Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Reports in the media today confirm that far from cleaning up their act – MPs are actually being encouraged to stick their noses ever deeper into the Westminster trough.
Under new ‘rules’ created by MPs themselves honourable members will be entitled to claim £25 subsistence when staying away from their designated main home.
But, crucially, how they spend this money will not be subject to public scrutiny – unlike most expenses regimes where claims have to be backed up with proper receipts.
The new rules have been published as the House of Commons broke up for its mammoth 82 day summer recess – thereby avoiding a damaging debate – but the rules now state:
“Members... may claim a flat-rate sum of £25 for subsistence. No receipts are necessary for this claim to be made. How members spend the subsistence allowance is for them to decide.”
The new allowance is almost double the previous £4,800-a-year limit for claims submitted without receipts – and is to be paid on top of expenses for mortgage interest, rent, council tax and utility bills.
The Daily Telegraph has led the way in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal and reports that under the new system MPs can theoretically claim £775 - if they said that they stay away from their main home for an entire month – or £9,125 a year.
The main party leaders have all made public statements over recent months – promising that the new system would be a clean break with the past – and help restore public confidence in MPs and politics more generally.
But on this evidence – they must think our heads button up the back.
Council staff and other public service workers must provide receipts for every penny they claim in expenses - and rightly so.
So, why should MPs be a law unto themsleves?
Monday, 27 July 2009
The unions might talk a good fight, as they always do – but, as everyone knows, actions speak louder than words.
The latest debacle regarding hearing dates for Edinburgh is a prime example of union double speak – see post dated 25 July.
“We’ll take up your case, we won’t charge you anything”, the unions say.
But then they go on to make a complete hash of things - and start lining up alongside the employer – instead of standing up for the interests of ordinary union members.
Stefan Cross has objected strongly to Unison’s disgraceful attempt to delay a proper hearing of the Edinburgh claims until late 2010 – here’s why:
1. Some of the claims to be considered at the forthcoming GMF hearing were submitted four years ago - in October 2005
2. Any further delay is wholly unreasonable and is not in the interest of the claimants.
3. If Unison is unable to represent their clients at a GMF hearing until late 2010 - then that is their problem
4. If Unison is unable to progress these claims - they should not have taken them on in the first place
5. Penalising other claimants because Unison can’t get its act together - is unfair and unacceptable to the majority of claimants
Action 4 Equality Scotland
Our view is that the unions are not serious about getting to grips with these cases – that’s why things were allowed to slip and slide for so long - after the original Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was introduced in 1999.
Ten years on and the unions are doing exactly the same – finding excuses for delay and yet more navel gazing – that’s why so many ordinary union members are fed up to the back teeth with their antics.
Just look at the effort going into supporting the largely male refuse workers in Edinburgh – while Unison seeks to delay equal pay for women. Sound familiar?
If you want to transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland – ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, 25 July 2009
Come to think of it – maybe it’s not so odd – because the employers and unions are often scratching each other’s backs.
Anyway, the point is this – Stefan Cross has been pressing the council and the Employment Tribunal to set a date for a full GMF or ‘defence’ hearing.
A GMF hearing is where the council has to explain and try to justify the big pay differences between male and female jobs.
Yes – the very same pay differences that the employers and the unions kept hidden from the female workers for years.
The council knows fine well it has no credible defence at such a hearing – and it has been playing for time trying to delay the inevitable.
Meanwhile Stefan Cross has been urging the tribunal to stand up for the rights of ordinary, individual claimants.
Now – out of the blue – Unison is trying to ride to the council’s rescue – because the union is also asking for a delay of up to 18 months for a GMF hearing to be held!
Unison, through its lawyers, is asking for the GMF hearing to be delayed until late 2010 – because they’re too busy with other things!
How crazy is that?
Well our view is that the whole thing is completely ridiculous – how can Unison be lining up alongside the employer – when ordinary claimants are being messed about in this way?
If the union and its lawyers are too busy to fight these cases – the obvious question is: “Why did they take them on in the first place?”
In any event the people who should not pay the price of any further delay – are the individual claimants – who have already waited far too long to have their cases heard.
So, if you’re a Unison member – our advice would be to kick up merry hell with the union - and make it clear that any further delay is completely unacceptable.
And if you’re fed up with this nonsense altogether – you can always transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland.
Ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at: email@example.com
Friday, 24 July 2009
Here are a few examples:
OVERSTATED, OVERBLOWN CLAIMS
Our promise is to provide a free equal pay service from day one.....
A grand sounding claim – but the reality is that Day 1 was July 1999 when the original Single Status agreement came into effect in Scotland - a full 10 years ago.
Since that time many thousands of council workers have lost out financially – because the unions failed to take the action needed - to defend their interests over equal pay.
DIY CASE FORMS
Unison Case Form – Remedy sought by member – Please state here what services you would like Unison to provide on your behalf.
The fact that Unison is asking members to come up with their own potential remedies and solutions says it all – surely people are entitled to a better service. It’s a kind of DIY approach to equal pay, which puts the onus on individuals to come up with the answer.
Our advice would be to write: “Get your fingers out – and do what you should have been doing for the past 10 years”.
POLITICAL FUND PAYMENTS
Unison’s Membership Form (for new members states) – Your subscription shown above includes a Political Fund payment - so you do not pay more by being in one of the (Political) funds.
But what this doesn’t explain is that members can actually opt out of the Political Fund and have their ‘political’ contributions refunded – which would reduce a member’s union contributions by over 8% every year.
The application form is misleading and poorly worded – it reads as if the Political Fund and its various activities are free – and not paid for by members’ contributions.
But, of course, that’s the whole idea – because the more people understand about how the Political Fund works, the more likely they are to opt out - and demand their money back.
Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross
So, what you see from the unions is not what you get – there’s always some other issue or agenda running and our advice is to take their claims with a huge pinch of salt.
The reality is that the trade unions are not serious about equal pay – they’ve consistently let their members down for the past 10 years – and that’s why they are regarded as a soft touch by the employers.
And that’s why the majority of people are pursuing their equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
Denied the opportunity to dump the sitting Labour MP as he was prevented from standing in the contest (see post dated 23 July) - the electorate did the next best thing by at least dumping the sitting party.
Now we're strictly neutral when it comes to party politics - colour blind in fact - unlike the unions that only have eyes for the Labour Party, despite what ordinary members think.
But if voters across the country simply got rid of MPs' who have had their noses in the trough - or punished political parties for failing to take tough action - that would be the best and quickest way to force Westminster clean up its act.
Parliament is now in recess until October - but the arguments will resume again in the autumn - and as MPs' face their day of reckoning at the next general election.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Some people were panicked by false reports about hidden charges - others by nonsense about Stefan Cross going out of business.
One person was rightly outraged that the union claimed to be acting on her behalf – even though she had never been a member of that union.
But in any event, the good news is that none of this union propaganda is true – and that any problems can be put right very quickly.
You can switch your claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross very easily – and given how the unions often treat their members - that’s exactly what people are now doing.
Here’s what one reader has to say:
“As a union member for over six years I have had a few dealings with them, but I never get anywhere. You pay your money and get the same answer every time - nothing they can do to help.”
“Their favourite answer is put it in writing. I pay them every week, so why should I put it in writing?”
So, if you want Action 4 Equality Scotland to take up your claim – ring us on 0845 300 3 800, or contact Mark Irvine at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In fact, the election is being held precisely because of the expenses scandal – because the sitting MP, Ian Gibson, resigned his seat.
He did so after being told by the Labour Party’s Star Chamber (which is investigating alleged wrongdoers) that he would not be allowed to stand for Labour at the next general election.
The incredible thing is that the Ian Gibson did the right thing by resigning – but he did so for the wrong reason – because he is adamant that he did nothing wrong.
What he did was to buy a flat in 1999 for £195,000 – and paid for the upkeep and maintenance costs out of his MP’s accommodation allowance – over four years he claimed £80,000 in mortgage interest and bills.
Nothing wrong with that in itself – because MPs should not be out of pocket for having to live in London when Parliament is sitting – commuting is not an option for most, so the only answer is to rent or buy a property or stay in a hotel.
But Mr Gibson’s case illustrates well – what’s wrong with the present system.
Firstly, he allowed his daughter and her partner to stay in the property – he was there himself only 3 days a week - so he must have bought a property that was much larger than his own needs.
Mr Gibson also allowed his daughter and her partner to live there rent free – so in effect the tax payer handed a sizeable rent free gift to the MP and/or member of his immediate family.
But the real scandal is that Mr Gibson went on to sell the property to his daughter at a knock down price of £162,000 – £33,000 less than he paid for it – and much less than the property was actually worth – £325,000 or thereabouts according to the Daily Telegraph and other media reports.
So, the MP made a huge personal profit of around £130,000 (£325,000 - £195,000) which he gave generously his daughter – but, of course, this generous gift was effectively being made out of public funds.
But what Ian Gibson is angry about is that he’s not alone – many other MPs’ have done the same – but most of them have held on to the capital gain for themselves - instead of passing it on to a family member.
So, Mr Gibson’s charge is that the Labour Party is being hypocritical in singling him out for special treatment – when so many of his colleagues are guilty of exactly the same charge.
And on that narrow point he’s absolutely right – until all the political parties prevent MP’s from benefiting so handsomely out of their ‘expenses’ – nothing will change.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
What you see is definitely not what you get.
Take their campaign to poach ongoing clients from Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – they tell people a lot of baloney about hidden charges and suchlike - scare stories which are simply not true.
But what they fail to point out is that:
1. The unions allowed the employers to get away with murder – and just looked on from the sidelines while thousands of low paid union members accepted poor offers of settlement from their employers
2. The GMB union is not even involved in the important Glasgow GMF ‘defence’ hearing – where the council has to try and justify the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs
3. In many areas the unions are not fighting for equal pay on behalf of former APT&C groups – admin and clerical workers and other school based employees, for example.
4. The unions are not challenging the Compromise Agreements signed by their members - in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Fife Councils, for example.
5. The unions have not taken up claims on behalf of their non-bonus earning male workers – this has been left to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
6. The unions have a terrible track record on Job Evaluation – sometimes helping management to introduce a scheme – at others conveniently looking the other way when their members need practical advice and support.
7. In South Lanarkshire the unions have nothing to say about equal pay – they are not fighting a single case – even though the pay gap there (between male and female jobs) is broadly the same as in other Scottish councils.
The reality is that the unions were too cosy for far too long with the employers – that’s why virtually nothing happened after the historic Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was signed in 1999.
The unions deliberately chose not to rock the boat – even though council budgets doubled in the 10 years up to 2007 – that was down to a potent mix of bad politics and lousy leadership.
The unions are now seen as a soft touch by the employers – some employers would no doubt like to deal with their old union chums – instead of having to do business with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
But the leopard hasn’t changed its spots – the unions would revert to their old ways in a heartbeat – and the people who would lose out are ordinary union members.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Now it’s been known for some time that the regime in the Lords is just a lax as the one in the House of Commons – but the paper has lifted the lid off the scandal that allows their lordships to claim generous tax free allowances - just for signing in at their place of ‘work’
The ST’s insight team tracked Chris Smith (now Lord Smith of Finsbury) - a former Labour culture minister who earns £220,000 a year from two quango jobs who and claims more than £20,000 a year for attending the Lords — all within the rules.
