Monday, 26 November 2007

Sandy Burns and Pastures New

Sandy Burns is moving on to pastures new at the end of this week.

Sandy has made a great contribution to the work of Action 4 Equality in Scotland - which he joined in the summer of 2006.

Every day since, Sandy has dealt with the numerous calls and queries from thousands of Scottish clients in a friendly and helpful manner - remaining courteous, good humoured and professional - even when callers are wound up and incredibly frustrated - more often than not because of the bad behaviour of their employers.

So, a heartfelt 'THANK YOU' to Sandy for all his hard work and commitment to the cause - Sandy is moving on to another job in the voluntary sector and we would like to place on record our very best wishes to him for the future!

As a result, we are introducing new arrangements for dealing with calls from clients in Scotland - from Monday 3 December onwards all phone enquiries will be dealt with by our Newcastle office.

So, in future if you have a query about an existing Scotland claim, please call 0191 226 6686. Choose Option 4 and one of our admin team will be happy to respond - leave a brief message if you would like a call back.

West Lothian Council

West Lothian is the latest council to issue new lump sum offers to staff - but these offers are not an improvement on what has gone before - and they cover only part of the period that is still in dispute.

So, our advice to people is to reject any new offer at this stage - because it represents a very good deal for the council and a rotten deal for the workforce.

Why is West Lothian doing this?

For the same reasons as Edinburgh - see post dated 10 November 2007. Many people were duped or frightened into accepting the council's original offer - but the Compromise Agreement that staff were forced to sign (to get their hands on the money) has run out!

West Lothian's agreement expired in February 2007 - yet the pay differences between the male and female jobs is as wide as ever - and will continue for years to come.

So, having conned the workforce once the council is simply up to its old tricks again - trying to get people to give up their claims for much less than they're really worth - both now and into the future.

Don't be deceived into accepting another dodgy deal - your claim is worth much more!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Edinburgh - Male Claims

Edinburgh City Council's finance chief - Councillor Gordon MacKenzie - made the following statement in the Evening News on Friday 26 October 2007:

"The legal advice we had was that we did not have to offer compensation payments to the male manual workers, there was not the same level of risk that there is to female workers."

"However, there has been a great deal of discussion within the council over the last week and it was felt that we had to offer both male and female workers the same deal in terms of compensation."

"We've basically agreed that people in the same posts should be paid the same salary regardless of their sex, as it was felt we could have left ourselves open to other legal cases if we treated male workers differently."

Action 4 Equality reported this news at the time - as a victory for common sense - especially as these individuals (i.e male workers in predominantly female jobs) had previously been offered compensation by the council.

So, excluding these male workers at such a late stage was seen for what it was - an act of blatant victimisation, which the council quickly reversed in the face of growing public criticism in the press and media.

But having agreed the principle of correctly including the men, the council is now dragging its feet - while it's clear that the men will be made the same improved offer that's about to be made to their female colleagues - there is some confusion about precisely when this will happen.

Action for Equality will be contacting Councillor Gordon MacKenzie in an effort to clarify what is going on - because leaving people in the dark for possibly weeks, or months, on end is clearly not acceptable.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Equal Pay Bombshell for South Lanarkshire

Great news - South Lanarkshire's cat is finally out of the bag - and women workers in that council will now begin to realise the extent of their betrayal over equal pay.

We asked our clients for help - to discover the size of the pay gap between traditional male and female jobs.

Remember this is the council that boasted famously: "We don't have an equal pay problem" - South Lanarkshire supposedly sorted things out with a new Single Status pay structure in 2004.

We asked people to confirm what the male jobs actually earn - relying on the fact that our clients live and work alongside the men doing these jobs.

And boy, oh boy, have they delivered the goods. Personal details will be withheld for obvious reasons - but the results are utterly astonishing - and confirm that the pay gap is much greater than even we imagined.

For example, a Refuse Driver is currently paid £11.02 per hour - which is Spinal Column Point (SCP) 44 on the pay ladder - according to a pay slip that has been passed to Action 4 Equality.

Even a humble Refuse Collector is paid £9.50 an hour - which equates to Spinal Column Point 34.

But a basic grade Home Carer (a predominantly female job, of course) is paid only £6.65 per hour - a lowly Spinal Column Point 10.

So, the difference between the female carer's job and the male refuse worker's job is a whopping £4.37 per - or £8,400 a year for a full-time worker!!!

