Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas and compliments of the season to all our regular readers.

2008 has proved to be a frustrating year in some ways - the outstanding equal pay claims are all working their way through the Employment Tribunal process behind the scenes - but they are taking longer than anyone originally hoped or expected.

The lack of progress is down to the foot dragging antics of the employers - although their reluctance to lock horns on the real issues speaks volumes about the underlying weakness of the employers' arguments - and their willingness to put these to the test.

However, there are a number of important and encouraging developments - that we will be able to share with people in the New Year.

In the meantime, happy holidays - and all the best for 2009!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Equal Pay Triumph for NHS workers

Great news for NHS workers.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has thrown out the NHS employer claims that historical collective bargaining to blame for unequal pay.

The landmark judgment in the EAT paves the way for thousands of low paid women in the NHS including nurses, health care assistants, medical secretaries and many other support staff.

The ruling was made in the equal pay test case of North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust v Ms Potter and others (18 December 2008).

The critical test case examined whether an NHS trust could defend pay inequality between female and male staff doing comparable work because of the impact of historical differences in collective bargaining.

In other words, the employer tried to argue that any pay differences were caused inadvertently - by historical accident - with women being represented by one bargaining unit - and men being represented by another.

The NHS case is very similar to the arguments raised by Edinburgh City Council about APT&C workers in local government - see post dated 23 October 2008.

The judgment is highly significant because, historically, terms and conditions for workers in the NHS have been set by trade union and employers in a collective bargaining process. Thousands more women nationwide will now proceed.

North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust, the women's NHS employer, had tried to argue that all of their claims were invalid because any disparity in pay had arisen as a result of the parallel collective bargaining systems.

In short, the NHS employer tried to distance itself from the collective bargaining machinery, to which it was a party, so that it could claim that it bore no responsibility for the pay differences that existed amongst its own staff.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, roundly rejected this argument together with other unmeritorious technical points designed to prevent the women from progressing their claims. The judge concluded that the Trust was responsible and accountable for any inequality of pay that existed.

Indeed, the NHS employer had paid out compensation to nurses in the past, in similar circumstances, when equal pay claims had been pursued.

More to follow - and our thanks to Cloisters web site for providing some of the details on this important case.

Friday, 19 December 2008

More Council Compromise Agreements

Since sharing the costs of Compromise Agreements that some councils have racked up – see post dated 16 December 2008 - other regular readers of the blog have been in touch to ask about their own local councils.

Here are details from other councils – a few stragglers are still awaited:

East Ayrshire £62,834
Aberdeen City £62,537
East Lothian £53,834
Renfrewshire Council £52,850
Falkirk Council £41,125
East Renfrewshire £38,825
South Ayrshire £37,200
Perth & Kinross £13,350
Clackmannanshire £8,225

Sub Total £370, 780

Running Total £1.41 million (includes figures reported on 16 December) - and counting!

The cost of Compromise Agreements is only one aspect of council using public money to rack up huge legal fees – because external legal firms are also being paid handsomely for their work at the Employment Tribunals – at the tax payers’ expense, of course.

More to follow

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Council Compromise Agreements

Councils always say they have no money – it is part of the rough and tumble of political life in local government – but the truth is that council budgets have doubled in the past 10 years.

And when push has come to shove councils always have a truly uncanny ability to find the money they need - to suit their own spending priorities.

Take the cost of Compromise Agreements – the same councils that had no money to meet their obligations in terms of Single Status or Equal Pay – found they had plenty of money to pay ‘independent’ solicitors to advise council employees on signing away their legal rights.

Here’s a list what just a handful of councils have spent – details have come to light only recently in response to recent Freedom of Information requests

Glasgow City Council - £347,477
City of Edinburgh - £247,500
North Lanarkshire Council - £140,177
Aberdeenshire Council - £138,732
Fife Council - £89,358
Highland Council - £80,840

Running Total - £1,044,084

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – Scottish councils have spent yet more money fighting and often delaying cases at the employment tribunals - when they really ought to be getting down to the serious business of explaining the big differences in pay - between traditional male and female jobs.

More details to follow.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sunday Herald (2)

Last week's Sunday Herald newspaper featured a letter from Unison's regional secretary, Matt Smith, which purported to be about equal pay, but was really just another feeble attack on Stefan Cross.

The Sunday Herald has today printed Stefan's reply which is reproduced below for information:

The Editor
Sunday Herald

Dear Sir

Matt Smith's letter of 7 December 2008 (Pay deals unpicked) is riddled with error and distortion.

So, let the facts speak for themselves.

Glasgow City Council is currently defending 5190 equal pay claims at the Employment Tribunals. Stefan Cross Solicitors is acting for 4,561 of these claimants (i.e. 88%) whereas Unison represents only 322, or 6%.

Mr Smith is wrong to boast that his trade union is leading the fight on equal pay - that isn't true.

The trade unions in Scotland kept their women members in the dark about equal pay for years, while continuing to strike local deals that favoured traditional male jobs.

The local authority employers are now being forced to take action on equal pay, but that has only come about because of the intervention by Stefan Cross Solicitors and Action 4 Equality Scotland.

The uncomfortable truth for Mr Smith and his fellow union bosses is that they have turned a blind eye to pay discrimination and failed to put their own house in order.


Stefan Cross


The old saying about 'people who live in glass houses' springs to mind!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Glasgow meetings

The Glasgow 'drop in' meetings held earlier this week were a great success - lots of new enquires, such as:

Why are people able to re-start their claims?
Because the council has continued to protect the higher earnings of traditional male groups - refuse workers and gardeners, for example - so there is is still a significant pay gap between many male and female jobs.

What about the Compromise Agreement I signed in December 2005?
Makes no difference - signing a Compromise Agreement doesn't prevent you from pursuing a new claim - because a new claim is about pay arrangements within the council after December 2005.

Who can restart their claims?
Just about everyone who received a settlement offer from the council in December 2005 - i.e.

Cleaners
Catering Staff
Home Carers
Classroom Assistants
Child Development Officers
School-based Clerical Staff

Why did the council make settlement offers to only some APT&C staff?
Who knows - the council has done some crazy things over equal pay, but it has never explained why a school based admin and clerical worker was made an offer - while people on the same grade elsewhere were excluded.

What can the excluded groups do about that?
Register an equal pay claim - it's still possible for people in these groups to pursue a claim now.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Sunday Herald

An article on equal pay appeared in the Sunday Herald at the weekend - and it's certainly caused a stir. Here’s a case study written by Tom Gordon - the newspaper's Political Editor - about Helen Brownlie, one of the employees who attended Glasgow's ‘acceptance’ meetings.

“The meetings were billed by Glasgow City Council as helpful discussions with an ‘independent legal adviser’, but the reality was very different.

In November and December 2005, the authority arranged dozens of roadshows offering ‘compromise deals’ to around 11,000 female staff owed back pay after years of earning less than their male equivalents.

Dinner ladies, home carers, cleaners and nursery nurses were offered cheques of up to £9,000. The £40 million package represented just a fraction of what the women were owed, but the council and trade union Unison argued that pursuing the full amounts would lead to job cuts and service cuts.

At the time, a council spokesman insisted: “The advice given at the roadshows is supposed to be impartial, free and independent. It is the best deal for staff, consistent with us avoiding redundancies and cuts in services.”

Accusing the council of trying to use timeshare-style sales methods, the GMB union warned people not to sign, but hundreds did regardless.

