Friday, 26 February 2010

Don't Take 'No' For An Answer

Lots of readers from North Lanarkshire have been in touch - to say that they've been hard at work - lobbying their MPs, MSPs and local councillors over equal pay.

Good - because that's exactly what's needed - and you'd be surprised what a big difference a few determined people can make in each local area.

The key thing is - don't take 'No' for an answer - and don't be fobbed off with excuses.

Politicians have views about everything - from the weather to the price of mince.

So don't let them patronise you with tales of how equal pay is so complex or difficult - that they can't get involved.

Oh yes they can - that's why they're paid handsome salaries compared to most council workers.

Too many politicians have been silent for too long - now it's time for MPs and MSPs in North Lanarkshire to stand up and be counted.

The question is: "Which side are they on?"

Monthly Pay

A reader from South Lanarkshire has been in touch - not over equal pay for a change - but about the plans to introduce monthly pay for all council employees.

At the moment many council employees are paid on a fortnightly basis - and regard the proposed move to monthly pay with suspicion and hostility.


From their standpoint, monthly pay will cause financial hardship - at a time when things are already difficult for many people.

Low-paid workers are always hardest-hit when employers move towards monthly pay - because they're used to living on a tighter budget - and different timescales.

Apparently, there has been little information - about exactly what will happen and when.

Speculation is rife that the new arrangements will be introduced in April 2010 - at the start of the new financial year.

According to our reader, council employees are worried about having to finance the pay gap - i.e. the two weeks between fortnightly and monthly pay.

The council is apparently offering employees a loan to get through this period - but there is understandable anxiety about getting into debt to finance the council's new pay arrangements.

Although the unions have been asked for advice and support - our reader says no response has been received to date.

So, if you have any news or views about what's going on - drop us a note - we're happy to report on any developments.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Standing Up For Local People

A number of North Lanarkshire readers have been in touch over the 'lukewarm' response they've received from Frank Roy, MP - having contacted Frank about equal pay.

Well here's an example of Frank Roy rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into the Remploy campaign - on behalf of his local constituents.

The article is from the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) - and it's exactly the kind of campaigning spirit that's needed to knock some sense into North Lanarkshire Council.

So, let's hope Frank Roy and other politicians listen to the arguments - put party politics to one side - and start calling a spade a spade in North Lanarkshire - when it comes to equal pay.

REMPLOY CAMPAIGN NATIONAL LAUNCH
Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Remploy Disabled Workers’ National Mobile Demonstration To Labour Party Conference In Bournemouth Launched Today In

Demonstration will rally at all 43 factories scheduled for closure and will mobilise support for Remploy workers at 70 events in every part of Britain over next month 28 Aug 2007.

The Remploy Consortium of trades unions’ national mobile demonstration against the threatened closure of 43 disabled workers factories was launched today from outside the Aberdeen Remploy factory, which is scheduled for closure.

Speakers at the rally were Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary, Frank Doran MP (LAB), Cllr Jim Kiddie (SNP) Jennie Formby National Officer (T&G Unite), Aberdeen Trades Council, Phil Davies, (GMB & National Secretary Remploy Consortium) and Les Woodward (GMB).

The demonstration will travel through Britain visiting each of the 43 factories and collecting political and public support to find work for the factories.

It will demonstrate that Remploy’s share of public procurement orders stands at a minuscule 0.024% per annum i.e. just £32 million out of a total spend of £136 billion paid for by the tax payer each year and will call for the move of contracts worth a mere 5 p in every £100 of current public procurement spending to keep all 83 Remploy factories open.

The public are invited to attend rallies and meetings and write to the government to support these demands.

LANARKSHIRE: Rally outside Remploy Lanarkshire factory - scheduled for closure -ExcelsiorPark, Wishaw, Lanarkshire ML2 0JG. Speakers include Frank Ro
y MP (LAB)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Debating the Issues

A number of readers in North Lanarkshire have been in touch - about debating the issue of equal pay with their MPs, MSPs or local councillors.

Well there's a wealth of information already on the blog site - and we'll put up more in the days and weeks ahead.

But based on the feedback received so far - here's some key points that people might find useful.

1 The great majority of claimants in North Lanarkshire - are represented by Action 4 Equality Scotland

2 The unions lost all credibility in North Lanarskhire by encouraging members to accept poor offers of settlement in 2006

3 Both the unions and the council kept women workers in the dark about equal pay - years after singing the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement

4 But the unions knew what was going on of course - because they negotiated the bonus schemes which were paid only to traditional male groups - such as refuse workers and gardeners

5 For years groups of women - such as home carers - were working for around £6.00 per hour - while the men (on lower grades) were being paid over £9.00 per hour

6 What do the politicians have to say - are they on the side of the women workers who have been underpaid and undervalued for all these years?

7 If so, what are they going to do about it - will they put party politics aside and make their views crystal clear to North Lanarkshire Council?

8 If North Lanarkshire MPs and MSPs don't support their constituents - on an issue as clear as this - then why do they deserve people's support on polling day?

Daylight Is The Best Disinfectant

Last night's BBC drama about MPs' expenses and former Speaker Michael Martin - should give great encouragement to all readers in South Lanarkshire.

Not only was it an accurate and entertaining portrayal of the political establishment trying to defend the indefensible - it showed that right can triumph over might - in the end.

So, South Lanarkshire Council's desperate attempts to prevent people from finding out the truth about pay levels - for different groups of male and female employees - will end in failure.

No doubt South Lanarkshire will try to delay and frustrate the process - as did Speaker Martin and many of his fellow MPs - but they can't turn back the tide.

Daylight really is the best disinfectant.

MPs, MSPs and Trappist Monks

Some MPs in North Lanarkshire are still telling their constituents that they cannot get involved in the debate over equal pay.

Apparently, the MPs concerned say it's a legal matter - so it's not appropriate for them to comment - or to stick their oar in on the constituent's behalf.

But this is a load of old tripe - or complete baloney to use a technical term.

