Saturday, 26 July 2008

Labour and the unions

GMB general secretary, Paul Kenny, is reported in today's press as calling for the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) to face an internal Labour leadership election - in an effort to save his embattled premiership.

Now, as a paid-up, carrying-carrying, individual member of the Labour party - Paul Kenny's views are as valid as the next man or woman's.

But when it comes to party politics - what mandate does Paul Kenny have to represent the views of ordinary GMB members?


None.

Why? Because the result of the recent by-election in Glasgow East simply confirms that the majority of GMB members supported the SNP - not the Labour party.


The truth is that the political views of ordinary union members are just as mixed and varied as the rest of the population.

Union bosses acting as amateur politicians does nothing for ordinary members - in fact, quite the opposite - because it compromises the independence and integrity of both sides.

Relationships become politicised and far too cosy - skewed through the prism of party politics - so that when the chips are down the interests of ordinary members sometimes take a back seat.

And that's why - when push came to shove on equal pay - the trade unions were unable to do the right thing by their members.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Glasgow East

Congratulations to John Mason after his stunning win yesterday in the Glasgow East by-election.

The SNP candidate had a mountain to climb, but managed to overturn a truly massive Labour majority on his way across the finishing line.

The big issue in the campaign was the cost of living - inflation, fuel and food prices - the same things that concern most people right across the country.

But the underlying problem for Labour is that they've lost the trust of key groups of voters - who should otherwise be natural supporters.

Instead of: "Say What We Mean and Mean What We Say" - the Labour establishment has grown fond of saying one thing then doing another.

Equal pay is a perfect example.

Labour councils are quick to vouch their unswerving commitment to equal opportunities and equal pay - as are the Labour supporting unions with whom these councils have 'strong' local links.

Yet, for many years, they both presided over pay systems that blatantly discriminated against thousands of female employees - and it's these chickens that are now coming home to roost.

The Labour and trade union establishment - whose writ ran over so much of Scotland for so long - is now coming under intense scrutiny. That can only be a good thing for most ordinary union members - because they're not completely thiralled to the Labour Party.

And that's why, in Glasgow, equal pay will continue to be a big issue - until we get a fair and comprehensive settlement of all the outstanding cases.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Union claims

We've had a steady stream of enquiries from union members who are understandably anxious about their equal pay claims - in light of the recent judgement from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) - see post dated 1 July 2008.

In the circumstances, the best thing people can do is to:

1 Ask their trade union for a clear written explanation about whether or not the recent EAT decision affects their claim. And if not, why not?

2 Specifically, the union's response should clarify whether members' grievances were registered on an individual basis from day one OR via a collective grievance naming the members involved.

3 ASK FOR A COPY OF ALL GRIEVANCES RELEVANT TO YOUR CASE - THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT SO THAT THE RESPONSE CAN BE CONSIDERED. IF YOUR REQUEST IS REFUSED, YOU CAN COMPLAIN TO THE LAW SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND.

4 It is perfectly reasonable to ask that the trade unions explain these issues quickly and precisely - after all an equal pay claim is the property of the individual member - it does not belong to the union or the union's lawyers.

5 If you are unhappy with your trade union's response, you are free to ask someone else for advice before deciding how to proceed.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Glasgow East By-Election

The by-election for the vacant Westminster seat of Glasgow East is being held next Thursday - 24 July 2008.

Lots of people living in the constituency have ongoing equal pay claims against Glasgow City Council - there are still thousands of outstanding claims city-wide.

None of the candidates has a particularly proud record when it comes to equal pay - despite the fact that two of them (Frances Curran and Margaret Curran) were both Holyrood MSPs at the height of the controversy.

A third (John Mason) was a Glasgow City councillor at the time - and a fourth (Tricia McLeish) was a trade union (Unison) activist within the city council.

So, this is an ideal opportunity to ask the candidates where they stand on equal pay - past, present and future.

