Sunday, 25 May 2008

Inverclyde Council

Inverclyde Council is pressing ahead with a new pay and grading structure - despite fierce opposition from much of the workforce.

Unison members voted to accept the new arrangements - but the GMB and Unite (formerly TGWU) unions voted to reject - so the usual dog's dinner has emerged - with those advising grassroots union members disagreeing and falling out with each other in public.

Little wonder that so many ordinary union members are confused!

Inverclyde is behaving in exactly the same way as other councils in the west of Scotland - it's trying to implement Single Status on the cheap - and it's not delivering equal pay.

Manual workers being made one-off 'buy out' payments are being sold out - because their claims for equal pay are likely to be worth a great deal more than the council is offering.

As usual the council won't explain how these offers are calculated - because that would let the cat out of the bag - and allow people to see the true value of their claims.

So, our advice is to workers in Inverclyde is to hold out for what you're really worth - by pursuing an equal pay claim.

If you've already accepted an offer from the council - you will still have a claim - because the council is protecting the higher pay of the traditional (bonus earning) male jobs for years into the future.

If you have not been made an offer by the council - chances are that you have a claim as well - based on the outcome of the job evaluation (JE) scheme - which continues to undervalue many female dominated jobs - despite all the promises about a fairer deal under Single Status.

Carers, clerical workers and classroom assistants - are all likely to have significant and ongoing equal pay claims in Inverclyde.

If you need advice or more information contact Action 4 Equality on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

North Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire has burst into life - with people enquiring about whether they can challenge the council's Compromise Agreement.

The answer appears to be - YES.

Crucially, it depends on the exact circumstances surrounding the Compromise Agreement - which council employees were required to sign before they could get their hands on their own money.

But, broadly speaking, things appear to have followed the same path as Glasgow - see the two previous posts to this site dated 26 March and 1 April 2008.

The feedback we've had from North Lanarkshire is that the council organised local acceptance meetings - and hand picked the 'independent' solicitors who were on hand to give people advice.

But, in practice, the 'independent' solicitors were unable to offer any practical advice on the day of the acceptance meetings - because no one could explain how the council's offer of settlement was calculated.

So, no one was able to say whether these offers were good or bad - and what chance people stood of getting a much better outcome - if they pursued a claim via the Employment Tribunals.

The upshot is that the council may well have acted unfairly - if it turns out that people accepted a poor deal - without the benefit of legal advice that looked at the issues from the council employee's point of view.

So, if you think this applies to you - you should certainly consider challenging the Compromise Agreement - and how the council behaved at the time.

Contact Mark Irvine if you need further help or advice: markirvine@compuserve.com

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Knowledge is Power

HR Magazine has been in touch to ask Mark Irvine to write a short piece on the importance of sharing pay information - the magazine editor poses the question and asks 3 'experts' to have their say - here's the question and, below that, Mark's contribution:

Should employees share their pay information with colleagues?

In a modern workplace, knowing what different groups of employees ear, relative to one another, is a matter of fairness and good practice.


If information and undertsanding are restricted to an elite group, there is scope for mischief and bad behaviour.

In 1998 UK councils and the trade unions signed a landmark Single Status (equal pay) agreement, after years of painstaking negotiations.

Both sides acknowledged that many female dominated jobs (e.g. home carers) were badly undervalued and paid less than unskilled male groups (e.g. refuse workers), who earned big bonuses of 50% on top of their basic pay.

But the existence and size of the pay gap was deliberately kept hidden. By the same employers and trade unions (Unison, GMB and TGWU) who promised - a decade ago - to deliver a non-discriminatory pay structure and a better deal for women workers.

So, as in other areas of public life, daylight really is the best disinfectant.


Mark Irvine

May 2008

Friday, 16 May 2008

What should the unions be doing? (2)

The unions should really be doing what they promised to do 10 years ago.

Implement an equal pay agreement and JE scheme that treat everyone fairly - and in a way that delivers a better deal for the many female dominated jobs that have been undervalued for years.