MPs and MSPs are always getting stuck into disputes - legal and otherwise - what about the Royal Mail dispute or the ongoing row in British Airways?

Later today, Scotland. Deputy First Minister - Nicola Sturgeon - will explain to the Scottish Parliament why she intervened in a case before the courts involving one of her constituents.

And the Prime Minister - Gordon Brown, no less - has apparently done the same on behalf of one of his local constituents in Fife.

So, MPs and MSPs - in North Lanarkshire and elsewhere - do not need to take a vow of silence over equal pay.

It may not be convenient for them to speak up and criticise their own local council - but that's what their there for - to take tough decisions - not to act like Trappist Monks.

So, if your MP or MSP spins you this story - don't be fobbed off - go back and press your case.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

More Kind Words

More kind words from another regular reader - about their equal pay claim.

"Dear Sir,

Thank you for your continued efforts in ensuring that we women receive a fair deal with regards to equal pay.

Without your best efforts we would never have heard anything as the Councils and Trade Unions etc kept stum.

Our politicians have been worse than useless on this matter - while lining their pockets from the tax payer.

MB"

Not all politicians have had their noses in the trough - of course.

But it' s true to say that not enough of them have spoken out on equal pay.

Let's hope that more and more politicians put party politics to one side - and start to stand up for their local constituents.

What A Joke!

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch to say:

"Hi Mark

Forgot to mention in my previous e-mail I got a letter from Unison today to see if I wanted them to make a claim for equal pay against my employers - North Lanarkshire Council.

What a joke - as our claim has already been in with Action 4 Equality Scotland for the past five years.

Thanks

WA"


Quite - the trade unions kept their members in the dark about equal pay for years - and this union leopard hasn't changed its spots.

So, if any readers receive similar unsolicited letters - from Unison or anyone else - give them short shrift.

Getting Your Message Across

A number of readers in North Lanarkshire have already approached their local MPs - to ask for their support over equal pay.

So far, MPs seem to be sitting on the fence - trying their best not to get involved.

But an MPs job is to weigh up the issue - make an informed decision - and then speak up on behalf of their local constituents - without fear or favour.

What may be influencing Labour MPs in North Lanarkshire - is that the council is Labour-controlled as well - and has been for many years.

Understandably, Labour MPs' are reluctant to criticise their Labour council colleagues - but this cannot be taken to extremes- sometimes party loyalties have to be set aside.

Can anyone imagine Labour MPs being reluctant to take a stand - and speak their minds - if North Lanarkshire Council was run by the SNP, Lib Dems or Tories?

Labour MPs (and MSPs) may not want to criticise the behaviour of their local Labour council - but they should not allow party allegiance to prevent them standing up for what's right.

Because the facts on equal pay are unarguable - for years traditional female jobs lost out because of hidden bonuses paid only to the men.

That's why the Scottish Parliament has urged councils to settle outstanding cases - and that's why local MPs (and MSPs) should say what needs to be said.

So, don't be fobbed off with polite excuses from your MP or MSP.

Go and see your MP or MSP - debate the issues - and explain why it's perfectly reasonable to expect their support.

Action 4 Equality Scotland submitted detailed evidence on Equal Pay to the Scottish Parliament in 2009.

If you would like a copy to help get a message across to your MP or MSP, contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Monday, 22 February 2010

North Lanarkshire - Constituency MSPs

MSPs in North Lanarkshire - as well as MPs - have been contacted by Action 4 Equality Scotland - over the council's foot-dragging behaviour on equal pay.

Most of the MPs' responded quickly - perhaps because there's a general election on the horizon.

But the constituency MSPs - all Labour MSPs, by the way - and with close links to Labour controlled North Lanarkshire Council - have all been strangely silent.

Yet, they'll all be out there on polling day - MPs and MSPs together - asking for your votes and support for the Labour Party.

So, why not ask them what they're doing to help their constituents on equal pay?

Here are the names and contact details for the North Lanarkshire constituency MSPs:

Cathie Craigie MSP - Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Constituency
Tel: 01236 825372
E-mail: Cathie.Craigie.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


Jack McConnell MSP - Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency
Tel: 01698 303040
E-mail: Jack.McConnell.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


Michael McMahon MSP - Hamilton North and Bellshill Constituency
Tel: 01698 304501
E-mail: Michael.McMahon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


Elaine Smith MSP - Coatbridge and Chryston
Tel: 01236 449122
E-mail: Elaine.Smith.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


Karen Whitefield MSP - Airdrie and Shotts
Tel: 01501 822200
E-mail: Karen.Whitefield.msp@scottish.parliament.uk


Here's a copy of the e-mail sent to all MPs and MSPs - in the North Lanarkshire Council area

By e-mail

Dear MP/MSP

North Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

I enclose a copy of a letter on equal pay to the Leader of North Lanarkshire Council, Councillor Jim McCabe.

For good reason, many claimants in North Lanarkshire feel that the council has been deliberately dragging its feet, trying to frustrate the process, instead of getting to the heart of the matter.

Groups like Home Carers feel especially strongly about the council’s delaying tactics – which include raising bogus procedural points and unnecessary appeals – only for these issues to be abandoned at a later date without ever being tested in the Employment Tribunals.

We are urging North Lanarkshire Council to take a common sense approach over the outstanding claims, as a growing number of councils have done in recent months.

We are also encouraging Action 4 Equality Scotland clients to engage with and lobby their local councillors, MSPs and MPs – as we approach the North Lanarkshire GMF hearing in April 2010.
If you require any further information, please let me know.

Kind regards


Mark Irvine

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Weapon of Democracy

Today's editorial in the Sunday Herald is well worth a read - below is a summary of what the paper has to say about Freedom of Information (FOI) in Scotland.

The legislation has its flaws and - if anything - needs strengthened. But there's no doubt FOI has helped to balance relations between ordinary people and powerful organisations - that would dearly love to keep us all in the dark.