Among them was Helen Brownlie, now 67, from Knightswood, a home carer for almost 30 years.

She had expected an orderly sit-down with a lawyer. Instead she found herself corralled with hundreds of fellow care workers in a council leisure centre.

She says she was then taken to a lawyer who witnessed her signature, but did not otherwise want to talk to her. She signed away most of her rights and money in a blur.

“We were all herded in like cattle. They just handed us papers and told us to sign and move on. There was a queue behind you, so you didn’t want to waste time."

“It was horrendous. We felt under pressure, we just signed. The rest of the lassies felt the same. I got £6,500 but I was due £19,500. I thought that if I did not accept it, I would not have another chance.”

Later she heard that workers who had refused to sign had received far higher payments, and took her case to Stefan Cross. She is now pursuing a claim against the council, arguing the compromise deal was flawed and that the ‘independent legal advice’ she received was just a sham.”

Glasgow & Equal Pay

We've had lots of enquiries today from employees of Glasgow City Council - with people wanting to know if they can re-start their equal pay claims.

The answer is - YES!

Even if you accepted a previous settlement from the council, you have a further significant claim - because the council has continued to protect the higher earnings of traditional male jobs.

And while the big pay gap between male and female jobs remains - you continue to have a claim.

You may also be able to challenge the terms of the original settlement that many council employees accepted back in November/December 2005 - see post dated 6 November 2008.

In addition, there are lots of Glasgow employees who have not been made any offers of settlement - even though the groups have perfectly valid claims.

Groups of admin and clerical workers (former APT&C staff) who do highly skilled and reponsible jobs - yet are paid much less than unskilled, traditional male jobs such as refuse workers.

So, if you have a query or need some advice, come along to one of our 'drop in' Glasgow meetings on Wednesday 10 or Thursday 11 December.

We will be at The Millennium Hotel on George Square between 2pm and 6pm each day.

South Lanarkshire Loses Challenge

South Lanarkshire Council has just lost a vital hearing at the employment tribunals.

The council requested a special Pre-Hearing Review and argued that the claims should not be allowed to proceed - because of the criticism of the council on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Now this is a bit rich when you consider that South Lanarkshire Council is the only council in Scotland that stubbornly refuses to admit what traditional male jobs are paid.

Every other council in the land has now shared information about rates of pay for refuse workers, gardeners and gravediggers - even if some of them took their time doing so.

But the employment tribunals rejected South Lanarkshire's arguments - all of the Stefan Cross claims will now proceed - and the council will be required to explain and justify its local pay and grading structures.

Action 4 Equality Scotland will be holding update meetings for South Lanarkshire clients in the New Year - so watch this space for further details.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Law Firms Face Equal Pay Challenge

Stefan Cross Solicitors is challenging six of Scotland’s leading law firms over their advice to thousands of Glasgow City Council employees about equal pay.

In November/December 2005, Glasgow City Council made settlement offers to over ten thousand employees at a series of ‘acceptance’ meetings.

The council refused to explain basis of these cash offers to their employees (i.e. how the payments were assessed and calculated), but in reality the council’s offers were worth less than twenty five per cent of the real value of people’s equal pay claims.

The city council selected the following six law firms to attend the acceptance meetings and advise the workforce:

1. Biggart Baillie
2. Brechin Tindal Oats
3. Burness

4. MacLay Murray Spens
5. McGrigor Donald
6. Wright Johnston McKenzie

Council employees were required to sign a legal waiver (known as a Compromise Agreement) before the council would release their settlements, but such agreements only exclude tribunal proceedings if the person signing the agreement has received independent legal advice and other conditions are complied with. The law firms charged Glasgow City Council £347,477.76p for providing this advice service.

Stefan Cross of Stefan Cross Solicitors commented: “We have just issued 1,000 letters of complaint to six law firms – and many more are likely to follow in the weeks ahead. These firms accepted instructions from the council and the employees had no choice in the matter.


We believe the firms failed to comply with their obligations to the women as individual clients and in particular failed to take time to advise the clients of the merits of the deal on offer and as a result the women accepted offers that were far below the true value of their claims. In addition to lodging complaints against the individual firms we are seeking a ruling from the tribunal that the agreements did not comply with the Sex Discrimination Act.”

Mark Irvine, spokesperson for Action 4 Equality Scotland, added: “The council dangled a juicy carrot in front of some of its lowest paid workers and timed this quite deliberately in the run up to Christmas 2005. Many of the lowest paid council workers lost thousands of pounds and believe that they were badly informed or even misled.


The feedback from people who attended the council acceptance meetings is that they were barely given any proper advice. Most spent only a few minutes with their council appointed lawyer and felt they had no real choice but to accept what was on offer. Apparently, the lawyers involved gave the workforce no real help or practical advice, yet council taxpayers had to pick up a whopping great bill of £347,000 for their services.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Glasgow 'drop in' meetings

Action 4 Equality Scotland is organising two 'drop in' meetings in Glasgow next week - on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th December 2008.

The purpose of these meetings is to explain the importance of the recent breakthrough for APT&C workers - and the recent Edinburgh employment tribunal decision - which means that 'white collar' groups have just as valid equal pay claims as their manual worker colleagues.

For further details - see post dated 9 November 2008 - the decision of the employment tribunal in Edinburgh - is hugely significant to APT&C workers in Glasgow and elsewhere.

We will also be taking the opportunity to update existing Glasgow clients in relation to the Compromise Agreement challenge - which is working its way through the employment tribunal process in Glasgow - and other ongoing issues as well.

So, why not come along for a chat - whether you want to find out about a new claim - or you just want an update about your existing claim.

The venue for these meetings is - The Millennium Hotel, George Square, Glasgow, G2 1DS (The Millennium Hotel is on the north side of George Square – right next to Queen St Station)

MEETING 1

Wednesday 10 December - drop in anytime between 2pm - 6pm

MEETING 2

Thursday 11 December - drop in anytime between 2pm - 6pm

We look forward to seeing you next week.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

GLASGOW LOSES VITAL PRE-HEARING

Glasgow City Council has lost a vital pre-hearing review (PHR) over the council's compromise agreements - that many people signed in November and December 2005.

Stefan Cross is challenging the validity of Glasgow's compromise agreements - and is seeking a ruling from the employment tribunal that the agreements did not comply with the Sex Discrimination Act.


If that challenge is succcesful, it will have the effect of re-opening the whole issue - for thousands of council staff who accepted settlement offers from the council - that were worth far less than the real value of their claims.

Glasgow tried to block this challenge at a specially convened pre-hearing review - the council argued that they were being unfairly treated because of criticism on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

But the employment tribunal rejected Glasgow's argument - and the challenge from Stefan Cross will now proceed in the New Year.

If you need advice about your own situation, contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Friday, 28 November 2008

STOP PRESS - GMB LOSE ALLEN CASE

The following report has just appeared in the Employment Law Bulletin.

"The House of Lords has refused permission to appeal in the important case of Allen v GMB (for the Court of Appeal's decision, see bulletin 16/7/08).

The Court of Appeal restored the employment tribunal's finding that the GMB had indirectly discriminated against female union members by recommending acceptance of a 'single status' pay deal which grossly underestimated the compensation which should be due to female equal pay Claimants.


Although the objective of securing a fair single status pay deal was legitimate, the means used by the union to secure the deal (including grossly misleading the female back-pay claimants) meant that they had not pursued proportionate means of achieving that pay deal.

