Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ghosts of Christmas Past

The Ghosts of Christmas Past are about to pay a visit to Glasgow City Council - and there's no doubt who's being cast in the role of Scrooge!

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are about to challenge the Compromise Agreement that around 12,000 employees were forced to sign in 2005 - just to get their hands on their own money. The council described this at the time as a one-off compensation payment, but now their bad behaviour is coming back to haunt them.

In the run up to Christmas 2005 - the timing being very deliberate, of course - council employees were put under enormous pressure to sign this legal document known as a Compromise Agreement.

The 'agreement', in our view, was a very one-sided affair and not a real meeting of the minds - because the people forced to sign it could not appreciate the significance of what they were doing - without proper advice and support.

So, many of the council's lowest paid employees lost thousands of pounds in the process - some well over £10,000!

At the time desperate people did desperate things because:

1 The council refused to explain what individual claims were really worth
2 The trade unions did the council's 'dirty work' - encouraging their members to accept these very low settlements
3 Acceptance meetings had highly paid lawyers in attendance - paid for by the council - but in many cases low paid council workers received no practical advice or help

Shame on them all. But the good news is that you can now challenge what happened in 2005. Glasgow Council employees can make a fresh claim and potentially recover the thousands of pounds that many people lost.

The unions refuse to fight for their members on this issue - no doubt because they're embarrassed by their spineless behaviour when they stood aside two years ago and let their members fend for themselves. Bah humbug!

But Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross will - and a new claim will also cover the period from April 2006 onwards - because the council continues to protect the higher pay of traditional male jobs. So, if you or your friends lost out in Christmas 2005 - the message from Action 4 Equality is:

Don't get mad, get even - join the fightback today!

More information on Glasgow to follow soon - meantime if you need an application form, leave you name and contact details on 0131 667 7956 or send them by e-mail to: markirvine@compuserve.com

Friday, 21 March 2008

Falkirk Council - update

Falkirk's Pre-Hearing Review concluded on Wednesday 19 March 2008 (see post dated 13 March).

From our point of view everything went extremely well and all our witnesses gave an excellent account of themselves.

The council reorganised the home care service without carrying out a proper re-evaluation of people's jobs - nor did they treat any of the male groups of workers in the same fashion.

The council's says this was (and still is) perfectly fine - we completely disagree, and believe the council's treatment of the home carers was unfair and discriminatory.

The tribunal reserved its judgment - so we won't know the outcome for another couple of weeks or so - but as soon as we do, we will obviously let people know.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Falkirk - Pre Hearing Review

A Pre Hearing Review (PHR) with Falkirk Council gets under way next week - Monday 17 March.

We are challenging the way in which the home care service was reorganised in 2002 - because this was done with a proper re-evaluation of people's jobs - and as required by their conditions of service.

This reorganisation created various levels of home care posts - beyond the one national core job (paid at Manual Worker 5) that had existed up until that point.

The problem is that the changes were introduced without considering the skills levels and responsibilities of these jobs - as required by the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

So, in effect, the council just ignored the rules about treating all employees equally - and changed the pay arrangements for female home carers - while completely ignoring the fact that many traditional male jobs (with less skill and responsibility) continued to be much better paid - see post dated 9 January re male bonus earnings in Falkirk.

To add insult to injury, these changes were backed by the trade unions at the time - resulting in some carers being effectively downgraded - even though the national agreement said that a home help could not be graded at less than Manual Worker Grade 5.

The unions should be ashamed of themselves - and significantly are not part of next week's PHR hearing - because they sold out their members years ago.

Whatever the outcome of the PHR - all Falkirk cases (home carers and others) will continue to move forward through the tribunal process - until we get a result through a GMF hearing, or via a negotiated settlement, in the event that Falkirk comes to its senses and decides to sue for peace.

News about the Falkirk PHR will be reported here next week.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

North Lanarkshire - Pay Information

Our campaign to flush out key pay information about North Lanarkshire Council (see post dated 8 March) is only a few days old - but already there's been a terrific response.

One caller asked where to send details in the post - the best bet at the moment is the Stefan Cross office in Newcastle, as follows:

Stefan Cross Solicitors
(North Lanarkshire - Pay Information)
Buddle House
Buddle Road
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE4 8AW

If you mark the envelope: (North Lanarkshire - Pay Information) it will whizz through the system in record time.

Alternatively, I am happy to drop by and pick anything up that seems particularly useful - to make an arrangement leave a message on the voice mail at 0131 667 7956 or drop me a note by e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Monday, 10 March 2008

South Lanarkshire

South Lanarkshire is up to its old tricks on the subject of grievances - see post dated 24 February 2008.

Individual clients have recently submitted hundreds of letters to the council:
  • Confirming that people do indeed understand their grievances
  • Asking the council to explain why groups of predominantly male jobs are so much better paid
  • Inviting the council to meet with Stefan Cross Solicitors to discuss terms of settlement
Instead of answering the points put to them - openly and candidly - the council is pretending it doesn't understand the question and/or that it requires more information to respond.

The reality is that South Lanarkshire is playing games - of course they understand the question and they can easily provide the answers - many other councils (of all hues and colours) have already.

The question is what do various groups of traditional male jobs get paid in South Lanarkshire? For example, a council refuse driver?

And how does South Lanarkshire justify the big difference in pay between different male and female jobs? For example, a refuse driver and a home carer?