"A weapon of democracy that must be defended
Any analysis of the first 10 years of devolution would inevitably focus on the policies that have directly impacted on people’s lives: free personal care for the elderly was a popular, if controversial move; abolishing up-front tuition fees had cross-party support; and the smoking ban attracted international headlines for Scotland.

However, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, passed in 2002, has been one of the most liberating pieces of legislation for the ordinary Scot. Far from being a busybody’s charter, as some feared, it has allowed parents, patients and other service users to hold public bodies to account for their decisions.

Not that everybody sees it that way. A growing number of public officials see freedom of information (FOI) as a nuisance and a drain on the public purse.

However, the legislation should be celebrated, not criticised. Since 2005 – when the act came into force – public bodies have released valuable information on crime hot-spots, mortality rates for surgeons, PFI contracts and much more. Today’s investigation on GP funding in our news section is also FOI-based.

It has also proved to be a valuable tool for cleaning out the political stable. When Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion ruled that the Scottish Parliament should release all of former Tory leader David McLetchie’s taxi receipts – thus prompting his resignation - the decision ushered in a transparency revolution at Holyrood.

Quango-land has also learned to spend taxpayers’ money more wisely as a result of FOI. Had it not been for the right-to-know legislation, the public would never have known about the globe-trotting activities of senior officials at the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, three of whom resigned last week.

In addition, FOI is far from being simply a tool for journalists to hold public bodies to account. The overwhelming majority of requests, and appeals, have been made by members of the public. It is a genuine “right to know” for the average citizen.

Half a decade since it came in to force, it’s time to ask how the freedom of information system can be refined and improved. One reform, currently being explored by the Scottish Government, is to extend the provision of the act to other bodies in receipt of public funding. This should include private prisons, arms-length bodies set up by councils, and membership groups that depend on public subsidy to exist. Top of the list has to be Cosla, the umbrella group for local authorities.

The Scottish Government’s attitude towards FOI is another area that requires scrutiny. In recent months, officials have knocked back a series of FOI requests on the grounds that the legislation enshrines a right to information, not to documents.

Such a practice is probably the biggest threat to FOI in the five years since it was introduced. By quibbling about the definition of “information”, the Nationalists are undermining one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in 10 years.

Overall, FOI is an advertisement for how the Scottish Parliament can improve people’s lives. The act allows ordinary citizens to question authority and seek answers to issues of importance to them. Far from chipping away at people’s rights, the Scottish Government should extend this landmark piece of legislation. Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

'A Future Fair For All'

The Labour Party has finally revealed the slogan - 'A Future Fair For All' - under which it will fight the forthcoming general election.

Readers in North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire councils - both Labour controlled for years - now have the perfect opportunity to ask the party's MPs, MSPs and local councillors:

"What does this actually mean - when it comes to equal pay?".

Because both councils have - for many years - presided over pay arrangements that treated traditional male groups more favourably than their female colleagues.

Carers, catering workers, cleaners and classroom assistants - have certainly not been treated fairly - compared to refuse workers and gardeners.

So, as the election campaign hots up - take every chance that comes along - to put the parties and their candidates on the spot.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

FOI and SPT

Regular readers may have been following the unfolding row at SPT (Strathclyde Passenger Transport) - where three top officials have resigned over foreign junkets and mileage claims.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act has been instrumental in shining a light - onto the best kept secrets of this transport quango.

At first SPT refused to release the information requested - but ultimately the details came out into the open - as they always do.

One of the main casualties was a councillor from South Lanarkshire Council - Davie MacLachlan.

South Lanarkshire is, of course, desperately trying to keep secret - the details of how different groups of male and female council workers are paid - even though this information is freely available in other Scottish councils.

But just as FOI has allowed people to see what was going on inside SPT - the same forces will unlock the truth of what's been happening inside South Lanarkshire Council - when it comes to Single Status and Equal Pay.

Here's an extract of what the Evening Times newspaper had to say about the SPT expenses row:

"South Lanarkshire councillor Davie McLachlan resigned from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport yesterday after it was revealed that in the last three years he had claimed £17,544 for travelling 35,650 miles in his role as vice-chairman – equivalent to almost one-and-a-half times around the world.

The row over mileage claims came amid claims of junketing by SPT chiefs.

Foreign trips by 11 directors and executives to destinations including China, India, Italy and the United States have cost nearly £50,000 in the past three years contributing towards a £117,573 total."

As we've said before - if South Lanarkshire Council has nothing to hide, why not just make this pay information public - as other councils have done - and let people decide for themselves?

Friday, 19 February 2010

North Lanarkshire

Hot on the heels of the post about how to lobby MPs and MSPs - comes a timely e-mail from one of our readers in North Lanarkshire.

The reader's e-mail to Frank Roy MP gets top marks for being direct and to the point - here's the issue, what do you think of it and what are you going to do to help me - as one of your constituents?

The only rules are - be polite and ask sensible questions - your MP or MSP is there to advise and help.

"Dear Frank,


Equal Pay Claim for Home Support Workers

GN here home support worker with North Lanarkshire Council.


As you are probably aware we have been pursuing an equal pay claim against North Lanarkshire Council for the past five years - yes five years!

What is your view on this?

Are you as my MP doing anything to bring an end to this ridiculous amount of time and money the council is using to try and block our legitimate claim?

I look forward to hearing from you in the not too distant future.

Yours sincerely

GN"

Lobbying MPs and MSPs

A number of readers have been in touch to ask how to lobby their MP, MSP or local councillor - see post dated 15 February 2010.

Well it's quite simple really - there are lots of practical things people can do.

1 Send your MP/MSP an e-mail

2 Ask them where they stand on equal pay

3 Ask them what they think of the council's delaying tactics

4 Ask them if they support the Scottish Parliament's call for councils to address outstanding cases

5 Ask them what they are doing to knock sense into councils that are dragging their feet

All of North Lanarkshire's MPs are Labour MPs - the council is a Labour-run council - MPs are not normally shy about speaking out in public - so why not on this issue?

