lothian Council - Edinburgh

12 April
Tayside Contracts - Dundee

12 April
Perth & Kinross Council - Dundee

16 April
Scottish Borders Council - Edinburgh

20 April
Angus Council - Dundee

20 and 23 April (Time Bar Claims)
North Ayrshire Council

1 May
Scottish NHS claims - Glasgow

2 May
Edinburgh City Council - Edinburgh

16 May
Stirling Council - Glasgow

16 May
North Ayrshire Council - Glasgow

22 May (provisional date)
Falkirk Council - Glasgow

5 June
East Ayrshire Council - Glasgow

11 June
Argyll & Bute Council - Glasgow

13 June
Renfrewshire Council - Glasgow

13 June
South Lanarkshire Council - Glasgow

14 June
North Ayrshire Council - Glasgow

As explained previously, case management hearings will not produce a decisive outcome on the day - although they are vital to achieving a successful settlement of your claim.

A lot of work is taking place behind the scenes and we are pressing the Employment Tribunals to deal with all the outstanding cases as quickly as possible.

If there are major developments in a specific area, affecting one or more employers, we will obviously post the details on the web site straight away.



Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Health Minister Trumps Iron Chancellor

Scotland's nurses have won a small, yet very welcome, victory over the implementation of their pay award for 2007 - hip, hip, hooray!

Gordon Brown, the chancellor, announced last week that the pay award of 2.5% would be staged - 1.5% in April and the remaining 1% in November 2007 - thereby reducing its value over a full year to only 1.9%.

Step forward Andy Kerr, Scotland's health minister, who abruptly overturned the decision yesterday by declaring that the Scottish Parliament (which runs the NHS in Scotland after all - not Gordon Brown) would be honouring the pay award in full - no ifs, buts or maybes. Good for him!

Although it does have to be said that the reason for this sudden change of heart and outbreak of in-fighting amongst senior Labour ministers is all too obvious - the Scottish Parliament and council elections are now only 6 weeks away.

And so before anyone gets too carried away with celebrations and mutual backslapping it's as well to remember two vital points:

First, the pay award itself is very poor - and at only 2.5% it is well below the current rate of inflation (see earlier post dated 3 March).

Second, the missing 0.6% (wrestled back from the chancellor and his meanies at Westminster) is worth only £200 a year - on average for full-time hours and before tax - so it's hardly the stuff dreams are made of, or an excuse to declare a new public holiday to celebrate the occasion.

As if to prove the point, Unison (one of the main health unions) issued a press statement saying it was delighted with the announcement. But Unison is, of course, the very same organisation that has sat on its backside over equal pay for years - while many of its nursing members have claims worth several thousand pounds a year, not just a mere £200!

So, the moral of the story is that not everything is as it appears in the media or newspaper headlines - and that sometimes you need to take important public announcements with a very big pinch of salt.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Questions and answers

Malcolm - in connection with an earlier posting - asked if it was possible to post information on the web site about Job Evaluation (JE) and JE Appeals.

Unfortunately, the answer is no - because the sheer volume of information is so great and the position can vary from employer to employer - so it's really not practical to put all this data on the web.

However, it may be possible to send you information direct via e-mail - my own e-mail address is - markirvine@compuserve.com If you send your queries to me, I will try and answer them as quickly as possible.

You should also read the detailed advice posted about job evaluation and appeals - which can be found under the entries on this site dated 29 January and 10 February 2007.

Trade union contacts

A number of people have been in touch to say that they are still having difficulty in contacting or obtaining advice from their trade union - and is there any way of improving/speeding things up?

Well you might be better off e-mailing the regional secretary of your trade union instead of going through the local branch (which often takes forever) or trying to phone via an office switchboard.

The other advantage of e-mail is that it creates a permanent record of what you are saying and it's as good as writing a letter, but a lot quicker and easier.

So the names and e-mail addresses of the regional secretaries for the big three unions are:

GMB
Harry Donaldson - Regional Secretary
E-mail address: harry.donaldson@gmb.org.uk

TGWU
Mike Brider - Regional Secretary
E-mail address: mbrider@tgwu.org.uk

Unison
Matt Smith - Regional Secretary
E-mail address: matt.smith@unison.co.uk

Now these three gentlemen are well paid, professional people - they should deal with any queries quickly, efficiently and in a very professional manner.

So, if you're fed up with some local person not returning your calls, not answering your questions or speaking in union gobbledegook - take your concerns up with the men at the top!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Elephants and NHS Pay Awards

Gordon Brown's recent announcement that the Labour government will stage the 2.5% pay increase for nurses has provoked fury among the trade unions - with angry protests around the country and - for the first time in a generation - talk of national industrial action in the NHS.

Now, nurses and the unions have every right to be angry - because it's a downright lie to say that the government is implementing, in full, the recommendations of the Nurses Pay Review Body (PRB) which Gordon Brown claims - whereas, in reality, he is deliberately reducing the value of the award to only 1.9% by implementing the PRB recommendation in two stages.

So, in real terms, nurses are taking a significant pay cut over the next twelve months - which is a real slap in the face for the profession - with inflation running at between 3.1% and 4.2% depending on which measure of inflation is used.

But, the elephant in the room is that while the unions work themselves up into a lather over 0.6% - they have for years turned a blind eye to a much bigger scandal - the fact that a fully qualified nurse is paid so much less than an NHS tradesman or technician!

The pay of a newly qualified staff nurse or midwife will rise to £19,645 in November 2007 - but this is still far short of the £25,000 earned by male NHS tradesmen and technicians despite the fact that nurses are better qualified and far greater responsibilities.

The pay gap between NHS nurses and tradesmen has been around for a generation - yet the unions have been as quiet as church mice all this time - keeping their members in the dark, giving the employers an easy ride and certainly not rocking any boats with Gordon Brown and the Labour government.

So, it's best to take all the talk of industrial action with a great big pinch of salt - the truth is that the unions have failed to act over equal pay and to pursue claims worth thousands of pounds to their members in terms of higher pay and back pay.

How likely is it then, that union bosses will back a campaign of widespread industrial action - particularly when - in a few months time - they will be urging trade union members to support none other than Gordon Brown as the new leader of the Labour Party?

You can bet your house on the fact that union bosses will not make a serious stand against their friend, the Iron Chancellor, and bookies favourite to be the next Prime Minister.