Sunday, 16 September 2007

EDINBURGH CITY COUNCIL - STOP PRESS

Good news to report from Edinburgh!

After much humming and hawing, Edinburgh City Council has finally confirmed that it will definitely be making revised offers to clients of Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross.

We had not heard from the Council on Thursday as agreed. So, by Friday lunchtime we had no option but to signal our intention of stepping up the campaign and to take our case to directly to Edinburgh´s elected councillors.

But very late on Friday, word suddenly came through that the Council had finally got its act together and would stop messing about - as it has been over the summer months.

So, while our plans to take the campaign to elected councillors won't now be necessary - our ability and willingness to do so proved crucial in the end.

Individual offers to Action 4 Equality/Stefan Cross clients are likely to be issued in late October with payments being made in November.

We will post other information here, as soon as details are confirmed.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh City Council promised to get back to us about the proposed settlement offers by close of play on Thursday (13 September) - following a meeting that day of the council`s senior management team.

Not for the first time, the council has failed to keep to its own deadline.

As of midday on Friday, we can only conclude that the lack of contact from the council means that elected councillors are trying to renege on the agreement that is being recommended to them - by both senior officials and the council`s external legal advisers.

So, as things stand the fight goes on - and the best response we can make is to put Edinburgh councillors under pressure to think again.

See the post dated 18 August regarding Home Care Coordinators in Glasgow. When Glasgow City Council tried to renege on their agreement, they didn`t take it lying down - they got organised and fought back.

And that´s exactly what we need to do now in Edinburgh!

Contact details for all Edinburgh councillors can be found on the council web site at: www.edinburgh.gov.uk

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

South Lanarkshire Council

South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) is going to be a hive of activity over the next few months.

South Lanarkshire is the only council in Scotland that is in complete denial over equal pay - see posts dates 1 August and 2 April 2007. SLC says it does not have an equal pay problem and that the council introduced a new and non-discriminatory pay structure back in 2004.

Baloney!

The fact is that SLC has a bigger problem than any other council in Scotland - because council leaders have their heads stuck in the sand - hoping that if they don't acknowledge the mess they're in, it will somehow go away.

SLC has an Employment Tribunal hearing coming up in January 2008 - and Action 4 Equality intends to make the council's behaviour a big local issue over the next few months - with the help of our 1500 clients.

We plan to hold a series of local meetings to explain just how dishonest the council's position is and what people can do to help achieve a just outcome over equal pay.

Here are some pointed questions to ask of local councillors and the council leadership (an unlikely coalition of Labour and Tory members):
  1. Why is the council afraid to publish the pay rates (or salary levels) of traditional male jobs such as refuse drivers?

  2. Why did the council (in 2004) simply absorb the big bonus payments of traditional male jobs into new and higher salaries - but without any corresponding increase for the women's jobs?

  3. Why did the council not use the national Job Evaluation scheme recommended and approved by CoSLA - at a cost of £250,000 to the public purse?

  4. Why did Councillor Pat Watters (current CoSLA President and President in 2004) ignore his own advice and the advice of his own officials - and opt instead for a 'cheap and cheerful' SLC Job Evaluation scheme?

  5. Why does the council leadership still pretend that there is not a big pay gap between traditional male and female jobs in SLC - for example between a home carer and refuse driver?
Raising these issues will expose the great gaping hole in the council's argument - and will also generate an important debate within the council and beyond.

South Lanarkshire employees are being treated as second class citizens - they deserve better and they are entitled to equal pay under the law.

So, time to get going - and let the council know it's got a fight on its hands - one they are going to lose, unless wiser heads prevail.

If you would like to arrange a meeting in your own local area, contact Mark Irvine on 0131 667 7956 or by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

If you know of any SLC employees who have not yet registered an equal pay claim, tell them they can still do so. They'd be mad not to - because they've nothing to lose and plenty to gain!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

ANOTHER FINE MESS!

Trade unions deliberately deceiving and withholding information from their members is, sadly, nothing new - but what's now becoming clear is just how bungling and incompetent they are in dealing with people's equal pay claims.

Maybe they're not really committed to the cause, but in any event here's another terrible example of how ordinary union members are treated. As the person is still employed with North Lanarkshire Council, her personal details are being withheld.

Like most of her colleagues, R had heard nothing from her trade union (Unison) about equal pay until Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross came along.

After years of deliberately keeping their members in the dark, the unions were finally forced off their lazy backsides in 2005 - and shamed into circulating information to members, albeit belatedly and with little enthusiasm, offering to take up their claims.

R thought she had a good case (which she did) and contacted the Unison North Lanarkshire branch for help. She spoke to a local rep at the union's Motherwell office - who sent out the required forms, which were duly completed and returned.

Wisely, R kept a copy of the original forms submitted to the union branch - never underestimate the power of holding on to the paperwork!

R then made enquiries about the progress of her case - and was always assured by the Unison branch that everything was fine - her documents had been passed on to the Glasgow HQ, and not to worry etc, etc.

In August 2007, R contacted Unison again for an update on her case, but was suddenly referred to the Glasgow HQ by the local branch.

R spoke to an official who asked for her union membership number and then broke the bad news - there was no record of her claim ever being raised by Unison

Worse was to follow - R was then told that her claim (by then) was time barred because of the 6 month rule - and that Unison could do nothing further to help.

In other words, Unison - the country's largest union - had completely screwed things up and was entirely responsible for the mess - but nonetheless R was now out on her own!

