Friday, 30 January 2009

South Lanarkshire

This week’s ‘drop in’ meetings in South Lanarkshire proved to be a tremendous success – with well over 700 people attending the three Action 4 Equality Scotland events in Rutherglen, Hamilton and East Kilbride.

Lots of existing clients came along for an update/progress report – with many potential new claimants present as well – so the level of interest in equal pay remains extremely high.

The essential question that everyone wants an answer to is: “How does South Lanarkshire Council explain and justify the big pay differences between many male and female jobs?”

Best of all, council employees gave us first hand accounts
about the pay arrangements in South Lanarkshire – which we believe to be discriminatory - because these arrangements seem to favour many of the traditional male (former bonus earning) jobs.

Any information that council employees can provide will be of great help in the ongoing work at the Employment Tribunals – there will be lots of activity around the South Lanarkshire cases in the weeks ahead.

So, watch this space for further news

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Glasgow CMD - Monday 2 February 2009

A case management discussion (CMD) on the outstanding Glasgow cases is being held on Monday 2 February 2009.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 10.am and individual claimants are entitled to attend.

Come to think of it, the physical presence of some claimants might actually help remind everyone involved that these claims are about real people – and their right to equal treatment under the law.

If you want to go along the Glasgow CMD, it is being held at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal office which is at the following address – about 10 minutes walk from Central Station, along Bothwell Street and towards Finnieston.

Glasgow ET office

Eagle Building
215 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7TS
Phone: 0141 204 0730
Fax: 0141 204 0732
Email: glasgowet@ets.gsi.gov.uk

Anyone attending should make themselves known to Carol Fox who will be there on behalf of Stefan Cross Solicitors.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Glasgow and Job Evaluation (WPBR)

Glasgow’s Workforce Pay and Benefits review (WPBR) is coming under increasing scrutiny – by people inside and outside Scotland largest council.

Glasgow’s WPBR is simply another name for a job evaluation (JE) scheme – bit it’s a JE scheme with a difference because Glasgow invented its own ‘home grown’ scheme – and suddenly ditched the national JE scheme which had been developed with COSLA as part of the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

The trade unions also supported the national scheme – because the design of the scheme followed clear principles – and the rules about implementing the national JE scheme were based on good practice.

In other words, the national scheme had been tried and tested – its key principles were clear and easily understood – and the national scheme was to be implemented in an open and transparent way.

But Glasgow’s WPBR is a rather different animal – no one seems to know who designed the scheme – or how it was tested before being imposed on thousands of council staff.

The trade unions seem to be going along with the Glasgow scheme – for the most part anyway – the trade unions have certainly not mounted a vigorous campaign to highlight some of the glaring problems with the Glasgow WPBR.

One of the key problems with the Glasgow scheme is that – alone among Scottish councils – Glasgow has introduced the notion of Core and Non-Core Pay.

Work done in relation to Core Pay is assessed using identifiable job evaluation techniques – even though the scores awarded to some jobs appear to be spectacularly wrong.

But Non-Core Pay is a truly bizarre concept – because people are rewarded not for the content of work they do, as such – but for when this work is carried out.

So Glasgow employees are awarded extra points (and extra points mean extra pay) for working full-time hours. Glasgow employees also get extra points for doing a ‘task and finish’ job.

Yet both of these provisions discriminate against women workers – because many women work part-time hours and very few women work in task and finish jobs (unlike the refuse workers, for example).

So, on the face of it Glasgow JE scheme appears to discriminate against the majority of its employees and - therefore - the WPBR is open to challenge.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

South Lanarkshire Council

South Lanarkshire Council is the only council in Scotland – not to have made significant payments to its women workers over Single Status and Equal Pay.

Every other council across Scotland has by now made sizeable ‘compensatory’ payments, worth thousands of pounds in many cases.

Peoples’ equal pay claims are based on the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs.

According to local council employees, the big pay differences in South Lanarkshire Council are just the same as in neighbouring councils, such as Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.

Stefan Cross Solicitors are challenging the way in which the council has dealt with Single Status and Equal Pay.