That's what Single Status was all about in the first place - sorting out a crazy pay system that paid refuse workers and suchlike so much more than carers, classroom assistants and clerical workers.

And that's what a new non-discriminatory JE scheme was supposed to put right.

So, instead of windy rhetoric - what union members need is practical support and help in challenging what the employers are doing in many areas.

First and foremost - the unions should be making it clear whether they support the employer's new JE scheme - if they don't support what an employer is doing, they should be making that clear to their members - and shouting their opposition from the rooftops.

The unions should also be explaining how the old JE schemes worked - e.g. how the refuse worker and home carer were evaluated and graded before Single Status - because only then will people understand how much they're being conned by the new arrangements.

Once members realise how the old and new JE schemes work - wild horses won't stop them from demanding that action is taken - to challenge some of the more ludicrous grading decisions of the employers.

Then the task is to identify target groups on which to mount test cases - and argue that the results of the JE scheme continue to discriminate against many female jobs.

The obvious example - although there are others such as classroom assistants, catering managers and clerical workers - is still a Home Carer. In 1998 a carer was graded at Manual Worker Grade 5 - significantly higher than a Refuse Driver on Manual Worker Grade 4.

In 2006 Glasgow awarded the carer Grade 3 and the Refuse Driver Grade 4 - a difference of £2300 not counting Non Core Pay - even though the carer's job has grown enormously with all the additional duties and responsibilities from care in the community.

Our view is Glasgow's new JE scheme is almost as bad as the old one - perhaps worse - because the employers' should have learned their lesson by now.

So, ask what you union is doing about these issues - raise them with your local union rep and at union meetings - you deserve straight answers to straight questions - that's what people have been paying their unions dues for all these years.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

What should the unions be doing? (1)

The unions are just as bad as the employers for failing to implement the 1999 Single Status (equal pay) agreement - this handed the initiative to the employers and put the unions on the back foot.

But instead of being straight about their failings and doing what they should have been doing 10 years ago - the unions often resort to the threat of industrial action as response to equal pay problems - which is the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Argyll & Bute have all witnessed this trade union pantomime in one form or another - with industrial being threatened or actually taken, but then fizzling out like a damp squib.

So, the first thing the unions should be doing to support their members on equal pay - is to forget any daft idea that industrial action is the solution - it's not, end of story - because strike action or the threat of strike action is a complete cop out by union bosses.

Why? Because the unions already know it won't work - all it does is cost members money they can't afford to lose and - more to the point - a call for industrial action lets the unions off the hook.

Why? Because if a strike ballot is lost or strike action just fizzles out - the union has the easy option of blaming its members for not being determined enough - for not making the sacrifices needed to make the employers think again.

What a load of old tosh!

The job of a trade union is to protect its members - not to encourage them to jump off a cliff by using tactics that don't really hurt the employer - and conveniently avoid the union (as an organisation) making any big sacrifices.
Strike action has been threatened and even used in some parts of Scotland - but it's been about as effective as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Strike action or the threat of strike action is a deliberate tactic employed by cynical union people - to avoid the hard work of campaigning and bringing about real change.

It's the hard graft of educating and organising the members that the trade unions should have been concentrating on these past 10 years - using the huge resources of the trade unions to benefit and help ordinary members.

So, what should they do now?

Watch this space



Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Trade Unions and Job Evaluation

Trade unions in Scotland have failed their members miserably - over the introduction of a new, modern and 'fit for purpose' job evaluation (JE) scheme.

A new non-discriminatory JE scheme was at the heart of the 1999 Single Status agreement - it was supposed to ensure a fairer and better deal for the many female dominated jobs - that were widely recognised as having been undervalued and underpaid for many years.

But nothing happened about job evaluation for years - until Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross appeared on the scene - then the employers panicked - because their old pay structures were clapped out and blatantly discriminated against female dominated jobs.