The whole thing stinks to high heaven. No wonder the council and the unions tried to keep this under wraps - they should be ashamed of themselves.

Before South Lanarkshire's Single Status scheme came into play in 2004 - a Home Carer was on Manual Worker (MW) Grade 5 - i.e. on a higher grade than her two male colleagues - with the Refuse Driver on Grade MW 4 and the Refuse Collector on MW 2.

Now the 1999 Single Status Agreement was about tackling the pay gap and being fairer to women workers - but in South Lanarkshire the notion of equal pay has been turned completely on its head.

The geniuses behind 2004 have made a mockery of Single Status. The council has cheated the workforce and the unions have betrayed their own members. We now intend to hold the people responsible to account.

Because in South Lanarkshire - some workers are more equal than others.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

New Claims - Across Scotland

We've had lots of calls in the past few days regarding the two recent posts about New Claims in Edinburgh (see posts dated 10 November 2007).

"Does the same apply in other councils across Scotland?", people want to know.

Well, the answer is a very definite YES!

All councils in Scotland have deliberately excluded large groups of employees - and despite these people having perfectly valid claims - they have been left out in the cold (see New Claims 1).

All councils in Scotland that made cash offers to employees (South Lanarkshire is the exception) continue to pay the women workers much less than the men - and will do so for years to come - so everyone who accepted the first offer can re-start their claim (see New Claims 2).

If you need any further advice, ring Action 4 Equality on 0131 667 7956 or contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Edinburgh - New Claims 2

As well as the groups mentioned in the previous post (Edinburgh - New Claims 1), there's a second category of Edinburgh workers who also have a new equal pay claim - those who accepted the council's first offer in October 2006.

Many people were duped or frightened into accepting a cash sum - for much less than their claim was really worth - because of the bully boy tactics of the council and the spineless behaviour pf the trade unions.

Why do these people have a new claim?

Because the legal document (Compromise Agreement) they were forced to sign - to get their hands on the money - expired in October 2006, but widespread pay discrimination continues to this day!

All the traditional male jobs have continued to earn much more than their female colleagues - and this pay gap will continue for years to come.

The latest settlement negotiated by Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross in Edinburgh goes up to 1 April 2008 - but those who settled (for much less than they should) can still claim for the gap period - which is worth an additional 18 months and at a higher rate than the original council settlement.

So, if you are one of those people who were stampeded into accepting the council's first offer - don't get mad, get even - by taking out a new claim.

On top of this, the council and the trade unions are likely to protect the much higher earnings of the male workers for another 3 years beyond 1 April 2008 - as the employers have done in other parts of the country.

If this happens, the pay gap (and pay discrimination) will continue until 2001 at least - which means an extra 3 year claim as well as the 18 month claim for those who settled in October 2006 - 4.5 years in total, perhaps more.

For more information or an application form ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 667 7956 or contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com


NB Existing Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross clients don't need to do anything - your claim will continue automatically beyond 1 April 2008 - and until equal pay is finally achieved

Edinburgh - New Claims 1

Edinburgh City Council is in the process of settling some of its equal pay claims - those brought by employees doing 'manual worker' jobs such as cleaners, catering workers and home helps.

But there is a much greater group of people who have just as good a claim as the manual workers - and who have not been offered a penny piece by the council - to make up for many years of pay discrimination.

Who are they?

Classroom Assistants - helping young people get the best out of their education
Clerical and Admin Workers - in schools and other council departments
Catering Managers - overseeing Edinburgh's school meals service
Social Care Workers - providing personal care and support in the community
Nursery Nurses - providing early years educational support

Why do these groups have an equal pay claim?

Because for years they have been paid thousands of pounds a years less than traditional male jobs - such as refuse workers, road workers, gardeners and gravediggers.

For example, a refuse driver has been paid @ £20,000 a year by Edinburgh City Council for the past several years - but all the predominantly female jobs mentioned above have been paid much, much deal less.

No harm to the chap driving the refuse lorry - but if he's worth £20,000 a year, what's a Classroom Assistant or a Social Care Worker worth?

The employers and the trade unions have kept women workers in the dark about this blatant pay discrimination - despite signing a Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement in 1999 which was supposed to guarantee women workers equal treatment.

But the fact is that when you look at the content of these male and female jobs - the huge differences in pay simply cannot be justified - hence the reason so many people have a claim for equal pay and up to 5 years in back pay.

