Saturday, 26 September 2009

Cutting the Cost of Politics

As the party conference season gets into full swing - some people are asking questions that might start raising a few eyebrows - and not before time.

Like: "Why is the taxpayer footing the bill for MPs (from all parties) - to swan about at party conferences - when they are clearly not at work or doing their proper day jobs?"

First the Lib Dems in Bournemouth last week, followed tomorrow by Labour in Brighton - and then finally by the Tories next week in Manchester.

The new speaker of the House of Commons (John Bercow) seems to agree - here's what he's had to say recently on the subject of our
MPs' lengthy summer recess:

"I am very sympathetic to those who say: Why do MPs need to have a 12-week recess?"

"I don't think it is necessary."

"People cannot understand, even if MPs are working hard in their constituencies in September, why, when the vast majority of people are back at their place of work, we are not."

"I see no reason why September must be deemed sacred."


John Bercow was elected on a ticket of cleaning up politics - and a good start would be to require that any MP attending their annual party conference - should be docked a full week's pay for doing so.

As there are over 640 MPs - paid over £1,000 per week (for just a bog standard backbencher) - that would save fast approaching £1 million every year - not counting the many family members who invariably attend these events, but who double up as office staff.

After all, why should the taxpayer pay people's salaries - for something that's only about party political advantage?

North Lanarkshire

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch with more tales of union skulduggery - this time from Unison.

The reader had left Unison and had stopped their union contributions - but out of the blue they received an unsolicited phone call - in an effort to persude the person to think again and remain a member.

According to our reader, part of the 'sales' pitch was that Stefan Cross was no longer dealing with the person's equal pay claim - and that all the outstanding cases were being transferred to Unison.

Now this isn't just a tall tale - it's complete baloney - made up from start to finish.

So, if you're spun a similar story - just take it with a huge pinch of salt - and ask the union rep to put their advice in writing - that way you won't see them for dust.

Needless to say, the person who contacted us has kept their claim running with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

We've had lots of enquiries from readers in Glasgow - about the challenge to the city council's Compromise Agreement that got undeway the other week.

What everyone wants to know is: "What was the outcome of the hearing?"

Well the answer is that the hearing did not reach a conclusion - there are various witnesses still to be heard - and further dates have been set aside for the case to reconvene in the New Year.

We will publish the details on the blog site in due course.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Action 4 Equality Scotland

Just about every day – someone who switched their equal pay claim to one of the unions - comes back to Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross.

The union poaching campaign has been a miserable failure – despite their national expensive advertising campaign and nasty attack adverts.

Action 4 Equality Scotland may charge a fee – but we provide a quality service to our clients - and we keep our promises.

Here’s what one union member from Glasgow had to say the other day:

“Dear Sirs,

I would like to transfer my equal pay claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland.

I was sensible enough to do that when the whole equal pay business first took off.

But I was stupid to believe the GMB when they sent me a convincing letter about how I was entitled to more money if I switched my claim to the union.

I apologise for my stupidity, and greed, and request that my case is transferred back to Action 4 Equality Scotland.

Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross have always been completely straight - and never let me down, or duped me, at any point along the way.

Yours sincerely

A Glasgow Carer”

Glaswegians have a reputation for plain speaking – so we’ll let these words speak for themselves.

If you want to transfer your claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland, ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Thursday, 17 September 2009

North Lanarkshire - Home Carers

Here’s a model letter to the Chief Executive of North Lanarkshire Council – regarding the position of Grade 1 Home Carers.

If you want to find out more about how your job has been graded, just adapt and sign the letter – before sending it on to the council.

If you don’t know who to send the letter to at local level, just e-mail or post your letter to Gavin Whitefield, the council's Chief Executive.

September 2009
Gavin Whitefield
Chief Executive
South Lanarkshire Council
PO Box 14
Civic Centre
Motherwell
ML1 1TW

By e-mail tomailto:WhitefieldG@northlan.gov.uk


Dear Mr Whitefield

Freedom of Information Request

I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.
I am employed as a Home Carer (Grade 1) with North Lanarkshire Council and I would like to ask you for:


1. A copy of my current Job Description

2. Full details of how my Home Carer (Grade 1) post was evaluated and scored under the council’s Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Signed - Home Carer


Keep a copy of your reply - and contact Mark Irvine to discuss what to do next.

Union Fires Official for Taking Side of Low Paid Women

A number of readers have been in touch about the recent post on Unison – see post dated 24 August 2009.

Here’s a selection of the comments we've received:

Midlothian

“I was a union steward for years. In my experience a full-time official would have to murder someone to get the sack - and even then they’d get their job back on appeal. Sounds like a right proper stitch-up.”

Edinburgh

“Normally a complaint form an employer would be taken as a sign that a union official was doing their job and standing up for the members. How can that be grounds to sack someone?”