Around 1700 employees are currently pursuing equal pay claims against South Lanarkshire Council – many more are still entitled to make a claim – it’s not too late to do so even now.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has arranged a series of ‘drop in’ meetings to report on what’s been happening at the Employment Tribunals. If you want to hear more or if you think you have an equal pay claim, come along on one of the following dates:

Meeting 1 – Monday 26 January 2009
Time – drop in anytime between 3pm and 7pm
Venue – Kings Park Hotel, Mill Street, Glasgow, G73 2LX

Meeting 2 – Tuesday 27 January 2009
Time – drop in anytime between 3pm and 7pm
Venue – Express Hotel by Holiday Inn, Keith Street, Hamilton, ML3 7BL

Meeting 3 – Thursday 29 January 2009
Time – drop in anytime between 3pm and 7pm
Venue – Torrance Hotel, 135 Main Street, The Village, East Kilbride

Monday, 19 January 2009

A Reader Asks..........?

Question

I am a home carer - I've been reading your blog site and was surprised to learn that I may have another claim - even though I accepted a previous settlement offer from Falkirk Council. Is this correct and does it make any difference that I left the council in October 2008?

Answer

Yes, you definitely have another claim - because the settlement you accepted from the council covered only the period up to the date of the introduction of Falkirk's new job evaluation (JE) scheme - probably sometime during 2007 or 2008.

From that date onwards, you have a further claim - because the council is protecting the higher pay of the traditional male groups - and you have a claim for as long as that difference in pay continues.

Aberdeen City Council, for example, is introducing new pay arrangements from 1 May 2009 - and will then protect the higher pay of the male groups until 2012.

If you leave the council's employment, you have only 6 months to register a new claim - if you delay beyond 6 months any new claim will be out of time.

For reasons known only to themselves, the unions are not telling their members that they have fresh claims - and of course the employer won't tell people because that would cost them money - and that's how they've behaved since 1999.

So, spread the word and let other people know.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

North Lanarkshire Council

North Lanarkshire's cases are continuing to make their way through the Employment Tribunal process – just as they are in all other councils.

Progress is slower than originally anticipated because the employers are doing everything they can to delay things.

But judgment day will come when councils face a GMF hearing, i.e. a defence hearing where the council has to explain and try to justify the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs.

We are pressing the tribunals to set a GMF hearing for North Lanarkshire – as they have done for Glasgow, Fife and North Ayrshire Councils.

We remain confident about the outcome – because in our view these big differences in pay simply cannot be justified – which is why some councils (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling – for example) have seen the light and agreed to negotiate solution to many of their outstanding case.

North Lanarkshire Council has already settled some of its claims – for cleaning and catering staff – but the other groups look as though they will have to be decided by the employment tribunals.

There are lots of NLC employees who can still bring claims – even though they may have accepted the council’s original offer – because the higher pay of the men is still being protected – there are also many groups (admin and clerical workers, for example) who were never made a settlement offer, but nonetheless have perfectly valid claims

So spread the word if you know anyone in that situation – because the prospect of more claims will encourage North Lanarkshire to reach an earlier negotiated settlement.

We are doing everything we can to bring all the outstanding cases to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible – and as soon as there are any developments will let people know here via the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Aberdeen City Council (2)

Stefan Cross has written to all Aberdeen clients on an individual basis - detailing his advice about the council’s decision to issue new contracts of employment.

Aberdeen is not the first council to do this – it is following a well trodden path – and there is no need to be anxious or worried.

The advice to clients is not to accept the new contract at this stage – this means that people will still be required to sign on 1 May 2009 (otherwise dismissal will result) – but it is better for the council to impose the new contract than for employees to accept it on a voluntary basis.

No one will be disciplined or dismissed for refusing to sign – so long as the new contract is eventually accepted by the final deadline on 1 May 2009 – but by that time the council is giving its employees no choice in the matter.

All that people miss out on at this stage is the Equal Pay and Modernisation (EPM) payment – but that forms part of your claim anyway – and by refusing to accept an EPM payment people will be holding out for what their claim is really worth.

The real scandal of the council’s new package is that it continues to treat male groups more favourably than female groups – why else are male jobs being offered a lump sum when their pay is being protected until 20012?

The trade unions have obviously given the nod to the council that they are on board with this outrageous behaviour – because if that were not the case they would be jumping up and down and threatening industrial action.