We've received reports from people in South Lanarkshire who say that a refuse driver earns £11.02 per hour while a home carer earns only £6.63 - a whopping great difference of £4.37 per hour (see post dated 14 November 2007). But what does the council say?

Up till now South Lanarkshire refuses to confirm, deny or to explain the differences in pay - since any fair minded assessment of the two jobs would suggest that the female carer's job has more skill and responsibility - and, if anything, should be paid more than the driver - not less!

So, the council is desperately trying to conceal the facts - the rates of pay of all the different male and female jobs. If they had nothing to hide, they would have slapped this information on the table long ago.

Our advice - at the moment - is just to sit tight and await further advice. No need to worry about the council's tactics - they're a sign of how desperate things are at council headquarters.

Just spread the word and take every opportunity to ask councillors, council officials, trade unions, MSPs and MPs: "What is South Lanarkshire trying to hide and why is the council so reluctant to explain its case?"

Saturday, 8 March 2008

North Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire is one of the few remaining councils that's still trying desperately to keep under wraps the details of big bonus payments paid to traditional male jobs - such as refuse workers and gardeners.

Most other councils provided this information long ago - on a voluntary basis - because it's one of the worst kept secrets in the world that these male jobs are paid around £10 or £11 per hour - while the majority of women's jobs are paid only £6 or £7 per hour.

Even though the jobs of carers, cooks, cleaners, learning assistants, admin and clerical staff etc. - carry much more skill and responsibility, they are paid far less than their male colleagues.

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk and West Lothian councils (to name but a few) have all put their hands up and admitted what is blindingly obvious - that female dominated jobs have been undervalued and underpaid for years compared to many traditional male jobs.

The post dated 8 January 2008 - regarding bonus payments in Falkirk Council - is as good an example as any and the details have been known to management and the trade unions for years.

Yet still North Lanarkshire plays for time - and delays the inevitable.

So we are now asking our clients in North Lanarkshire for help in flushing out the truth - just as we did in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire (see post dated 14 November 2008).

Our own clients have family members doing these traditional male jobs - they have friends and neighbours doing these jobs - and it's time to put these connections to good use.

We are seeking confirmation about the pay and bonus levels of these jobs - from pay slips for example. People's individual and personal details will not be used - these will be blanked out and anonymised - all we're interested in is the raw pay information.

And putting these details into the public domain will also help the council come to its senses - because even in North Lanarkshire there's a limit to defending the indefensible!

If you have some information to pass on contact Mark Irvine on 0131 667 7956 or by e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Ode to South Lanarkshire

We've had lots of calls from employees in South Lanarkshire Council in the past few weeks. Here's a brief summary of what people have been calling about:

Is it too late to register an equal pay claim?

No, it's not too late - but the sooner people do so the better - because the five year back pay claim is triggered only when a case is registered - then the claim starts adding time on (going forward). So, you are losing out by sitting on the fence.

Won't everyone benefit when South Lanarkshire finally admits defeat?

No, definitely not - only those employees who have registered a claim will get any back pay - anyone sitting on the sidelines - waiting to see what happens - won't get a single penny.

Do male workers have a claim?

Yes, those in predominantly female jobs (carers, catering workers and cleaners - for example) have exactly the same claim as their colleagues.

What about school janitors?

Yes, some predominantly male groups will still have a claim - although it relies on the female groups winning their claim first (see post dated 15 January 2008 -"Glasgow Jannies").

Hasn't South Lanarkshire Council solved equal pay through Single Status?

No, not in our opinion - not by a long chalk. Traditional male jobs in South Lanarkshire are still paid much more than traditional female jobs (see post dated 14 November 2007). Gardeners and refuse workers in South Lanarkshire are paid just as much as they are paid in Glasgow, Falkirk or North Lanarkshire (see post dated 8 January 2008).

Any sign of the finishing post?
Not yet - but things can change quickly and have done before. A good sign is that the number of Action 4 Equality clients in South Lanarkshire has just about doubled in the past six months - which sends a real message to the council - but keep spreading the word - because sooner or later South Lanarkshire will need to come to its senses.


"Facts are chiels that winna ding. And canna be disputed", as Robert Burns once said.

Edinburgh - New Claims

A strange rumour has been doing the rounds in Edinburgh - and like most of these rumours it's completely untrue!

Apparently, people are being told that Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are not pursuing any new claims against the council - no doubt this is being put about by the same forces (amongst the employers and trade unions) that kept the workforce in the dark about equal pay for years.

Well the good news is that it's nonsense - complete nonsense.

We are still happy to take up new claims - and the reality is that new clients join up every day - both in Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Because there are plenty of council employees who still don't realise that they have a substantial equal pay claim - classroom assistants, admin & clerical workers, social care workers, nursery nurses and such like.

Employees in these groups have never been made an offer by Edinburgh City Council - so far at least - but they have just as good a claim as everyone else - because for years they have been paid less than traditional male jobs such as gardeners and refuse workers.

In addition, Edinburgh (like all the other Scottish councils) is planning to protect the higher pay of the traditional male jobs - and so the current pay gap (between male and female jobs) will continue - for another three years at least, possibly more.

So, anyone who has already accepted a financial settlement has a further and substantial claim - though the unions don't explain this to their members (because it makes them look bad) and the employers don't tell the workforce - because they would then have to compensate people for their losses.

Existing Stefan Cross clients don't need to do anything - your future claim is still being pursued with the council - but do spread the word and let your friends and co-workers know the score.