1 Ask your MP/MSP/local councillor for a meeting


2 Go along with some of your co-workers - a small group can support each other


3 Ask your MP/MSP/local councillor to write a letter of support to the Council Leader

4 Ask for a copy of the letter - along with a copy of the reply


Let others know what you are doing - and let Action 4 equality Scotland know what your MP, MSP or local councillor has to say.

MPs and their party supporters (MSPs and local councillors) - are going to be seeking your votes in the forthcoming general election.

So, if they're asking for your vote - ask them what they're doing to support you - in your fight for Equal Pay.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

First Class Travel

Parliament has announced plans to stop paying for MPs to travel first-class - but apparently this has caused fury amongst some honourable members.

But why should public money be used to treat MPs better than everyone else? - this is a reform that's welcome and long overdue.

Let's hope the new arrangements extend to the House of Lords - and to other forms of travel as well.

Because flying people around the world on business class - and putting them up in fancy hotels - is another Spanish practice that must end - particularly with the economy in such a mess.

As some who travels by train regularly - I can vouch for the fact that it is perfectly possible to work and deal with papers and documents - in standard or economy class.

Fox Cross Solicitors Limited

Action 4 Equality Scotland has a opened new office in Edinburgh - see previous post dated 2 February 2010.

Another new development is that Action 4 Equality Scotland claimants will - in future - be represented by Fox Cross Solicitors Limited - also based in Edinburgh.

Fox Cross Solicitors Limited is a new legal firm - regulated by the Law Society of Scotland - and will build on the expertise and track record of Stefan Cross Solicitors Limited in Newcastle.

The new arrangements will not make a fundamental difference to the way people's claims are handled - but there are obvious advantages of being wholly based in Scotland.

For example, dealing with day-to-day enquiries - from Edinburgh rather than Newcastle - should provide a more effective service as the new arrangements begin to bed down.

The first point of contact - for both existing and new claimants - is Action 4 Equality Scotland (0131 652 7366) - resources are in now place to deal with people's enquiries - whether by phone, e-mail or in writing.

If an issue requires more detailed advice, it will be referred on to one of the Fox Cross legal team - Carol Fox, Paul Clark and Stefan Cross - whom many claimants know or have dealt with already.

Calling North Lanarkshire

The local press in North Lanarkshire are showing interest in the campaign to persuade North Lanarkshire Council to come to its senses over over equal pay.

A journalist has been in touch to ask if he can speak to a few claimants - and the paper has a particular interest in the Wishaw area.

The newspaper will not publish people's names or personal details - to avoid any repercussions from the council - but the paper is interested in the background to these claims, for example:

1 The jobs that claimants do within the council
2 How claimants first learned about the huge pay gap - between traditional male and female jobs
3 What claimants think about North Lanarkshire Council dragging its feet - when so many others councils have reached settlements

So, if you're happy to speak to the newspaper on that basis - send you contact details to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Globespan

A mailing is going out today to all former Globespan employees who contacted Action 4 Equality Scotland over the past few weeks.

The mail-shot will contain an information pack - about how to pursue a claim for compensation to the Employment Tribunals.

A key point is that there is an important deadline involved.

Former Globespan employees have only three months from the date of their dismissal (termination) to register a claim - any claim submitted after that deadline will be deemed to be 'out of time'.

So - for safety's sake - all claims should be submitted by no later than 15 March 2010.

If you need any further advice at this stage - ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 652 7366

More Kind Words

More kind words have been received from one of our many readers in Glasgow - it's gratifying to know that we have made such a big difference to some people's lives.

"Hi,

I just wanted to thank your organisation for acting in my best interests - and the greater good of working class, low-income workers throughout the United Kingdom.

Trade unions and local government are guilty of neglecting the social justice principles which are meant to influence a decent society.

By Action 4 Equality Scotland ensuring this outcome for me I can now move on from the great sense of injustice I felt.

Very best wishes to your employees and organisation in the future.

Thank you for believing in my rights to be treated fairly in my employment."

Yours for equality

SS"

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

MPs - Profiting at Public Expense

The Times reports today that the new MPs' expenses watchdog (IPSA) has finally bared its teeth.

Apparently MPs who have profited through the discredited 'second homes allowances' - are to be required to repay at least some of the profits - and quite right too.

The worst offenders acted like property speculators - by acquiring ever more expensive properties, moving up the property ladder at public expense - often while avoiding capital gains tax.

Here's a summary of what the Times has to say - read the full article online at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/


"MPs could be forced to pay back profits on second homes"
"Sir Ian Kennedy said that he was replacing a system of expenses that enabled MPs to indulge
MPs face bills running into tens of thousands of pounds after a challenge issued last night by the man brought in to clean up the expenses system.

Profits made by MPs on second homes bought with the help of the taxpayer should be “surrendered”, Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) told The Times.

In his first newspaper interview Sir Ian called on the Treasury and MPs to show that they were serious by depriving MPs of some of the gains that they made on their second homes.

“This is a central question for me. Gains made in that way should not be retained. The mechanism for doing it is the only question we have to decide,” he said.

If Revenue & Customs had power to assess such gains it should start doing it. If it was not able to do so, Parliament should give it the powers before the election, Sir Ian said, promising that sitting MPs and candidates would know by the end of March the final details of their new expenses regime.

It was unclear last night how far back the repayments would go.

MPs who lose or stand down could still have to pay a bill for the gains that they had made in the previous six months.

Sir Ian said that it was for the Exchequer to manage how the gain was surrendered and it might be that Parliament would need to pass new regulations or some other legislative formula.

“The view Kelly took and we take is that that gain ought to be surrendered because it is made courtesy of the taxpayer,” he said."

Monday, 15 February 2010

North Lanarkshire MPs - Contact Details

As promised - here are the contact details for the Members of Parliament (MPs) covering the North Lanarkshire Council area.

All four are longstanding Labour MPs - so they should have a good understanding of the issues involved - in fact Rosemary McKenna is a former President of COSLA, the umbrella body for the Scottish council employers.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has already written to these MPs about the outstanding equal pay claims in North Lanarkshire - and the forthcoming GMF hearing in April 2010.