Here’s summary of the paper’s report from Sunday 19 July 2009:
“It took Lord Smith of Finsbury exactly 10 minutes to walk in and out of the House of Lords on Wednesday evening. He went straight to the chamber and stood near the door listening to the debate for four minutes before leaving.
The quick visit meant he could claim £161.50 for attending the house that day. He had, in his own words, “clocked in” for his daily and office allowance.
The day before, he had spent three minutes in the chamber, and on Thursday less than one minute. In those three days he did not speak in the house, did not vote or ask any written questions.
On Friday Lord Tyler, a Liberal Democrat spokesman on constitutional reform, said there could be up to 100 peers who popped in and out of the chamber to claim allowances.
He said: “There is a great deal of frustration among the more active members of the house about the way in which the system is open to exploitation.”
Peers claim allowances by attending a select committee or entering the chamber while the house is sitting, where they must attract the attention of a clerk who ticks off their name. Many claim the maximum, which is £86.50 for day subsistence, £75 for office costs and £174 for staying overnight in London.
The Sunday Times has monitored the Lords on a number of days in the past six months. Typically between 10 to 50 peers entered the chamber for less than five minutes each day.
Our reporters saw politicians loitering next to the benches waiting to be given the nod by the clerk. Some later claimed they were working on Lords business elsewhere in the house.
We decided to monitor Smith in the Lords last week because he had been spotted nipping in and out of the chamber and he has substantial commitments outside parliament.
Smith has taken on a number of jobs since becoming a peer in 2005 and divides his time between two chairmanships: for the Environment Agency three days a week and for the Advertising Standards Authority 2 1/2 days a week.
Since November last year he has spoken in one debate, not submitted any questions and taken part in only nine out of 62 votes. However, the records show he normally appeared in the chamber on 80% of days that the house was sitting. On these days he claimed day subsistence and office costs but not accommodation, because his main home is in London.
On Tuesday, Smith spent most of his day in his Environment Agency office before leaving in his car at 6.30pm. He parked in the peers’ car park and attended a drinks reception in the House of Lords held by Thames 21, an environmental charity. After drinks, he popped into the chamber for three minutes and then immediately left the house for a dinner hosted by Natural England, an environment quango.
On Wednesday, Smith was in his Environment Agency office from lunchtime until 7.30pm when he drove to the House of Lords, popped into the chamber and drove off within 10 minutes. On Thursday, he entered the chamber for less than a minute. He later headed across the road to Portcullis House to give a speech on climate change.
This weekend Smith, who also claimed £10,000 in expenses from the Environment Agency last year, acknowledged that he had “clocked in”. However, he said he had been dealing with Lords-related correspondence on Wednesday and Thursday which would justify claiming the allowance. He said the events he attended on Tuesday and Thursday related to his position as a peer and his work for the Environment Agency, and qualified as Lords work.
Smith said: “This is the way that the allowance system operates. You register attendance in the chamber, you may well stay on to listen to or participate in debates, as I sometimes do, or you may go off to other meetings in the palace of Westminster or to work in your parliamentary office. Attendance in the chamber is not the only mark of participation.”
The rules on allowances state: “The basic principle underlying the scheme is that the entitlement to recover expenses arises only in respect of attendance at sittings of the House (in the chamber) or its committees.”
You can read more from The Sunday Times at: www.sundaytimes.co.uk
Monday, 20 July 2009
Why else were ordinary union members kept in the dark about for so many years – about the big pay differences between men and women’s jobs?
Why else did it take Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross to come along – before women members learned in 2005 about the big bonuses paid to traditional male jobs?
The unions try to scare people away from Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – because we charge a fee.
But we charge a fee for a professional service – unlike the unions.
Many union members could argue that they are entitled to a refund – because took millions of pounds from their members in union contributions for all these years.
Yet they failed to defend their women members’ interests over equal pay – and, of course, the non-bonus earning male jobs as well.
What’s more - lots of people lost out financially, to the tune of thousands of pounds.
The fees charged by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross are very reasonable – 10% + VAT. So clients get to keep 88.5% - or the lion’s share of any settlement.
The point is that 88.5% of a good settlement – is still a good settlement. But 100% of a lousy settlement - is still a lousy settlement – whatever the unions say.
We won’t charge a fee – say the unions – but that’s not the point.
The real point is can you trust the unions on equal pay – because they let their members down – when their members needed them most.
Our experience is that you can’t – the unions have been far too cosy with the employers for far too long – they put the interests of their bonus earning male members above the interests of lower paid women.
That’s why so many people have lost faith in the unions - they’ve become little more than chum clubs in many areas - where vested interests and party politics prevail.
And that’s why so many ordinary union members have done the sensible thing – and voted with their feet.
In 2007/08 the cost of entertaining all the guests came to a mere £78,900 – but in these belt tightening, recessionary times the PM let rip – and almost doubled the budget to a whacking great £136,000 in 2008/09.
That’s one a hell of a lot of sausage rolls – so times can’t be that hard, in government circles at least.
As usual the great and good were all there – the stars of stage and screen – including old twinkle toes and presenter of Strictly Come Dancing - Bruce Forsyth, who’s had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, but it still going strong at the grand old age of 81.
Among other guests to raise a few eyebrows (looking backwards at least) were Sir Fred Goodwin – formerly Chief Executive of the Royal Bank Scotland – more recently elevated to Public Enemy No. 1 - for his role in almost destroying the bank and generally bringing the British economy to its knees.
Also present was Sir Victor Blank – former Chairman of Lloyds TSB – who was forced out the door by his own shareholders after buying up the HBOS bank – which was sold as a wonderful idea at the time – until a more sober assessment of the bank’s toxic assets showed HBOS up as just another basket case.
