Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Red Faces in North Ayrshire!!!!

North Ayrshire Council was left with egg all over its face today - as senior council officials were forced to abandon their case on Day 2 of a hearing scheduled for 3 Days.

To add insult to injury, the Employment Tribunal also awarded costs against the council for wasting every one's time - a lesson for employers everywhere!

North Ayrshire had been arguing (ludicrously) that many of our clients claims were time barred - because of changes that had taken place to their jobs in 2005.

But having heard evidence from various quarters - the upshot was that the council simply shot itself in both feet (from close range) - and there was no case to answer.

A great WHOOP went up from the waiting room when our clients heard the news - the council was being forced to abandon a previously unshakeable position - on which senior officials were staking their lives only minutes before.

The same (and very highly paid officials) now need to explain to their political masters - just how they managed to waste vast sums of council tax payers money - in trying to defend the indefensible.

One wag at the hearing suggested that senior council officials are being wooed with a management buy-out from the Keystone Cops - though that has still to be confirmed!

More news to follow soon.

Meantime our grateful thanks to everyone who played a part in giving the council the wake up call it richly deserved - especially all those who turned up in their own time (unlike council officials) to see justice being done!

We will be sharing the good news with senior elected councillors in North Ayrshire - along with local MSPs and MPs - because it is to these local politicians that senior officials are accountable to ultimately.

Bottom line is - some searching questions need to be asked - in high places - about the performance and behaviour of said senior council officials!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

North Ayrshire Council

North Ayrshire Council is up to its old tricks again.

A pre-hearing review is scheduled for next week (29, 30 and 31 October) and the arrangements for the hearing have been under discussion for some time.

Stefan Cross suggested a test case involving only a few members of staff to minimise the disruption for everyone involved.

But for reasons known only to itself the council refused to play ball and has suddenly refused permission for any staff to attend during working time - which we believe to be a deliberate wrecking tactic on their part.

Stefan Cross wrote to all clients affected by this hearing late last week - urging people to attend the hearings. But by refusing to grant time-off North Ayrshire is deliberately making it impossible for most people to attend - unless they already have a scheduled day off.

We have spoken to a number of clients and have been told that the council arranged a hasty ring around on Friday - though outside office hours (i.e. after 5pm) - to say that people would not be granted time off to attend the hearing.

We will be complaining about the council's behaviour to the Chair of the Employment Tribunal on Monday - clients can do likewise to your own local councillor. Council officials are simply making the rules up as they go along - and to suit themselves.

Can you imagine a council manager being denied time off to give evidence at an important tribunal hearing - or having to take a day's leave to attend?

Not in a million years!

If you are in a position to attend next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday - let us know by phoning the office on 0131 667 7956 and leaving your contact details We will keep everyone up to date with developments later in the week.

Friday, 26 October 2007

EDINBURGH - STOP PRESS

Good news to report from Edinburgh!

The city council has now backed down and agreed to make revised settlements to male workers in predominantly female posts - i.e. carers, cooks, cleaners and so on.

The council said previously that it would not make new offers to these groups (for reasons known only to itself) - which caused a well deserved storm of protest in the local press and a flood of complaints to local councillors.

So, it just goes to show that making a fuss and giving the politicians a hard time - can make a big difference.

Well done to everyone who lent a hand - and forced the council to think again!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Lobbying Councillors and MSPs

If you are in the process of seeking a meeting with your local councillor or MSP to discuss equal pay - always remember that things have improved a great deal under the fairer voting systems that now apply in Scotland's councils and the Holyrood Parliament (Westminster still has some way to go).

Choice
First of all, you have much more choice - you're no longer stuck with one party rule and stony faced politicians who are prepared to do no more than repeat the agreed party line.

Councillors
Scotland's council wards are now typically made up of 3 or 4 councillors - there is not just one councillor for your local area. So, if you're being fobbed off by someone who's not really interested in your case or what you have to say - go and see one of the other councillors. And let the first one know that you will remember how they've behaved at election time.

MSPs
Scotland's MSPs fall into two categories - individual MSPs who represent a single constituency and Regional list MSPs who cover a wider geographical area. In effect the Regional list MSPs ensure there is a political balance within the wider area that might otherwise be completely dominated by just one political party.

Lanarkshire - a good example
So, in Lanarkshire (north and south) for example, the Labour party completely dominates in the constituency seats section - while the regional list seats ensure that the SNP, Lib Dems Tories and others also have a voice. See post dated 4 October 2007.

So, make the most of the new set up - it's designed to give people more choice than the old 'first past the post' system.

