Saturday, 22 December 2007

Seasons Greetings!!!

Merry Christmas and compliments of the season to all our clients in Scotland - from Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross!

We hope you have a wonderful time over the festive period - and look forward to resuming contact in the New Year.

Our Newcastle office is now closed until Thursday 3 January, but will re-open again on that date.

In the meantime, Action 4 Equality Scotland and Mark Irvine can still be contacted by e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Renfrewshire Council

Renfrewshire Council has become the latest Scottish council to make revised offers of settlement to clients of Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross.

The revised offers are a considerable improvement on the original cash sums proposed by Renfrewshire Council in 2006 - and also recommended for acceptance by the tame local trade unions, don't forget!

So, what it comes down to is that old saying: "She who laughs last - laughs longest!"

Individual letters will be issued to clients before Xmas and we will be doing everything we can to get people paid their money as quickly as possible in the New Year.

As with some other councils, these revised offers are restricted to employees on the old manual worker grades at the moment - but there are many other 'white collar' groups (in Renfrewshire and elsewhere) with perfectly valid equal pay claims.

So, these unresolved cases will continue - either until the employers come to their senses and make offers to these groups as well - or until a settlement is imposed via the Employment Tribunals.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

North Lanarkshire Council

Contrary to popular belief, North Lanarkshire has not made a mess of its Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

Oh no, the reality is actually much worse than that - because the council has set out , quite deliberately, to treat many women workers less favourably than men in traditional male jobs - see posts dated 6 and 10 December 2007.

Senior managers have a lot to answer for - and so too do the trade unions - because they've sat on the sidelines and failed to explain what's been going on to their own members.

Sadly, the unions have kept a lid on things - kept their heads down - when their members needed practical advice and strong leadership.

What should people do now?
  1. Appeal and challenge you grade - if you feel it undervalues your job
  2. Demand to know how all NLC jobs have been scored - especially traditional male jobs
  3. Submit an equal pay claim as well as an internal appeal - this will take your case outside of the council - to an independent Employment Tribunal
The bottom line is don't take things lying down.

Get organised - in small or large groups - and use the information on the Action 4 Equality web site - to challenge the way the Job Evaluation Scheme has been introduced.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Job Evaluation 3

As well as manipulating job evaluation results at the lower end of the scale, North Lanarkshire's scheme does exactly the same as it moves up through the new pay and grading structure.

Take grade NLC 6. Now this is not a very high grade - nor does it pay a king's ransom - but it does epitomise how male and female jobs have been treated so very differently - under a scheme that was intended to improve the position of many women's jobs - which had been undervalued for years.

Some Traditional Male Jobs on NLC 6
Cleansing Chargehand
Estates Maintenance Worker 4
Gardener 3
Gravedigger 3
Chargehand Estate Worker
Driver 2 (Refuse Driver)

Now all of these people carry out vital and important jobs - and no one is demeaning the work they do - the real issue is why are they treated so differently?

Because if the truth be told - all of these jobs are old-fashioned manual worker jobs that have existed for years - jobs that were graded at no more than Manual Worker 4 under the old grading structure - jobs that were on a lower grade than a Home Carer, Cook or even a School Janitor.

Yet, there are female dominated jobs by the barrow load - which require much more in terms of skill, responsibility or qualifications than the male jobs - but the women's jobs have just been stuck on the same grade (NLC 6) or, in many cases, even lower grades. Here are some examples:

Female Dominated Jobs on NLC 6
Cook
Catering Manager
Social Care Worker
Admin/Finance Assistant
Secretary

How can these jobs possibly be regarded as doing work of the same value as a Refuse Driver or Gravedigger?

Female Dominated Jobs on NLC 5
Senior Clerk
Library Resource Centre Supervisor
Senior Creche Worker
Project Administrator

How can these jobs possibly be regarded as doing work of less value than a Refuse Driver or Gravedigger?

Female Jobs on NLC 4
Classroom Assistant
Community Warden
Care Support Worker
Bus Escort
Word Processing Supervisor
SEN Assistant

How can these jobs possibly be regarded as doing work of less value than a Refuse Driver or Gravedigger?

So, the upshot is that North Lanarkshire is getting away with murder - its job evaluation scheme is shot full of holes and contradictions - and women workers are still treated less favourably than the men.

Job Evaluation 2

Even more mysterious than the Cleaners' grading (see post dated 6 December) - is the way in which many other female dominated jobs have fared under North Lanarkshire's Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

Take a Refuse Collector - another important, but essentially unskilled job that require virtually no training and carries little responsibility - and of course it's done overwhelmingly by men whose bonus payments are being protected by the council for years into the future.