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – allegedly - encouraged Sir Victor to step in and help the government out in its hour of need – but it all ended in tears anyway with both banks having to be bailed out by the taxpayer and now under effective under public ownership.
By their friends shall ye know them – as they say – but it looks as if Sir Fred and Sir Victor will be off the Chequers guest list next year!
Also noticeable – but only by their absence – were the handful of trade union bosses who pump of millions of pounds (of their members’ money) into the Labour Party’s coffers every year.
Now I would admire a trade union general secretary who wouldn’t cross the road for an invite to Chequers – but it just goes to show how little influence the trade unions have these days – not even in the same league as Bruce Forsyth.
Now that is a real sign of the times.
Friday, 17 July 2009
In November and December 2005 council employees were required to sign a Compromise Agreement – before the council would release a compensatory payment in return for people ‘giving up’ their equal pay claims.
Glasgow workers who took up their claim via Stefan Cross achieved a much better outcome – than those who accepted the council’s original offer of settlement.
But Stefan Cross believes the Compromise Agreement can be challenged – because employees did not receive proper advice about the nature or size of their equal pay claims – or their prospects of pursuing a successful claim to the Employment Tribunals.
In addition, council employees were unaware (at the time) that Glasgow City Council were paying the fees of the legal firms attending the ‘acceptance’ meetings – and also that the council required these legal firms to restrict the scope of their advice to council employees.
The good news is that the following dates have now been set for a Pre-Hearing Review at the Glasgow employment tribunal – to consider the challenge on behalf of clients of Stefan Cross Solicitors:
Five days have now been set aside - 10, 11, 14, 16 and 17 September 2009
So, if you signed a Compromise Agreement back in 2005 – the only people fighting your corner are Stefan Cross Solicitors and Action 4 Equality Scotland - your claim is for the difference between what you were paid – and what your claim was worth.
The unions are not involved in these cases – so you’d be mad to stay with them if you have a Compromise Agreement claim. If you want to transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross ring 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at: email@example.com
If you’re an existing client - put these dates in your diary – because as a claimant you’re entitled to attend the hearings in September.
Mr Bannatyne has made some typically forthright comments about about MPs' expenses - and is reported as saying:
"I'd ask them if they were embarrassed about what had happened. If that was me, I wouldn't be able to show my face. It's despicable that so many of them have ripped off the taxpayer!"
"My advice would be: find a job that actually helps people and do that job for five years without pay. Then you might have made up for what you've done to this country," Duncan told the Radio Times.
Meanwhile the revelations about MPs' outside earnings continue apace.
Jimmy Hood, Labour MP for Lanark and Hamilton East has registered outside earnings as a parliamentary consultant to Scottish Coal - Jimmy is paid £7,500 a year, which is paid in twelve equal monthly installments.
In his latest entry to the register Mr Hood declared one of these installments and added: "Hours worked nil."
Former Labour cabinet ministers declared the cost of trips abroad: John Reid, the ex-home secretary, declared £5,000 for a trip to hold discussions with ministers and officials in Bahrain, and he also declared the £2,500 cost of a visit to Washington, paid for by Eden Intelligence, to take part in a conference on terrorism.
Patricia Hewitt, the former health secretary, declared the £2,209 cost of a trip to Sydney to address the "Digital Technology Summit" – funded by Sydney-based AC Events.
But the real point is that MPs continue to be paid their normal salaries - while they're off abroad on such trips.
Wonder what Duncan Bannatyne thinks about that?
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Well that's no problem, in principle - all that's needed is a likely place to meet.
If you have somewhere in mind locally - then get in touch with Mark Irvine with a suggested date and time - and to check on availability before finalising any arrangements.
You can either ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of readers from Glasgow have been in touch - to say that they were misled into transferring their equal pay claims to the GMB.
Apparently, they were told by a local union rep that Stefan Cross had gone out of business and that the union would be taking over their claims – and would they mind signing this piece of paper!
Being trusting souls they took things at face value at the time – but now realise they were duped - as a result they are now switching their claims back to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
You’ve got to hand it to the unions for bare faced cheek – they’ve done so little for their members over equal pay for so many years - yet they have the brass neck to try and poach clients from right under our noses - using any means, fair or foul.
But there’s a silver lining in every cloud – and what this means is that we’ve now got the perfect reason to tell the truth about the unions – and how badly they behaved towards their own members.
Normally we’ve got better things to do with our time – but if the unions are putting all this effort into spreading lies and badmouthing us – you can be certain we won’t take that lying down.
After all – if you can’t look after your own interests – how can you look after anyone else?
So, if you’ve been duped by the unions and want to switch your claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – ring us on 0845 300 3 800.
Or contact Mark Irvine at:email@example.com
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
I am a Classroom Assistant
I think it is appalling that refuse workers and roadsweepers are paid more than Classroom Assistants - the male jobs men don't have the emotional, physical or mental stress that we have to cope with on a daily basis in our jobs.
We assist children with their learning needs - but we are also involved in caring for the children - many of whom have medical conditions or other special needs that might involve physiotherapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy.
The men don't have the emotional or mental stress of working closely with such children and helping them to get the most out of their education.
While the men's jobs may be important - they can't be any more important that the jobs we do - and the fact that they are paid so much more is a disgrace.
A Classroom Assistant
We haven't anything to add - except that we couldn't agree more.
So, why – people want to know - are some carers on a lower grade than others?
I’m afraid we can’t answer that without some more details – but if people want to get in touch, we can arrange to get together - and get to the bottom of what’s going on.
Needless to say, if the trade unions had been doing their job properly – this sort of nonsense would never be allowed to happen.
