Friday, 25 January 2008

North Ayrshire Council - update

A CMD hearing regarding the North Ayrshire cases took place in Glasgow last week - here's the latest news:

1 The Employment Tribunal has agreed that most, if not all, North Ayrshire Council cases will now be heard at a single GMF hearing

2 The council has had to abandon its argument for treating Home Carers as a separate category and a different type of claim - in effect the council has been forced to accept that the reorganisation of the service in 2005 did not change the underlying grades

3 The council is suggesting that some female claimants are not actually paid any less than their male comparators - but failed to provide any details

4 The Employment Tribunal has agreed to give the council some time to explain precisely what they mean by this - and identify which claimants (they say) are involved

5 The Employment Tribunal has also ordered the council to provide overall rates of pay for all claimants and comparator posts - i.e. to come clean on what bonuses the traditional male jobs have been paid

5 A further CMD has been scheduled for 26 March - which will consider all the outstanding issues and a date for a GMF hearing

The difference between CMD and GMF hearings is explained in the post dated 3 January 2008

Edinburgh Council - Male Claims

Edinburgh City Council has some of its equal pay claims, but has excluded several large groups - including male clients in predominantly female jobs - male home helps and catering workers, for example.

Even though the council has made revised offers to all of the female workers doing these jobs - the male workers were excluded at the last minute - for reasons the council will not or cannot explain.

The male claimants do exactly the same job as their female colleagues - they were made offers (albeit poor offers) the first time round - but without any prior warning or justification the council suddenly moved the goalposts - leaving people high and dry.

Which is, of course, no way to treat hardworking, long serving and loyal employees.

Edinburgh councillors will be considering the issue again at the next full council meeting in February 2008 (date to be confirmed) . We have been kicking up a fuss and we need our clients to do the same - see post dated 1 December 2007.

If everyone involved makes a point of contacting their own local councillor - this will help get across just how badly the council has behaved. Contact details for individual councillors can be found on the city council web site at: www.edinburgh.gov.uk

Margo MacDonald - the independent Edinburgh MSP - was also very supportive when the issue was reported in the Edinburgh Evening News.

Margo can be contacted via the Scottish Parliament by phone (0131 348 5714) or by e-mail at: Margo.MacDonald.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are still pursuing all of these claims to the Employment Tribunals - but there's no good reason for council not to do the right thing right now - and agree to treat the male workers in exactly the same way as the women.

And that's the message to get across to Edinburgh councillors in the run up to the full council meeting in February.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Falkirk Council - update

Our recent report about secret bonus earnings in Falkirk has caused a bit of a stushie locally - see post dated 8 January 2008.

Hundreds of Action 4 Equality clients were shocked to learn just how much more the male jobs have been paid all these years - and how badly they'd been let down by senior managers and the trade unions.

But not everyone was in the dark it would appear, oh no!

Because Councillor Pat Reid (Labour) has been in touch saying that he's known all about the pay gap between the male and female workers - and what's all the fuss about anyway!
The 'fuss' councillor is that it's discriminatory and unlawful to pay groups of men more than groups of women - unless you can justify the difference in pay by pointing to the relative skills and responsibilities of the jobs that are being compared.

And who in their right mind would try to argue that a (female) carer, cook or classroom assistant is worth so much less than a (male) refuse collector, gardener or gravedigger?

The difference in pay is worth thousands of pounds a year - and that is completely indefensible - unless, of course, you happen to be a senior council official or local union rep.

Small wonder Labour has lost so much support around the country - with people like Councillor Pat Reid leading the charge.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Mickey Mouse, South Lanarkshire and Job Evaluation

South Lanarkshire Council has asked Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross to explain the basis of our challenge to its Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

We're delighted to do so. In fact, so delighted, we've decided to give them what they really deserve - both barrels.

So, here's what we've said on behalf of our 1500 South Lanarkshire clients.

