Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sisters With Solicitors

Here's an article on equal pay by Zoe Williams from the Guardian newspaper - the sections in bold have been highlighted by me - but you can read the full story on-line at: www.guardian.co.uk

"On equal pay, sisters with solicitors must do it for themselves"

"The Birmingham case shows just how much Labour and the unions have let women down

The news about Birmingham city council is in its way as big a deal, as cataclysmically bankrupting, as Greece. Unlike Greece, it has a massive, Erin Brockovich feelgood factor. I feel sure we'd be talking about it much more if it weren't for bigot-gate.

The tribunal's finding is this: women employees have been systematically underpaid and discriminated against by this council, for as long as the Equal Pay Act has been in force. Female staff on the same pay grade as men (cleaners versus bin men, for instance) could expect to earn much less, to start with, and go on to be paid much less in bonuses. The starkest example given was one case of a refuse collector taking home £51,000 in one year, while women on his level received less than £12,000.

Paul Doran, of the firm Stefan Cross that successfully brought this case, told me: "The bonuses were a sham, there was no monitoring, they were paid simply for men turning up to work, doing their jobs properly." The council plans to appeal (of course it does), and there are appeals due to be heard in September from Sunderland and Bury councils, fighting similar cases. But if it proceeds according to the judgment as it stands, this will lead to payouts worth £200m. It is, in short, a wonderful day for equal pay, better than any manifesto promise: legislation has shown its teeth, and there isn't a council in the country that can afford to ignore it.

Nevertheless, the abiding sense I'm left with is not triumph but outrage, not least at the GMB union, which, solicitors say, was just as culpable as the council in maintaining this exploitative status quo. The GMB had the unbelievable brass neck to put out a press release yesterday morning claiming this as their victory. Technically, in terms of representing the litigants, this may be – but historically it's quite a different case.

Female staff, attempting to right the iniquities in the pay scale, weren't just poorly represented by their union, they were systematically bullied (this is all documented in the Allen v GMB appeal of 2008, which found against the GMB and which the GMB, brazenly, never mentions).


Doran recalls: "The Equal Pay Act was enforced from 1975. In spite of that, councils started paying bonuses in the 70s and 80s, which was driven by the unions. The bonuses are paid to male-dominated groups. The councils quickly realised that the bonuses would have to be scrapped, so the unions, rather than fight for equal pay for the women, spent a lot of their time preserving the bonuses for the men."

This included actively encouraging women to settle for pitiful sums (£2,000 to £7,000 in cases where the claims were for as much as £50,000) and publicly briefing against the women on the basis that their claims would lead to job losses or would bankrupt the council. Socialism and feminism aren't synonymous, and we all know that: but the misogyny of the left is almost more poisonous, more depressing, than the rabid materialism of girl power. I remember people saying this about Thatcher: that one of the reasons why she was rarely hauled up on those of her policies that were actively bad for women was that she had, at least, smashed the unions: and that was worth quite a lot of free milk.

I suppose if there's an ancillary point here, it's that unions can fight and win some quite improbable battles, at least for a time; so it's worth joining, as long as they are on your side – not just taking your money and stamping on your face.

By coincidence, yesterday's ruling was made on the same day that Harriet Harman and Theresa May faced off at the Fawcett debate, What About Women? Harman is a wonderful speaker; she took May apart, and I say that without agenda (I was rather taken with Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green). But "Sisters!" she cried, talking about an extant 20% pay gap between the sexes. "Do we really think we're 20% stupider than men, less able, more lazy?" Everybody clapped. She talked about mandatory pay audits, and how they would ensure that bad employers have nowhere to hide. It was all incredibly inspirational, except for the fact that this government has already been in power for three terms, and we are standing here, gasping in amazement that anyone's managed to enforce some equality legislation that was passed in 1970.

It makes you think: first, that the Labour party, for all its big talk, is not necessarily the best for women. Of Harriet Harman's personal commitment to equal rights, I am in no doubt. But the forces working against her, in her own party or certainly their cohorts, the unions, are just as powerful and destructive to equality as anyone painting poor old Theresa May into the corner where she has to argue the married man's tax allowance until she's pink with embarrassment.

Second, maybe we don't need more legislation, at the moment, in this area. Maybe we do not need the Equality Act, until there is proper, rigorous implementation of the Equal Pay Act. And lastly, a moment to congratulate the solicitors: they don't campaign or (I doubt) call anybody "Sister". But they get it done."