And if somehow it had happened there would at least be an almighty row - and a public campaign to ensure fair treatment for all groups.
But that’s not what the trade unions are about these days – sadly.
So, if you want to do something about the situation – ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800
Or get in touch with Mark Irvine at: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to people within the council who know the history of what happened with this new 'single status' job – it clearly does exist - contrary to what the council said in response to our original information request.
So, we have now asked for an official review of the council’s initial response – and if that doesn’t elicit a proper answer – then an appeal will follow to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
Here’s a summary of the latest Freedom of Information letter to South Lanarkshire Council:
Dear South Lanarkshire Council
FOI Review Request
I refer to the attached letter from Sheila McKenzie, Council Personnel Officer, dated 19 June 2009.
I have to say to you that I consider the council’s response to my FOI request to be deliberately misleading, obstructive and unhelpful.
My understanding is that a post of Land Services Operative (LSO) 3 (Level 2) does exist, contrary to the statement contained in Ms McKenzie’s letter of 19 June 2009.
Furthermore, I understand that this post absorbed a number of previous jobs from the pre-single status regime namely: Gardener 4, LGV Driver, 1st Assistant Green Keeper and Refuse Driver – all of which were paid at the same old Grade of MW 4.
My original request, therefore, makes perfect sense and I fail to see how it requires any further clarification.
I would be grateful if you could consider this letter as a formal request for a review. If the council is not prepared to treat my request with the courtesy and seriousness it deserves, I will pursue the matter with the Scottish Information Commissioner.
Details of the council’s response will be posted here in due course
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Apparently these vitals jobs have not benefited from the review - and have by and large stood still – which is odd because it’s exactly this kind of job that should have improved its lot under Single Status.
The whole idea of Single Status was to give a better deal to the thousands of female dominated jobs that had been undervalued and underpaid for years – that’s what the employers and unions signed up to in 1999.
We will be able to say more when we get the chance to study the scheme and the scores for all council jobs – that were put through the evaluation process. Although JE is supposed to be completely transparent – some councils set out to make it about as clear as mud.
But it does beggar belief that the council and the trade unions have taken 10 years – to come up with results that disappoint so many people. The Single Status Agreement came into force in 1999 and even that was after many years of negotiation and careful planning.
Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross are challenging the outcome of Job Evaluation in many areas – it depends on the nature of the scheme adopted by individual councils.
We may do so in Edinburgh as well – but what we need are the details of the scheme and how it has been applied to all council jobs – then we will be able to advise people properly.
So, if you have useful information – please pass it on to Stefan Cross or contact Mark Irvine at: email@example.com
Readers in Edinburgh may have noticed stories in the press about the refuse workers dispute – and references to what the council is calling ‘job enrichment’.
This is a process whereby some jobs (but only some) that lose through job evaluation are given an artificial boost to get back to their previous level of earnings.
So, if you’re a refuse worker earning around £20,000 a year – the council finds supposedly extra duties or responsibilities to add on to your job (after JE is finished) which will get you back to where you were before the whole thing started.
It’s a bit like landing on a snake in a game of snakes and ladders – but then council managers come along and change the rules of the game for some jobs.
Needless to say the jobs being singled out for this kind of special treatment - are all traditional male jobs, all bonus earning jobs.
But the real question is why should Classroom Assistants - and other female dominated council jobs - not have their jobs enriched and pay enhanced?
After all they’ve been losing out for the past 10 years – ever since the 1999 Single Status Agreement. Are they not worthy – should these jobs not be capable of earning nearer £20,000 a year – just like the refuse workers?
So, our advice is not to give up or give in – all is not lost – even if the employers and unions have let you down.
If you need advice and help contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr D is a millionaire apparently – but one who felt it quite proper to claim £13,000 from the public purse – for a cleaner who doubled up as nanny to look after his children.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that several Conservative activists in Mr Djanogly’s constituency have questions about the expense claims made by their MP to pay domestic staff.
He has already agreed to repay £25,000 — including, it seems, some of the £13,000 paid for cleaning — and has said he will not claim the second home allowance until the expenses system has been reformed.
Apparently Mr D has not made any claims since April 2009 – which is better late than never - but surely he doesn’t expect the public to be grateful?
An analysis of Mr Djanogly’s expenses disclosed that he claimed an average of £400 a month for a “cleaner” for his second home. Some claims were up to £640, even though the family spent on average three days a week or less at the property.
Depressingly, the MP said his £25,000 repayment to the authorities for cleaning and gardening was “in recognition of my part in Parliament’s collective failure to address the expenses system” -
In other words he had not done anything wrong - where have we heard that familiar refrain?
The rules are to blame rules – according to Mr D – not the poor MPs who are really just victims of the House of Commons and its byzantine rules - which MPs created and approved, of course.
But everyone’s been exploiting the system – even the Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who paid for a cleaner for his own London flat - from the public purse.
Gordon Brown’s brother, Andrew, shared the same cleaner – though he paid for her services out of his own pocket – as he should have done.
Funny how MPs are left to decide for themselves - whether they've stepped over the line - and whether or not they should pay back monies - that has clearly been claimed inappropriately.
Until that's put right - things won't change for the better.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Seems like all the recent propaganda has brought home just how terrible the unions are – at standing up for their members over equal pay.
“Why are they trying to jump on the bandwagon now – after so many years of silence over equal pay”?, is the question many people’s minds.
We’re receiving enquiries from readers who say they were duped into transferring their claims to the unions – and can we switch back to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross?
Well the answer to that is YES – all you need to do is to let us know - and we’ll take case of the rest.
Contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or e-mail Mark Irvine at: email@example.com
The reality is that the trade unions are not serious about equal pay – they’ve consistently let their members down for the past 10 years – and they’re regarded as a soft touch by the employers.