Glasgow

“I’ve known Ken Seaward for a long time. Had my differences with him for sure, but no one deserves to be sacked like that, not after 28 years service. It’s a disgrace.”

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

GUMBO

Brace yourselves!

Reports from the TUC suggest that yet another new, super-union could be on the cards - proving that size really does matter in the macho world of trade union politics.

The talk of the steamie - since there's not much else going on to excite delegates - is that the GMB and Unison are to merge and will create a new organisation - with 1.8 million members.

If so, the Labour Party could find itself beholden to a second super-union - along with Unite.

Unite is the trade union formerly known as TGWU/Amicus - which is the Big Daddy of the trade union movement - for the moment anyway.

Maybe one day soon there will be just one giant monopoly - to reflect the many and diverse views of all union members - north and south of the border and of all political persuasions!

Negotiations between GMB/Unison have begun to create a single organisation with a combined annual income of over £260million - which would be Labour’s biggest donor and benefactor.

Talks will now be held over many months - perhaps years even - promising to bring the union closer to its rank and file members.

But the exact opposite will be the case - with most of the key decisions still being made by remote, faceless committees.

Big may be best for the union bosses - but small is definitely beautiful - when it comes to the interests of ordinary, individual members.


The bookies are now taking bets on the name of this new behemoth in the union jungle - according to reports the early favourite is: GUMBO.

North Lanarkshire

Lots of readers have been in touch about the strange position of Home Carers in North Lanarkshire.

Apparently there are two grades of Home Carer – Grade 1 and Grade 2 - which are paid quite different rates.

According to the council the duties and responsibilities of the Grade 1 carers - are less demanding than those of their Grade 2 colleagues.

But many carers (of both grades) say this is simply not true – that the two categories of carer often share the same clients and do exactly the same work.

In other words, that the two grades of Home Carer are effectively inter-changeable – in many, if not all cases.

So how can a big difference in people’s pay be justified?

Now we don’t know the answer – but we’re happy to help people find out – because it may be that the council can’t justify this difference in treatment.


The starting point – for Grade 1 Home Carers is to ask for a copy of your Job Description – and for details of how your job was evaluated and scored - under the council’s Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

We will put a model letter on the blog site for people to use – and once you get an answer, we can discuss how to take things forward.

The unions, of course, are nowhere to be seen on this issue.

The unions are completely compromised by their previous behaviour in North Lanarkshire – where they oversaw a reorganisation of the Home Care service several years ago – but said nothing at the time about the significance of equal pay.

So watch this space.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

TUC News

Regular readers will be interested to learn that the TUC today decided to draw a line in the sand - on the subject of stiletto heels.

The BBC reports that union members have voted to take a stand against the risks of wearing high heels in the workplace - in favour of more "sensible shoes".

Delegates at the TUC congress in Liverpool backed a motion requiring some employers to carry out risk assessments about workers' footwear.

Good for them - women across the UK will sleep more soundly tonight - safe in the knowledge that the TUC has its finger on the nation's pulse!

The motion stated that all firms which promote high heels should examine the risks that employees wearing them face and, where they are found to be hazardous, they should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes.

No sign yet of a serious debate on equal pay - but we live in hope, if not anticipation.

South Lanarkshire

Not for the first time – Unison in South Lanarkshire is talking a load of baloney when it comes to equal pay.

The union is telling its members not to worry about the employment tribunal hearings that are getting underway – later in September.

If Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross win their case – the union says - that members not involved in this legal action will still benefit – and will get exactly the same in back pay!

Not only is this wrong – it is wrong big time – and highly irresponsible into the bargain.

Because the union is failing to take action to protect people’s interests – then its urging members to have blind faith in the employers!

But no employer in the history of dealing with these equal pay claims - has ever made backdated payments on a completely voluntary basis.

To do so would arguably be unlawful and would leave individual councillors open to surcharge.

The reality is that the only South Lanarkshire employees who will receive a full backdated payment – are those who have registered an equal pay claim with the employment tribunals.

If Unison or South Lanarkshire Council say differently – let them say so publicly and on the record.

And the only people pursuing equal pay claims with South Lanarkshire Council – are Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Trade Unions and Party Politics

As the annual TUC conference gets underway in Liverpool - today is a good day to reflect on the role of the trade unions - in modern 21st century Scotland.

Here's an article I wrote back in August 2005 for VIEW magazine - the 'in-house' journal of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

I wrote the piece just as equal pay began making the headlines - which was not down to the efforts trade unions, of course.

Equal Pay became an issue only because Action 4 Equality Scotland arrived on the scene - and explained the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs - pay differences that the trade unions had been silent about for years.

"Tribal Cultures and Civic Partners"

"Trade unions face some interesting times over the next ten years. Having come through the dark days of the 1980’s and 90’s, when they were constantly on the defensive, the outlook today is not just good, but verging on the benign.