"He's not as nice as he looks"

Gordon Brown's verbal mugging of a Rochdale pensioner yesterday - reminded me of something Winston Churchill once said of another 'honourable member' - many years ago.

The target of Churchill's venom was Ian Mikardo, a left-wing Labour MP - whom he put down with the withering comment that: " He's not as nice as he looks".

The Prime Minister's careless put down of an ordinary Labour supporter has given the public a rare insight into the real Gordon Brown - without the protection of his party or government spin doctors.

What the electorate make of it all remains to be seen.

But the whole sorry saga does suggest that our politicians still regard ordinary people as 'voting fodder' - as useful idiots who propel them into power - rather than as citizens whose views and opinions should be treated with respect.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

South Lanarkshire Council

The next round of hearings involving South Lanarkshire Council gets underway next week - at the Employment Tribunal in Glasgow - dates are as follows:

Tuesday - 4 May 2010

Wednesday - 5 May 2010

Thursday - 6 May 2010

Friday 7 - May 2010

The Glasgow Employment Tribunal is a short 10 minute walk from Central Station and is located at the following address:

The Eagle Building
215 Bothwell Street
Glasgow
G2 7TS

The hearing is open to the public, but if you go along make a point of introducing yourself to Carol Fox - who will be there on behalf of the Fox Cross legal team.

"Gee, but it's great to be back home....."

Simon and Garfunkel said it so well - but it is really great to be back home - especially after being stranded in Canada for almost two weeks - as a result of the volcanic ash cloud.

While the wonders of modern technology the blog site kept going - things were only prevented from turning into a complete nightmare with the help of family and friends.

So hats off to my brother Brian, and sister-in-law Jane, for riding to the rescue in our hour of need - without their help things looked bleak indeed.

And this was in stark contrast to the UK government - which had about as much purpose or common sense - as an ashtray on a motorbike.

For many people outside Europe - the only source of reliable news was the BBC's World News programme.

Yet not one UK government minister appeared on this news channel until Day 6 of the crisis - long after people were in really desperate straits.

Politicians normally fond of the limelight were suddenly nowhere to be seen - no one offered practical help and support - people were just left to their own devices.

Meanwhile some of the airlines were busy exploiting the situation - demanding three and four times the normal economy fares, or business and first-class fares - to get the stranded travellers home, some of them with young children.

Incredibly many flights came back to the UK with empty seats - but without an angry word from the politicians.

The motto of the story is that when the banking system faced a crisis - the government threw huge amounts of public money at the problem - no effort was too great, no cost too much.

Yet when tens of thousands of ordinary UK citizens were stranded abroad - ministers just looked the other way.

The government should hang its head in shame.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Birmingham Council Workers Win Equal Pay Claim

Here's the latest equal pay news hot from the BBC - another big breakthrough this time in Birmingham City Council - yet again the campaign was led by Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross Solicitors.

"Up to 5,000 female council staff have won their case for equal pay at an employment tribunal.

The women, who include cleaners, cooks and care assistants, were all employed by Birmingham City Council.

Solicitors said the council may have to pay a total of £600m to the women, who said they were denied bonuses paid to their male counterparts.

Councillor Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources, said the council had removed its "inappropriate bonus schemes" in 2007.

He said it had introduced a revised pay and grading structure which was in line with the Equal Opportunity Commission equality guidelines.

A spokeperson for Stefan Cross Solicitors said it was a "massive victory" for the women.

He said the tribunal announced that the bonus payments to men were discriminatory and allowed male employees to earn more than £50,000 a year.

The council had believed (wrongly) that refuse collection staff, who were on the same pay grades as the women, deserved special treatment, he added.

The tribunal decided the payments could not be justified since they were being paid to the men for turning up to work and doing their jobs properly, he said.

He also said the tribunal found senior managers at the council had been aware of the problem since as early as 2000 but had not done anything about it.

"The fact that Birmingham City Council simply failed to acknowledge it had a problem should act as a warning to other local authorities who continue to deny their female employees their basic rights," he said.


The pattern is always the same - big council employers and trade unions that should know better, who have been aware of the problem for years - but things only change once Action 4 Equality appears on the scene.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Former APT&C Groups

Regular readers will know that there was an important Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) earlier this month - involving Edinburgh City Council.

The case has implications for other councils as well because the underlying issue is whether non-manual workers (i.e. those employed on former APT&C grades) can compare themselves against manual worker comparators - for pay purposes.