That’s why the great majority of people are pursuing their equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
The Tories have their usual suspects – as everyone expected – but what’s more fascinating are the names and details of Labour MPs.
Because you would have thought – or at least hoped – that MPs from the People’s Party would realise that it doesn’t look good for you to have a full-time job working on behalf of your constituents.
Yet still find the time to pursue all kinds of other outside interests – and highly lucrative ones at that.
In other walks of life, if you do a demanding full-time job – you’re not free just to take on other paid work without permission – because there’s a potential conflict of interest – over the competing demands for your time and energy.
And because MPs’ only answer to their boss (i.e. the voters) once every 4 or 5 years – no one really manages this conflict of interest – it’s left up to MPs’ judgment and common sense!.
That’s why it’s no longer good enough for MPs to be making up the rules to suit themselves.
David Willetts, MP – (Tory Shadow Skills Secretary)
Chairman of Universal Sensors – earnings unknown
Senior Adviser to Punter Southall – up to £80,000
Oliver Letwin (Tory Policy Chief)
Non-executive Director of NM Rothschild bank – up to £60,000
Alan Duncan (Tory Shadow Leader of the House)
Director of Catalytic Solutions - @ £35,000
Director of Arawak Energy - @ £45,000
William Hague (Tory Shadow Foreign Secretary)
Adviser to JCB Group - £ up to £50,000
Adviser to Terra Firma Capital Partners - up to £20,000
Patricia Hewitt (Labour – former Health Secretary)
Non-executive director of the BT Group - £75,000
Special Consultant to Alliance Boots – up to £50,000
Senior Adviser to Cinven – up to £60,000
John Reid (Labour – former Home Secretary)
Non-executive chairman of Celtic Football Club - £34,066
Consultant for Group 4 Securicor – up to £50,000
David Blunkett (Labour – former Home Secretary)
Chair of Commission on School Transport – up to £25,000
Adviser to AeLtd – up to £50,000
Adviser to UC Group – up to £50,000
Friday, 10 July 2009
Action 4 Equality Scotland has led the fight for equal pay for the past 4 years – when the unions were in the driving seat equal pay was dead in the water. It’s clear some employers are hoping the unions will make a comeback – because they regard the unions as a soft touch – but in reality the unions are a busted flush on equal pay.
We have a track record of achieving much better settlements than the unions – and we’ve told people the truth about equal pay from Day 1. We are currently in settlement discussions with various councils including Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh.
Can I switch my equal pay claim to Stefan Cross?
Yes, of course you can – all you need to do is to give written authority to transfer your case – if you need any help ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The unions say they won’t charge a fee?
Yes, but it’s not the whole story. The unions have sold their members short on many occasions – so you need to think about the overall outcome not just our success fee. Our charges are very reasonable – 10% + VAT = 11.5% in total – and we’ve delivered the goods unlike the trade unions. It’s a false economy to save 10% in fees – but lose 40% or 50% of your potential settlement – penny wise and pound foolish, as they say.
Will I lose out if I transfer my claim to the unions?
Quite possibly – the unions have a poor track record on settling claims - they are seen as a soft touch by the employers compared to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross. The unions are not fighting any cases at all in South Lanarkshire – they’re not challenging council Compromise Agreements (in Glasgow and elsewhere) – and they’re not fighting for the non-bonus earning male workers – whereas we’re working for all these groups.
Will I get a bill from Stefan Cross if I transfer my case to the union?
Yes, of course you will.
Well, the union said I won’t have to pay anything?
The unions say a lot of things – more than their prayers often. Members are told the grass is greener on their side of the street – but that’s a lot of baloney. If Stefan Cross has protected your right to equal pay and pursued your claim with the employment tribunals – then he’s entitled to get paid for the work that’s been done. You wouldn’t call out a plumber to fix your bathroom - then complain about getting a bill for the work that's been done.
Can I change my mind, if I’ve swallowed the union’s propaganda?
Yes, but we can’t have people going back and forward like a ping pong ball. We think that Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross will achieve a better result than the unions – that’s our experience right around the country. If you’ve been duped by a lot of union scare stories, you can switch back with relative ease – so long as you don’t make it a habit.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Lots of readers have been in touch to say “Well done” to Action 4 Equality Scotland - and Stefan Cross Solicitors.
Because when male members raised the issue with their trade unions – they were told to get lost - that they had no chance of success.
But now the worm has turned – and the stance taken by Stefan Cross has been completely vindicated - by the recent landmark case of McAvoy v South Tyneside Borough Council at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
The underlying issue was always about common sense and the right equal treatment under the law – about treating both men and women fairly – even though the majority of equal pay claimants in Scotland are female.
The key point is that the groups of male workers - who never received bonus payments – always had an argument – so long as female council workers were successful in establishing their own claims.
Once a settlement for the women had been achieved – the employers were in the difficult position of having to justify why the non-bonus earning male group – should be treated any differently to the non-bonus earning female group.
The court was invited to agree that to do so - without good cause - amounted to sex discrimination against the men.
Thankfully the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed - with the arguments advanced by Stefan Cross.
So, if you’ve been let down by poor union advice – and you want to pursue an equal pay claim via Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – then get in touch.
You can either drop Mark Irvine a note at: email@example.com or ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800
Council managers have been doing the rounds telling staff that they have to sign the new contracts - or else.
But we've been here before with other councils - and there's nothing to get over excited about.
Remember the council and the trade unions have only been at this malarkey for the past 10 years - so nothing is going to happen overnight.
The key points are:
- Don't panic - and don't sign anything without getting proper advice
- And, no you won't get the sack - you won't lose your job - so don't worry
Stefan Cross Solicitors
Meantime sit tight and don't agree to anything - there's no need to at this stage - Stefan Cross will write to people having assessed exactly what the council has to say.
