Friday, 27 February 2009

A Reader Asks......?

Question
How can Glasgow Unison 'go bonkers' when everyone knows they're as mad as hatters already?

Answer
Good question - the reader must surely be a long-suffering member of the Glasgow Unison branch.

So, I can only apologise for the use of such a sloppy Strap Line (see post dated 26 February 2009) - the heading should, of course, have read:

'Glasgow Unison Goes Even More Bonkers'

Because - as many people know - the lunatics took over the asylum years ago.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Glasgow Unison Goes Bonkers

The Evening Times reports tonight that Glasgow Unison is threatening to call 10,000 members out on strike over in a row over pay protection.

Unison claims that the council has reneged on its promise not to cut individual wages following the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

Unison says 400 people are affected - the council says 58 - but the real story is what this says about trade union priorities in Glasgow

Funny how Unison never threatened to call its 10,000 members out on strike during all the years since 1999 - when thousands of low paid women's jobs were so badly undervalued and underpaid.

A new national agreement was signed in 1999 - and promised to sweep away the widespread pay discrimination that existed between male and female jobs - but nothing happened until Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along.


Certainly no one in Glasgow Unison was calling for strike action - even though the women workers were losing thousands of pounds every year.

So, either someone in Glasgow Unison is having a laugh - or the branch is in desperate need of a reality check.

Ordinary members won't support such a strike.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Monkey Business in Midlothian

We are reliably informed by well-informed sources in Midlothian Council – that the council is about to offer a secret cash ‘buy out’ of current bonus payments to male workers.

The bonus earning men are entitled to 3-years protection of their bonus payments under the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

But the council has other ideas as it plans to introduce a new, job evaluation (JE) based pay and grading structure – which the council calls ‘Modernising Midlothian’.

The council is deliberately withholding the results of the JE scheme - wonder why?


Yet in the meantime it is trying to browbeat its employees into giving up their equal pay claims – and accepting new contracts of employment.

The fact is that women workers in Midlothian are entitled to the same treatment as the men - no less favourable is the legal test.

So, if male workers get offered pay protection – a higher salary for 3 years – then so should the women.

If the men get offered a cash lump sum – instead of pay protection – then so should the women.

In other words – what’s sauce for the goose – should be sauce for the gander – that would comply very nicely with Midlothian Council’s equal opportunities policy.

So, don’t let the council bully or panic you into giving up your claim at this stage – no one will get into trouble simply for standing up for their rights under the law.

One curious aspect of the cash buy-out to the male bonus earners is that the men can take the money and walk away – they don’t have to earn the money by staying with the council for 3 years – as they would have to do under pay protection.

Funny way to behave with public money - maybe someone should tell the council’s external auditors?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Task and Finish

Task and Finish is a concept alien to many people – but it's part and parcel of Glasgow’s Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WBPR), the pet name given to Glasgow’s ‘in-house’ job evaluation (JE) scheme.

Remember, Glasgow turned its back on the nationally recommended (and tried and tested) JE scheme in favour of its own home grown solution.

So, what’s the rumpus? Well, task and finish is a working practice, but one that applies only to traditional male jobs – such as refuse workers, gardeners and suchlike – the kind of jobs that have benefited from bonus payments down the years.

Most council workers have jobs with set start and finish times – say between 9am and 5pm, with maybe an hour off for lunch.

Many part-time jobs work a straight shift with no formal breaks – say a four hour shift between 9am and 1pm or 5pm and 9pm.

The key point is that the hours are fixed – and the work is done between start and finishing times – whether you’re a catering worker, a home carer, a classroom assistant or a clerical worker.

But if you’re in a task and finish job things are different – if you skate through the job in less time than you’ve been given to do the work – then you’re deemed to have ‘finished’ work for the day - and can head home, free as a bird!

Although this begs the question: “How come these arrangements only apply to male dominated jobs?”

And to that there is no good answer. Because in female dominated council jobs ‘task and finish’ simply isn’t allowed. If a carer or a cleaner or a classroom assistant announced:

“I’ve finished all my work early – think I’ll just shove off home now/head for the pub/go and do the shopping!”, then that person would be up on a disciplinary charge.