It is likely that - subject to time limit issues - large numbers of discrimination claims by female workers against their trade unions, complaining of the way in which their rights were treated in negotiations with their local authority employers, will now follow."


The decision is a great victory for ordinary trade union members - and a complete vindication of the stance taken by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Further news will follow - watch this space!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Glasgow Compromise Agreements

Stefan Cross has written to clients in Glasgow who signed a city council Compromise Agreement - back in December 2005.

Stefan Cross believes that the Compromise Agreement people were required to sign - may not be a valid agreement under s77 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

If the agreement is not valid - then those affected by these Compromise Agreements may be able to revisit the original settlements accepted from Glasgow City Council in 2005.

At the moment, these Compromise Agreements are being challenged via the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - and we expect a hearing to take place on this issue in the New Year.

If the challenge is successful and the Employment Tribunal agrees that the Glasgow Compromise Agreements are not valid agreements, then people's claims will be able to proceed for the entire period.

In other words, these claims will all be re-opened - and can look again the period prior to December 2005

All Glasgow clients have been asked to send a copy of their 2005 Compromise Agreements to Stefan Cross.

If you have not done so already, it is vital that you send us a copy of your Compromise Agreement, as soon as possible - the office address is:

Stefan Cross Solicitors

Buddle House

Buddle Road

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

NE4 8AW

If you need any further advice on this issue, contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Edinburgh meetings

The 'drop in' meetings arranged in Edinburgh last week were a great success.

Lots of enquiries from people in the former APT&C groups - admin and clerical staff, learning assistants, social care workers and nursery nurses.

Many of our existing Edinburgh clients also came along for a chat - and an update about their claims.

What most people wanted to know was why haven't they been told anything by the council or their trade unions?

Well, the council won't tell you anything about your rights to equal pay - because it will end up costing them money - and that's been their attitude for the past ten years - despite all the empty rhetoric about Edinburgh being an Equal Opportunities employer.

The unions are not really any better.

It's clear the the unions haven't been explaining to their members that the APT&C groups have perfectly valid equal pay claims - and that equal pay is not something that's restricted to 'Manual Workers'.

But the unions will have to explain this for themselves - because it doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, back to the Edinburgh meetings - we also had quite a few requests for more local, follow-up meetings - in Leith, Pilton and Trinity - for example.

We're happy to do that - if people can identify a suitable local venue - all that's needed is 45 minutes, or so, to explain things and answer people's questions.

Drop Mark Irvine an e-mail, if you want to suggest something for your own local area at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 22 November 2008

NHS Claims - Update

Scotland's NHS claims continue to work their way through the employment tribunal process.

The big issues relate to a tribunal hearing that began in October 2008 and will run until the end of November at least - though it now looks likely that this hearing will not be completed until February 2009.

The following 5 key points are being contested by Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross solicitors - they relate to the way in which Agenda for Change was developed and introduced by NHS management and the trade unions:

1 Whether the Job evaluation scheme within Agenda for Change complies with the legislation and whether, with particular regard to male dominated jobs, there were grounds for suspecting it was tainted by Sex Discrimination.

2 If the scheme is valid when did it apply to the claimants - and can the effect of the scheme be backdated.

3 Whether AFC continued or introduced sexually discriminatory considerations into NHS pay and grades - and to what extent the trade unions and Department of Health were aware of this.

4 Whether the NHS can rely on Agenda For Change as a defence - and whether those purported defences are ineffective because of sex discrimination.

5 Whether the claimants are entitled to pay protection and recruitment and retention payments ("RRP") - which were awarded to their male comparators.

We will, of course, let you know as soon as there have been decisions on these various points - which are crucial to your claim.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Union Wars

Just when you think the council workers strike is finally over - a bitter war of words flares up in the press.

Unison - the largest union by far - has already voted to accept the employers' revised offer - but the GMB and Unite trade unions say that their members voted to reject.

So - wait for it - GMB and Unite may continue the campaign of industrial action.

Now this makes all three unions look like the Keystone Cops - how can they possibly pursue a united pay strategy with the Scottish employers - if they're falling out so badly amongst themselves?

Everyone knows there is no stomach amongst ordinary union members for further strike action - after all why throw more good money after bad.

Significantly, all three unions have failed to publish the results of their membership ballots - which can only mean that the turnout was embarrassingly low.

Unison, as the largest union, has a majority of the votes on the Scottish negotiating body that deals with council workers pay.

Unison can't have the tail wagging the dog - with the minority unions telling the majority union what to do - and how to run the show.

So, this latest spat is a great fuss about nothing - with the unions fighting each other - instead of representing the best interests of their members.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been highly critical of the time wasting tactics of many Scottish employers and their legal advisers.

Equal pay claims have been getting bogged down - and taking much longer than they should to work their way through the tribunal system.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is getting its 'tuppence' worth in as well - witness the following quote from a recent hearing involving the Honourable Mr Justice Elias, President of the EAT:

"The EAT has been inundated with appeals relating to the operation of the statutory grievance procedures. Rarely can legislation have been so counter-productive. Provisions designed to reduce tribunal disputes have spawned satellite litigation in which arcane and complex points of law have been argued, frequently so remote from reality that they would surprise even the most desiccated Chancery lawyer conjured up by the imagination of a Charles Dickens."

Mr Justice Elias hits the nail squarely on its head.

His vivid description could apply to several Scottish councils - who keep trying to avoid the real issues regarding equal pay - while racking up huge fees at the council taxpayers’ expense.

But the question that will not go away is: "Why are female cleaners, catering workers, carers, classroom assistants and clerical workers - paid so much less than male gardeners, gravediggers and refuse workers?"

The employers can't answer that question - sensibly at least - and while their delaying tactics are very frustrating, they will have to face up to reality sooner or later.

Work is underway to tackle the delay in progressing Scottish claims – and the comments from the President of the EAT will help us to get our message across.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Edinburgh meetings

Action 4 Equality Scotland is organising two 'drop in' meetings next week to explain the significance of the recent Edinburgh employment tribunal decision.

See the recent post dated 23 October 2008 on Edinburgh Council 'Defending the Indefensible'.

The judgment has huge implications for Edinburgh's admin and clerical (former APT&C) workers - because it means that they have similar claims for equal pay - just like other groups of council employees.


Both meetings are being held in the Royal British Hotel on Princes Street - right across the road from the Waverly Steps - on the following two afternoons:

1) Tuesday 18 November - between 1pm and 6pm

2) Thursday 20 November - between 1pm and 6pm


Come along and have a chat over a cup of tea or coffee- and find out whether or not you have an equal pay claim.

Council Workers Strike

As expected, the long running council workers strike has finally collapsed - following a series of trade union ballots - see post dated 3 October 2008.

Ordinary union members have ignored the 'advice' of their leaders to continue taking strike action - and voted to accept the employers final offer of a two-year pay deal.

As usual, the settlement does nothing whatsoever for the low paid - despite this being one of the stated aims of the trade unions' claim.

And, as usual, the trade unions are sticking their heads in the sand - instead of learning from yet another pay debacle.

Unison says the vote for more strike action was a close-run thing - but conveniently fails to publish the result of their membership ballot - so denying people the ability to see for themselves.

Unite says its members actually voted in favour of more strike action - they're clearly having a laugh, but yet again their ballot result remains a closely guarded secret.

GMB Scotland is still counting its result - but why bother, is the obvious question?