The trade unions don’t hesitate to take tough action to defend the interests of their bonus earning male members.
Nothing wrong with that – that’s what unions are for – albeit they’re not supposed to operate on a selective basis - 'all for one and one for all', etc etc.
If the trade unions believe they need to take industrial action, organise a full-blown strike or run a big high-profile public campaign to defend their members’ interests – well that’s what people expect.
After all - dogs bark, birds fly, and fish swim in the sea.
But – over the past 10 years – guess how many strikes or high profile public campaigns there have been - to defend the rights of women council workers to equal pay?
None – zero – zilch.
Says it all, really.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
The point is that you can’t have equal pay – unless you eliminate the unjustified pay differences between men and women’s jobs.
If all you do is just you maintain pay differentials – with smoke and mirrors – then you’re kidding people on – and that’s not a solution, it’s just an old-fashioned con trick.
What the employers and trade unions signed up to in 1999 – was a new deal for thousands of female dominated jobs that had been undervalued and underpaid for years.
What this should have meant – 10 years ago (over a period when council budgets doubled) – was a big pay increase for many of the female dominated jobs – cooks, carers, classroom assistants etc., to name just a few.
If the employers couldn't afford to close the old pay gap all in one year – the solution was simply to phase it in over 2, 3 or even 4 years.
But at the end of that period – the pay of the women’s jobs would have been brought into line with the pay of the male jobs.
Put simply, the women’s jobs have to gain more than the traditional male jobs – until pay parity is achieved – without that you still have a pay gap and, by definition, you can’t have equal pay.
Anyone that tells you any different is being dishonest – employers and trade unions alike.
So, to make the omelette – you need to break a few eggs – and eggs cost money, even if they’ve never been known to break any banks.
Edinburgh is now facing a strike – because the council’s refuse workers are losing out over job evaluation (how their jobs are valued and paid) – but who said levelling people down was the solution to equal pay?
The answer is to level up the jobs and the pay of women workers – because that’s what Single Status was all about back in 1999.
Job enrichment is the key – said some council person on the radio today – that is adding bells and whistles onto the (male) refuse workers jobs – so that their pay stays above that of the mainly female cooks, classroom assistants and carers.
But have the employers and unions learned nothing after 10 long years?
Because if only the male jobs get singled out for special treatment – that’s just back to square one – trying to make an omelette without breaking any eggs.
According to reports Unison is holding a series of meetings on consecutive Saturdays - and significantly, the council is allowing local schools to be used as venues for these meetings.
Help from the employers always comes at a price – the council is assisting Unison because they see the union as a softer option - than Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.
Curiously, the union’s pitch is that if 100 people transfer their claims from Stefan Cross – then Unison will take them up! Sounds like a third-rate service and the obvious question that springs to mind is – “Why does the local union branch need 100 claims – before it will get off its lazy backside?”
Must be some kind of dodgy deal going on behind the scenes - because remember this is the same Unison branch that tried to sell North Lanarkshire’s original single status package – through joint presentations with senior management in 2006.
But they got booed off the stage – for trying to sell their own members short. So our advice is that you can trust this lot - about as far as you can carry an elephant on your back.
The current position in North Lanarkshire is that there has been a partial settlement of some former manual worker claims – cleaning and catering groups – these individuals have an ongoing claim that’s well underway with Stefan Cross.
So far, the council has refused to recognise other people’s claims. For example, last year the council tried to restrict the claims of Home Carers - but the employment tribunal rejected the council’s argument in favour of the case put forward by Stefan Cross.
The council has wasted further time and public money by appealing that decision – the appeal is due to be heard in September, but we’re confident that the council will lose again.
Falkirk Council is similar to North Lanarkshire – it lost a similar argument at the employment tribunal and appealed the decision – but the council recently asked for a postponement of the case – and now wants to put forward new offers of settlement.
North Lanarkshire faces the same choice – but the truth is that the council has been held to account by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – not the unions. The unions sold their members out before – and will do so again – without the slightest hesitation.
As one of our readers said: “Unison has done nothing about equal pay for years – then they come along badmouthing Stefan Cross and spreading their scare stories – it’s a load of old tripe!”
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
According to reports local union stewards are telling union members who are pursuing equal pay claims with Stefan Cross – that they should transfer their claim to the GMB by 18 July 2009 – otherwise they risk losing out on their right to bring a claim altogether.
But like so much union advice – this is complete baloney – the story is nonsense and has been made up from beginning to end.
The truth is that anyone pursuing an equal pay claim with Stefan Cross should just tight – because we’re well ahead in the game.
Your claim is already well advanced – there’s nothing that you need to do while your case is being resolved – and anyone that’s says differently is winding you up, for their own purposes.
In fact, it’s the people who have taken up claims with the GMB that should be really worried – because the union is not even part of the important GMF test case in Glasgow that recently adjourned – and will start again in August.
Nor is the GMB acting for the thousands of worker workers who signed the council’s Compromise Agreement – whereas Stefan Cross is challenging these agreements.
So the union as usual is well behind the curve – but has the brass neck to pretend otherwise.
The reality is that if you’re a union member – you should consider transferring your case to Stefan Cross.
Because we’re likely to get it settled sooner than the GMB - and on past performance we’ll achieve a better outcome into the bargain.
Monday, 6 July 2009
Now most commentators thought this issue would cause maximum embarrassment to the Tory Party – because many of Tory MPs enjoy considerable earnings from second or even third jobs outside Parliament - ‘moonlighting’ as it’s commonly called.
Bear in mind that MPs’ are paid a substantial salary (£64,466) and benefit from a generous final salary pension scheme – just for doing their day jobs.