The economy is stable, despite manufacturing’s ongoing decline. To all intents and purposes, we have full employment for the first time in generations. Public sector investment is at an all-time high and the traditional bargaining role of unions has been restored – compared to the hard times endured under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Yet something’s not quite right, the unions don’t behave like good or equal partners - what you see and what you get are different things. Fundamentally, they remain highly party politicised and unrepresentative of their own members. In short, they are increasingly out of step with the new politics and values of Scotland.

The Scottish parliament is criticised for all kinds of reasons, sometimes justifiably, but the new set-up is unarguably much fairer and more open to scrutiny than Westminster ever was. Some argue, with more passion than evidence, that Holyrood has failed to shine, that too many duds and dunces have found their way on to the backbenches, or even high office. Of course, this ignores all the duds and dunces we sent to London in the past, and the fact that the Scottish parliament is still in its infancy, as far as political institutions go.

The key to Scotland’s new politics has been fairer voting - the acceptance of the need to be seen to be more representative of ordinary people and public life. Proportional representation (in various guises) has made Scotland’s politicians far less arrogant and overbearing. Put simply, Jack McConnell today would never get away with Donald Dewar’s sleight of hand over the controversial Holyrood building project.

In the new Scotland, others (namely the Liberal Democrats) have been part of government for years, helping to check and balance what is done in the people’s name. Vocal minority parties and independent MSP’s are on the opposition benches – Tommy Sheridan and Margo McDonald, for example, have no real counterparts in the Westminster parliament, sad to say.

In effect, the old-fashioned tribal nature of politics in Scotland has been forced to change and this trend will be reinforced when PR changes the face of Scottish local government. Soon the ‘first past the post’ (winner takes all) approach to decision-making will be swept away for good – and with it the nonsense of Labour in Glasgow holding 94% of council seats on 40% of the votes!

Instead, Scotland’s local and national government will enjoy a mixed economy of representation: Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, Tories, SSP, Greens and Independents will all have their say and ensure that a wide range of voices are heard. Less powerful politicians’ means they have to work much harder to carry a majority, both inside and outside their own groups and parties.

Where are the trade unions in this debate? Well, they’re not leading the charge – that’s for sure. Because the logic of demanding that our politicians should better reflect public life and civic society means that other civic partners should accept their responsibility to behave the same way. But despite the 4 and 5 party politics in Scotland the unions continue to behave like one-party Labour states.

In the 1980’s I worked in London as a NUPE (National Union of Public Employees) official. A colleague at that time was Sue Slipman, former leading light in the National Union of Students and prominent member of the Communist Party. Sue did something incredible for the times: she left the Communist Party, eschewed the Labour Party, and joined the recently formed SDP (Social Democratic Party) along with Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers – along with many disillusioned former Labour supporters.

Now that should have made no difference to Sue’s role inside a union that supposedly transcended party politics. But it did. Though many ordinary union members shared Sue’s views, she was treated as a traitor and cold-shouldered by the union leadership. The logic of their position was that only loyal Labour party members could be trusted in senior positions – a view still prevalent today. Sue Slipman got the message and moved on to achieve success elsewhere in a less tribal, hostile and macho environment.

At best 20,000 Scots are Labour members - less than 0.5% of the population. Yet unions are packed to the rafters with Labour activists and supporters. Impossible numbers are concentrated in all the top jobs, which can only happen if a hidden hand is at work. In Scotland, unions will employ non-Labour supporters to answer the telephone, but not in a position of leadership and responsibility – the irony of which is lost on people who otherwise see themselves as champions of fair play and equal opportunities!

The truth is that 99% of union members in Scotland don’t belong to any political party and vote exactly the same way as the rest of the population - yet still the unions claim to speak for their members on party political issues. How ridiculous and absurd, and increasingly indefensible.

For example, only 600 or so GMB union members in Scotland are also individual Labour party members - yet 99% of its 60,000 Scottish members pay Labour a political levy. Small sums are top sliced each week from the union contributions of GMB members who never vote for or support the Labour party at election time. Interestingly, union members in Northern Ireland have to opt in to such schemes on an individual basis.

The political levy is about power - not ordinary members. In 2002, RMT rail union leader Bob Crow took an axe to its Labour party links - declaring that its previous affiliation of 56,000 members was no more! Overnight, a great army of 56,000 levy payers was transformed into a rump of 10,000. One minute 97% of RMT members paid money to Labour, the next a mere 17% - yet not one of the 56,000 individuals involved had any say.

The challenge for Scotland’s trade unions (both as employers and civic partners) is to embrace the modern, democratic and inclusive politics that underpin the Scottish Parliament (and Scottish local government). This requires the unions to welcome people from all political faiths and none: only then will they accurately represent the views and values of their members in Scotland.