1 The history of single status is that the pre-2003 pay arrangements were widely accepted as discriminatory - by both the employers and unions - so any scheme that simply reproduces the old pay differentials (between male and female groups) is itself discriminatory and unfair

2 The council failed to use a recognised and professionally approved scheme - instead they used a Mickey Mouse scheme dreamed up by a handful of senior councillors and council officials - a scheme that no one can now explain or defend

3 The JES is completely subjective and does not measure the day-to-day demands of people's jobs - which is what's supposed to happen with a professionally approved scheme

4 A variety of posts have been amalgamated into single job categories and given the same grade - even though the content and demands of these posts are very different

5 The grading exercise was done by job families which are segregated along gender lines and so are tainted with sex bias - e.g. almost all Land Services employees are men and they're paid better (surprise, surprise) than the female groups

6 The grading exercise was carried out by different people and on a different basis for each job family - so the scheme is not consistent or fair

7 The grading exercise was carried out by line managers who were not independent or qualified to do such work - management lackeys in other words

8 The council is concealing how all the jobs were assessed and scored - job profiles contain no information about Factor Headings, Factor Levels, Factor Weighting and individual Job Scores

9 The underlying purpose of the exercise was really to maintain the status quo - i.e. the higher pay of the traditional male jobs - see post dated 14 November 2007

10 Pay and grading were done together - so that past pay was taken into account - which is very, very naughty and against all JES rules

11 Actual pay bears no relation to the score of a post - e.g. a Band 2 female post does not receive the same pay as a Band 2 male post. Why?

12 The JES process is not transparent, open and user friendly - as required. Key information is still being withheld to conceal the fact that many traditional male jobs continue to earn much more than their female colleagues

13 The grading exercise was undertaken in 2003, but was not subject to an independent Equal Pay Audit until two years later - predictably the details of the independent audit have been kept secret as well. Wonder why?

14 Bonus payments in South Lanarkshire have not really disappeared - they've simply been consolidated into much higher salaries for the men

Now all of this is very well know to the senior councillors and managers who negotiated South Lanarkshire's single status scheme in 2003 - along with Unison and GMB officials.

And while Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross want the facts to come out into the open - the council and the unions want to keep the workforce in the dark.

Who's kidding who?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Glasgow Jannies

Word is clearly spreading amongst school janitors in Glasgow (and elsewhere) - because we are getting lots of enquiries about why this group has a valid equal pay claim - see post dated 3 December 2007.

The reason is that school janitors were at the top of the manual workers grading scheme for many years - yet paid much less than other male groups on lower grades.

The old scheme has only recently been replaced - by new and allegedly non-discriminatory pay arrangements - but janitors and others still have strong claims for back pay and compensation .

Because for years school janitors were on manual worker grades 5, 6 and 7 - yet paid less than refuse workers on grades 2, 3 and 4!!

The relatively high grades of school janitors reflected the level of responsibility they had for school buildings and school facilities - in some larger schools for swimming pools and suchlike.

How can this be fair? Well the answer is that it can't - and that's why janitors have equal pay claims, despite what they've been told by their trade unions - because they've been robbed blind all these years.

The same is true of other groups - take drivers in social work or education, for example, who transport vulnerable clients back and forth to day centres.

Now often these drivers have to hold a PSV licence - which allows them to transport people and passengers safely - and not just a heavy goods (HGV) licence which the chap driving the council bin lorry requires.

So, why should one driver (i.e. the refuse driver) be paid so much more than his counterpart in education or social work - when they have been on exactly the same grade for all these years?

Yet another example of hypocrisy on the part of the trade unions - different rules for different groups - when everyone is supposed to be equal.

Friday, 11 January 2008

NHS Scotland - Pay Information

Information about salaries and pay rates within the NHS is a key issue in pursuing our clients' equal pay claims.

The employers and the trade unions obviously know the details of how all the different jobs and grades and paid - after all they have negotiated them over many years!!

But - just as in local government - the employers and the unions are now both very keen to keep the details secret and hidden from the workforce and their members.

Because once the largely female workforce finds out just how big the pay gap is (with traditional male jobs) - the genie is out of the bottle.

See the post regarding the pay gap between male and female jobs in South Lanarkshire Council - dated 10 November 2007. And the more recent post dated 7 January 2008 highlighting the same issue in Falkirk.

And exactly the same thing has been going for many years inside Scotland's NHS - within the estates management side of the health service and with other male dominated jobs such as technicians and engineers.

Here's a very small example. An electrician in NHS Scotland is currently paid a salary of £20,261 a year - for a semi-skilled job that requires only a City and Guilds certificate. But compare that with a newly qualified staff nurse - and many other female dominated roles in the NHS.