If you ask a politician about their hours of work, many of them will tell you that they work all the hours under the sun – that there’s not enough time in the day/week/month/year – blah, blah, blah.
A Lib Dem MP told listeners on BBC radio the other day that he worked an average 70-80 hours every week!
Many also say that while they enjoy long spells away from Parliament – they’re not actually on holiday or having a nice break – because they’re hard at work back in their local constituencies.
But after all the revelations about Westminster MPs and their expenses – the public mood has changed – people want a system that is independently and externally monitored - as opposed to one where MPs' make up the rules themselves.
So, consider the following example - from a part of the country where lots of low paid workers are still fighting for equal pay.
Adam Ingram, is the Labour MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow – which covers a big chunk of the South Lanarkshire council area. Adam is a former defence minister and, in a previous life, he was a full-time union official with Nalgo (now Unison).
Adam has been a busy little bee – he crams a lot into his hectic schedule – as well as acting as a tribune of the people down at the Palace of Westminster Adam records the following list of outside earnings - in the latest register of MPs’ interests:
£45,001 to £50,000 – as non-executive chairman of Sign Point Secure Ltd
£20,001 to £25,000 – as non-executive chairman of Argus Scotland Ltd
£10,001 to £15,000 – as director for the International School for Security and Explosives Education
£20,001 to £25,000 – as consultant to Argus Libya UK LLP
£50,001 to £55,000 – as consultant to Electronic Data Systems Ltd
Phew, that comes to whacking great £170,000 at the top end - plus another £64,766 – for Adam’s day job as an MP – making a grand total of £234,766!
Just how does Adam find the time to do all this? If you’re one of his constituents, why not ask Adam yourself by sending an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam is standing down at the next election.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
September: 29 and 30
October: 1, 2, 9 and 26
December 9, 10, 17 and 18
South Lanarkshire is unique amongst councils in Scotland – no one else has completely ignored the nationally recommended job evaluation scheme - and introduced anything as bizarre as the 555 grading scheme
We believe there are serious flaws in South Lanarkshire’s job evaluation scheme which can be summarised as follows:
1. The pay and grading process is not open and transparent
2. Council employees cannot discover how their own jobs are valued
3. Council employees cannot discover how other council jobs have been valued
4. The Council claims but can’t substantiate trade union support for the JE scheme
5. Most female dominated council jobs remain stuck at the bottom of the pay ladder
6. Single Status in South Lanarkshire has reinforced pay discrimination against female jobs
7. The Council has introduced widespread personal pay preservation for some of the traditional male jobs
8. The Council’s preservation scheme is a clear breach the 1999 Single Status Agreement
9. Many women workers in South Lanarkshire Council are treated less favourably than men
So, we want claimants from South Lanarkshire to come long to the hearings - not for the whole day – you can pop in for a morning or afternoon. Hearings normally start at 10.am and individual clients are entitled to attend.
The presence of claimants might help to remind everyone involved that these claims are about real people – long serving public employees - and their right to equal treatment under the law.
Glasgow Employment Tribunal Office
215 Bothwell Street
Phone: 0141 204 0730
Fax: 0141 204 0732
Anyone attending should make themselves known to Carol Fox who will be there on behalf of Stefan Cross Solicitors.
Michael Martin was the first Commons speaker to be ousted in 300 years - over his handling of the MPs' expenses scandal - yet he has been rewarded for his performance - with a seat in the unelected 'noble' chamber.
As well as being kitted out in a new set of ermine robes - the former speaker will be entitled to claim the generous allowances and expenses paid to their lordships - while drawing a pension that's based on his final salary in the Commons - which was a whacking great £146,041 a year.
The Lords Appointments Commission (an independent vetting panel) apparently expressed concern that Michael Martin's appointment could damage its reputation - but was overruled by the Prime Minister, according to press reports.
Little wonder that so many people are so disillusioned with Westminster - and the antics of its politicians.
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Instead of giving a straight answer to a straight question – the council has responded by saying that: “...we do not have a post title Land Services Operative LSO 3 (2).”
Now this truly amazing.
Because we already know - from what South Lanarkshire council employees have told us - that one of the ‘old’ council jobs absorbed into the new ‘single status’ job of Land Services Operative 3 (Level 2) - was that of a council Refuse Driver (at Manual Worker Grade MW 4).
And there may be others as well.
So, before responding - by asking for a review and then appealing over the council’s head to the Scottish Information Commissioner – we thought we’d ask readers in South Lanarkshire for help.
If you can shed some light on the history of Land Services Operative 3 (Level 2) – get in touch with Mark Irvine at email@example.com
But in the meantime ask yourself this question:
“If the council has nothing to hide, why doesn’t it just come clean and confirm what these jobs are paid?”
Post from Monday 8 June
Dear Mr Strang (Council Chief Executive).
I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.
I am seeking pay information in respect of specific South Lanarkshire Council jobs:
1. How many posts does the council currently employ in Job Category - Land Services Operative LSO 3 (2)?
2. How many of these posts are placed on Spinal Column Point 25?
3. How many of these posts are placed on Spinal Column Point 26?
4. How many of these posts are placed on Spinal Column Point 27?
5. How many of these posts are placed on Spinal Column Point 28?
6. Please specify how many posts/post holders in Job Category LSO 3 (2) were placed on salary preservation once South Lanarkshire Council introduced its local Single Status arrangements in April 2004?
7. Please specify the current number of preserved salary posts at each of the spinal column points between Spinal Column Points 29 to 50. In other words, how many LSO 3 (2) posts are preserved at Spinal Column Point 29, Spinal Column Point 30, Spinal Column Point 40 and so on – up to and including Spinal Column Point 50?