The need for change is reflected in trade union policy – much of which remains firmly stuck in the 1970’s and 80’s – vaguely left wing and resolutely old Labour. But because the gene pool of talent within the unions is so shallow, so unrepresentative of the grass roots membership, the outlook of the leaders is narrow, one-dimensional and self-perpetuating.

A good example is the attitude of the trade unions’ towards the voluntary sector, which is at best ambivalent and at worst hostile. Take the housing association movement in Scotland. For many years the unions (and the Labour Party) opposed council house sales and housing associations were regarded, quite wrongly, by many on the left as a Thatcherite creation and therefore not to be encouraged or trusted.

Yet, the community based housing model was a great success with its emphasis on tenant led services, local delivery and new smaller neighbourhood identity - a world away from the monolithic housing schemes and services of the past! 20 years on, the unions opposed tooth and nail the move to transform social housing in Glasgow and to set up a new Glasgow Housing Association, condemning the plan as naked privatisation - in a complete distortion of the truth.

The real reason for this hostility is that union density in voluntary organisations is much lower at around 25% to 30% of the workforce - whereas in the public sector union membership stands at 50 or 60%. So, the unions need to work that much harder to recruit and retain members.

In union world, big is best while the rest of us are now generally agreed that small is beautiful! Big monolithic unions are the product of big monolithic employers and services. The two things go together, their highly politicised culture is similar and they tend to mimic each other – sometimes to the detriment of the people and purpose they claim to serve.

Trade unions have an important place in a modern Scotland. If they didn’t exist we’d have to invent them, but they now need to reinvent themselves in a changing world where people want a strong individual voice – not just a collective one. I speak as an active trade unionist all my working life and paid up member of the politically non-aligned NUJ (National Union of Journalists).

My sense is that if the unions are to become full civic partners in Scotland, they need to practice what they preach, to be more open and inclusive, to strike a better balance between collective and individual views, and to reflect the diversity of their members in every way."

Looking back the article is just as relevant now as it was then - perhaps more so because support for the Labour party amongst ordinary union members has fallen even lower - to between 16% and 25% according to the latest opinion polls and election results.

The point is trade unions don't reflect the views of their members - when it comes to party politics.

And the way to prevent union leaders from behaving like amateur politicians - is to insist that members who do wish to pay a political levy must make a conscious, individual decision - by opting in to the levy system, as happens in Northern Ireland.

Now that would inject some honesty into politics - and help the unions clean up their act into the bargain.

Simples.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Paid £150,000 To Do Nothing!

While members of the Unite trade union are still fighting for equal pay - their leaders seem to have other things on their minds.

Here's a report about more union in-fighting from today's Observer - you can read the full article on-line at: http://www.observer.guardian.co.uk/

"Gordon Brown's former spin doctor under fire over continuing strife at 'super union'

A leading official at the strife-torn "super union", Unite, has received a full pay and perks package worth about £150,000 for doing nothing since he was ousted almost two years ago by Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor.

The Observer can reveal that Mike Griffiths, the union's former national political officer, has received his full £65,000 salary, kept his union car and been paid expenses since he was given his marching orders by Whelan in autumn 2007.

The treatment of Griffiths, a respected official who was a candidate for the job of Labour party general-secretary last year, has infuriated Labour MPs, who say it is the latest evidence of turmoil at Unite since Whelan's appointment as political director.

Whelan faced grievance proceedings last year from two members of staff who submitted a statement as part of their complaint referring to "a real culture of fear and a climate of bullying that he [Whelan] allows to take place in his department". Whelan has denied all accusations of bullying.

Friends of Griffiths, who is a member of Labour's national executive committee and incurs some expenses as a result, confirmed last night that he has not done any work for Unite during more than 20 months of "gardening leave", after being told by Whelan that his face did not fit. But he remains on the payroll.

"Charlie just said to him he was not wanted any more and so he was sent away and told to do nothing. But they couldn't find a reason to get rid of him so he is still on full pay with car and expenses," said a union ally.

At least one other former employee of Unite's political section has been paid off at substantial cost to the union following a lengthy dispute with the former spin doctor.

The revelations will fuel anger within the union movement at the way Unite funds are being used, as delegates head to the TUC conference which opens in Liverpool today.

Earlier this year Unite's joint general secretary, Derek Simpson, who is close to Whelan, had to defend his stay in a £399-a-night suite at the Waldorf, one of London's most luxurious hotels, for a four-day union executive meeting in the capital.

Simpson, who has attacked bankers for their "gold-plated pensions, golden handshakes and huge rewards for failure", has an £800,000 home, provided by the union, in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, which is a 35-minute journey from where the meeting took place.

Simpson's officials justified the stay by saying that he had to attend several late night meetings and that he could not be expected to travel home every evening after they had finished.

Labour MPs, many of whom are funded by the union, were privately scathing about the way Whelan and Simpson have behaved. "The whole thing is an absolute disgrace. It is completely shambolic," said one."