If you get the chance ask them what they think about:
  1. The way the council has behaved
  2. The lack of trade union support for their own members
  3. The thousands of people still pursuing claims - and how these cases should now be resolved

Equal pay is not going to go away until we get a fair settlement for all those people who have outstanding claims. And - after all this time - potential members of parliament should have a clear view about where they stand on the issues.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sex Discrimination Bombshell for Unions

The big 3 public sector unions (GMB, Unison and Unite) are in a state of shock following a landmark decision yesterday in the Court of Appeal.

The case, known as Allen v GMB, was heard originally in the Employment Tribunals in Newcastle - and found that the GMB had discriminated against their own low-paid women members.

It was the first decision of its kind in the UK and has huge implications for GMB and the other trade unions.

The women workers complained that the GMB was guilty of sex discrimination when it acted on their behalf. The women - who sought equal pay with the men - alleged they were represented inadequately by the union.

The Employment Tribunal decided unanimously that their employer (Middlesborough Council) should have eradicated unequal pay years earlier.

The tribunal also found that the GMB then collaborated with the employer by manipulating members, who had back pay claims, into unwittingly sacrificing their rights - to the benefit of the employer.

In doing so, the tribunal agreed that the union had unjustifiably discriminated against their own low-paid women members.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) reversed the initial decision of the Employment Tribunal in 2007, but the Court of Appeal has now restored the original judgement.

The Court of Appeal has decided that the GMB misrepresented the 'deal' that was on offer from Middlesborough Council - and the case will now be referred back to the Employment Tribunal to consider compensation awards.

The GMB was refused permission by the Court of Appeal to appeal further to the House of Lords - the union is entitled to seek permission from the House of Lords directly, but this must be done by 30 September 2008 - and Stefan Cross will oppose any such application.

Thousands of similar cases are waiting in the wings.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

North Ayrshire

The long awaited GMF hearing for North Ayrshire Council has finally been set - for 10 full days from 10th to 14th (Week 1) and 17th to 21st (Week 2) November 2008.

The hearing will cover all Stefan Cross claims - i.e. both former manual workers and APT&C staff.

The other crucial issue is that the hearing will also require the council - for the first time - to explain and justify the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs.

A lot of preparatory work for the GMF hearing is now underway - you may be contacted directly, if we require further information about particular individuals or groups of staff.

Any other developments will be reported here - as the date of the hearing approaches.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Edinburgh - New Claims

Edinburgh City Council has failed to meet its own self-imposed deadline of 1 April 2008 - for implementing a new pay and grading structure - based on a non-discriminatory job evaluation (JE) scheme.

The council originally agreed to do this back in 1999 - so goodness only knows when they might finally get round to dealing with a situation they've failed to tackle all these years.

Another problem for the council is that everyone who was offered an interim settlement by the council can now register a new claim - because the Compromise Agreement people had to sign to get their money expired on 31 March 2008.

So, from 1 April 2008 onwards all of these individuals have a new claim - for a long as the pay gap continues.

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross have issued new claim forms to all existing Edinburgh clients. If you would like a form please ring 0845 300 3 800 or leave your name, address and post code with Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

NB
All other Edinburgh claims are still working their way through the Employment Tribunal process - a 5 day hearing took place at the end of June and another 5 days is scheduled for 25 - 29 August 2008.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Midlothian Council

Midlothian Council has invited Stefan Cross clients to attend a meeting of its Appeals Committee on Wednesday 16 July - allegedly to consider people's equal pay claims.

Hearings have been arranged at 10 minute intervals - which shows how seriously the council is treating the matter - but all Stefan Cross clients have to do is to:

  1. Turn up at the appointed place and time
  2. Indicate that you have nothing to add on the day - beyond the detailed statement that has already been submitted on your behalf by Stefan Cross
The council rejected everyone's grievance at Stage 2 of the process - but failed to explain or justify the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs - which the council has known about for years.

So, it looks as though the council is planning to do the same on this occasion, which is a terrible waste of time and resources.

But at least the Appeals Committee hearing exhausts the internal procedures - and these issues will then move outside the council and will be placed before the Employment Tribunals.