So, the trade unions are just as bad as the management – part of the problem, not part of the solution.

South Lanarkshire - CMD

The CMD hearing scheduled for Monday 26 January will not be taking place and has been postponed until another date – as soon as the details are confirmed they will be published here on Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeen City Council is issuing new contracts of employment to all staff – having failed to reach a collective agreement with the trade unions over Single Status and Equal Pay.

The council says that it can’t achieve a collective agreement because of recent case law – i.e. the Allen V GMB case where low paid GMB members successfully sued their own union.

But the council is wrong – the Allen v GMB case does not stop trade unions negotiating collective agreements – all it does is prevent them from negotiating deals that discriminate against their own women members.

So, Aberdeen is now pursuing a voluntary sign up campaign - staff are being asked to accept new contracts on a voluntary basis by 30 January 2009 - those that do so will receive an incentive Equal Pay and Modernisation (EPM) payment.

Details of the EPM payment will be estimated and issued to staff along with their new contracts in January - and the new contracts are due to take effect on 1 May 2009

Staff who do not accept the new contracts voluntarily with be given 12 weeks notice - and invited to sign again on 1 May 2009 - if they refuse at that stage they will be dismissed.

The EPM payment replaces any backdating of money from the JE review - so lots of people will be furious at the trade unions and management – for making such a mess of the Job Evaluation (JE) process.

Incredibly, the EPM payment applies to only two categories of staff: those who end up in pay protection as a result of the JE scheme (i.e. the traditional male, bonus earning jobs) - and the 'winners' from the JE scheme (i.e. those whose pay increases).

Both groups will get a lump sum – the logic of paying the ‘winners’ a lump sum is clear – it’s because the council is going back on its commitment to backdate the outcome of the JE scheme – the ‘winners’ are receiving partial compensation for their loss of back pay.

But there is no logic at all for giving a lump sum to male workers on pay protection – because their pay is being protected and they’re not losing anything – yet the female dominated groups are not being offered the same ‘incentive’ to sign up.

Male workers on pay protection will also receive a final ‘parachute’ payment when pay protection comes to an end in April 2012 – another payment withheld from female groups.

What is clear is that the Aberdeen package favours traditional male jobs – and because of this ongoing discrimination and differences in treatment - the council’s actions will simply enhance the claims of its women workers.

More to follow – watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

NHS Update

In December we reported on a significant development regarding NHS equal pay claims – see post dated 20 December 2008. The Potter case is very important to all NHS claimants – and the background to this case is explained below.

Prior to the introduction of Agenda for Change in 2004, the NHS pay negotiating structure was divided along gender lines under the Whitley Council system.

Male dominated jobs were subject to one negotiating process - whereas the terms and conditions of female dominated professions (nurses, physiotherapist, medical secretaries etc) were regulated by a different process altogether. While the collective bargaining processes operated in parallel - no real attention being was being paid as to whether women and men were being treated fairly.

Unsurprisingly, huge differences in pay and pay practices evolved over the years – ending up in the crazy position whereby NHS tradesmen (painters and plumbers, for example) were being paid more than highly trained nurses.

In recent years, members of female dominated professions (nurses, admin and clerical staff and a wide range of support staff) have slowly become aware that they have been receiving a raw deal from the NHS in comparison with their male colleagues.

Many NHS employers have been trying to avoid liability for these claims by relying on technical legal arguments – while the the trade unions turned a blind eye to what was going on for years.

The recent Potter case is a good example. North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust tried to argue that it was in no way responsible for any pay differences that existed as between its own employees. This argument proceeded on the basis that any inequality was caused by a historical accident – happenstance, if you will – but was not the result of direct or indirect discrimination.

In effect, the employers were arguing that women in the NHS - performing female dominated jobs - would never be able to bring an equal pay claim.

But this bizarre argument was roundly rejected by the Employment Appeal Tribunal which found that the employer was certainly responsible and accountable for the pay of its own employees. In particular, the court placed emphasis on the fact that the Trust had paid out compensation to nurses, in a similar position to Ms Potter in the past, when equal pay claims had been lodged.