What a waste of the members' money - and what about the General Secretary staying in a super luxurious £399-a-night hotel?

You really couldn't make it up.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

The challenge to Glasgow Compromise Agreement continues - for a further three days next week:

Monday 14 September

Wednesday 16 September


Thursday 17 September

If you signed a Compromise Agreement in 2005 - and you have a claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors - you are entitled to attend these hearings.


The hearings are being held at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - five minutes walk from Central Station - along Bothwell Street towards Finnieston.

If you do go along, make yourself know to Carol Fox who will be there with the Stefan Cross legal team.

Dead Parrots and Fighting Cats

Having been kept well away from Chequers for the past two years - see previous post dated 17 July 2009 - Gordon Brown finally invited the country's union bosses to lunch yesterday.

Who'd have guessed that the annual TUC conference gets underway in Liverpool - next week?

The purpose of the meeting was to pour oil on troubled waters - because some unions have been threatening to turn off the taps - and stop pouring their members' money into Labour party coffers.

But despite the warm words and reassurance - the PM's guests were less than gracious afterwards - fighting like cats in a proverbial sack about the future of the Labour party.

Unite boss Derek Simpson issued the Prime Minister with a stark ultimatum, calling on him to abandon the New Labour platform or “stand aside”.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said: “This is no time for mincing words. The party is at best eight months away from a general election. If you want to go down the New Labour route it is suicide.

“New Labour is dead. It’s like the parrot in Monty Python. Anybody who is going to take over and lead us down that path is taking us to certain defeat."

Speaking to The Times, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said he expected Mr Brown to stand down if Labour lost the general election.

“At the moment you would get pretty long odds on Labour winning. In some ways I feel quite sorry for him. I’m afraid the public will have made up their mind about him well in advance of the election, although I hope it can be changed.”

On possible successors to Mr Brown, Mr Kenny said: “Who do I wake up each morning excited by? Nobody. I’m not trying to hedge a bet.”


Just imagine what ordinary union members make of all this political posturing.

Not a lot.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Edinburgh Update

Edinburgh City Council has finally run out of road – the council is being required to attend a GMF hearing to consider its outstanding equal pay claims.

For months now Stefan Cross has been pressing for the employment tribunal to set a firm date for GMF hearing – because that puts the council firmly on the spot.

In plain language - a defence hearing finally forces the employer justify its discriminatory actions – the big pay differences between male and female jobs.

The good news is that the tribunal has now decided that an Edinburgh GMF hearing must be held within the next six months – between October 2009 and February 2010.

Longer than we would have wished – it has to be said.

But just remember that Unison has been lining up alongside the council on this subject – with the union’s lawyers asking for a delay in the GMF hearing - until late 2010!

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross Solicitors - on the other hand -are ready to go anytime.

We want the GMF hearing to proceed as soon as possible – and we have already identified dates when our legal team is available to get proceeding underway.

Like our clients in Edinburgh we’re fed up with the council’s end delaying tactics.

See previous post – “Big Stink in Auld Reekie’ – dated 18 August 2009.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Here's another Freedom of Information (FOI) request to South Lanarkshire Council.

Most other council workers in Scotland are covered by a nationally approved and recommended job evaluation scheme (JES) - but not South Lanarkshire's.

The national (Gauge) scheme that was developed over several years and - even if you disagree with its decisions - the national scheme is easy to follow and understand.

But South Lanarkshire's 'in-house' 555 scheme just the opposite - no one seems to know who created the scheme, what their background and credentials were - and what they were paid for their efforts.

Hence the reason for the FOI request - to shine some daylight on a subject that is still shrouded in secrecy.


Dear South Lanarkshire Council - by e-mail to the Chief Executive (Archie Strang)

Freedom of Information Request

I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.

I would like to know:

1. What were South Lanarkshire Council’s reasons for not adopting the nationally recommended COSLA (Gauge) Job Evaluation Scheme (JES)?

2. What was South Lanarkshire Council’s share of the £250,000 costs of producing the nationally recommended COSLA JES?

3. Who were the creators or authors of South Lanarkshire Council’s 555 Job Evaluation Scheme (JES)?

4. What payment did the creators/authors of South Lanarkshire Council’s 555 JES receive for their time and expertise?

5. What credentials did the creators/authors possess for developing South Lanarkshire Council’s 555 JES?

I look forward to hearing from you in due course

Kind regards


Mark Irvine

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

General Update - All Councils

Readers are regularly in touch asking for an update of what's happening in their own local area.

Generally speaking, all the news there is to report is already up on the blog site - and there's little more to relate in a separate e-mail.

People are understandably frustrated that some employers have dragged their feet for so long.

And there is genuine anger that some employers have engaged in deliberate delaying tactics - registering pointless appeals, using public money - to slow down the tribunal process.