Before the JES - Refuse Collectors were on a relatively low grade of Manual Worker (MW) 2 - much lower than a Home Help, for example, whose job was graded at MW 5.

But after the JES - Refuse Collectors have been placed on NLC 3 under the new pay and grading system - putting them on a par with a huge number of female dominated jobs - jobs that clearly require much greater levels of skill and responsibility.

What are these jobs?

Home Support Worker, Catering Assistant, Clerical Assistant, Creche Worker and Warden - to name just some of the female dominated jobs that are now deemed to be equivalent to an unskilled male post.

Anyone who knows anything about the refuse collection service - knows that the job has changed dramatically over the years. What might once have been regarded as a heavy manual job - has been made much easier by the introduction of wheelie bins - not just in Lanarkshire, but throughout Scotland.

But the exact opposite is true of many of the female dominated jobs - far from getting easier or less demanding - they've had all kinds of extra duties and responsibilities added - and often for no additional pay or reward.

Just think how much the job of a Home Carer has changed in the last 10 years - as community care has been introduced - the level of care and support provided by Home Carers has increased enormously - to keep vulnerable people living independently in their own homes.

But in North Lanarkshire many of these vital female dominated jobs have been placed on a par with refuse collection - when it's as plain as can be face that they are worth much more.

Yet again - North Lanarkshire's JES comes up trumps for the male dominated jobs - destroying any claim that the scheme is remotely fair or even-handed.

More to follow - Job Evaluation 3 coming soon!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Job Evaluation 1

Hands up!

How many employees of North Lanarkshire Council believe that their new Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) has been applied fairly, consistently and in a manner that rewards people properly for the jobs they do?

Well, very few it seems if our feedback is anything to go by - probably just the senior managers whose jobs were conveniently left outside the scope of the JES - and of course the local union reps who negotiated and urged members to accept the scheme when it was first proposed.

Take the lowest grade in the new pay structure - NLC 1 - as it has been imaginatively called.

By a truly amazing coincidence this grade has been solely and exclusively reserved for the job of Cleaner - needless to say a job done overwhelmingly by low paid women workers.

Now a Cleaner does a very important job - as do many other council employees - including Road Sweepers which, as everyone knows, is a traditional male and bonus earning job.

Before North Lanarkshire's allegedly fairer JES - Cleaners and Road Sweepers were on exactly the same grade - Manual Worker (MW) 1 in old money.

But after the JES (for reasons no one can explain) - the male Road Sweepers have been awarded the higher grade of NLC 2 - while all the women Cleaners have ended up at the bottom of the heap on NLC 1.

Something smells very fishy here - how can that possibly happen - without a good old fashioned bit of jiggery pokery?

Because the job of a Cleaner is hard, heavy work - no less arduous certainly than a Road Sweeper - and arguably the Cleaner carries more responsibility for ensuring high standards in important public areas - school toilets, for example.

So, how can Cleaners possibly end up on the lowest grade - with no male group to keep them company? The answer is that the council has engineered the results to keep the costs of equal pay down.

But it was never intended to work that way - Single Status was supposed to be fairer to many of the female dominated jobs which had been undervalued and underpaid for years.

What should people do? They should appeal their grades - demand to see the detailed scores of other male jobs - and register an equal pay claim, if they've not already done so.

If the unions had any guts, they'd be lodging mass appeals on behalf of all North Lanarkshire Cleaners - but the unions are really part of the problem, as many ordinary members now realise.

More to follow - Job Evaluation 2 coming soon!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

North Lanarkshire Council

After months of delay and foot dragging by the council, things are now beginning to hot up in North Lanarkshire - more to follow including news from the Employment Tribunals - but here's a brief summary of events so far.

In February/March 2006, North Lanarkshire tried to persuade its workforce into accepting a new pay and grading structure. Rather oddly, management and trade unions were singing from exactly the same hymn sheet - that is until Action 4 Equality arrived on the scene and explained to people that they were being sold a pig in a poke.

The proposed deal blew up in disarray- as angry North Lanarkshire workers voted the scheme down by an overwhelming majority - after a series of workplace meetings and secret ballot.

In the summer of 2006, council managers announced they would press ahead anyway - by imposing the package over people's heads and despite having lost a vote - that was so vital to their plans just months earlier.

A key part of the package was a new was a new Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) which assessed, ranked and graded all North Lanarkshire Council jobs - but to this day the JES has never been agreed by the workforce or the trade unions.