Earlier this year, female council workers (in the Bainbridge case – see post dated 2 August 2008), successfully persuaded the Court of Appeal that pay protection arrangements which benefited traditional male jobs were unlawful - a decision which allowed thousands of women to bring claims against their council employers.

Now that the Potter case has also been successful, women in the NHS have been given the green light to pursue claims so they too can receive the generous payments which their male colleagues have been receiving for decades.

Again thanks to Cloisters Chambers for providing some of the background information included in this post.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Fife Council - Compromise Agreements

Stefan Cross has written to clients in Fife Council - because employees in Fife may be able to challenge the Compromise Agreements that people were required to sign in 2006 - before the council released their equal pay 'compensation' payments.

Please see previous posts on this issue - including the one dated 1 October 2008.

The feedback from many employees in Fife is that they were not given a proper standard of advice from the 'independent' lawyers who signed their Compromise Agreements.

Many people in Fife say:

1 That their interview with the council appointed lawyer lasted only a few minutes

2 That their lawyer could not explain the basis of the council's proposed settlement

3 That their lawyer did not offer any practical advice about the risk of pursuing a claim to the employment tribunals or the value of the claims

Fife Council has already confirmed that senior managers appointed a single legal firm to advise council staff.

Quite how the council went about this appointments process has still to be made clear - so are the details of the brief given by council managers to these 'independent' legal advisers - whom the council subsequently paid a large sum of public money.

The answers to these questions are vital - because the compromise agreements are only excluded tribunal claims if they have complied with certain conditions.

It is the council that has to prove these conditions were met. If they fail to do so they you can still claim for the whole of the 5 year back pay period and to date, i.e. 2009.

Fife clients are being asked to provide copies of their Compromise Agreements to the Stefan Cross office in Newcastle - so that individual details can be properly assessed.

Similarly, if anyone has retained copies of the literature that was handed out at these advice sessions - presentations, handouts etc – all information would be gratefully received.

If you need further advice, ring 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Saturday, 10 January 2009

South Lanarkshire Council

A Pre-Hearing Review (PHR) involving South Lanarkshire Council was scheduled to start on Monday 12 January 2009.

The PHR has been postponed and instead there will now be a Case Management Discussion (CMD) on that day - followed by a further CMD on Monday 26 January 2009.

Stefan Cross Solicitors has now instructed an Equal Pay Expert to consider South Lanarkshire's job evaluation (JE) scheme.

We have reported previously on the various deficiencies that we see in the JE scheme - and its failure to address the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs.

South Lanarkshire Council is still refusing to release crucial pay information - of the kind that every other council in Scotland was required to divulge long ago - their reluctance to be open and transparent suggests that the council has got a lot to hide.

Individual claimants are entitled to attend the CMD hearings - both of which are being held at the Employment Tribunal offices in Glasgow. The CMD on 12 January starts at 2pm and the CMD on 26 January is scheduled to begin at 10am.

Action 4 Equality Scotland is planning a number of meetings in South Lanarkshire later in January to report back on what has been happening over the past few months - details of these meetings will be posted on the blog site next week.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Happy New Year!

First of all a Happy New Year - and all the very best for 2009!

Last year was a hard slog for everyone still fighting for equal pay – with councils across Scotland using large sums of public money to delay and frustrate the employment tribunal process.

But the good news is that increasingly in 2009 the employers will have to face up to the real issues about equal pay.

Regular readers of the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site will know what a GMF (Genuine Material Factor) hearing is all about.

Don’t be bamboozled by the legal jargon - it’s simply the formal ‘defence’ hearing where employers must explain and try to justify the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs.

GMF hearings are what the council employers have been desperately trying to avoid for all this time – so it’s encouraging to be able to announce that 3 major hearings are set already for 2009.

Glasgow City Council

16th March – 27th March 2009

Fife Council
30th March -3rd April and 20th April - 22nd April 2009

North Ayrshire Council
27th April – 8th May 2009

GMF hearings are public hearings – and individual claimants are entitled to go along and listen to the proceedings.

The Glasgow and North Ayrshire GMF hearings will be held at the Employment Tribunal in Glasgow.


The Fife GMF hearing will be held at the Employment Tribunal in Edinburgh.