The current position across all councils is that we are pressing for GMF (Genuine Material Factor) or ‘defence’ hearings - to be held as soon as possible.

A GMF hearing requires the council to explain and try to justify the big differences in pay - between traditional male and female jobs.

Councils are no longer trying that these differences exist – the pay gap is now accepted as a matter of fact.

Over recent months GMF hearings have got underway with Glasgow, Fife and North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire Councils – further GMF dates are also in the process of being set for Edinburgh and North Lanarkshire Councils.

The significance of these GMF hearings is that the employers cannot frustrate and delay the process any longer – finally they have to stand up and justify their discriminatory actions.

On the back of a successful GMF hearing in Glasgow - Glasgow City Council is now putting forward new settlement proposals to over 4,000 Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross claimants.

And, of course, the employers talk to one another - what happens in one council has implications for the rest - particularly if there's a major development.

We are doing everything we can to achieve a similar outcome in all other councils - where equal pay claims are still outstanding.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Shadow Leader Sent to Prisons!

Okay, so the strap line is a bit hyped up.

But the good news is that David Cameron has sacked his Shadow Leader of the House - Alan Duncan - and sent him off to be prisons minister - the political equivalent of the salt mines at Westminster.

Readers may recall that Alan Duncan said that MPs' lived on "rations" and were being treated like "shit" - see post previous dated 13 August 2009.

Mr Duncan was no doubt expressing privately held views - shared by many MPs' across all political parties.

But he put his foot in his mouth while he was a Tory front bench spokesperson - and one of the key people charged with reforming the discredited MPs' expenses system.

For his stupidity, he has now been banished to the political wilderness - and rightly so - though there's plenty more who should follow him.

Seems like there is a little justice in the world, after all.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Union Stands Accused of Hypocrisy

Unison – the public services union and sometime supporter of equal pay (but not in South Lanarkshire) – stands accused of hypocrisy over plans to cut its own employees’ pension scheme.

According to the Time newspaper today – the union which has campaigned fiercely against government cutbacks to pensions in the public sector - is to cut back on the pension scheme for its own staff.

Unison, says it can no longer afford its final-salary scheme for employees - and has set out initial proposals to cut costs.

Unison officials have accused their own bosses of “sheer hypocrisy” – because the union has been so aggressive in opposing similar cuts in public sector pensions.

“Only a year ago the union launched a massive campaign and staged two days’ strike action to protect local government pensions. Now they are preparing to sacrifice their own staff benefits,” one official told the Times.

Unison has launched a series of campaigns to protect public sector pay and pensions and in the past two years has staged several days of strike action against proposed cuts.

Only last week the union vehemently opposed government proposals to reduce town hall final-salary pensions.

Papers seen by The Times show that the union’s pension funds face a deficit - that has more than doubled in the past year.

“Given the seriousness of the deficit, it is unlikely that a recovery package is going to be possible without an increase in employee contributions,” the paper also says.

Senior union officials claimed that there had also been informal discussions about scrapping the Unison final-salary pension scheme - and replacing it with the much less generous career average scheme.

The Civil Service has already introduced a career average scheme for new entrants - and council employers are considering the proposal.

The full newspaper article can be read online at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/

Sunday, 6 September 2009

South Lanarkshire and Clapmadug

Readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch to say that the prankster poking fun at council bureaucrats has struck again on You Tube - twice this time.

The creator of these You Tube videos goes by the name of Clapmadug - see previous post dated 6 August 2009.


He/she has posted two new 'public information' videos - about councillors' expenses and a rather extravagant sounding council car leasing scheme.

The videos can been viewed via the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/user/clapmadug#play/all/favorites-all/2/pfIamqJcUIA


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Gissa Job!

Not all of our hard working MPs have enjoyed a relaxing summer holiday - it seems.

Some have have found the time to keep up with their outside jobs - for which they get handsomely paid - in addition to their their £65,000 MP's salary.

According to a report in today's Telegraph newspaper - some MPs are making up to £5,000 an hour - in outside earnings during the summer recess.


Now that's one helluva good hourly rate!

Here's a summary of the article which can be read on-line at - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

"Figures from the Parliamentary authorities show that a number of MPs have made thousands from private earnings since the Commons broke on July 21 2009.

John Gummer, the Conservative former Environment Secretary- who claimed more than £9,000 a year for gardening on MPs' expenses - was paid £1,666 for 20 minutes work - the equivalent of £5,000 an hour - on behalf of Sovereign Reversions Ltd, an equity release firm.

Oliver Letwin, the Tory police chief, was paid £5,020 for 35 hours work by merchant bank NM Rothschild & Son.


Greg Barker, the Conservative climate change spokesman earned £4,993 for 12.5 hours work for US investment firm Pegasus Capital Advisers.

Labour politicians were also found to be earning during the summer holidays.