Action 4 Equality Scotland takes the view that they can - and a previous Employment Tribunal agreed with our interpretation - afetr a major ten day hearing in 2009.

After all, why should a refuse worker be paid more than a Cook Supervisor, a Social Care Worker or Classroom Assistant - that is the real question the employers don't want to answer?

In reaching its decision the previous Employment Tribunal gave a withering judgment against Edinburgh City Council - by saying that it was trying to 'defend the indefensible'.

Unfortunately, Edinburgh appealed that decision - in what many regard as yet another abuse of public money - and so the case has gone on to the EAT.

The appeal hearing finished within the allotted time and everyone is now waiting for the EAT’s decision, which may take a number of weeks, if not months.

But as soon as we are notified of the decision - we will report the details on the blog site.

Falkirk Update

As regular readers know, Action 4 Equality Scotland has been involved in settlement discussions with Falkirk Council over recent months.

The council has blown hot and cold on a settlement package, but several meetings took place and agreement in principle appeared to have been reached.

Sadly, the council now appears to be changing its position - without any further discussion or agreement with Action 4 Equality Scotland - and they propose to calculate settlement offers on the basis of contractual hours only.

Our view is that any settlement offers must take into account additional hours our clients have worked during their periods of claim - not just contractual hours as this would exclude all overtime.

So we have told the council we cannot agree a settlement which excludes significant extra hours worked by our clients - nor can we accept any other unreasonable and new conditions.

The latest setback is very disappointing - because we thought we had reached an agreement in principle with the Council - but have been let down again at the eleventh hour.

So, if the Council does not come to its senses, we will resume progress of the outstanding claims via at the Employment Tribunals.

We will request an immediate listing of a GMF hearing to consider the council’s defences to these claims.

Falkirk readers may already be aware that the unions appear quite content to advise their clients to accept settlement proposals based on contractual hours only - and for limited periods of claim.

If they do so, the union claimants’ settlement offers will represent far less a proportion of the value of their claims than the settlements being pursued by Action 4 Equality Scotland.

Trade Unions and Equal Pay

Readers may be interested in the attached letter sent by Stefan Cross to the UK Law Gazette - as a contribution to the ongoing debate about how trade unions have handled equal pay cases.

The letter follows recent criticisms by the President of the Law Society for England, Wales and Northern Ireland - see previous post dated 20 April 2010.

Stefan's letter is spot on about the role of the trade unions and this issue is just as relevant in Scotland - as it is elsewhere in the UK.

In Glasgow Action 4 Equality Scotland outnumbers trade union backed claimants by around 7 to 1.

The picture is similar in North Lanarkshire and - as regular readers know only too well - South Lanarkshire Council is an 'equal pay free zone' as far as the unions are concerned.

Ordinary union members stand to benefit from more choice and competition in legal representation - but that's exactly what union bosses are trying to snuff out.


Dear Sir

Unions and Equal Pay

Unlike my old classmate Chris Cox I was delighted with the President’s response to the DBA regulations. At last there was official recognition of the true position of the unions on equal pay and DBA’s.

The unions have been incredibly good at passing motions and attending conferences on equal pay but terrible in taking effective action especially in the public sector. If the President was implying that the unions have failed to do justice to the members employment rights then he was spot on – that is precisely the position.

The RCN itself had until only last year a policy of not pursuing equal pay cases in the NHS. All the public sector unions signed a moratorium with the local government employers agreeing not to pursue equal pay cases on behalf of their members. This position only changed as a direct result of the work that my firm did in pursuing cases on a DBA basis.

Mr Cox claims that the unions have supported hundreds of thousands of cases but the truth is that they would never have supported or pursued these cases if it had not been as a result of our actions using DBA’s.

Until 2003 equal pay cases made up less than 1% of all tribunal claims. As a result of our work equal pay became the number type of claim, a remarkable turnaround that would never have happened if the unions had been left to their own devices.

Ask the union members in Middlesbrough, Newcastle or Glasgow whether the unions got them justice for their employment rights. I have literally thousands of clients who have got substantially more, even after our fees, than their colleagues did through the unions.

As for his claim that almost all advances in equal pay have been through union backed cases this is just nonsense. It complete ignores the role of the EOC and ECHR and the fact is that 9 out of 10 of the reported equal pay cases in the last decade have been cases my firm has pursued and not union cases at all.