So, if you fall into one of these categories, you should register an equal pay claim now. It's not too late, there's still time - and Action 4 Equality is here to help.

For more information or an application form ring 0131 667 7956 or e-mail Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Friday, 9 November 2007

Argyll & Bute

Argyll & Bute is the latest council to try and bully its staff into accepting new contracts of employment.

The council has written to all employees with the outcome of the (Single Status) Job Evaluation exercise - which determines what people's new grades and rate of pay will be. If they don't accept what's on offer voluntarily, the council says it will simply impose the deal anyway.

How's that for good management and modern industrial relations?

Predictably, Argyll & Bute is following the same well trodden path of other councils - North Lanarkshire, West Lothian and Fife to name a few.

Significantly, the council is providing people the scores of only their own jobs - they want people to make a huge decision completely in the dark - without crucial details of how other employees are being treated. What are they afraid to share this information?

Because the council doesn't want the women workers to see how the male jobs have been scored - or to understand that the much higher earnings of the male workers will be protected for years to come.

Oh no, because that would let the cat out of the bag - and allow the women workers to see that they are being treated less favourably than the men.

As usual, the trade unions are standing on the sidelines - and doing the employers dirty work by failing to offer support and practical advice to their members.

Stefan Cross has written to all clients in Argyll & Bute to confirm our advice - don't accept the new contract on a voluntary basis.

Better the council imposes the new contract - since as this puts everyone in a stronger position to challenge the discriminatory nature of the new terms.

Bottom line is that while male jobs continue to be treated differently to female jobs - the fight for equal pay continues .

Evening Times 3

The good news is that the article about South Lanarkshire Council and the trade unions appears in today's Evening Times - under the news section and title - Union to Face Legal Battle with Members - http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/

The article is much smaller than originally intended - which is disappointing, but it has been squeezed in a good cause - by the coverage of Glasgow's successful bid for the Commonwealth Games.

Nevertheless all publicity is good publicity - and this will certainly help keep up the pressure on the council and the trade unions.

Knowledge is power - as they say.


Every day more people are beginning to understand that Single Status and Equal Pay is a complete joke in South Lanarkshire - and that both the council and the trade unions need to be held to account for their behaviour.

We are now receiving confirmation about the pay differences between male and female jobs in South Lanarkshire - and the pay gap is far greater than even we imagined!


This is wonderful news for our clients - because it strengthens people's claims - and bad news for the council and the unions - who have been trying desperately to keep this information under wraps. More news will follow soon - so watch this space.

Well done to Glasgow by the way - here's to a great Commonwealth Games in 2014 - and congratulations to everyone involved in the successful bid!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Evening Times 2

Just a quick note to say that the Evening Times article planned for today has been re-scheduled to appear tomorrow - Friday 9 November - this often happens with newspapers, but we'll let you know as soon as the story is published.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Evening Times

The Evening Times newspaper is planning to run a story tomorrow (Thursday 8 November) highlighting some of the shenanigans that have been going on in South Lanarkshire Council - over Equal Pay and Single Status.

So let's make sure the story becomes the talk of the steamie in South Lanarkshire.

Because that will help turn the spotlight on the council and the trade unions who both have a lot to answer for - especially their behaviour in striking secret pay deals.

Deals that have kept women workers and ordinary union members completely in the dark about preferential treatment for traditional male jobs.

We will post brief details here as soon as the story is published - along with details of where to find the article on the Evening Times web site.

Spread the word to as many people as possible - and use the information to good effect in any meetings that you might be arranging with local Councillors, MSPs and MPs.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Midlothian Council

A client from Midlothian Council has been in touch to say that Learning Assistants have done very badly out of the local pay and grading review - this is not unusual because all too often the employers set out to gerrymander the results - to keep down the costs.

Confirmation of the council's bad behaviour quickly followed as the client revealed that new grades had been 'agreed' over the heads of staff - and imposed by management - but without any input or involvement from the Learning Assistants.

The council's behaviour breaks all the rules of Job Evaluation - which require staff to be fully involved at every stage. In fact, they are expected to sign off new job descriptions - to ensure that key duties and responsibilities are described accurately and fairly - before being assessed.

If this is what's happened to Learning Assistants, pound to a penny it's happened to many other groups of staff as well.

What should people do?

