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