The fact is that the unions hate competition and they will do anything to snuff it out. This is why they lobbied government that funding of equal pay settlements would only be provided to councils on the condition that money was not paid to solicitors acting on a DBA basis.

It is why trade union lawyers were the only ones to oppose the ELA response to the DBA regulations. It is why the union firms oppose the ABS in Scotland and oppose the Jackson Civil ligation proposals in England and Wales.

The unions have done some fantastic work for their members but the effective monopoly they seek in claimant work is clearly not in the public interest and not even in their members interests.
Yours faithfully


Stefan Cross

Friday, 23 April 2010

Knowledge is Power

As promised in the previous post, here are the contact details for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland:

Postal address
EHRC Scotland
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
Glasgow
G2 8DU

Telephone
0141 228 5910 (non helpline calls only)

Fax
0141 228 5912

E-mail
scotland@equalityhumanrights.com


If you do contact the EHRC, let us know and we'll share the news with other readers via the blog site.


Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Lots of readers from South Lanarkshire feel frustrated at the council's delaying tactics over equal pay - so they've been asking what they can to to support their claims.

Well one thing people could do is to complain about the lack of transparency on pay information - and the body to complain to is the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland (EHRC).

The EHRC is responsible for overseeing the legislative framework on all equalities issues - and regularly issues good practice guidance to employers - large and small.

Much of this appears to have passed South Lanarkshire Council by - but the EHRC is conducting a formal investigation into Glasgow's pay and grading structures - following complaints by individual employees.

So, a similar approach in South Lanarkshire - can only help in the ongoing fight for equal pay - here's a draft letter that readers might wish to use in raising the issue with EHRC Scotland.

Dear EHRC

South Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

I would like to complain to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about the lack of transparency in the pay arrangements operated by my employer, South Lanarkshire Council.

I have been pursuing an equal pay claim against my employer for a number of years, but the council refuses to explain clearly and fully the basis of its pay arrangements for different groups of male and female employees.

Specifically, I am complaining about the inability of groups of predominantly female employees to understand the basis on which their jobs have been graded and paid - compared to their male counterparts.

My complaint should be viewed in the context of the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement which applied to all 32 Scottish councils and over 250,000 local government workers.

South Lanarkshire Council claims to have implemented this agreement in April 2004, but the council did so in a way that is completely different from every other council in Scotland, for example by opting out of the national Job Evaluation (JE) scheme recommended for use by COSLA and the trade unions.

South Lanarkshire Council refuses to provide basic pay information which is freely available in just about every other council in Scotland.

Based on my own local knowledge, the historical pay differences between traditional male and female jobs in South Lanarkshire Council has been reinforced by the council's 2004 grading and pay structures.

Basic safeguards such as comparing the 'rank order' of jobs before and after the grading exercise have not been carried out - resulting in women's jobs being concentrated at the bottom of the pay ladder.

Again based on local knowledge, there has been widespread pay preservation amongst the traditional male jobs which is not only discriminatory but also contravenes the letter and spirit of the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

I believe that South Lanarkshire Council has failed to uphold its responsibilities in respect of gender equality and I would like EHRC to investigate my complaint

I look forward to hearing from you

Kind regards


Signed

South Lanarkshire Council Employee


Contact details for EHRC Scotland will follow - in a separate post - remember to date and sign any letter you send off - and to include a contact address and/or phone number.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ask An Impertinent Question

Here are the original FOI questions that South Lanarkshire Council is refusing to answer - they won't seem particularly difficult or threatening to most people - most sensible people at least.

But the council refuses to explain the background to its 'in-house' Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) - when just about every other council in Scotland is happy to share this information.

Indeed elsewhere the details would be freely available to the council workforce - and as it's public money the council has been spending why all the secrecy?

So yet another appeal has gone off to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Archie Strang
Chief Executive
South Lanarkshire Council
Almada Street
Hamilton
ML3 0AA

By e-mail

Dear Mr 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

Freedom of Information - South Lanarkshire

Here's the latest piece of FOI nonsense involving South Lanarkshire Council

The result is yet another appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner - because the council won't explain the background to its in-house Job Evaluation (JE) scheme - which determines what council employees are paid.

You might think this is a ridiculous situation - and you'd be right - why is the council so secretive and unwilling to explain issues that other Scottish councils simply take in their stride.