The more people who contact their local MPs - to ask what they're doing to support constituents over equal pay - the sooner we will find a sensible way forward.

In view of the impending general election - MPs are likely to be more sensitive than normal to what their local constituents have to say - so take this opportunity to make your voice heard.

If you need any help or advice on how to get your message across - ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 652 7366 or contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

1 Tom Clarke - MP for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill Constituency

E-mail: clarket@parliament.uk

Constituency Office: Tel: 01236 600800 or Fax: 01236 600808

2 Rosemary McKenna - MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East Constituency

E-mail: mckennar@parliament.uk

Constituency Office: Tel: 01236 457788 or Fax: 01236 457313

3 Dr John Reid - MP for Airdrie and Shotts Constituency

E-mail: reidj@parliament.uk

Constituency Office: Tel: 01236 748777 or Fax: 01236 748666

4 Frank Roy - MP for Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency

E-mail - royf@parliament.uk

Constituency Office: Tel: 01698 303040 or Fax: 01698 303060

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cutting the Cost of Politics

The costs of keeping our parliamentarians has rightly focused on the House of Commons up until now - but the expenses regime in the House of Lords is just as big a racket.

Here's an extract of an interesting article by Janice Turner from The Times newspaper.

It's good to see journalists exposing cant and hypocrisy amongst the great and good - though it would be better still if the government stepped in - and took firm action to end this scandalous abuse of public money.

Read the full article on-line at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ -

"Just a better class of stink in the Upper House"
"The next chortle was the ruling on overnight allowances claimed by nine peers. Even after aeons of duck-house and dog-biscuit-based hilarity, our sides are not too sore to relish the rule whereby peers can claim as their main residence a house that does not belong to them or even their family. A rented holiday cottage will do; one peer claimed a manager’s flat at a hotel he never slept in.

So a noble lord may have owned a £1.5 million mansion in London for 30 years, but designate a caravan in Argyll as his main residence. And he may claim £174 a night for sleeping in his comfy city pad as long as he visits the trailer once a month. Or says he does; no one is standing there with a clipboard, checking. And who made this wise new ruling? Chair of the committee was Baroness Hayman, who, for claiming £200,000 in eight years on a house in Norfolk, was one of the nine lords-a-claimin’, but later cleared.

While growing up, the hereditary House of Lords was the issue that first boiled my blood. It seemed as absurd as it was unjust. I longed for the glorious day when it would be swept out and replaced with radical peers who would then vote for their own abolition. And that seemed to be on the cards, kind of, when in 1999 Labour removed all but 92 hereditaries. Suddenly, women were better represented, black peers newly minted, and an in-built Tory majority removed. Watching all manner of marvellous, diverse people move into the centre of public life, you could forget this system was, at heart, patronage-based. And that it was supposedly only a staging post on the way to a properly democratic second chamber.

But years have passed, and peers have grown comfy on their big red benches. Politicians age and seek a ready-made second political life, one with the prestige of office but without the hassle and indignity of actual elections. Just as at the end of Animal Farm when the pigs look at the men and the men at the pigs and “it was impossible to say which was which”, the people’s peers have in a decade acquired the same entitlement as the 800-year-old land-owning gentry.

Time after time, despite MPs voting three years ago for a wholly elected second chamber, House of Lords reform has been cast aside. Instead of being trusted to vote, we’re occasionally chucked a bone of faux populism: the anointment of Lord Sugar off the telly and, it is rumoured, should the Tories get in, Kirstie “Location, Location, Location” Allsopp, herself the daughter of a hereditary peer, and — shudder — Baroness Carol Vorderman of Firstplus.

If politicians truly want to shift this dark cloud of public disgust, a new second elected chamber would be both a real and symbolic step forward. Because anything would be better than the creepy, jobs-for-ever patronage we have right now, even a Simon Cowell-produced show called Pick a People’s Peer."

Friday, 12 February 2010

Calling Glasgow

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been unable to contact various individuals from Glasgow - to discuss the terms of important letters that have been received from Glasgow City Council.

Unfortunately, the individuals concerned appear to have moved - but without notifying Action 4 Equality Scotland of any forwarding address.

So, in a last-ditch attempt to make contact - we are putting people's names on the blog site - because there is an important deadline involved.

If any of our readers are in touch with the following individuals - please ask them to ring the Action 4 Equality Scotland office - as soon as possible - on 0131 652 7366.

A to F
Catherine Anderson
Evelyn Beaton
Christina Brown
Patricia Burns
Elizabeth Burns
Mary Campbell
Joyce Mary Campbell
June Anne Coyle
Sandra Craig
Rhonda Cunningham
Theresa Dalziel
Elizabeth Devine
Stuart Doran
Margaret Duffy
Laura Duffy
Elizabeth Evans
Evelyn Falconer
Pauline Farrell
Claire Ferguson
Elaine Fern
Jacqueline Forbes
Georgina Freel

G to to K
Mary Gallagher
Janine Gibson
Caroline Ann Tannock Glendinning
Catherine Greening
Wilma Hamilton
Veronica Hepburn
Pauline Higgins
Mary Higgins
Anne Irving
Margaret Jackson
Gillian Johnson
Aileen Just
Jennifer Kelly
Jean Kelly
Norma Kelly
June Kelly
Margaret Kierney
Craig Kimmett
Roseann Kitcher

M to O
Jean Malcolm
Ethel Martin
Jacqueline Martin
Jean Masterson
Grace McAdam
Catherine McAvoy
Maria Frances McCabe
Caroline McCaffrey
Paul McCloskey
Claire McGarry
Linda McGee
Laura McGraw
Jacqueline McHugh
Margaret Ann McInnes
Janet Mckenzie
Carolanne McMahon
Elizabeth McMurray
Margaret McNaught
Isobell McNeill
Annie McPaul
Catherine Meechan
David Milligan
Rose Mockler
Ann-Marie Monteith
Leanne Moran (nee Gunn)
Jane Nelson
Margaret Nicol
Anna O'Donnel

P to Y
Marie Paterson
Elizabeth Paterson
Mary Philip
Shirley Anne Phillips
Catherine Rafferty
Lorraine Reeves
Anne Rodger
Fiona Marian Scott
Susan Scott
Margaret Thomson
Angela Thomson
Linda Mary Thomson
Margaret Rose Tonner
Margaret Tracey
Norma Traynor
Kim Wales
Ida Walker
Ann Marie Walls
Debbie Wood
Patricia Woodraw
Alison John Youd
Elizabeth Young
Frances Alexandra Young

Labour and the Unions

In the ongoing row over MPs' expenses - the trade unions continue to be mentioned in dispatches - with three former Unison officials featuring prominently in recent media reports.