Patricia Hewitt, the former Health secretary, earned £9,200 for 30 hours work for pharmacy chain Alliance Boots - and a further £21,975 for 56 hours work for BT.

Adam Ingram, Labour's former defence minister earned £3,450 for eight hours work with two security firms.


Nick Raynsford, a former housing minister registered £11,416 for 47 hours work with three housing organisations.

While there is no suggestion any of the MPs have broken any rules, it highlights how much they can supplement their £65,000 a year salary."


Adam Ingram is, of course, the MP for East Kilbride - part of the area covered by South Lanarkshire Council - where many low paid council workers are still fighting for equal pay.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Misrepresenting the Members

Members of the Unite union – will be interested to learn that union leaders handed over more than £1 million - to the Labour Party over the past three months, according to press reports.

If they keep going at that rate – Unite members will be supporting the Labour Party to the tune of £4 million in a single year – making the union easily Labour’s biggest donor.

Just think what all those millions could do - in support of members’ fighting for equal pay.


Where has the money been going all these years – what does it get spent on – who decides – and how do ordinary unions members get their say?

Well the answer is they don’t.

Away from public glare – and far from ordinary members – union committees decide what to do with all this cash.

But Unite members are just like everyone else.

In Scotland, they support the Labour Party – around 25% of them according to the opinion polls.

But Unite members support other political parties in even greater numbers – the big majority (around 75%) support the SNP, Lib Dems, Tories, Greens, Socialists and Independents.

Yet, Unite – just like the other affiliated trade unions – ignores the views of most of its members – and insists on pouring money only into Labour Party coffers.

Why does this happen?

Because most ordinary members don’t realise they are paying a political levy as part of their weekly or monthly union contributions.

And it’s not easy to opt out of paying – once you start.

Unions must carry out a ballot every ten years – if they want to maintain a political fund – and despite the fact that these ballots are very poorly supported – the outcome nonetheless applies to the entire union membership.

So, if only 10 or 15% vote to keep the political fund – the arrangements also apply to the other 85% of the members who didn’t vote – unless, of course, they opt out on an individual basis.

As most ordinary members don’t realise they are paying a political levy to begin with – the system stays in place.

Whatever this is – it’s not union democracy – it’s completely undemocratic and misrepresents the views of most union members.

Dirty Tricks

Some readers from Midlothian have received unsolicited letters from the council - about their equal pay claims - see previous post dated 3 September 2009.

The council is up to its old tricks - trying to get people to give up their claims on the cheap - and without explaining the basis of their 'new' offer.

The council is also making false statements about contact with Stefan Cross - here's an extract of a letter that's on its way to all clients in Midlothian - to set the record straight.

"If you have received such a letter, you will no doubt have noted that the Council are claiming to have made contact with us six months ago regarding your offer. This is simply not true. We have not at any stage during the last six months been contacted by the Council regarding settlement of any Equal Pay claims against them in which we are instructed."

Just shows you the desperate lengths the council will go to - to pull the wool over people's eyes.

We are happy to discuss terms of settlement with Midlothian - but at the moment the council is just playing games.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Beggars Belief

It beggars belief – to be sure

But the reality is that it’s easier to access details about the Lockerbie bomber – and his release from Greenock prison - than it is to get basic pay information out of South Lanarkshire Council.


Both the Scottish and UK governments have released highly sensitive and previously confidential papers - about high affairs of state - into the public domain.


In the newspapers, you can read all about prisoner transfer agreements – minutes of meetings with high ranking government officials – and these documents are also readily available on-line.

But in South Lanarkshire Council - the council won't explain what a council refuse driver, or a gardener or a gravedigger - gets paid.

How bonkers is that?

What is the big secret about what a refuse driver (LSO 3) gets paid - compared to a Home Carer or Catering Manager?

As far as South Lanarkshire is concerned the workforce has no right to understand - what other council jobs and occupations are paid - in plain and simple terms.

Single Status was supposed to be all about openness and transparency - the old secretive ways of doing things were supposed to change - for the better.

No more secret deals - or more favourable arrangements for those and such as those - but fair and consistent treatment right across the board.

South Lanarkshire likes to hold itself out as a model council and employer - but the truth is that no other council in Scotland behaves this way.

Whether you agree with their decisions or not - other councils are all happy for their workforce and the general public to understand - how different council jobs are paid.

Monkey Business in Midlothian

A number of readers from Midlothian have been in touch – to say they have received ‘new’ settlement offers from the council.

But the catch is that these offers are not new offers at all.

They are just the same old ‘recycled’ offers that the council has made previously – and which people have rejected out of hand.

Midlothian Council is just up to its old tricks – hoping to wear people down.

Trying to confuse claimants by recycling old discredited offers – in the hope people will give up their claims for much less that they are really worth.

So, our advice is simple.

If you receive such an ‘offer’ from the council – take what it has to say with a big pinch of salt.