At that point, the council will have to state a proper defence - whereas up until now the council has acted as judge and jury in its own cause.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

North Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire Council has finally shifted its position by making revised offers of settlement in respect of some - but not all - of its outstanding equal pay claims.

The revised offers are being made only to catering and cleaning staff at this stage (i.e. former manual worker posts) - and the new offers cover only the period up to November 2006 - when the council's new Job Evaluation (JE) scheme was introduced.

While the new offers to some staff groups represents a real breakthrough - there are still many other groups whose cases have still to be properly addressed - so the ongoing legal action against North Lanarkshire will continue until that happens.

Our preference was for the council to deal with all outstanding claims at the same time - and not in this piecemeal fashion. And we've made it clear to the council that the equal pay claims of carers, classroom assistants and so forth - are just as valid as those of catering and cleaning staff.

So, the fight for these groups will continue - we believe all staff groups should be treated on the same basis - and that's a message we want to get across strongly to local councillors, MSPs and MPS.

Contact details for local councillors can be found at: www.northlan.gov.uk

Contact details for Holyrood MSPs can be found at: www.scottish.parliament.uk

Contact details for Westminster MPs can be found at: www.parliament.uk

Monday, 7 July 2008

Freedom of Information

Scotland introduced a Freedom of Information Act in 2002 - with a presumption that ordinary people are entitled to information held by public bodies - including local councils.

On the subject of equal pay councils have often been slow to respond - and then fail to give straight answers to straight questions. But sometimes dogged determination and persistence pays off.

For example, we asked Glasgow how much it cost the City Council to instruct various legal firms to attend a series of 'acceptance' meetings in November and December 2005 - when employees were being encouraged to accept offers of settlement in connection with their equal pay claims.

The answer confirms that the total cost charged by all legal firms instructed by Glasgow City Council was £347,477.76.

Some people might be shocked at the council spending public money in this way - others might regard it as money well spent.

But on this occasion, at least, people are in now possession of the facts - and can make up their own minds on this use of public funds.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Trade Unions - Panic Abounds

The post from 1 July about the EAT's decision to strike out trade union equal pay cases - has caused a fair old degree of panic, as you might imagine!

The unions are desperately putting it about that we are not telling the truth - but all we are doing is reporting a recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

So, we are happy to e-mail a copy of the EAT judgement to anyone that would like one - then people can read for themselves what a mess the unions have got themselves into - and at least then the members will be in possession of all the facts.

The unions now say that they are not just relying on the 2005 grievances - but the employers say all their grievances are defective.

The unions could clear matters up very quickly by publishing copies of the grievances they've registered - and sharing those details with the members who are potentially affected by the EAT decision.

People are welcome to ask Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross for advice - but they are also perfectly free to find someone else if they so wish.

We only want the honest truth - the fact is the employers won the appeal and the unions lost - and so far they have told their members nothing about these decisions. If you are affected ask them what it means and get them to send you all the grievances relating to you claim - then you can judge for yourself.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Hammer Blow for Union Equal Pay Cases

Scotland´s Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has dealt a hammer blow to thousands of trade union backed equal pay cases.

As many people know, the trade unions have been left trailing in the wake of Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross - firstly, by being extremely reluctant to challenge the employers in the courts - and, secondly, by telling their members that only the unions could be trusted to look after their interests (i.e. stay away from Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross) - but how foolish these claims look now!

Because the EAT has decided to strike out all union backed cases in Scotland - where the unions relied on registering ´collective´ grievances with the council employers - instead of submitting individual grievances as required by the equal pay regulations.

The EAT´s decision will come as a great shock to many low paid unions members - who have been left high and dry by the incompetence of their union officials - and it may well open up the unions themselves to claims of negligence and for the huge sums of money their members have lost - running into millions of pounds!

Stefan Cross clients are unaffected by the EAT judgement because all grievances have been pursued on an individual basis - as they should have been from day one.

Needless to say the unions will now have a great deal of explaining to do with their members - and they are not always good at owning up to - or putting right - their own mistakes.

So, if you need advice about how this EAT decision affects you, contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com