Livingston MP and former Unison regional officer Jim Devine is being accused of dishonestly claiming £3,240 and £5,505 in expenses - and is one of three Labour MPs who will soon face criminal charges.

Jim Devine has already been barred by Labour bosses from standing again for the party - but denies vigorously that he has done anything wrong. Meantime the three MPs who will face criminal charges are to be prevented from claiming their 'golden goodbye' redundancy payments until the matter is resolved

John Lyons - another former Unison regional officer - has been told to repay almost £19,000 by Sir Thomas Legg who looked into the MP's claims going back to 2004.

Sir Thomas recommended that John Lyons - former Labour MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden - repay £18,780.80 in mortgage interest payments. His report said that Mr Lyons had not responded to a series of letters on the issue, but Mr Lyons said he never received any such letters and has demanded an apology.

Former Unison President and East Lothian Labour MP Anne Moffat has been told by Sir Thomas Legg that she should hand back £2,873 in overpaid mortgage interest and other items. Ms Moffat is currently facing deselection by her local Labour party - see post dated 25 January 2010.

The Legg report says she was overpaid by £1,617.09 for mortgage interest in 2008-9 and wrongly claimed for £1,256.44 in 2008-9 for items that related to her main home (£152.16 for insurance, £476.09 for telephone bills and £628.19 for her Sky viewing package).

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Victory for Openness

The courts yesterday struck another blow - in the battle for Freedom of Information.

The Court of Appeal forced the release of records that government ministers wanted to keep under wraps - arguing that publishing the information would be a breach of national security.

But common sense and justice prevailed in the end - and now people can make up their own minds about the issue - on the basis of all the facts.

South Lanarkshire Council has the same mindset when it comes to equal pay.

The council wants to keep the spotlight off their DIY handy work on Single Status - the council wants to prevent its own workforce from knowing how different groups of workers are paid - and why some traditional male jobs fare so much better than others - particularly the jobs done by women.

But what's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander - if the government of the day can be held to account over freedom of information - so too can a mid-sized council in central Scotland.

Edinburgh City Council

Edinburgh City Council is still refusing to settle outstanding equal pay claims - for significant groups of staff.

The groups include male workers in predominantly female jobs (such as male carers and catering workers) - and also former APT&C groups such as social care workers and cook supervisors.

Edinburgh's attitude is mind bogglingly stupid - because many other councils reached settlements for these groups long ago.

But for some reason Edinburgh still has its head stuck in the sand - and believes (wrongly, we say) that there is something worth arguing about - in respect of these claims.

Edinburgh tried previously to prevent former APT&C employees from being treated the same way as their former manual colleagues.

But after a major ten-day hearing at the Employment Tribunals - Edinburgh City Council lost this case by a country mile - which described the council at the time as 'trying to defend the indefensible'.

Unfortunately, the council appealed this decision to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) - delaying things yet again and wasting large amounts public money in the process.

We are currently awaiting the outcome of the EAT hearing - as soon as there is any news it will appear on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Kind Words

One of the many male janitors represented by Action 4 Equality Scotland has been kind enough to drop us a note - following settlement of his equal pay claim.

Dear Mark

I have just received my cheque and I would like to thank the Action 4 Equality Scotland team for all the work they have done for all of us in the past years.

I am now a retired janitor and the extra monies will come in very handy for me and my family.

Please keep up the great work - without you we would have received nothing.

Thanks again.

HE

(Retired Janitor)

Kind words indeed - but bang on the money as well - because without Action 4 Equality Scotland - none of this would ever have happened.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

North Lanarkshire Council

North Lanarkshire Council has still to respond to our letter on Equal Pay and the forthcoming GMF hearing - see post dated 5 February 2010.

So, to encourage a healthy debate on this issue - the letter has now been sent to local MPs and MSPs in the North Lanarkshire area.

Because MPs and local party activists will soon be out campaigning for people's votes - in a general election that is only weeks away.

The election campaign will coincide with the run up to North Lanarkshire's GMF hearing in April 2010.

So this is an ideal opportunity for local people to invite the politicians to come off the fence on equal pay - in support of their local constituents.

Just where do the MPs and MSPs stand on equal pay - what do they think about the council's delaying tactics - and what are they doing to support their constituents?

Over the next few days we will publish contact details for local MPs and MSPs.

The more people who join the campaign for North Lanarkshire's politicians to come off the fence - the sooner the council will come to its senses.


By e-mail

Dear MP/MSP

North Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

I enclose a copy of a letter on equal pay to the Leader of North Lanarkshire Council, Councillor Jim McCabe.

For good reason, many claimants in North Lanarkshire feel that the council has been deliberately dragging its feet, trying to frustrate the process, instead of getting to the heart of the matter.

Groups like Home Carers feel especially strongly about the council’s delaying tactics – which include raising bogus procedural points and unnecessary appeals – only for these issues to be abandoned at a later date without ever being tested in the Employment Tribunals.

We are urging North Lanarkshire Council to take a common sense approach over the outstanding claims, as a growing number of councils have done in recent months.

We are also encouraging Action 4 Equality Scotland clients to engage with and lobby their local councillors, MSPs and MPs – as we approach the North Lanarkshire GMF hearing in April 2010.
If you require any further information, please let me know.