Yet, in Glasgow – to add insult to injury - task and finish jobs are doubly rewarded with extra pay – under the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

And just like working full-time, being in a task and finish job means you get an extra 7 WPBR points – worth over £800 a year – but women’s jobs don’t qualify.

Who said it’s a man’s world?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Curioser and Curioser

Readers from Fife have been in touch to say that South Lanarkshire is not the only part of Scotland where Unison seems to be blowing hot and cold over equal pay.

Apparently, union members in Fife Council have been left out of the all-Scotland mail shot as well - see post dated 13 February 2009.

Now why should this be - because the issues are the same in Fife as everywhere else?

In Fife, the higher rate of pay of traditional male jobs is being protected - so everyone in a female dominated jobs has a new claim - even if they accepted an earlier settlement.

In Fife, many people were excluded from settlement offers - former APT&C groups - so they all have valid (first) claims.

In Fife, the council seems to have used a questionable process in requiring employees to sign to Compromise Agreements - and that whole business may now be revisited as well.

But maybe the answer is that they're a bolshy lot in Fife - the workforce rejected management's original Single Status package following a council wide ballot - and that was despite the trade unions supporting a YES vote.

So, maybe Unison's just scared of stirring things up again in Fife. If so, that would be a shame and a terrible dereliction of duty - because union members in Fife have exactly the same rights and same claims - as union members elsewhere.

If you have news from your own part of the country - let us know and we'll share the details here.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Bermuda Triangles and Equal Pay

Word from the front line in the fight for equal pay – Johnny Comes Lately (Unison) has lost his way and has failed to report for duty in South Lanarkshire.

Seems that Unison’s belated enthusiasm for equal pay has just disappeared – to the south and east of Glasgow - into some kind of nasty Bermuda Triangle.

Because according to readers in Hamilton, East Kilbride, Rutherglen, Blantyre, Cambuslang and elsewhere – Unison members in South Lanarkshire have not received a letter from their regional secretary, Matt Smith (see post dated 8 February 2009).

Now this is very strange – incredible even!

Is Unison really saying that all is rosy in South Lanarkshire when it comes to equal pay? If so, the union will have a great deal of explaining to do to its women members.

Is Unison really arguing that it’s fine by them for a Home Carer in South Lanarkshire to be paid between Spinal Column Points 10 to 16 – or £5.71 to £7.27 an hour?

Yet male refuse workers, gardeners and gravediggers get paid up to Spinal Column Point – or £8.69 per hour.

Is Unison really saying that it’s OK for a School Secretary or Classroom Assistant to be paid between Spinal Column Points 1 to 25 – or £5.71 to £8.31 an hour?

Whereas a School Janitor gets paid up to Spinal Column Point 33 – or £9.37 an hour.

Does Unison really support a highly trained and skilled Nursery Nurse being paid at only Spinal Column Point 40 – or £10.39 an hour?

While a male plumber or electrician is paid up to Spinal Column Point 64 – or £14.86 an hour.

If so, then Unison really has lost its marbles – and union members in South Lanarkshire should be up in arms.

If you need advice about equal pay ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or e-mail Mark Irvine at:
markirvine@compuserve.com

NB – all pay rates quoted are at 2007/08 levels

Midlothian Council - Update

Midlothian Council is up to its old tricks again – trying to encourage people to give up their equal pay claims - but this time as management prepare to introduce a new pay and grading structure – with the catchy title of: “Modernising Midlothian”.

Our advice is not to touch their settlement offer with a bargepole – here are 10 good reasons why.

1
The offer is not properly explained

2 Peoples’ claims are based on the pay difference with their male comparator – i.e. another predominantly male job within Midlothian such as a refuse worker or gardener.

3 The council knows what the difference in pay is – but is not telling people.

4 Why? Because it doesn’t want people to know how big the pay gap really is.

5 So, people are being offered a sum which is worth much less than the real value of their equal pay claims.

6 If the council dispute this – why don’t they just explain their calculations?

7 The offer covers the period from 1 April 2001 to the implementation date of the new pay and grading structure – but many people have claims that go back to the year 2000.