Make your voice heard - and don't be fobbed off by some lazy party hack.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Evening Times

The Evening Times has a good article in today's paper about equal pay in South Lanarkshire - which can be read online at: www.eveningtimes.co.uk

The article has a great quote from one of our clients - that the council is in denial over equal pay and that people are not going to give up and go away - just because the council has its head stuck in the sand.

Another local paper - the Rutherglen Reformer - has been in touch on the back of the Action 4 Equality meeting held in Blantyre last week - and is likely to have its own report when the paper comes out later this week. We could do with similar coverage in the Hamilton Advertiser and East Kilbride News - for anyone living in these areas.

So, local people speaking to their local newspapers is a very good way of getting our message across - but always remember to keep your name and personal details out of the story to avoid any repercussions from council management.

Journalists will always be happy to respect your confidentiality - so long as the facts of the story check out.

If they need a quote from a named person, they can always speak to Mark Irvine - especially as the trade unions in South Lanarkshire all seem to have lost their voice!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

South Lanarkshire Council

150 people attended a packed Action 4 Equality meeting in Blantyre last night (Wednesday 10 October) - to consider ways of turning the heat up on South Lanarkshire Council.

Lots of good ideas came out of the meeting and these will be followed up soon. In the meantime, here are some of the questions and answers raised on the night:

Do employees in South Lanarkshire Council have the same claims as anywhere else?
Yes, because the pay gap between traditional male and female jobs in South Lanarkshire is just as great as it it in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland.

Do the traditional male jobs in South Lanarkshire still receive bonus payments?
No, but these payments have simply been absorbed into basic salaries - so a refuse worker is paid thousands of pounds a year more than a carer - just like everywhere else

What kind of jobs can bring an equal pay claim?
Home Carers, Cleaners, Catering Assistants, Cooks, Catering Managers, Escorts, Classroom Assistants, Clerical Workers, Residential Care Staff, Nursery Nurses, etc - just about every low paid female dominated job in the council.

If and when we win our settlement from South Lanarkshire Council, will people who have not registered an equal pay claim benefit as well?
No, absolutely not - they won't receive a single penny in back pay - only those who are pursuing an equal pay claim will get the back money they are owed.

Is it too late to register a claim now?
No, people can still pursue a claim with the council - this claim goes back for up to 5 years from the date it is registered and them adds time on going forward until the case is resolved

What happens to my claim if I retire or leave my job?
Your claim freezes at the point your employment ceases, but otherwise continues as normal with all the others.

Can we speak to the press about what's going on in South Lanarkshire?
Yes, but ask them to withhold you name and personal details - to avoid any problems with the council. If they need a quote from a named person, give them Mark Irvine's contact details.

Have we been sold down the river by our trade unions?
Yes, absolutely - the unions have agreed to changes in your jobs which simply continue all the discriminatory pay practices of the past - single status in South Lanarkshire is a joke!

If you have any queries or need an equal pay application form, please contact Action 4 Equality on 0131 667 7956

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Union Dues = Union Blues

An irate client - and member of the GMB - has been in touch to say that her union dues have been increased by an unbelievable amount, but without her prior knowledge or agreement.

Previously she paid £2.46 every fortnight to the GMB, but right out of the blue this figure suddenly jumped to £5.02 - more than double, in fact - and without any warning or letter to explain what was going on.

Seems incredible, but they're you are!

Now, this can't be down to the great job the GMB has done over equal pay - quite the opposite, as many people realise. Truth is that if union dues were based on performance, the GMB would owe its members a full refund - for sitting around on their lazy backsides all these years.

Not surprisingly, the client has cancelled her membership - but has asked us to spread the word and encourage other union members to check their pay slips as well.

" I have paid union dues for 35 years and if it wasn't for Action 4 Equality, I know full well that the GMB would still be taking the piss", said AM. " I'm infuriated that the unions have had the audacity to keep us in the dark all these years, then feel it's OK to increase dues whenever they feel like it".

So, check and make sure you're not being royally ripped off by the GMB - or by anyone else for that matter.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

North Lanarkshire - contact details

Here are some handy contact details for MPS and MSPs in the North Lanarkshire Council area - similar information for local councillors will follow:

MSPs - Constituency Members

Karen Whitefield (Labour) Airdire and Shotts: Karen.Whitefield.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Elaine Smith (Labour) Coatbridge and Chryston: Elaine.Smith.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Cathie Craigie(Labour) Cumbernauld and Kilsyth: Cathie.Craigie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Michael McMahon (Labour) Hamilton and Bellshill: Michael.McMahon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Jack McConnell (Labour) Motherwell and Wishaw: Jack.McConnell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