Job evaluation provided a potential solution - or at least it did 10 years ago as part of a Scotland wide approach to delivering equal pay - but now the employers are trying to introduce it on the cheap - and the unions are letting them away with murder.

In some areas the unions have co-operated with introduction of a new JE scheme - sitting down in joint working parties with management - deciding and agreeing how jobs will be scored and graded - and effectively negotiating new pay structures.

In others the unions are just sitting on the sidelines - allowing management to walk right over the top of their members - with scarcely a murmur of protest.

For the most part ordinary members don't know what's going on - the unions have not explained the workings of local JE schemes - nor have they challenged what appear to be plainly ridiculous outcomes - such as Glasgow's Refuse Drivers leapfrogging over Home Carers and Home Care Co-ordinators when new grades were introduced (see post dated 2 May 2008).

How can the unions stand up for their members - what should ordinary union members be asking union reps to do?

Watch this space.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Midlothian

Midlothian Council has spent the last two years developing a new job evaluation scheme - only to pull the plug at the last minute - see post dated 1 May 2008.

The council is now in a bind - because a modern, non-discriminatory job evaluation scheme is the only real defence against an equal pay claim

But that assumes job evaluation is being introduced:
  1. with the support of employees
  2. without fear of favour - or special treatment for only some groups
  3. in an open and transparent manner
  4. on the basis of results that are seen to be fair
Midlothian's refusal to publish the job evaluation results speaks for itself - but the council may now try to press ahead without the active support or co-operation of its employees - which would be a big mistake.

So, be on your guard - don't agree to any proposed changes in your job - without seeking advice and help.

Argyll & Bute

Argyll & Bute has published lots of information about its new job evaluation scheme on the council's web site - but a key piece of the jigsaw has been left out.

Significantly, the council has withheld the details of how all the jobs have been scored - which makes a mockery of any internal appeals procedure - because people are being prevented from understanding how other jobs and groups of workers have been treated.

Job evaluation is supposed to be open and transparent - if key results are not being shared, then something is wrong - simple as that.

So, our advice is that people should insist on being provided with all the scores for all council jobs that have been put through the job evaluation process. You could start by simply requesting this information from your line manager, but if that doesn't work there are many other ways of getting your point across:

  1. Submit a freedom of information request

  2. Approach you local councillor - explain the issues and ask for their support

  3. Encourage your trade union to campaign publicly - and make a stand on behalf members

  4. Get the local paper involved - "If the council has nothing to hide, why is it behaving in this way?"

Employees of the council are absolutely entitled to know the basis on which their jobs are being scored and graded - to withhold this vital information makes the whole process meaningless.

Job Evaluation - Glasgow (again)

A school clerical worker, classroom assistant and catering manager are all very different jobs - and the people doing these jobs have to use lots of initiative, skill and knowledge every day - as well as carrying considerable responsibility.

Whether it's managing a busy school meals service, helping a young person get the most out of their education, or ensuring the smooth running of the school office and its admin systems - in different ways - these are all very demanding jobs.

But what unites them is that they are all done predominantly by women - and they are all low paid.

In Glasgow most of them have been awarded Grade 3 - under the council's new job evaluation (JE) scheme - a grade below a council refuse driver, a gardener and florist - all of whom have been awarded Grade 4 - which is worth an extra £2,300 a year.

Needless to say, the council refuse driver, gardener and florist are all traditional male jobs - which have all done rather better out of the new job evaluation scheme - and in addition the male jobs qualify for Non Core Pay - which can be worth an extra £5,243 on top of their basic pay.

In terms of knowledge and skills - the Glasgow JE scheme awards all of these female jobs only 80 points - the same score as a council refuse collector.

No harm intended to the council refuse collector - but surely this can't be a fair assessment of the actual skills and knowledge used in these jobs.

It simply doesn't sound right - in fact it's an insult to common sense.

That's why people in Glasgow (and elsewhere) should take the trouble to look at the fine detail of any new job evaluation schemes - because in many cases they're just reinforcing long standing pay discrimination against female jobs.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Job Evaluation - Glasgow

First of all, credit where credit's due!