But, thankfully, that's not the end of the story - because R can do 2 things to fight back against the union bureaucrats.
  1. She can still submit an equal pay claim - despite Unison failing to do so on her behalf, although she has lost at least two years of her claim because it is being registered in 2007 instead of 2005
  2. She also has an excellent claim against Unison - because even though the union won't admit their awful mistake, it's down to Unison's negligence and incompetence that her claim is now time barred
So, Unison should compensate R for the loss has suffered - and that's where Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross come into the picture.

R and many others like her are being denied proper, professional advice. Why? Because it's in the unions' interests to bury their mistakes rather than own up to them - and that's certainly how they've been behaving up till now.

So, we will sue Unison on R's behalf. She's also due a very big apology for the callous way she's been treated.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT (aka Standing on the Shoulders of Giants)

Susan M worked as a Catering Assistant for 27 years until she finally retired in May 2005 - after a lifetime of public service to the City of Glasgow.

Susan had heard nothing about equal pay - from anyone - until she watched the BBC Scotland news programme in August 2005 which announced the arrival (in Scotland) of Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross.

As a long-standing member of Unison (formerly NUPE) Susan contacted her local union rep for advice and help - within Glasgow Unison, the largest, most powerful and best resourced branch in Scotland.

Susan was sent some paperwork to complete and return, which she did without delay - then she heard nothing for weeks and months. Her calls were seldom returned, but when she did manage to speak with someone she was told not to worry - everything was tickety-boo!

Finally, after trying for many months to get some hard information out of the union she had belonged to for so long - Glasgow Unison dropped its bombshell - Susan's claim had not actually been processed (as she'd been told) and her equal pay claim was now time barred!

The reason being that Susan had only 6 months from the date of her retirement (May 2005) to lodge a claim with the Employment Tribunals - she believed she had done so by completing and returning all the forms and returning these to Unison - only to be told that the Glasgow branch had somehow managed to drop the ball.

Susan's MSP - Sandra White - took up her case and wrote to the Unison regional secretary (Matt Smith), but he just fobbed the MSP off and referred the enquiry back to the Glasgow branch.

So much for leadership at the top!

In July 2007, Susan received a letter from the Glasgow branch chairperson (Mike Kirby) to say that the matter was now closed and that Susan had ceased to be a member of the union when she retired. So, to add insult to injury Unison were now saying that (as an ex-member) they were not obliged to help her in the first place.

In which case, the obvious question is: Why did Unison not say so at the outset and why did they give her every reason to believe her claim was in safe hands?

It has to be said, this is the kind of cold, arrogant response you'd expect from a rogue employer - not a trade union - because Unison is clearly to blame for the claim being out of time.

Now Glasgow is a big, strong and very powerful Unison branch and Mike Kirby is one of its leading voices - see post dated 16 April 2007.

Whereas Susan is just an ordinary grassroots member fighting for justice on equal pay. You'd think the least Unison would do is to put up their hands, admit the mess they'd made of things and take responsibility for their actions.

Union leaders are fond of saying that they stand on the shoulders of giants - i.e. those at the top are strong only because of the loyalty and backing of the ordinary foot soldiers.

But on this occasion, and in the words of that old Led Zeppelin song, Susan has been Trampled Underfoot - and by the very same union leaders who like to wax lyrical about their special bond with grassroots members, when it suits their purpose.

As Susan herself says: "I was a union member all my working life, but I'm disgusted at the way Unison has behaved - they abandoned me just when I needed them most!"

The good news is that Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross will be taking up the case - and we intend to sue Unison for damages on Susan's behalf. We are also prepared help other people who have been treated in a similar way - so spread the word.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

UNION MEN BEHAVING BADLY

As many ordinary members know, the unions have behaved appallingly over equal pay. Instead of standing up for their members the have been:

  • deliberately keeping people in the dark - for years
  • doing the employers' dirty work over settlement offers
  • putting the interests of traditional male groups above those of lower paid women members
The campaign to hold the trade unions to account suffered a setback recently - with the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturning a previous landmark judgment against the GMB union.

The GMB were found guilty by an Employment Tribunal in Newcastle of discriminating against their low paid women members, which said that the GMB had got its members to agree (to an employer settlement offer) by "using a marked economy of truth". In other words that they deceived their own members!

But, incredibly, the EAT (a higher court) recently held that although the GMB did indeed discriminate in this way - the discrimination was lawful. The EAT also held that the previous employment tribunal did not have to question whether the union's actions were lawful, negligent or morally acceptable.

Which just goes to prove that old adage that - even today - the law can still be an ass.

The EAT did not consider whether the GMB had struck the right or even a fair balance between the needs of different groups of members - nor did it say anything about the way the GMB came to its decision. All it really said was that it was OK for the union to discriminate on this occasion because it was wrestling with a difficult problem.

But all is not lost - not by a long chalk - because the EAT judgment raises more questions than it answers - and has attracted a great deal of scathing criticism.

For example, Stephen Levinson writing in the magazine People Management commented: "The EAT said that even if the behaviour was not unlawful discrimination, it my be unlawful on other grounds. The union's alleged conduct could breach an implied duty of fair representation or the women (members) could claim for losses caused by misrepresentation."

Indeed, the EAT judgment seems to point women union members in the direction of simply suing their trade unions for straightforward negligence and financial loss - instead of going down the discrimination route.

So, there is still all to play for - there are various options open to us including the right of appeal beyond the EAT.

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are still intent on holding the unions to account for their behaviour.

Why? Because it's not a fair fight. Individual union members are battling unsupported against big union bureaucracies and the very people charged with looking after their interests in the first place.

It's David versus Goliath all over again - and we're on the side of the little guy!