MSPs - Regional List Members

Margaret Mitchell (Conservative): Margaret.Mitchell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Hugh O'Donnell (liberal Democrat): Hugh.O'Donnell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Linda Fabiani (SNP): Linda.Fabiani.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Jamie Hepburn (SNP): Jamie.Hepburn.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Christine McKelvie (SNP): Christine.McKelvie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Alex Neil (SNP): Alex.Neil.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

John Wilson (SNP) John.Wilson.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Westminster MPs

John Reid (Labour) Airdire and Shotts: reidj@parliament.uk

Frank Roy (Labour) Motherwell and Wishaw: royf@parliament.uk

Tom Clarke (Labour) Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill: clarket@parliament.uk

Rosemary McKenna (Labour) Cumbernauld and Kilsyth:mckennar@parliament.uk


All MSPs and MPs hold regular surgeries - that's often the best way for local constituents to raise concerns - and it would be quite acceptable for people to go along in small groups. If you need any further advice, please let us know.

You don't need to be an expert on equal pay to seek a meeting with your MSP or MP.

The key points to get across are the huge and unjustifiable differences in pay, the fact that people have been kept in the dark by both the employers and the unions and that other councils in Scotland are now trying to settle the issue.

So, why is North Lanarkshire Council still dragging its feet?

North Lanarkshire Council

There have been lots of calls from clients in North Lanarkshire recently - asking for an update on the progress of claims in that area.

The position in North Lanarkshire is exactly the same as everywhere else - people's claims are all working their way through the Employment Tribunals - and as soon are there is any news or progress to share, the details will be reported here on this web site.

It's true that more and more councils are signalling a desire to reach a settlement - along similar lines to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling - and we hope to be making further announcements (regarding other councils) in the next couple of weeks.

But the employers are not settling out of charity or because they suddenly want to be kind to their staff!

No, these councils are settling because the law on equal pay is the same right across the country. And the employers can see that it will cost them even more, if cases go all the way through the Employment Tribunal process.

In the areas that have reached agreement so far, local politicians have come under terrific pressure to explain where they stand on equal pay - which in turn has put pressure on their local council to reach a negotiated settlement.

Many hands make light work. So, the more that local councillors, MPs or MSPs are put on the spot over their stance on equal pay - the sooner this whole business will be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

The web site has plenty of information about how to raise the issue of equal pay with local councillors, MPs and MSPs - for more information have a look at the posts dated 1 August, 22 June and 16 February 2007.

Contact details for local councillors can be found either through your own local council's web site or via CoSLA at: http://www.cosla.gov.uk/

Similarly, contact details for MPs and MSPs can be found at the following addresses:

MPs - http://www.parliament.uk/

MSPs - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/

In the current highly charged political climate, this is a great opportunity to demand that politicians come off the fence and support their local constituents over equal pay.

If you need any further advice or help, please contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 667 7956

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Edinburgh City Council

As reported previously, Edinburgh Council has agreed a settlement on equal pay - but not all groups of staff are included in the agreement, which awaits final ratification by the full council on 25 October 2007.

Not because of the lack of trying on the part of Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross,it has to be said. But at this stage the council is only prepared to make revised offers to what they call manual worker staff - even though the term manual worker supposedly became obsolete many years ago, in 1999 to be exact.

Whatever Edinburgh Council says - the truth is that equal pay is really about the skills and responsibilities required required to do any two jobs that are being compared - not about whether one job was previously classified as 'manual' or 'white collar' (APT&C).

The important thing - in equal pay terms at least - is whether the employer can justify the pay gap between groups of predominantly male and and female jobs - which, of course, management and trade unions have turned a blind eye to for years.

But they can't of course - and that is why things need to change!

Because who would try and argue that a Cook Supervisor, Social Care Worker or a Classroom Assistant (in Edinburgh) - does a job with less skill and responsibility than a refuse worker.

Edinburgh Council has stubbornly refused to bite the bullet for these groups at this stage - but Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross believe that you still have a perfectly good claim - one that will succeed in the end. And for anyone who hasn't been made an offer at this stage, the fight for equal pay conintues.

So, don't despair - don't get mad, get even - give the council a taste of its own medicine!

The best way to put pressure on the council to resolve equal pay for once and for all - is for as many people as possible to bang in a proper equal pay claim.

Classroom Assistants, Clerical Workers, Social Care Workers, Nursery Nurses - as well as Cook Supervisors - all have very good claims. And people who have sat in the fence up until now can still register a claim.

So can those who accepted Edinburgh council's offer first time around - because the agreement people signed (Compromise Agreement) expired on 1 October 2006 - and from that date onwards everyone has a fresh claim

Ask yourself this question: "Is the money better off in the council's pocket or in mine?"

If you need any further advice or an application form, contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 667 7956.