In November 2006, the council introduced its new pay and grading structure - resulting in several hundred additional unfair dismissal claims (on top of existing equal pay claims) - because the council was imposing a new contract of employment - without the agreement of its employees.

The council then gave each employee details of the new grading structure - but only on a personal and individual basis - crucial information about how other council jobs had fared was deliberately withheld .

Why? Because the management wanted to prevent people from understanding how other jobs (especially the male jobs) had done out of the re-grading exercise - after all the employers and trade unions had been keeping low paid women workers in the dark for years.

In terms of the new JES, the council and the unions were cooking the books (behind the scenes) to protect the interests of the traditional bonus earning - and predominantly male - jobs. Now North Lanarkshire is boasting about the millions of pounds they've saved - compared to other councils - and all because they've got such a cosy relationship with their trade unions

But now these chickens are coming home to roost - because the new North Lanarkshire grading structure shows that many of the key female dominated jobs have done very badly - surprise, surprise - compared the their male counterparts.

Over the next week or so we will publish some of the more glaring examples of the many women's jobs that have been scored poorly and come out badly - while other male jobs have sailed through the process completely unscathed.

Watch this space - more to follow.

Monday, 3 December 2007

School Janitors and Duff Advice

School janitors are a predominantly male group of workers who - along with many others - have been badly let down by poor advice from their trade unions.

School janitors were on some of the highest old manual worker grades (MW 5, 6 and 7) reflecting their responsibilities - but just like many women workers they still routinely earned much less than the bonus earning male groups on lower grades - such as refuse workers, gardeners, gravediggers etc.

When Action 4 Equality came along and lifted the lid off equal pay - we advised school janitors and other male groups that they too had valid equal pay claims - although they relied on the women workers winning their claims first.

At the time, the unions rubbished this advice claims and told their male members that they were wasting their time. In Glasgow, for example, where the GMB union represents most of the school janitors local officials laughed in their members faces - and told them not to waste the union's time.

But now the trade unions' have egg all over their faces - because the Employment Tribunals in a recent test case (Abbott and others v South Tyneside Council) have agreed with Stefan Cross and Action 4 Equality - by deciding that male workers do indeed have valid equal pay claims.

Male claims are limited to the date when the first female claims were registered - in many cases around October 2005 - but the judgment also means that if employers leave the male groups out of local equal pay settlements - then the male workers can complain of deliberate, direct sex discrimination - and raise a separate claim for 'injury to feelings'.

The bottom line is that these male groups are still very much at the races when it comes to equal pay - and still have valuable claims - notwithstanding the visible lack of trade union support for their own members.

It's not too late to register a claim - if you know of anyone who falls into his category - tell them the news and spread the word.

Jannies of the world unite - you have nothing to lose and much to gain!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Edinburgh - Revised Offers

Revised offers from Edinburgh City Council have started going out to Action 4 Equality clients this weekend - at the moment the council is restricting the improved offers to female manual workers.

We aim to turn these offers around within a matter of days - so that our clients get their money as quickly as possible.

The sooner people return their paperwork, the sooner we can complete the process with the council - which will allow us to release individual cheques.

Remember - everyone who case is already underway with Action 4 Equality has an ongoing claim from 1 April 2008 - because the council is going to protect the higher pay of the male workers for years to come.

And for as long as the pay gap remains - between these groups of male and female workers - employees in Edinburgh (and elsewhere) have valid and very valuable equal pay claims.

Remember, also, that lots of people have perfectly good equal pay claims - but have yet to do something about it - see the two posts dated 10 November 2007.

But if you don't register a claim, the council will keep the back pay that properly belongs to thousands of low paid workers.

Edinburgh - Male Claims

Edinburgh City Council is to revisit the issue of making revised offers to male workers on Thursday 20 December 2007 - at the next full council meeting.

The council's finance chief - Councillor Gordon MacKenzie - announced in October via the Edinburgh Evening News (see post dated 19 November) that the council would do the right thing by this group of workers.

And quite right too - because they do exactly the same jobs as their female colleagues - and to treat them any differently will simply open the council up to more legal challenges and complaints of direct sex discrimination.

Action 4 Equality has already been in touch with Councillor MacKenzie - we will be getting back to him again this week urging the finance chief and his fellow councillors to deal with this matter decisively on 20 December.

If not, this will make a mockery of Edinburgh City Council's claim to be an equal opportunities employer.

Our clients can help - you should lobby your own local councillors - politely, but firmly and lay out the facts - make it clear that the council must keep its word - by putting this issue finally to bed on 20 December.

You can find contact details for your own local councillor on the council's web site: www.edinburgh.gov.uk