As we've been saying for months - the trade unions' priorities on pay are all wrong.

If the unions put the same energy into fighting for equal pay over the past 10 years - they would have achieved a great deal more for their low paid members - than all these pointless strikes.

Perhaps they'll learn - next time.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Admin & Clerical (APT&C) Workers

Edinburgh City Council has lost a vital test case on equal pay – which has huge implications for admin and clerical (or former APT&C) workers across Scotland.

Edinburgh tried to block former ‘white collar’ or APT&C employees from making equal pay claims, i.e. learning and teaching assistants, admin and clerical workers of all kinds, different categories of care worker and nursery nurses.

But Edinburgh lost the case – with the employment tribunal describing the council as trying to ‘defend the indefensible’.

More significantly, the Edinburgh decision opens the door for other former APT&C employees doing such jobs – to make a claim - it’s not too late even now.

Why do I have a claim?
Because many unskilled male (former manual) jobs are paid much more than skilled female employees working in other parts of the council

How much more?
Many male gardeners and refuse workers are paid between £8.50 and £10.00 per hour (at 2007 rates) – while their female colleagues (often doing highly skilled jobs) are paid between £5.80 and £6.85 per hour. The difference represents your claim for equal pay – which can be backdated for 5 years.

How much is my claim worth?
Depends on the number of hours you work and length of service – but lots of people have claims worth between £15,000 and £20,000.

How do I make a claim?
Ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800

Where can I get more information?
E-mail Mark Irvine and Action 4 Equality Scotland at: markirvine@compuserve.com



Friday, 7 November 2008

'Protection Period' claims

In the past couple of weeks there’s been a surge of enquiries about ‘protection period claims – especially from Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Fife and Renfrewshire Councils.

Word seems to be spreading that people have new and substantial claims – because the councils are protecting the much higher (bonus–related) pay of their traditional male jobs - such as gardeners, refuse workers and road workers.

When the employers’ introduce a new pay and grading system – they always agree to protect the existing and higher rates of traditional male jobs enjoy for at least 3 years – although the exact length of the protection period varies from council to council.

But because of the recent landmark decision in the Court of Appeal – see post dated 2 August 2008 – women are now entitled to the same rate of pay as the men - for the entire length of that protection period.

For lots of people this will be a highly significant claim - which will be based on all hours worked x the difference in pay between the two jobs - over a period of three years or more.

Many traditional male jobs in Scottish councils continue to be paid at between £8.50 and £10.00 per hour.

So, your claim for equal pay is for the difference in pay between your job and the job of your male comparator – for as long as the difference in pay continues.

How do you make a claim?

Ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 – or contact Mark Irvine at:
markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Edinburgh and Equal Pay

Edinburgh council is making a mess of equal pay - we’ve been saying that for a long time – but the recent Employment Tribunal decision (Wilkinson v Edinburgh City Council - see post dated 23 October 2008) suggest the game is up, or at least is coming to an end.

So, we’re turning the heat up on the council officials responsible by writing directly to all Edinburgh councillors, MSPs and MPs – a copy of our letter is reproduced below.

We say it’s high time the council addressed the real issues at stake - instead of wasting public money on procedural hearings – which only increase the cost to the council taxpayer.

Council officials hoped that equal pay would fizzle out and go away – but it hasn’t and the best way to force their hand now - is for everyone as many people as possible to register a claim – that’s the fastest way to bring the council to its senses and resolve the outstanding cases.

If the number of claims keeps going up, the council will have to face reality – by either defending the cases in court, or negotiating a settlement.

Action 4 Equality is planning a series of meeting across Edinburgh to get this message home – if you want to get involved in your own local area contact Mark Irvine at:
markirvine@compuserve.com


Dear Councillor/MSP/MP

Edinburgh and Equal Pay

Edinburgh City Council is digging an ever deeper hole for itself over equal pay.

Here's the latest Action 4 Equality Scotland press release highlighting a recent and damning decision from the Employment Tribunals - a situation that could have been avoided, not least because we offered to negotiate a settlement to all outstanding cases, with council officials, earlier this year.

But the city's officials chose to test the issue to destruction and the council will now pay a heavy price if it continues to adopt such an intransigent stance - another example is its refusal to recognise the perfectly valid claims of former male manual workers doing predominantly female jobs (e.g. male home helps) - which other councils in Scotland settled long ago.

The real issue that needs to be addressed is: Why is a council carer, cook, classroom assistant or clerical worker - not worth the same pay as a council gardener or refuse worker?

I am sure you will take the opportunity to make your views known more widely within the council - if you require any further information or clarification, please let me know.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Trade Union Grievances

Earlier this year we reported that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had dealt a severe blow to lots of trade union backed equal pay claims in Scotland - see posts dated 1 and 24 July 2008.

The EAT's decision meant that where the trade unions had submitted 'collective' grievances with the council employers - instead of registering individual grievances (as required by the equal pay regulations) - then these claims might not be allowed to proceed through the employment tribunal process.

Worse still, as the cases had not been taken up properly to begin with - people may well now be out of time – and, if so, the individuals involved could lose their entire claim - worth thousands of pounds in many cases.

Well it seems these chickens are now coming home to roost - with a vengeance.

An employee of North Lanarkshire Council has been in touch to ask for advice - because her trade union is saying her claim is now being dropped – like a stone.

Just like that – without a word of apology or regret – a long standing member is simply abandoned and told her claim can't proceed any further - because it wasn't 'grievanced' properly to begin with - and has run out of time.

What the woman's letter does not explain - clearly at least - is that the case can’t proceed because of her trade union’s carelessness and sheer incompetence.

But instead of putting their hands up and offering to compensate the member for her financial loss – shamefully the union has left the woman to fend for herself.

The good news is that Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross will take up the case - she has a 'slam dunk' negligence claim against her trade union - which should compensate her in full for all the money she’s lost.

There are bound to be lots of similar cases out there - in places where the trade unions have taken their eye off the ball – and failed to register their members’ grievances properly.

If anyone you know is in the same unfortunate position, tell them not to panic - all is not lost, not by a long chalk.

Contact Mark Irvine for further advice at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Glenrothes By-Election

The Glenrothes by-election is being held on Thursday 4 November – and it looks like a two horse race between the SNP and Labour Party.

As usual, there will be public hustings and lots of other activities leading up to election-day.

So why not use any opportunity that comes your way to question the leading candidates on their views about equal pay.

The Labour candidate is Lindsay Roy, a local head teacher. Interesting thing is that all teachers in Scotland benefited from a generous pay deal back in 2001 – as a result of the McCrone Agreement.

Now this cost substantial sums of public money at the time – adding £800 million pounds to the pay bill - to fund a 23.5% pay increase for all teachers - which they’re still benefiting from to this day.

So, a good question for Lindsay Roy would be: “If you believe in fair pay for teachers, do you also support equal pay for low paid council staff - carers, cleaners, catering staff, clerical workers and classroom assistants?”

In 2001, the council employers and the government found the money to pay for the teachers improved pay package – so why are other council workers treated so differently when it comes to equal pay?

The SNP candidate is Peter Grant – leader of Fife Council which is now directly responsible for equal pay and for resolving all the outstanding claims.

Now it’s fair to point out that the SNP only took control of the council last year – in May 2007 – having wrestled control away from Labour which ran the council for years previously.