Kind regards


Mark Irvine

Saturday, 6 February 2010

North Ayrshire Council

Just a quick note to our readers in North Ayrshire - there has been a slight administrative delay in getting all the letters out to people as indicated previously - but this should be completed by the end of the week (i.e. Friday 12 February).

Friday, 5 February 2010

North Lanarkshire Council

Here's a copy of a letter to the Leader of North Lanarkshire Council - Councillor Jim McCabe.

Action 4 Equality Scotland will be encouraging clients in North Lanarkshire to lobby their MPs, MSPs and local councillors - in the run up to the vital GMF hearing in April.

More and more councils are entering into settlement negotiations - our aim is to persuade North Lanarkshire to do the same - more details will follow.

Action 4 Equality Scotland
44 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3HU

22 January 2010

Councillor Jim McCabe
Leader of North Lanarkshire Council

By e-mail

Dear Councillor McCabe

North Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

As you may know, Action 4 Equality Scotland is currently pursuing 1808 equal pay claims, in the Employment Tribunals, against North Lanarkshire Council.

The majority of these cases are known as RAE (rated as equivalent) claims because the jobs involved have already been rated or valued under a common job evaluation scheme; in this case the one contained in the old Manual Workers Green Book.

The Local Government and Communities committee of the Scottish Parliament recently urged councils in Scotland to address these RAE claims on a pragmatic basis because the underlying legal issues involved are very straightforward and, broadly speaking, the employers have little, if any, chance of successfully defending their position.

The Employment Tribunal has set firm dates in April 2010 for a GMF (Genuine Material Factor) hearing of the North Lanarkshire Council cases. At this hearing, the council will be required to explain and justify what it now accepts were the discriminatory pay arrangements that applied previously (to these RAE claimants) in low paid, predominantly female, manual worker jobs.

We have instructed Daphne Romney, QC – one of the country’s leading equal pay barristers – to represent our clients at the North Lanarkshire GMF hearing. Daphne Romney was also instructed for the GMF hearing involving Glasgow City Council in 2009.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has negotiated settlements with various other councils in the recent past including: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Aberdeenshire and East Ayrshire councils. Active settlement discussions are also underway with Falkirk and East Lothian councils

I am approaching you in the same spirit to see if North Lanarkshire Council is prepared to reach a fair and reasonable settlement of the outstanding claims. If so, then a GMF hearing may not need to proceed, thus saving the council considerable time and expense.

MSPs and MPs have shown an interest in this subject. I am copying this letter to those in the North Lanarkshire Council area, so they know that Action 4 Equality Scotland is prepared to act responsibly and negotiate on behalf of clients in North Lanarkshire, as elsewhere.

If council officials are interested in taking up this offer, we are happy to meet on an informal ‘without prejudice’ basis in the first instance, to assess what progress can be made.

Kind regards


Mark Irvine

cc Gavin Whitefield, Chief Executive – North Lanarkshire Council

Thursday, 4 February 2010

MPs' Expenses - Payback Time

More than half of the MPs in the House of Commons (390) have been held to account for submitting inflated expenses claims - an astonishing figure.

One that confirms just what a racket the system had become - a licence for many MPs to line their pockets at public expense.

The scandal has only come to light because of dogged use of the Freedom of Information Act - along with newspapers finally flushing out the truth - notably The Telegraph.

Here's a brief summary of a report in today's paper (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/).


"MPs' expenses: 350 ordered to pay back £1m on their claims"
"More than 350 MPs have been ordered to repay over £1 million following an inquiry into their expense claims over the past five years by Sir Thomas Legg.

Sir Thomas, the head of the inquiry, will on Thursday criticise MPs for establishing a “culture of deference” to develop which allowed abuse of the system to flourish.

He will detail his findings in a report which will set out the repayments he has ordered from 350 MPs.
The former mandarin, appointed in the wake of the expenses scandal, will make it clear that he thought the entire system was corrupt, according to a well-placed source.

However, the review of Commons expenses was plunged into chaos after it emerged that dozens of MPs have been allowed to dodge repayment demands.

A high-court judge appointed to hear MPs’ appeals against the Legg review findings is understood to have been sympathetic to politicians’ complaints.

Sir Paul Kennedy has told MPs he understands why they are “irritated” that Sir Thomas introduced retrospective limits on cleaning and gardening.

The limits have led to dozens of MPs, including the Prime Minister, being ordered to repay money.

The findings of the Legg review will be published alongside the results of 73 appeals heard by Sir Paul Kennedy, a retired high court judge.

The Parliamentary authorities will also release further details of MPs claims for their offices and travel over the 2008-09 financial year.

The Daily Telegraph has established that Sir Paul has allowed a substantial number of the appeals, sometimes cutting the amounts to be repaid by five-figure sums.

At least 30 of the 73 who appealed have had their repayments scrapped or reduced.

In other cases, he said that he sympathised with their arguments, but was unable to let them off because he had no power to change the terms of the review by scrapping the retrospective limits altogether.

“The Legg review is very critical of MPs behaviour and blames them, rather than the Fees Office, for allowing abuses to develop,” the source said.

“There will be a co-ordinated effort to trash Sir Thomas’s efforts. Sir Paul Kennedy has expressed sympathy for the plight of MPs but ultimately has said that the Legg team were right to impose some rules.”

Globespan Campaign

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been been inundated with enquiries from former Globespan employees - following the recent posts on the blog site.

We are about to send out further information to everyone who has been in touch - this will explain things in more detail - and take the campaign forward to the next stage.

If readers know of any former Globespan employees that wants to be involved - ask them to get in touch.

All we need is the following information - as this will allow us to put people on an Action 4 Equality Scotland mailing and e-mailing list.

1 Name

2 Address and post code

3 E-mail address

4 Contact phone number

5 Job title and former place of work

The information can be phoned in to the Action 4 Equality Scotland offfice on 0131 652 7366 or e-mailed to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com




Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A Big Thank You!

One of our regular male readers has been in touch - to say a few kind words.

"A big 'thank you' to Action 4 Equality Scotland for all your help with my equal pay claim.