Don't accept this kind of shabby treatment - appeal the new grade - and demand a review. Even if a local appeal fails, the council's bad behaviour and deliberate flouting of the rules can be taken into account when people's cases are considered by the Employment Tribunals.

The employers have no absolutely excuse for cutting corners and deliberately freezing out their staff - after all, they've only had since 1999 to carry out this exercise and to do it properly!

South Lanarkshire Letters (2)

Lots of clients have been in touch to say that they are members of GMB Scotland - and that their own trade union has behaved every bit as badly as Unison when it comes to Single Status and Equal Pay.

So, we have edited the original letter addressed to the local Unison branch - and directed this at the GMB official who covers the South Lanarkshire area, a chap called Alan Duncan.

A copy of this letter can be sent to GMB members by e-mail on request - please send any enquiries to: markirvine@compuserve.com

Both Unison and the GMB are now likely to be joined to the Employment Tribunal proceedings that are underway against South Lanarkshire Council.

If the unions have signed up to a discriminatory pay and grading structure (as we say), then they are every bit as much to blame as the employer - and they will be held to account when it comes to damages.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Union Dues Rocket - Again!

A client from Edinburgh has been in touch with another example of union dues going through the roof - without a word of warning or explanation to ordinary members. See previous post dated 10 October 2007.

This time the culprit is Unison - which has increased the woman's union contributions by £2.50 a month - up from £11.50 to £14.00 in a single bound.

Now this represents a whacking great 22% rise - or more than ten times the rate of inflation, depending on which measure you use.

If an employer acted this way, the trade unions would be shouting from the rooftops - calling for urgent action to tackle wildly rising charges and for such behaviour to be restrained.

But, of course, they won't because that would simply encourage members to ask awkward, if entirely reasonable, questions such as: "How can Unison possibly justify such an extraordinary increase - and what does the union plan to spend all the extra money on?"

One place it will go is straight onto the coffers of the Labour Party - despite the fact that in Scotland the great majority of union members support other political parties such as the SNP, Lib Dems, Greens, Conservatives, Independents and various socialist groups.

Union bosses should stay out of party politics - they should be looking after the real priorities of their members' - on vital issues like equal pay - which they have ignored for years and years, to the detriment of the lowest paid.

Dick Turpin would be proud of this modern day equivalent of highway robbery - but ordinary union members will be incensed - they should complain about their union bosses under the Trades Descriptions Act - for taking members' money under false pretences.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

South Lanarkshire Letters

Just a quick note to say that we can e-mail clients with copies of the two recent equal pay letters for use in South Lanarkshire Council - see posts dated 1 November 2007.

One letter is aimed at Councillors/MSPs/MPs - the other is turning the spotlight on the role of the trade unions, in particular the local Unison branch.

We can e-mail an edited version of these articles to you - for use as a straightforward letter only (i.e. without the introduction and explanation) - which might make it easier for people to download, print off and use locally.

You will still have to include you own details (address and post code) - and date and sign the Unison letter.

You will have to do the same with the Councillor/MSP/MP letter, but in this case you will also need to decide which local politician to approach for help in persuading the Council to behave properly.

Please send any e-mail requests to: markirvine@compuserve.com

Thursday, 1 November 2007

South Lanarkshire Council - letter to Unison

Stephen Smellie (pronounced Smiley, not Smelly) is the Unison branch secretary in South Lanarkshire Council.

But Stephen (a former left-wing firebrand and supporter of Militant - which grew into the Scottish Socialist Party) has been strangely quiet on the subject of Equal Pay.

As quiet as a mouse in fact - or even a Trappist Monk - because Stephen appears to have lost the ability to speak up for union members.

South Lanarkshire Council says that its Single Status pay structures were agreed by Unison and the other trade unions - but Stephen and his colleagues have remained silent while the row over Equal Pay and Single Status has raged in the press and media.

So, what is the position of Unison and the other trade unions - have they reached a collective agreement with the council and, if so, why are ordinary members being kept in the dark?

Here's a letter union members can send to their Unison branch secretary - which will help put Unison and the other trade unions on the spot. You just need to sign and date the letter after adding your address and post code.

To
Stephen Smellie
Unison Branch Secretary
South Lanarkshire Council


Address and date

Dear Stephen

South Lanarkshire Council - Single Status and Equal Pay

South Lanarkshire Council claims that the Single Status pay and grading structure introduced in 2004 was the result of a collective agreement with Unison and the other local trade unions.