The SNP would no doubt say that their Labour opponents are to blame for not implementing the Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement in 1999 – along with their chums in the trade unions – and that would be true.

But what’s also true is that someone has to sort out the mess – and the SNP are now in the driving seat – no one else.

So, a good question for Peter Grant would be: “What is the SNP doing to resolve all the outstanding equal pay cases in Fife – others might have created the mess, but the current SNP administration that has the responsibility of clearing it up?”

Friday, 24 October 2008

South Lanarkshire Update

South Lanarkshire’s equal pay claims face a major 10 day hearing early in the New Year – from 12 to 23 January 2009.

Clients are very welcome to attend the hearing, but in reality few people, if any, will be able to give up that much of their own free time.

So, we’re planning to use this opportunity to prepare for the hearing and report back to clients over the next couple of months.

South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) continues to refuse to explain how its job evaluation (JE) scheme works – there is an ongoing battle to gain even basic information about scores and grades – details that other councils in Scotland have made freely available.

South Lanarkshire claimed previously that its JE scheme “has been externally verified” - but this claim turns out to be completely untrue.

Because the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) never gave its approval to the South Lanarkshire scheme (as claimed by the council at the time) and - according to the council now - discussions with the EOC barely got off the ground.

The council’s failure to gain EOC approval was discovered only recently following a Freedom of Information request.

So, the upshot is that South Lanarkshire employees were misled at a crucial time – via a staff newsletter - which made false claims about the SLC job evaluation scheme: the foundation stone of the council’s pay and grading structure.
.
If you want to organise a meeting in your own local area – all you need to do is identify:

• a possible date or dates
• a good time of day
• a suitable local venue

Lots of similar meetings have been held in South Lanarkshire in the past – in a wide variety of different venues - our experience is that local people know best in terms of where and when to meet.

So, if you want to join in then contact Mark Irvine at: markrivine@compuserve.com

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Edinburgh Council: 'Defending the Indefensible'

Edinburgh City Council has been slated by an Employment Tribunal in an important equal pay test case.

The hearing ran for 10 days over June and August 2008, but the written judgment is quite devastating in its criticism of the council and main witness, John Allan, an Employee Relations Manager.

The council’s case was that hundreds of equal pay claims from women (admin & clerical) employees should not be allowed to proceed because they are employed on different conditions of service to their male colleagues.

The Employment Tribunal’s decision has given the council’s argument short shrift, clears the way for existing cases to proceed.


The decision also opens the door for many more claims from women workers in former APT&C or ‘white collar’ jobs – i.e. clerical workers, social care workers, classroom assistants catering managers and nursery nurses.

Key extracts from the tribunal’s written judgment are reproduced below:

Para 459: “Put simply, where the respondent (Edinburgh City Council) has issued a document to an employee which makes specific reference to the Red book, I do not comprehend how it can be said that the terms of the Red Book are not contractual;. In the context of communications between parties about a contract which they are entering or proposing to enter into, each is taken to mean what they say”.

Para 460: “Mr Allan gave evidence to the effect that the issuing of offer letters etc. Containing specific references to the Red Book terms and conditions was a ‘mistake. In my opinion, even if that is true, it cannot alter the legal and contractual effect of doing so, particularly where there has been no attempt by the respondent to rectify that ‘mistake. ”.

Para 539: “In relation to Mr. Allan, I have a degree of sympathy with him because he appeared ultimately to be attempting to defend the indefensible. I do not think that there was an issue of credibility as such but he was forced to adopt a number of relatively absurd positions by reference to the content of documentation put to him.....Ultimately, I felt that I could attach little weight to his evidence”.

Mark Irvine, spokesperson for Action 4 Equality Scotland said:


“ ’Defending the indefensible’ sums up the council’s behaviour perfectly – they should be ashamed of the way they fought this case and how they’ve dealt with equal pay generally."

"The tribunal’s criticism of the council’s evidence is quite extraordinary, but absolutely entirely justified in the circumstances. The waste of public money is enormous. Edinburgh council taxpayers are facing huge legal bills as officials engage in foolish delaying tactics instead of facing up to the real issues".

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Glasgow Betrays Carers, Cleaners and Catering Staff

Glasgow City Council has just announced that it plans to transfer its home carers, cleaners and catering staff to a new arms length company.

The council claims that this is to protect essential services - but the truth is that the move is really designed to avoid the council having to meet its obligations on equal pay.

The existing pay and conditions of the largely female workforce will be maintained because of the TUPE regulations - but the transfer will isolate the women from the better paid men - with only the men remaining directly employed by the city council.

If that happens, the women workers may no longer be able to compare their lower earnings with the higher earnings of male jobs such as gardeners and refuse workers - because the council will have placed an artificial wall between the two groups.

The council is then likely to argue that the women workers have no entitlement to back pay, worth over £10,000 per person for a full time worker. Neither the council nor the unions are advising their members of these rights.

So, the move to an arm's length company has nothing to do with quality or service standards - and everything to do with avoiding equal pay.

The unions - who have traditionally negotiated better deals for the male groups - will wring their hands and complain. But the truth is that the trade unions have been doing the council's dirty work all along - by failing to fight for equal treatment for their women members.

In fact, the unions privately will be pleased - because it gets them off a hook.

In future, the unions will say their male members are better paid than their women members because they work for different employers - not because of the discriminatory deals negotiated by the unions in the past.

Predictable as ever, the unions' defence will be: 'a big boy did it and ran away' - allowing them to wash their hands of the whole affair and abandon their members, yet again.

What should Glasgow workers do before the great transfer to 'Carers R Us' goes ahead?

Well the sensible thing to do is to avoid get what you're entitled to while you can - by registering an equal pay claim. If you leave it until after the transfer goes ahead, the council may be able to argue that your claim is out of time, which would be a great shame.
It's not too late - even if you've already accepted a previous settlement from the council, you still have an ongoing claim.

So, don't get mad - or don't just get mad - protect your interests by registering a claim.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Glasgow City Council: "Let's Get Serious"

An employment tribunal (pre-hearing review) is being held next week (Wednesday 22 October) – involving some of the outstanding Glasgow city council cases.

The underlying issues are about pay discrimination against female employees, but the council is, yet again, seeking to avoid serious legal argument.

Instead it’s trying to block people’s claims because of the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Six months ago, in April 2008, the blog site posted an article highlighting the fact that thousands of women employees in Glasgow signed Compromise Agreements back in 2005. But Stefan Cross Solicitors has raised serious concerns about the nature of these arrangements – and whether people were properly advised by the council or the ‘independent’ lawyers involved.

Yet, the council’s response is to concentrate on comments from a blog site that are six months old. The tribunal has listed a two day hearing to address arguments from Glasgow that the council cannot get a fair hearing due to comments on the Internet.

Stefan Cross Solicitors will be vigorously defending the action next week – not only on the grounds that this is an attack on free speech and an attempt at censorship and – but also by pressing for Glasgow to ‘get serious’ and focus on the substantive legal arguments surrounding these cases.

Only then will employees in Glasgow receive a proper hearing. At present, the council is using public funds to pay lawyers to engage in desperate delaying tactics. The two day tribunal hearing will be run at taxpayers’ expense, but will not address any legitimate legal arguments about equal pay.

Glasgow clients are welcome – in fact entitled – to attend next week’s hearing which is taking place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal offices on Wednesday 22 (and possibly Thursday 23) October 2008 – best to get there for 9.30am.