The female dominated jobs get paid less - despite the fact that their jobs carry much more skill and responsibility - and demand much higher standards in terms of training and qualifications.

And there's worse to follow. If the basic grade electrician gets paid £20,000 +, how much more does his formeman and managers get paid? £25,000 to £35,000 + is the answer - and even more in some cases - so even senior nurses have good equal pay claims.

But that's NHS pay and Agenda for Change for you! Instead of being open and transparent - as promised - everything is secret and furtive.

The NHS management and trade unions say 'trust us, we know what we're doing' - but they won't even share basic details of what all NHS jobs are currently paid.

And that's exactly the information that needs to come out into the open for all to see.

We are asking our NHS clients to keep their eyes peeled for job adverts and other pay information. If you come across anything that looks useful, pass the details on to Mark Irvine - in confidence, of course.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

NHS Scotland - update

NHS cases is Scotland have become bogged down at the Employment Tribunals due to the foot dragging antics of the employers - but also because the trade unions are hopelessly compromised.

The trade unions - Unison being the main culprit - have agreed with Agenda for Change every step of the way at national level - but they are also implementing the new grades locally in a way that completely suits the employers.

A rather odd way for a trade union to behave, don't you think?

Union members don't have access to information about how other NHS jobs are being graded - but why not?

The union reps carrying out the grading exercise locally (and jointly with NHS managers) often lack the necessary expertise and training - why?

Union members don't receive regular feedback what's going on locally - why?

So the whole Agenda for Change process is becoming discredited as widespread anomalies creep into a system that is supposed to be transparent and even-handed.

At the Employment Tribunals the trade unions are facing both ways at the same time - they say they agree with Agenda for Change and encourage local union reps to sit on joint Grading Panels with NHS management.

But then the trade unions pretend to their members that they are challenging the whole Agenda for Change at the Employment Tribunals - when in fact all they do is to slow things down.

If the trade unions are unhappy with Agenda for Change, then why the hell did they agree to it in the first place? And why are they still helping NHS managers to implement a flawed scheme?

Unlike the trade unions, Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are deadly serious about challenging Agenda for Change. A major test case has been lined up for April/May 2008 - if things go according to plan - and will be held in Newcastle where Stefan Cross is based.

The outcome of the Newcastle hearing will affect cases in Scotland since Agenda for Change is effectively a UK wide employer/trade union agreement.

Significantly, the trade unions are not part of this challenge - a simple truth that speaks for itself.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Falkirk Council - update

A further CMD hearing (case management discussion) has been set for Falkirk Council on 29 February 2008 - and the intention of the Employment Tribunal is to set a date for a GMF hearing at that time.

If all goes according to plan, a firm timetable will then be in place to finally adjudicate on the Falkirk cases - which will put the council between a rock and a hard place - so things are heating up!

At the last CMD hearing Falkirk was arguing that the claims of the Home Carers are undermined by the reorganisation of the service that took place in 2002 - their view is that Home Carers claims can only proceed from 2002 onwards - instead of going back a full 5 years to 2000/2001.

We completely disagree and said so at the last CMD hearing.

We believe that the Home carers jobs were substantially the same before and after the 2002 reorganisation - and we believe that, in any event, the Home Carers jobs were not properly evaluated, re-graded or paid what they were really worth.

And when you consider how the women's jobs were treated compared to the men - see post dated 8 January - the council's argument is insulting and ludicrous.

Worth remembering as well that Falkirk's management and trade unions both supported the 2002 Home Care reorganisation - knowing full well that the male jobs were playing to very different rules.

What does the local Unison branch and its branch secretary (Gray Allan) have to say about that?

The Employment Tribunal faced a similar argument recently in North Ayrshire - but the case collapsed and costs were awarded against the council for wasting everyone's time. We will be looking for the same outcome if Falkirk insists on making this defence.

So, there is likely to be a Pre-Hearing Review on that specific point. If so, we will wish to speak with some of our clients to gather evidence on exactly what happened in 2002 - and the role played by local management and the trade unions.

If you were in post at that time and have a good recollection of events, let us know as this will help us prepare for any future PHR hearing.