South Lanarkshire Council claims to support opennes and tranparency - but theory and practice are two different things entirely - that's why many people are choosing to complain to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

If the council has nothing to hide - why is it making such a fuss - and going to such lengths to stop this information coming out into the open?

Dear Scottish Information Commissioner

South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) – FOISA request

I enclose an exchange of correspondence with South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) regarding a FOISA enquiry I initiated with the council on 10 September 2009.

I asked for a review of the council’s initial decision, but remain dissatisfied with their response. I am therefore registering an appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC).

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

1. South Lanarkshire Council’s response is just a blanket refusal to provide any information and, in my view, is against the spirit of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

2. My request is not vexatious in any way - the information requested is about an important public policy issue and the use of public money.

3. South Lanarkshire Council has not provided any evidence to support its assertion that dealing with my request would cause disruption or add unduly to the workload of Corporate Resources personnel.

4. South Lanarkshire Council clearly has this information in its possession and, in my review request, I suggested that an experienced official would take around thirty minutes to gather the details from the relevant files.

5. I suspect that most, if not all, of the information requested is readily available and in all likelihood is already contained in previous reports to the relevant council committee/s.

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

Trade Unions and Equal Pay

The trade unions have got their knickers in a terrible twist over some very critical remarks from the Law Society - about their handling of equal pay claims.

The president of the Law Society (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) - Robert Heslett - has written to Dominic Grieve MP, Shadow Justice Secretary, and is calling upon him, if elected to government, to repeal new regulations which came into force on 6 April 2010.

The Law Society fought to prevent these regulations coming into force - and says it will continue to lobby to have them overturned.

The Law Society says it is "extremely concerned that the restriction in the level of damages for consumers with employment matters, that are complex or which are meritorious but uncertain of success, may well be unable to find solicitors able to take on their cases them because the solicitor cannot meet the financial risk of covering their costs."

The Law Society president went on to say: "This is a cavalier move by the government which is not only damaging to the citizen but wrong in principle.

Professor Moorhead, on whose research the government relied, has written to Parliament to indicate that his research should not be taken as providing evidence to support this limitation. It is outrageous that government should seek to twist his research in order to use it as a basis for these regulations.

The regulations may well remove from citizens the choice of representation and force them to rely on services provided by trade unions. It is difficult to see anyone other than Trade Unions benefiting from these hasty changes.

Experience in respect of equal pay deals, suggests that unions may not be in the best position to deliver appropriate results for their clients and those wishing to challenge such deals may well find it impossible to do so."

In plain language, the Law Society is effectively accusing the government of striking a cosy deal before the general election - to benefit of Labour's trade union paymasters.

But this hasty and unjustified decision will end up restricting the choice of ordinary union members (and non-union members) who require proper legal representation.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

No, Prime Minister

Some MPs just don't get it, do they?

The latest honourable member to lose his 'moral compass' is none other than the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

The PM lost his cool in front of a panel of first time voters yesterday - and tried to portray himself as some kind of innocent victim in the MPs' expenses scandal.

Gordon Brown tried to defend spending thousands of pounds in on cleaning bills, saying that his “only crime” was wanting to pay a decent wage.

“I’ve got to stay in two places at once, right? I’ve got my wife and I’ve got my children. I wasn’t claiming for a mortgage, I was paying for the expenses of having a house in London,” he told his audience.

Adding in a apparent reference to Sir Thomas Legg, the former Whitehall mandarin who investigated MPs’ claims at Mr Brown’s request and who ordered him to pay back more than £12,000, he added: “What the guy basically said was I shouldn’t be paying the cleaner a minimum wage.

No, Prime Minister - that is complete nonsense - and you should know better.


The issue was never about whether a cleaner was paid six pounds an hour or eight pounds an hour.

The issue is why should the taxpayer subsidise an MP who wants someone else to do his cleaning or his laundry - and why didn't MPs pay for these personal services out of their own money - like everyone else?

Some MPs may require to operate two homes - one in their constituency and one in Westminster -but you can obviously only live in one at a time.

And, of course, whilst you would expect MPs to pay their employees a decent wage - not the minimum wage - that is a completely separate and different matter altogether.

Glasgow Enquiries

Enquiries from Glasgow continue to be take up a great deal of time and resources.

Despite the fact that Action 4 Equality Scotland has now processed well over 3,000 settlements on behalf of clients in Glasgow.

The ongoing queries relate to offers that are being disputed in various ways - but these queries all need to be checked carefully and resolved with the council on an individual basis.