Glasgow City Council has finally published the results of its new job evaluation (JE) scheme - and made the results freely available to all employees.

So, if you want to know more about how your job has been graded in Glasgow - for example, the individual scores that determine your grade and what your job gets paid - then the data is easily accessible - both on the council's internal intranet and in hard copy, if you prefer.

Now, you might need a bit of help to follow the twists and turns of the Glasgow JE scheme - but with a bit of hard work and perseverance - the many problems and contradictions soon become clear.

Traditional male jobs - do much better than traditional female jobs - right across the grades.

For example, before Glasgow's new JE scheme a Home Carer was on a higher grade (MW5) than a council Refuse Driver (MW4).

But after Glasgow's new JE scheme, these positions are completely reversed - with the female job placed on Grade 3 and the male job on Grade 4 - which is a whopping pay difference of £2,300 per year.

To add insult to injury - the skills and knowledge score of the carer's job is awarded only 80 points while the refuse driver gets a massive (and highly questionable) 144 points.

The changes in the two jobs - since they were last evaluated in 1988 - are clearly in favour the carer's job which has become much more demanding - because the needs of elderly people living in the community have grown enormously in recent years - and the carer's role has expanded to meet these needs - as everyone knows!

But despite all the obvious evidence to the contrary, the Glasgow JE scheme boosts the male job - which leapfrogs over the female job - and incredibly ends up on a higher and better paid grade.

Which explains why so many people have voted with their feet - and pursued an equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

More examples from Glasgow to follow - in the meantime - if you have any queries, drop me a note at - markirvine@compuserve.com



Thursday, 1 May 2008

Edinburgh - new 'buy out' offers

Edinburgh Council has also missed its own self-imposed deadline of 1 April 2008 - for introducing a new pay and grading structure.

As a result, the council is opening itself up to new claims - because the pay gap between male and female jobs continues into the future - just as we predicted.

Equally predictable is the council's response - it's trying to 'buy out' the future claims of its manual worker employees on the cheap - by offering them a very poor one-off lump sum settlement.

The council used exactly the same tactics a couple of years ago - and it bullied lots of anxious workers into accepting very low settlements.

But those who took out a claim with Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross ended up with a much better deal.

So, our advice to Edinburgh workers is: "Once bitten twice shy - the council has already robbed you out of what you're due - don't let them cheat you again."

You can still pursue an equal pay claim - and if you signed a Compromise Agreement previously with Edinburgh Council on the advice of council appointed lawyers - you can challenge that agreement and fight to recover the money you will have lost (see post dated 10 April 2008).

Job Evaluation - Midlothian

Midlothian Council is reneging on its commitment to deliver a new pay and grading structure - which it has been promising for the past 10 years.

Midlothian - along with all Scottish councils - signed a landmark equal pay (Single Status) agreement in 1998 - which committed the council to ending years of pay discrimination against its largely female workforce.

As part of that agreement, Midlothian (and the local trade unions) promised to introduce a modern, non-discriminatory pay structure - and to evaluate all council jobs to ensure a fairer deal for female workers.

10 years on and Midlothian has suddenly announced that it's abandoning its new job evaluation scheme - without publishing the results.

The council's decision was communicated to the Edinburgh employment tribunal which is dealing with hundreds of equal pay claims from disgruntled Midlothian workers.

The council's decision is shocking and completely crazy - it's a further betrayal of the council's female workers and begs the question:

"Just what the hell have the council and the unions been doing for the past 10 years?"

Council officials claimed they were working furiously on a new job evaluation scheme and fairer pay structure - now they've suddenly abandoned it without publishing the results or discussing them with anyone.

The only reason for this bizarre about turn is that the results must have found in favour of the female workers - who were promised equal pay 10 years ago.

The council's decision does not affect cases that are already underway - but they are digging an ever-deeper hole for themselves - and it's bound to encourage even more Midlothian workers to pursue an equal pay claim.