8 The offer stops on the implementation date of the new pay and grading structure – but everyone has an ongoing claim – because the council is going to protect the higher pay of the men – for another three years at least.

9 Tax and national insurance has been deducted from the offer – at a fixed rate which is not explained – but many part-time workers are being cheated – since they don’t pay tax or pay much tax.

10 People are being asked to give up their claim without knowing what’s round the corner – i.e. the outcome of the pay and grading review - which is deliberate on the council’s part.

So, all things considered – our advice is to hold out for a better and fairer settlement – the council is hoping to grind people down – but we are now entering a crucial period as the council tries to implement its new pay and grading structures.

Now is not the time to give up – or give into them!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Johnny Comes Lately (2)

On Sunday (see post dated 8 February 2009) we asked if Unison's belated conversion to pursuing equal pay claims was:

a) Too Little Too Late
b) Better Late Than Never
c) Just Another Recruitment Drive

The answer has come even quicker than we expected because today a number of claimants have been in touch to say that union reps are approaching local workplaces - in an effort to sign people up as new recruits - even though they already have an equal pay claim underway.

Our advice now is that Unison is just trying to frighten people - and is using their recent letter as part of a cynical recruitment campaign.

So, there's no need to worry and no need to do anything - if local union reps come to your workplace with these scare stories.

Best thing to do is:

1 Ask them where they've been for the past 10 years?

2 Give them short shrift

3 Chase them off the premises - with a flea in their ear

Direct and Care (Cordia)

Lots of calls this week from staff in Glasgow's Direct and Care - see post dated 2 February 2009.

Everyone's asking the same question - does this apply to cleaning and catering staff as well as carers?

The answer is YES, definitely.

If the transfer to Cordia goes ahead as planned - all Direct and Care employees (including cleaning and catering staff) will have up to 6 months to protect their interests - but why wait?

After 6 months, any claims sent to the Employment Tribunals will be out of time.

So, better to be safe than sorry - and anyone who's likely to transfer would be mad not to protect their interests at this stage.

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

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast - the way Scottish councils treat their chief officials - against the fight that women workers face to achieve equal pay. Here's a letter - from yours truly - that was published yesterday in The Herald newspaper.

Dear Sir

Local Government Pay

The present chief executive of Glasgow City Council is a fine public servant, as was his predecessor, but the annual salary paid to his post (£158,000 excluding pension benefits) masks a worrying trend within Scottish local government.

A formula is used to determine the pay of council chief executives (and effectively the pay of other chief officers) which is based on various factors including council size, council population, council budget and the number of council employees.

Hardly rocket science, but the fact is that this old formula is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be reviewed to reflect today’s very different circumstances.

For example, since the current arrangements were introduced many years ago, Glasgow City Council has transferred much of its housing function to the Glasgow Housing Association. The city’s culture and leisure services have been placed in a new charitable trust (Glasgow Culture and Leisure) and the council is also now divesting itself of Direct and Care services, which means that another 8,000 jobs (and a massive budget) will move outside of Glasgow City Council’s direct control.

So, pay arrangements for chief executives and other senior council officials are in dire need a reality check. A never ending upward spiral in salaries is plainly ridiculous, especially when many key jobs have downsized so dramatically.

The other side of the coin is that while mainstream local government posts are arguably being cushioned (in pay terms) from the drive towards externalisation, new successor bodies are creating additional senior posts hand over fist.

Cordia (Glasgow’s rebranded Direct and Care), for example, will recruit a new chief executive, a new director of finance, a new director of human resources etc. – all at the expense of the hard-pressed tax payer.

Maybe the cure is worse than the problem.

Yours sincerely


Mark Irvine

Monday, 9 February 2009

Points Mean Prizes

The basic rule of Glasgow City Council’s job evaluation scheme (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review - WPBR) is that points mean prizes.

So, if you are a full-time worker – you get an extra 7 points and extra pay worth over £800 a year – just for being a full-time worker, not because of the skills and responsibilities of your job.

But if - and only if - you work full-time.


Now that sounds completely crazy, it has to be said.