In any event, the pressure is mounting on Falkirk by the day - and that makes settlement discussions much more likely.


PS
Falkirk's local press have been made aware of the big bonus earnings (for traditional male jobs) kept hidden from women workers all these years - feel free to ring up the local paper to say how disgusted you are at the way management and trade unions have treated women workers in Falkirk - just ask the paper to withhold your name and personal details to avoid any problems.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Secret Bonus Earnings

Falkirk Council has finally been forced to release details of the bonus earnings for its traditionally male (manual worker) jobs.

And the results are truly amazing - no wonder the employers and the unions tried so hard to keep this information under wraps for so long!! Here are a few examples:

Driver
Grade - Manual Worker 3
Basic Pay - £11,694
Bonus Pay - £7,228 (not paid to women Grade 3 jobs - or their equivalent)
Percentage Bonus - 62%

Refuse Collector
Grade - Manual Worker 2
Basic Pay - £11,307
Bonus Pay - £6,649 (not paid to women Grade 2 jobs - or their equivalent)
Percentage Bonus - 62%

Gardener 2
Grade - Manual Worker 2
Basic Pay - £11,307
Bonus Pay - £6,649 (not paid to women Grade 2 jobs - or their equivalent)
Percentage Bonus - 62%

Refuse Driver
Grade - Manual Worker 4
Basic Pay - £12,603
Bonus Pay - £7,094 (not paid to women Grade 4 jobs - or their equivalent)
Percentage Bonus - 62%

Gravedigger
Grade - Manual Worker 3
Basic Pay - £11,694
Bonus Pay - £7,228 (not paid to women Grade 3 jobs - or their equivalent)
Percentage Bonus - 62%

Now these are some of the highest bonus earnings of any council in Scotland - perhaps in the UK as well!!

And all the while the details of these much higher earnings for traditional male jobs have been kept hidden from a largely female workforce - by both the employers and the trade unions - who should be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour.

Despite all their brave talk about equal opportunities - they have deliberately kept their women employees (and women union members) in the dark - costing them thousands of pounds a year.

That's why so many people have - and continue to have - a significant equal pay claim.

How many women workers in Falkirk earn less than a Refuse Driver - at £19,697 per year or £10+ per hour? Thousands - including lots of Admin & Clerical Workers, Classroom Assistants etc.

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross set out to expose this hypocrisy - and in Falkirk Council it's laid bare for all to see.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to our clients in Scotland - and all the very best for 2008!

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross have now reached settlements with the following four Scottish councils: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Renfrewshire - although our clients in these areas also have ongoing claims - because the employers continue to protect the higher pay of traditional male jobs.

And while the pay gap remains our clients have a future (as well as a past) claim - so spread the word and let others know they still have a claim - even if they've settled with their council before!

Preliminary discussions are also underway with several other councils - and more are likely to follow as Employment Tribunals begin to set dates for cases to be adjudicated finally. So, we expect the pace of settlements in Scotland to pick up in the weeks and months ahead - and not before time too!

Clients call us all the time asking for an update - so here is some general advice as 2008 gets underway.

1 If we have news to report it will be posted on the web site at: www.action4equalityscotland.blogspot.com

2 All claims are currently working their way through the Employment Tribunal process

3 This involves a series of procedural CMD hearings (Case Management Discussions) before the employers have to present their defence - at what is know as a GMF (Genuine Material Factor) hearing

4 We cannot say precisely how long this will take - though it is taking longer than expected because many of the employers have been deliberately stubborn and unreasonable

5 But we are making progress - the two largest councils in Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh) have already settled many of their claims (as have Stirling and Renfrewshire) - and several others are talking to us as well

6 Edinburgh Council, for example, has settled claims up to 1 April 2008 - so while the delay has been frustrating cases first registered in October 2005 have added another 2.5 years onto their claims for back pay

7 As soon as there is any news about a particular council we will be in touch with those clients directly affected - as well as reporting developments via the web site

8 Clients are always welcome to call us - but often we can't tell you any more than is reported on the web site

9 We are working as hard as we can to bring all of the outstanding cases to a satisfactory conclusion - as soon as we possibly can

10 Clients can help by putting their case to local councillors, MPs and MSPs and - wherever possible - by making a noise in the local press