I'm over the moon at the outcome and can't thank you enough.

We were told by our trade union at the time not to take up an equal pay claim and to have nothing to do with Action 4 Equality Scotland.

But I'm really glad I ignored their advice because it's the best thing I've ever done.

Good luck and best wishes for the future."

Self-praise is no praise, as they say - but the honest thoughts of a satisfied client - make it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Action 4 Equality Scotland

Action 4 Equality Scotland has opened a major new office in Edinburgh - our friends and readers will be delighted to hear. The office contact details are as follows:

Action 4 Equality Scotland
44 York Place
Edinburgh
EH1 3HU

Phone Number
0131 652 7366

Fax Number
0131 652 7369

Over recent weeks, Action 4 Equality Scotland has been recruiting staff, installing new equipment and so on – but finally all the pieces of the jigsaw are in place.

The Edinburgh office is now fully operational and becomes - with immediate effect - the new point of contact for all existing clients in Scotland – and for new ones as well.

The office will provide a platform for Action 4 Equality to grow and expand the services we've provided to thousands of public service workers in Scotland - over the past five years.

Action 4 Equality Scotland arrived on the scene in August 2005 - and has made a huge difference to many people's lives – by forcing equal pay back up to the top of the agenda.

For the first time in a long time - employers’ are finally beginning to take the issue seriously.

But before we came along equal pay was dead in the water – with employers and unions talking the issue to death - instead of getting on with the job in hand.

Decisive action in the courts was needed to break the logjam - after so many years of empty rhetoric and broken promises.

Action 4 Equality Scotland turned this situation around - we continue to lead the fight on equal pay - and while a lot has been achieved up until now - there’s still much more to do.

And Action 4 Equality Scotland's new operation in Edinburgh - is a sign that we're here to stay
.

Monday, 1 February 2010

An End To Secrecy

Labour party leaders at Holyrood are calling for an 'end to secrecy' - over the Scottish government's capital spending programme.

Refreshingly, Labour (in opposition) are demanding that things are brought out into the open - so that the public can judge for themselves what the government is planning and doing - in their name.

South Lanarkshire Council is, of course, a Labour-led council - and has been for many years.

Yet, South Lanarkshire's fondness for secrecy seems to know no bounds - people can't even find out what groups of gardeners or refuse workers get paid - compared to carers, classroom assistants and catering workers.

So, why the big difference between the Labour party's attitude in Edinburgh - compared to South Lanarkshire?

Who knows - but we'll be doing our level best to find the answer.

MPs' Expenses - Who Guards the Guards?

The Independent newspaper is the latest to join the fray over MPs' expenses.

The Independent on Sunday reported yesterday that the government appointed chair of IPSA - the new MPs' expenses watchdog - is no stranger himself to running up large and controversial claims. Here's a brief summary of the piece by Brian Brady - the full article can be read online at: http://www.independent.co.uk/


"Taxi! MPs' expenses watchdog took taxpayers for a £16,000 ride"
"Sir Ian Kennedy earned £170,000 a year, but that wasn't enough. He needed a cab to get to and from work.

The man put in charge of policing MPs' expenses took hundreds of door-to-door taxi journeys between home and work when he was boss of a health watchdog – and left taxpayers to pick up the bill.

Sir Ian Kennedy claimed almost £16,000 on private-hire vehicles to transport him around London during less than five years as the £170,000-a-year chairman of the Healthcare Commission (HC), unpublished documents obtained by The Independent on Sunday have revealed.

Itemised accounts obtained by the IoS show Sir Ian also claimed more than £4,000 for train fares and several lunches and dinners, including three with Paul Corrigan, special adviser to former secretary of state for health Alan Milburn, and partner of the former cabinet minister Hilary Armstrong.

Although many of Sir Ian's taxi journeys were to meetings and other official engagements, the vast majority – more than 200 every year – were trips between his home in North London and the commission's HQ in the City. The fares ranged from around £17 for ordinary private-hire cabs, to £35 for "VIP" bookings on account with a premium cab service. The journey would take less than 40 minutes on the Underground – and even now costs only £2.30 with a pre-paid Oyster card.

Sir Ian's salary was calculated to match that of a High Court judge. In 2008-09, the year the commission was wound up, he received at least £170,000.

He said using so many taxis had allowed him to do at least half an hour's extra work every day – including taking more telephone calls. Sir Ian also insisted that he ran up his taxi bill following an "agreement" with the now-defunct commission, and gave up his entitlement to employer's pension contributions as part of the agreement.

But MPs last night condemned the deal and demanded a full explanation from the man who has been charged with establishing a system governing how they spend taxpayers' money.

One former minister said: "I am surprised to hear that any public servant could get his taxi fares paid on such a regular basis, when everyone else has to make do with public transport."

It is not the first time Sir Ian has provoked unrest among backbench MPs since his appointment was announced last November. The revelation that he would be paid a £100,000 salary for a three-day working week sparked loud jeers in the House of Commons."

Calling Glasgow

Scores of Action 4 Equality Scotland clients in Glasgow - have still to respond to important letters that have been sent out in recent weeks.

Maybe the people concerned have moved address - since first registering their contact details - but whatever the reason it's crucial that they respond as quickly as possible.

Because any delay could be very costly - and that would be a great shame - especially after all the hard work that's been done to move things forward in Glasgow.

So, if you know any friends or work colleagues in this position - ask them to contact the Action 4 Equality Scotland office to sort things out - urgently.

The new office number for Action 4 Equality Scotland is - 0131 652 7366.

Fife Council - Stop Press

Settlement discussions on the outstanding equal pay claims have been underway with Fife Council - for the past few weeks.

Enough progress has been made to agree to a postponement of the GMF hearing dates - that were originally scheduled for 1 to 5 February and 8 to 12 February 2010 (i.e. this week and next).

Some important issues still need to be nailed down - so the GMF dates previously agreed for March 2010 remain in place - until a final agreement is reached.

Further news will be reported on the blog site - so watch this space.