If you are planning to attend the Employment Tribunal address is: the Eagle Building, 215 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7TS: 5-minutes walk west along Bothwell Street from Central Station in the direction of Finnieston.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Top Scottish Lawyer Joins Stefan Cross

Carol Fox is the latest recruit to the equal pay team at Stefan Cross Solicitors (SCS), which along with Action for Equality is leading the fight for equal pay in Scotland.

Carol Fox joins Stefan Cross from her previous position as the Head of Equality at Thompsons Solicitors - the law firm that acts as the external legal adviser to Unison, Scotland’s largest local government trade union.

Carol will be assuming responsibility as the lead SCS solicitor for all ongoing employment tribunal cases in Scotland - with immediate effect.


Carol lives in Edinburgh where she has stood previously as a candidate for the Scottish parliamentary seat of Edinburgh West in 1999 and again in 2003, and for the Lothian list seat in 2007.

Carol has wide experience of dealing with employment and discrimination issues at the workplace from her previous role with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and as a full-time union official with Nupe, Unison and subsequently NASUWT - the teachers’ union.

Carol said: “I’m delighted to be taking up such important role. I’ve been committed to equal opportunities and women’s rights throughout my professional and political life – and I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.


"Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross have transformed the debate around equal pay in Scotland. Progress is still painfully slow in some areas, but my aim will be to bring the outstanding cases to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible”.

Stefan Cross added: “Carol is a tremendous addition to our legal team and has a great track record of achievement both as a union official and as Head of Equality at Thompsons.


"It’s a sign of the impact that Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross Solicitors have made in Scotland - that we’re able to attract someone of Carol’s calibre and background”.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Blame the Members

Surprise, surprise!

Scotland’s local government trade unions are going to recommend rejection of the latest ‘improved’ pay offer from the council employers.

In trade union circles, this is a discredited and cynical strategy – but a well worn one as well - that always comes into play when union leaders have painted themselves into a very tight corner.

So, the new offer of a 3% pay increase for 2008 followed by a 2.5% pay increase in 2009 – will be put to a ballot of union members.

Union leaders will now be calling for the offer to be summarily thrown out and for strike action to be escalated – but with their tongues firmly in their cheeks.

Not only is this completely bonkers – it is completely dishonest into the bargain.

Why?

Because union leaders are now hoping and praying that ordinary union members do exactly the opposite of what they recommending them to do – by voting to accept the offer and abandon any further strikes.

Seems crazy, right?


But at that point union activists and union bosses will pronounce that the rank and file membership just isn’t up for the fight – so, lo and behold, union ‘leaders’ won’t have to face up to their mistakes and yet another dismal failure.


The bottom line is that the campaign of strike action has achieved nothing for the lower paid – and the ‘improved’ offer is being paid for by lost wages and pensions payments – i.e. the money saved by the employers during strike days.

In reality, union leaders will then be left blaming their own members for the way things have turned out – instead of asking some searching questions about their own tactics and strategy.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Too Late To Make A Claim?

An employee of North Lanarkshire Councils has been in touch to ask: "Is it too late to make an equal pay claim?"

The answer is a resounding - NO!

Lots of people have ongoing claims - but the employers are not going to explain this to their employees - as it will cost the councils money.

So, why do so many people still have claims?

Because the councils are still protecting the higher pay of the traditional male groups - and while that pay gap continues, employees in female dominated jobs can submit a claim for equal pay - which covers the entire protection period of 3 years or more.

What about claims that challenge council Compromise Agreements?

Large numbers of people - in certain councils - are now challenging the validity of their Compromise Agreements.

On the basis that employees did not receive proper advice - and that lawyers selected, instructed and paid for by the council - could not sensibly claim to be 'independent', as was claimed by many employers at the time.

A single lawyer cannot act for both parties when it comes to buying and selling a house - nor can a single lawyer act for both a husband and wife in a divorce settlement.

In which case, how can it be fair that council appointed lawyers are seemingly capable of representing the interests of both employer and employee - when it comes to a Compromise Agreement?

So, going back to the original question - it's not too late to register a claim - and if you want to do so, ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 - or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Glasgow meetings

Glasgow’s outstanding equal pay claims could well be coming to a head over the next 3 to 6 months.

Important hearings with the employment tribunals are in the pipeline - preparations for these hearings are well underway - and we plan to use this opportunity to report back to clients.

To help with this task Action 4 Equality Scotland is planning to hold a series of local meetings across Glasgow - in October and November 2008.

If you want to organise one in your own local area – all you need to do is identify:

• a possible date or dates
• a good time of day
• a suitable local venue

Lots of similar meetings have been held in Glasgow in the past – in a wide variety of different venues - and our experience is that local people know best in terms of where and when to meet.


So, if you want to join in then contact Mark Irvine at: markrivine@compuserve.com

Friday, 3 October 2008

Council Workers Strike (4)

Looks like the council workers strike is coming to a long overdue and predictable end.

The employers have made a slightly improved offer - but ,of course, one that comes nowhere near the unions' original demand for a 5% or £1,000 across the board pay increase - whichever is the greater of the two.

The employers are now offering 3% in Year 1 (compared to 2.5% previously) and 2.5% in Year 2 (exactly the same as before). So, the 'gain' is worth an extra 0.5% - although this has been 'bought' at the expense of two days worth of strike action.

The reality is that the employers are improving the original offer - with the money they've saved - by not paying wages and pension payments to striking employees. In other words the strikers are funding the settlement themselves.

Hardly a great achievement - and one that does nothing whatsoever for the lower paid

To put things in perspective - for every £10,000 a year a council employee earns, the new deal is worth an extra £50 - then the employers revert to their original offer of a 2.5% pay increase in 2009.

But the obvious question to ask is: "Why have there been national strikes, demonstrations and all kinds of public hoo-ha - over what has come down to a 0.5% pay dispute?".

While the unions have turned a blind eye to the 30%, 40% and even 50% pay gap that's existed in councils for many years - between traditional male and female jobs.

Now that tells you all you need to know about union priorities - when it comes to equal pay.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

'Independent' Lawyers

A client from Glasgow has been in touch to ask if she can complain about the 'independent' lawyer who countersigned her Compromise Agreement - back in December 2005.

The answer is, potentially: YES.

Why? Because these 'independent' lawyers were actually selected and paid for by Glasgow City Council (i.e. they were handpicked by the employer) - although at the time the council claimed their function was to give advice to the council's employees.

But according to many Glasgow City Council employees - these 'independent' lawyers offered little, if any, practical advice and - crucially - they could not even explain how the council's offers of settlement were calculated.

The essential point is that all lawyers - even 'independent' ones - owe their clients a duty of care and if that duty is not properly observed - then the client can complain to the Law Society of Scotland, which is the regulatory body for the legal profession in Scotland.

In this case, the obvious yet unanswered question is: "Who was the client in Glasgow - the employer or the employee?"

And the answer has big implications for everyone involved - not least because the 'independent' lawyers were paid handsomely for their professional advice and services - see post dated 22 September 2008.

If you feel let down by the advice - or lack of advice - received from your 'independent' lawyer, then contact Mark Irvine about what to do next.

The name of the lawyer will be on your copy of the council Compromise Agreement - so look that document out and keep it safe for future reference.

Lots of other councils went down the Compromise Agreement route - by inviting 'independent' lawyers in to give their employees advice at local acceptance meetings - so there are lots of people who can potentially complain - including employees in the following councils:

Glasgow, Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire, Fife - and many more besides.