Not to mention unlawful and discriminatory – since part-time workers are supposed to be treated equally and have the same basic employment rights as their full-time colleagues.

Why should someone (i.e. a woman) who works 30 or 25 hours a week be treated so very differently - from another person (i.e. a man) working 37 hours a week?

Could it be because the vast majority of part-time workers are women?

Because that’s certainly how it appears – that Glasgow City Council has introduced this bizarre practice simply to reduce the cost of the council’s pay bill.

But at the expense of women workers – the vast majority of whom work part-time, of course – and because of that they are being treated less favourably than the men.

What do the trade unions have to say about this?

What do Glasgow councillors – who claim the city council is an equal opportunities employer – have to say?

Their silence is deafening – and those that don’t stand up and speak out against what’s going on in Glasgow - should hang their heads in shame.

Union City Blues

Bumped into Mike Kirby in Glasgow the other day – had the look of a worried man, but then he’s got a lot to be worried about these days.

Mike is the Scottish Convener (senior elected lay member) of Unison – a position Mike has held continuously since 1993 - when the new union was formed by a merger of its three predecessors - COHSE, NALGO and NUPE.

For all of these 16 long years, Unison (Scotland) has failed to elect a woman as its Convener – despite the fact that women make up the great majority (over two thirds) of its membership.

How odd, but maybe that helps to explain why the union can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to equal pay.

Mike is also a big cheese (and permanent fixture) in the Glasgow City Council Unison branch – the largest branch in the country.

But ordinary members in Glasgow are increasingly perplexed at their union’s craven attitude towards the council’s in-house job evaluation scheme – or Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), as it’s known locally – see post dated 25 January 2009.

Some say that Unison has lost its mojo in Glasgow – its old fighting, campaigning spirit.

Remember, this is the same union branch that actively encouraged low paid women members to accept poor settlement offers from the city council in 2005 – a truly shameful episode.

So, let’s hope things start to turn round in 2009 because – when it comes to equal pay – Unison members in Glasgow have nothing to lose but their chains!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Johnny Comes Lately

Unison has issued a letter on equal pay to all Scottish members – nothing unusual in that you might say – but this one’s not from local Unison branches it’s from regional secretary, Matt Smith.

The letter says: “I am writing to let you know about legal action that your union plans to take against your employer, (insert name of council) to try to ensure equal pay.”

“We believe that there may be many potential cases for back pay where women are able to compare themselves with men who are graded on the same level but are not receiving the same payment.”

Where has Unison been all this time – what planet has it been on? Because we’ve been advising people about their rights to equal pay for years (albeit in better English) – while the unions failed to support their own low paid women members.

The letter goes on to highlight the strict time limits that apply in equal pay cases – the 6 month rule – which means that people have only 6 months from leaving their employment, or working to a new contract – to register a claim.

Leave it more than 6 months and your claim is out of time – no matter how open and shut the case might be.

By a strange coincidence a former Unison member has been in touch this week – she left her council in 2004 after 32 years of service as a home carer – she should have been told then that she had an equal pay claim – and how to protect her interests.

Sadly, she was not advised about her rights and as a result she has lost out, big time – all because of her union’s complete indifference to equal pay – until recently.

The council could make her a settlement offer and that would be the right thing to do – after all she was in post for 5 years after the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement – but they can’t now be compelled to do so through the courts.

Maybe Unison will step into the breach – they certainly should because thousands of people who left council employment after 1999 are in exactly the same position – high and dry.

Is Unison’s conversion a case of: a) ‘Too Little Too Late’, b) ‘Better Late Than Never’ or c) ‘Just Another Recruitment Drive’? Take your pick.

One thing’s for sure – Unison has let down many of its low paid members over the past 10 years – and that’s why the union is always at the Coo’s Tail when it comes to leading the fight for equal pay.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

West Dunbartonshire - Settlement Offers

West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) has issued revised offer of settlement – but only to some of its employees with a valid equal pay claim.

As usual groups of employees with a perfectly good claim are being deliberately excluded - for reasons the council can’t justify and won’t explain.

In many cases, the revised offers are worth less than 50% of the full value of people’s claims.