Employers’ have been known to try to confuse and demoralise claimants before.

Send a copy of the council’s letter to Stefan Cross Solicitors in Newcastle.

Don’t sign or agree to anything – sit tight and wait for proper advice.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

South Lanarkshire - FOI (2)

Here's our review request to South Lanarkshire Council - following their refusal to release general pay information about a group of male dominated LSO 3 jobs.

The post of LSO 3 covered a range of the old Manual Worker jobs - e.g refuse drivers, gardeners, gravediggers and road workers.

Prior to Single Status - none of these male jobs were graded above Manual Worker Grade 4 - while many predominantly female jobs - such as Cooks-in Charge and Home Carers - were on a higher Grade of Manual Worker 5.

But after South Lanarkshire's own 'in house' job evaluation scheme (JES) - all the male jobs all ended up much better paid than their female colleagues - the previous grades and pecking order was turned completely on its head.

How does that work - who knows?

That's why South Lanarkshire has a lot of explaining to do - starting at the Glasgow employment tribunal on 29 September 2009.


Dear South Lanarkshire Council

FOI Review Request

I refer to the letter from South Lanarkshire Council dated 5 August 2009 – your reference PER/55.

I am asking for a review of the council’s decision not to release information requested in connection with points 2 to 7.

In my view, the council’s response is unsatisfactory for the following reasons:

1. The information requested is not confidential and does not in any way constitute the personal data of council employees.

2. The information requested is generic in nature and relates to the number of posts at specified points on the Spinal Pay Column.

3. The request is for anonymised information – such data is routinely gathered and published by many public bodies as part of their equality monitoring arrangements.

4. The council’s response to Request 1 (i.e 578 individuals) is perfectly adequate and the remaining Requests (2-7) can obviously be answered in similar terms.

I look forward to hearing from you and if you require any further details or clarification at this stage, please contact me by e-mail at markirvine@compuserve.com


Kind regards


Mark Irvine

South Lanarkshire - Freedom of Information

An article appeared on the blog site on 1 July - regarding South Lanarkshire Council and Freedom of Information - the article is reproduced below for easy reference.

Having initially denied the existence of an LSO 3 post - the council has since changed its mind - the post does in fact exist - as we said all along - and as many readers have confirmed

The council has gone on to say - in answer to the first question - that the total number of LSO 3 posts in South Lanarkshire is 578 individuals.

But the council has refused to answer questions 2 to 7 - on the basis that this is private, personal information - and to release it would be a breach of confidentiality.

Incredible - laughable - ridiculous?

Yes, all three - so we have asked for a review of the council's decision - and in all likelihood we will have to appeal this, in due course, to the Scottish Information Commissioner

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

South Lanarkshire Council - Nothing to Hide?

South Lanarkshire Council has responded to our recent FOI request in typical fashion – below is a summary of an earlier post to the blog site explaining the background to the request.


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 markirvine@compuserve.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 JuneDear Mr Strang (Council Chief Executive).FOI Request 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?

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Football and Equal Pay

Readers in West Lothian will be interested to learn that the council is planning to write off around £280,000 of debt - racked up by Livingston Football Club.

Now this may be a perfectly sensible move in the scheme of things - maybe the consequences of letting the club go to the wall are too dire to contemplate.

But the council's sense of priorities seems a bit odd - don't you think? Especially when the council has so many outstanding equal pay claims to settle.

As so often happens, the politicians can always find the money for their own priorities - yet other people's often take a back seat.

But equal pay is not some luxury or added extra - it's a basic employment right - albeit one that councils across Scotland paid lip service to for years - despite their claims to the contrary.

So, if politicians in West Lothian say they are struggling to meet the costs of equal pay - just ask them how they can find plenty of money when it comes to rescuing the local football club.

North Lanarkshire

Here's a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that's been sent today to North Lanarkshire Council - see previous post dated 21 August 2009.

Some councils are reluctant to release information that ought to be freely available to the public - which is odd in this new age of supposed transparency and openess.

But as we've seen with the MPs' expenses scandal - people have very different views about spending public money - and many MPs' fought tooth and nail to prevent their actions from being brought under proper public scrutiny.

So let's hope that North Lanarkshire explains its position soon - we'll publish what it has to say here.

1 September 2009

Gavin Whitefield
Chief Executive
South Lanarkshire Council
PO Box 14
Civic Centre
Motherwell
ML1 1TW

By e-mail to: whitefieldg@northlanarkshire.gov.uk



Dear Mr Whitefield

Freedom of Information Request

I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.

Request 1
I would like to know the full extent of the North Lanarkshire Council’s external legal costs in relation to equal pay - for the period 31 August 2005 to 31 August 2009.

Request 2
I would also request a breakdown of North Lanarkshire Council’s total costs, for the same period, if the costs involved have been apportioned to more than one legal firm, organisation or individual.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards


Mark Irvine