Mark Irvine can be contacted at: markirvine@compuserve.com - or via the Action 4 Equality Scotland phone number: 0845 300 3 800

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Falkirk Council

The recent CMD hearing involving Falkirk Council did not produce the timetable we were seeking - for these cases to be resolved.

Instead, the hearing on 18 September 2008 dealt mainly with an ongoing argument about Falkirk Council's job evaluation scheme - and concerns about its fairness or otherwise - but there is likely to be a further CMD hearing before the end of the year.

At that stage we will again be pressing for a firm timetable to be set - to deal with all outstanding claims.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Council Workers Strike (3)

Yesterday's strike action appears set to rumble on for a while yet - with the focus shifting to 'selective' strikes amongst small groups within individual councils.

If so, this is the first big sign of weakness from the union side - because it confirms that ordinary union members don't have the stomach for more days of 'all out' action - and the loss of earnings that will inevitably result.

But moving to 'selective' action is not a good sign (for the unions at least) - because the issue will now disappear off the radar screen and support for any kind of strike action will slowly run out of steam.

So, not much of a strategy there from the trade unions - who just keep repeating their demands for a 5% or £1,000 pay rise (whichever is greater) - knowing full well that the council employers are never going to meet these terms.

Meanwhile, the council employers feel confident enough to declare that the trade unions need a reality check - if the dispute is to be settled by negotiation: "Wake up and smell the coffee", their spokesperson says.

Without an outbreak of common sense - and a display of leadership on the union side - the whole sorry business could indeed drag on for weeks yet.

But the solution is there for all to see - repackage the offer and do a deal that helps protect the lower paid.

Monday, 22 September 2008

No Mean City

Glasgow is home to Scotland's largest council.

So, not surprisingly perhaps, Glasgow was the first council in Scotland to come up with a strategy for dealing with its employees equal pay claims.

At first, the council said there was no problem - but that position quickly changed as Action 4 Equality Scotland set about explaining the huge pay gap that existed - between traditional male and female jobs.

All hell broke loose - to coin a phrase - as claims flooded in from angry women workers - who had been kept in the dark for years about their rights to equal pay.

Soon afterwards, Glasgow came up with a plan to 'buy out' their employees claims - with one-off cash offers of settlement - in the run up to Christmas 2005.

A series of 'acceptance' meetings was hastily organised across the city - their purpose being to encourage low paid staff to accept the council's offer of settlement - and to sign a Compromise Agreement waiving their legal rights. However, the basis for calculating these offers was never explained.

The council also arranged for 'independent' lawyers to be on hand to give advice to council staff - although Glasgow City Council selected and paid these lawyers, handsomely as it turns out.

In response to a recent Freedom of Information request - Glasgow has now confirmed what this 'independent' legal advice cost the council taxpayer:

A WHOPPING GREAT £347,477.76p - to be precise.

Funny how councils can always find the money for some things - but not others.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Falkirk Council

A Case Management Discussion (CMD) on the Falkirk cases is taking place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal next Thursday - 18 September 2008.

The council lost an earlier Pre-Hearing Review - the tribunal agreeing with our view that all home care workers had been graded under the old Green Book and the former manual workers job evaluation scheme.

The council's argument that a previous reorganisation of the service had muddied the waters over people's grades - was firmly rejected by the tribunal.

So, the road is now clear for these cases to proceed to a GMF hearing - and that's what we'll be pushing for next week.

Anyone who is a party to the Falkirk claims is entitled to attend the hearing in Glasgow - which is scheduled to get underway around 10am.

West Dunbartonshire

West Dunbartonshire continues to be a hotbed of activity - with many people understandably up in arms about the council going back on its word to backdate the outcome of the Job Evaluation (JE) exercise.

The council is making a big play of its 'generous' proposal to pay £1500 - to employees who agree to accept the new pay and grading arrangements on a voluntary basis - but this offer is really a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Why? Because this payment - a 'realignment' payment, so-called by the council - is essentially trying to persuade people to agree to a change of contract - and aims to discourage employees from pursuing an equal pay claim to the Employment Tribunals.

Many former APT&C employees - groups like clerical workers and possibly classroom assistants - have just as valid equal pay claims as former manual workers - see post dated 2 September 2008 for a more detailed explanation.

But the council is making offers of settlement only to the former manual worker groups - and hoping that the rest of the workforce won't notice what's going on.

So, the best thing that the former APT&C groups can do is to bang in an equal pay claim - which will compare their earnings with those of male dominated groups within the council - such as refuse workers and gardeners - because these male jobs are traditionally much better paid.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Going Nowhere - Fast

Surprise, surprise - the trade unions have called another one day strike on Wednesday 24 September.

Apparently, at a 'negotiating' meeting during the week, the trade unions simply re-stated their original pay demand - i.e. for an annual 5% or £1,000 across the board pay increase, whichever figure is the higher.

And in response the employers simply repeated their offer of a 2.5% increase, but dropped their earlier proposal for a 3 year pay deal.

Now negotiations are not rocket science, but to be successful they must be :

a) realistic
b) based on some sort of sensible compromise - on give and take

Simply re-hashing what's been said before is not negotiating seriously with the employers - it's the industrial relations equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall.

Except it's the ordinary union members who are paying the price - through lost wages and no longer-term return.

The employers are never going to agree an across the board 5% or £1,000 pay increase in the current economic climate - there's not a cat in hell's chance of the trade unions' demands being met.

So, it's incumbent on the unions to negotiate - to spell out what they will settle for in the circumstances - instead of calling pointless strike after pointless strike.

What the unions could do is to propose a pay deal that's weighted in favour of the lowest paid - now that would be leadership from the unions - and could wring some important concessions out of the employers.

Or the unions could take their claim to independent and binding arbitration - although it does have to be said that involving a third party in pay disputes is never popular with the side that has the weaker hand.

But what is clear is that further strike action is just asking ordinary unions members to throw good money after bad.

Not to mention the huge problems caused to the general public - who are also having to cope with the effects of rampant food and fuel inflation.

Strikes have their place - even in this day and age - but this one's going nowhere - fast.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

West Dunbartonshire - Latest

West Dunbartonshire's equal pay antics are not for the faint hearted.

The various twists and turns of recent weeks make it extremely difficult for anyone to follow what's going on - but perhaps that's exactly what council intends.

In May 2008 West Dunbartonshire set aside £21 million to cover its equal pay obligations - but then the council decided that additional and un-costed trade union proposals added another £6 million to the bill - which couldn't be met from existing budgets, so the deal was off.

In August 2008 the council considered a special report on equal pay - which criticised the trade unions for pushing a negotiating agenda that favoured traditional male groups - at the expense of their female members.

The council went on to agree that instead of spending £21 million (as originally proposed) - that only £14 million would be committed to sorting out equal pay.

£7 million has been set aside to meet the costs of the protection period - i.e. a second buy-out for employees (mainly former Manual Workers) who have already signed a Compromise Agreement.


A further £7 million has also been earmarked to meet the cost of 'goodwill' payments to staff who accept the changes on a voluntary basis - i.e. mainly former APT&C staff who have an claim for equal pay - but who have not been made a settlement offer or signed a Compromise Agreement.

But the fact is that both groups are likely to gain by pursuing an equal pay claim to the Employment Tribunals - because for most people the council's offer of settlement is worth much less than the real value of people's claims.