In other words, West Dunbartonshire’s employees are being asked to hand back over half of the value of their claim – to the same council (and management) that has presided over years of pay discrimination against its largely female workforce.

Stefan Cross is writing to all WDC claimants individually – but the general advice is to reject the Council’s offer and hold out for a better and fairer settlement.

What’s on offer in West Dunbartonshire represents a good deal for the council – but a poor deal for council workers.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

CMD (Case Management Discussion) Update

Several individual claimants went along to the CMD hearing involving Glasgow City Council - which was held on Monday 2 February 2009.

By all accounts the claimants found it to be a worthwhile and interesting experience.

Not only did they get to meet Carol Fox, the claimants also had time for a discussion with Daphne Romney before proceedings got underway.

Daphne Romney is the leading equal pay barrister who has been engaged by Stefan Cross to present the Glasgow cases - at the forthcoming GMF hearing which has been listed for March 2009.

So, it was a useful exercise all round - the message is clear that these cases are about real people - who are simply seeking justice and the right to equal pay under the law.

And that's a powerful very message - because many claimants have a lifetime of service to their local councils - and the communities they serve.

By attending the CMD, claimants also got to see first-hand the important work that's taking place behind the scenes - to bring all the outstanding cases to a successful conclusion, as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Nursery Nurses

Nursery Nurses are a good example of how male and female groups tend to be treated very differently when it comes to new pay and grading structures.

Take the situation in South Lanarkshire Council.

The council says it has introduced a fair and non-discriminatory job evaluation (JE) scheme – yet most employees haven’t a clue how the JE scheme works or how it rewards different council jobs – male or female, skilled or unskilled.

Instead of being transparent and understandable – pay and grading arrangements in South Lanarkshire are a mysterious and deeply guarded secret.

Now Nursery Nurses do a very demanding job (like many other people) – they help young children get the most out of their education and interact with other key individuals during this process - including parents and teachers.

Nursery Nurses are also highly qualified – they must hold the recognised diploma in nursery nursing before they can even be considered for a job – in South Lanarkshire or anywhere else.

Yet, according to those who came along to the recent Action 4 Equality Scotland ‘drop in’ meetings - the post of Nursery Nurse in South Lanarkshire is paid at Spinal Column Point (SCP) 40 – or £10.39 per hour (at 2007/08 rates).

Compare how that looks against a council tradesman – an electrician or plumber – whose basic pay can go up to Spinal Column Point (SCP) 64 – a fact that has been confirmed by South Lanarkshire employees.

Now, no one is saying that the council electrician or plumber is not worth SCP 64 – or £14.86 per hour for that matter (£14.86 at 2007/08 rates).

But if that is true – and represents a fair outcome under the council’s JE scheme – why are such highly skilled and highly trained Nursery Nurses worth so much less?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Calling Glasgow Carers

Glasgow city council is planning to transfer all their care staff into a new arm’s length trust – which will be named Cordia – from 1 April 2009.

Many people believe the reason the council is doing this is to prevent its largely female workforce from bringing future equal pay claims.

Because by hiving their care staff off to a new employer – the council will try to argue that care staff can no longer compare their pay – to the much higher rates of pay enjoyed by traditional male jobs, such as refuse workers and gardeners - who will remain directly employed by the council.

Time will tell whether this ploy will be successful – because the council will still control the new body (Cordia) – and may find it harder than they think to escape their obligations on equal pay - by the simple expedient off hiving off Direct and Care.

Thousands of Glasgow care workers already pursuing equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – but many Home Carers and Home Care Coordinators are unaware that they can still bring a new claim against the council – even if they accepted a previous settlement.

Why do people have a new claim? Because since the council introduced its new pay arrangements (WPBR) – it has protected the higher pay of the men – so a refuse worker or gardener continues to be paid more than a Home Carer or Home Care Coordinator.

So, Glasgow carers would be well advised to protect their rights – before any transfer to Cordia goes ahead.

It’s not too late to make a new claim even now – and any new claim will cover the entire period since people signed the council’s Compromise Agreement - 3 years and counting.