As a Unison member, I would like you to supply me with the following information - so that I can see for myself exactly what happened in 2004.

1 I would like to know who signed and endorsed the Single Status Agreement in South Lanarkshire on behalf of Unison members - was this done by you or some other union official?

2 If Unison's agreement was given by an exchange of letters with the council, I would like a copy of this correspondence.

3 I would like a copy of the South Lanarkshire Single Status Agreement

4 I would like Unison to provide me with a copy of the Job Evaluation scores for all council jobs - so that I can see for myself how all posts (male and female) have been assessed and graded

5 I would like to know what the traditional male dominated jobs in South Lanarkshire have been paid since 2004 - i.e. the salary scales and pay rates for these jobs, not details of individual earnings. Unison must have access to this information since the trade unions negotiated the new salary scales when bonus payments ceased as part of the 2004 Single Status Agreement.

I believe that Unison has an obligation to provide me with this information on request, as part of the normal service and advice to members available under union rule.

I look forward to hearing from you soon

Yours sincerely



................................................
Signed



Contact details for Stephen:

Stephen Smellie
Branch Secretary
Unison
South Lanarkshire Council
23 Beckford Street
Hamilton
ML3 0BT

E-mail: slanarkunison@blueyonder.co.uk
Phone: 01698 454225
FAX: 01698 454219

South Lanarkshire Council - letter to Councillors, MSPs and MPs

At a recent Action 4 Equality meeting in South Lanarkshire we agreed to provide clients with a letter that will help get a message across to local Councillors, MSPs and MPs.

Well here it is - the letter is not asking anyone to take sides at this stage - simply for their help in putting the facts on the table - so that everyone can judge for themselves how the council has behaved in introducing a new (Single Status) pay and grading structure.

All you need to do is date the letter - and add your name and address before sending it off to the Councillor, MSP or MP of your choice. If you need any further help, contact Action 4 Equality on 0131 667 7956.


Address and Date
Dear Councillor/MSP/MP

South Lanarkshire Council - Single Status and Equal Pay

I am looking for your support in finding out exactly how Single Status has been implemented in South Lanarkshire Council. Under normal circumstances this information should be readily available to staff and others, but up till now council officials have been keeping the details hidden from public view and proper scrutiny.

In 2004 South Lanarkshire Council introduced a new (Single Status) pay and grading structure - one that was supposed to be fair and non-discriminatory - following a collective agreement with the trade unions.

Yet, the council stubbornly refuses to explain the details of the scheme to the people directly affected, or to explain why discriminatory pay practices continue to affect so many female dominated jobs.

For example, prior to 2004 a Home Carer was on a higher grade than a Refuse Driver - but after the new (and supposedly fairer) Single Status scheme was introduced the female dominated job has still been paid @£6,000 a year less (on full-time hours) than the male job.

The same is true of many other female dominated jobs in South Lanarkshire. Cooks, Catering Workers, Cleaners, Clerical Workers, Classroom Assistants and Nursery Nurses - are all paid much less than traditional male jobs such as Refuse Workers, Street Sweepers, Gardeners and Gravediggers!

All that has happened under Single Status is that South Lanarkshire has absorbed the old bonus payments (paid only to male jobs) into new salary scales - which are much higher than the salaries paid to comparable female jobs.

I am not asking you to support my individual case. What I am asking for is your help in establishing exactly what happened when Single Status was introduced in 2004. The onus is on South Lanarkshire to demonstrate that it acted fairly and consistently, but even to this day employees are being kept in the dark - despite promises that the process would be open and transparent.

My specific request are as follows:

1 I would like a copy of South Lanarkshire's Single Status Agreement with the unions

2 I would like a copy of the Job Evaluation scores for all council jobs - so that I can see for myself how all the male and female jobs have been graded - and whether or not the process was fair.

3 I would like to know what the traditional male dominated jobs have been paid under Single Status - i.e. the salary scales that have been applied to these jobs since 2004 - not details of individual earnings, which are clearly private and confidential.

All of this information should be freely available. Indeed it has been made available by many other councils in Scotland - including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Argyll & Bute. In my view South Lanarkshire has no excuse for treating its employees in this way and I would ask for your help in persuading the council to explain how key decisions on Single Status were reached.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely



..................................................
Signed