If the council disputes what we are saying - all they have to do is to explain how their offers are being calculated - we'll even help them out by publishing the details on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.


But far from giving people what they're due - the council is actually trying to spend only £14 million of the £21 million set aside for equal pay only a few months ago.

The reality is that the workforce in West Dunbartonshire is being robbed collectively of at least £7 million (according to the council's own figures) - as the council goes back on its word to backdate the outcome of the Job Evaluation exercise.

So, if you want a fair outcome on equal pay, you should make a claim to the Employment Tribunals - the council and the trade unions have already shown why they can't be trusted to do the right thing.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New Equal Pay Claims

We are still receiving lots of enquiries about new equal pay claims.

North Lanarkshire is a hot spot for some reason - but requests continue to pour in from right across the country - so perhaps word is just spreading as things get back to normal after the summer holidays.

In any event, there have been hugely important equal pay developments in the Court of Appeal - the details of which were reported on this site in July and August - to catch up on all the latest news see posts dated 17th July and 2nd, 4th and 8th August 2008.

The upshot is that the Court of Appeal has opened the door for many new equal pay claims:
  1. for those who accepted a previous offer of settlement - who now have a new claim for the protection period

  2. for former APT&C employees - who can now compare their earnings to the much higher rates of pay enjoyed by many traditional male jobs

The employers won't explain the significance of these developments to their staff - and the unions are just keeping their heads down for reasons only they can explain - but they have a poor track record when it comes to standing up for their low paid women members.

So, if you need help or advice - or an application form - then contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Monday, 1 September 2008

More Trade Union Shenanigans

West Dunbartonshire is under attack by many of its own staff - for going back on an earlier understanding with the trade unions to backdate the outcome of its Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

So, those employees whose jobs have done comparatively well out of the JES - are now not going to receive the back pay (to 1 April 2006) that they had been led to expect - by both the council and the trade unions.

The whole business is still very confused - rather than explaining clearly what is going on and why - stories are appearing in the press that obscure as much as they reveal.

But it's not just the council that's been up to no good.

A recent council report is scathing in its criticism of the trades unions for pursuing a negotiating strategy that favoured traditional male jobs - witness the following extract:

"The Trade Union proposal in relation to Terms and Conditions may appear to support the reduction of inequalities for female staff but that is not necessarily the case. In some areas this proposal would simply maintain existing areas of long standing inequality and would have the effect of widening rather than narrowing the gender pay gap."

"There are concerns that the (Trade Union) proposals, particularly those related to overtime payments and payments for working public holidays, favour traditional male occupations which are generally full-time roles and are to the disadvantage of female staff the majority of whom work part time hours."

"They would appear to suffer direct discrimination arising from the widening pay gap in overall payment levels due to their lower base pay, and indirect discrimination due to their inability to access in practice some of these enhanced payments."

Sound familiar - trade unions trying to cut a more favourable deal for their male members?

The council has used these shenanigans as an excuse to pull out of negotiations - and they now look certain to impose agreement on the workforce over the heads of the trade unions.

We are still assessing West Dunbartonshire's position - but our advice to people is clear - you will only get what you are entitled to by pursuing an equal pay claim with the Employment Tribunals - relying on the council or the trade unions will only end in tears.

Midlothian Council

Midlothian Council is holding a series of staff consultation meetings this week - the purpose of which is to invite views on its proposed new pay and grading structure.

Now for consultation to be meaningful and genuine -the people doing the consulting have to listen and respond to what is said to them - in this case the council and its senior managers.

So, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage employees to attend one of these consultation meetings - and demand that everyone is provided with the scores that underpin the council's Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

Up until now Midlothian Council has stubbornly refused to provide this information - even though it should be freely available.

As far as we know, Midlothian is the only council in the whole of Scotland that seems determined to keep employees firmly in the dark - when it comes to details of its JES.

Without the scores of all the different council posts - no one can have any confidence that the job evaluation exercise has been carried out fairly.

So, the council's talk about a new, modern and non-discriminatory pay and grading structure is just plain crazy - if senior managers are the only people who know how it works.

Our advice is simple - council employees should insist that they are provided with this information before things proceed any further - otherwise the consultation process is a farce.

If your request is denied, then complain - complain to your line manager, your local councillor, your MSP and MP - in writing, by e-mail or in person.

Because Midlothian Council will be in a position where it is having to defend the indefensible.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Once Bitten, Twice Shy - WDC

West Dunbartonshire Council has got itself into a terrible mess on how to implement single status and resolve all of its outstanding equal pay claims.

Like other councils in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire was absolutely adamant that it had no equal pay problems - that is until Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along.

Then things quickly changed - the council began to make offers of settlement to some (manual) groups - these offers were worth much less than the likely value of people's claims - the council refused to explain how they were calculated - and so many people felt pressurised into accepting them - without fully understanding the consequences.

According to Action 4 Equality clients, the unions were worse than useless - they failed to support their members properly at crucial times - as happened in many other areas.

And now these chickens are coming home to roost.

The council has had to admit that every employee that signed a Compromise Agreement up to 1 April 2006 - has a further substantial equal pay claim because of the recent Court of Appeal ruling - see posts dated 2, 4 and 8 August 2008.

The trade unions are also running scared because they too have been held to account by the Court of Appeal - see post dated 17 July 2008 - which effectively means the unions are responsible for the financial losses of their members.

West Dunbartonshire is now planning to make further Compromise Agreement offers to employees - for the period 1 April 2006 to 1 April 2009.

Again, these new offers will not be properly explained - by the council or the unions - and again they are likely to be worth much less than the real value of people's claims.

Action 4 Equality's advice is not to accept any new offer of settlement - if you are already a client of Stefan Cross you don't need to take any action - just sit tight, do not sign or agree to anything - because your full claim against the council is proceeding.

If you're not already pursuing an equal pay claim - you should consider doing so as soon as possible - to protect your interests - otherwise you are likely to be taken to the cleaners again.

If you need an application form contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 - or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail with your contact details at: markirvine@compuserve.com


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Council Workers Strike (2)

Yesterday's council workers strike resulted in the usual pantomime of claim and counter claim - as employers and trade unions accused each other of refusing to meet to thrash out a negotiated settlement to their pay dispute.

"Oh, yes we did" was met by "Oh, no you didn't" - while thousands of members lost a day's pay and small groups of pickets stood outside council premises - in torrential rain.

The employers tactics are to sound very reasonable and wait for an unpopular strike to run out of steam - after all two thirds of members didn't even bother to vote in their union strike ballots.

So, for the moment, the windy rhetoric of trade union leaders will continue - but what is clear is that the employers are not going to run up the white flag and award a pay increase of 5%.

What the employers will do is to offer a re-packaged settlement - at the moment the offer is 2.5% for the next 3 years - i.e. 2.5% for 2008, 2.5% for 2009 and 2.5% for 2010.

Doesn't take a genius to work out that the employers are likely to offer a better increase in Year 1 (2008) - but then reduce the present offer in subsequent years - so that over the full 3 years the total value of the offer remains much the same - the logic being that inflation will fall next year and begin to come back under control.

Now, this is not as favourable a deal for the low paid (see post dated 15 August 2008) - but as we've seen over equal pay - getting to grips with low pay is not the top priority of either the employers or the trade unions - despite what they say.

So, does it really require widespread strike action, union members losing pay they can ill afford - and huge disruption to council services to sort this out?

Not on your life.