Understandably clients who are caught up in this 'ongoing queries' process are very frustrated.

But rest assured that we are doing everything possible to resolve all the outstanding issues - as quickly as possible.

Staff in the office have been working late into the evening and over the weekends to address all the outstanding Glasgow cases.

The best way to help us to help you is for Glasgow clients caught up in this process - to resist the temptation to ring the office on a daily basis - asking for an update.

Contacting the office every day simply diverts staff resources away from the real job in hand - and does not help us to resolve any of the issues.

As soon as we have a proper answer to your query - the Action 4 Equality Scotland office will be in touch.

So, please bear with us - until we are able to get back with a full response to your case.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

East Dunbartonshire Loses EAT Case

East Dunbartonshire Council has lost a vital hearing at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The council used a narrow procedural point to frustrate and deny people's claims - but the EAT has thrown out their case - after hearing the legal arguments put forward by the Fox Cross legal team.

Hopefully, the outstanding claims will now proceed to a GMF hearing - or the council will come to its senses and put forward new settlement proposals.

East Dunbartonshire is one of the councils that has applied to the Scottish Government for additional 'borrowing consents' - to meet the back pay costs of equal pay.

Feedback from Fife

Several readers from Fife have been in touch to say that the unions are still up to their old tricks - trying to confuse people about their equal pay claims.

As explained previously - see post dated 15 April 2010 - the latest settlement offer covers the period up to the implementation of Single Status, i.e. up to 31 March 2007.

All Action 4 Equality Scotland clients have an ongoing claim from that date onwards - because the council continued to protect the higher pay of traditional male jobs - for another 3 years.

Claims on behalf of Action 4 Equality Scotland clients are already underway - so individual clients do not need to take any action at this stage - everything is in hand.

The unions are suggesting that people need to submit fresh claims or they will lose out - but this is complete baloney as far as Action 4 Equality Scotland clients are concerned.

So, take what the unions have to say on this issue - as with many others - with a big pinch of salt.

More Kind Words

Understandably, many readers get frustrated and angry - at the foot dragging antics of the council employers over equal pay.

But here are some kind words from a reader in the west of Scotland which should provide some encouragement - to the many council employees still fighting for a fair settlement of their equal pay claims.

"Hi Mark,

You and Stefan Cross deserve the highest accolade for all you have done for normal working women in Scotland's local authorities.

I know it has taken five years in my case, but you have achieved more than two and half times the settlement sum which the Council originally offered me. Congratulations and good hunting against those Local Authorities still reluctant to comply with what is right.

Most Councils' wages and finance chiefs should be ashamed. They must have known, at the outset, that the original offers recommended for settlement, were far far too low.

No doubt they thought that trusting home carers would accept, in the belief that fellow council staff would not let them down with bad advice.

Aye, some hope, but thankfully a true white knight, a great champion in the form of Stefan Cross arose to fight for the cause.

It took a long time, oh yes it did, but worth it in the end.

Many grateful thanks.

FJ"

Action 4 Equality Scotland

Several readers have been in touch recently to ask for the contact details of the Action 4 Equality Scotland office in Edinburgh - this information has been posted on the blog site previously, but here it is again for easy reference.

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:

Postal Address
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."

Sunday, 18 April 2010

North Lanarkshire Council - Stop Press

Last minute discussions with North Lanarkshire Council (late on Friday) - mean that tomorrow's GMF hearing will not now be going ahead.

The council has agreed to make revised offers of settlement - which will include previously excluded groups such as Home Carers - but the claims of former APT&C employees still have to be resolved.

Instead, the GMF hearing will be converted into a CMD (Case Management Discussion).


If any Action 4 Equality Scotland clients attend, they should make themselves known to Paul Clark - who will be attending for the Fox Cross legal team.

Letters will be sent out to all Action 4 Equality Scotland clients by the end of the week - explaining the next steps and details of the proposed settlement.

As our clients know, the behaviour of the trade unions in North Lanarkshire was truly awful.

The unions abandoned their members and lined up with management from the outset - which is why so many people came to Action 4 Equality Scotland for advice and support.

It's been a long hard fight - but this is a real breakthrough for groups such as the Home Carers - and the fight for equal pay will continue for any job categories (e.g. former APT&C employees) that North Lanarkshire is unwilling to settle at this stage.

More details will follow.

Edinburgh - Employment Appeal Tribunal

A number of readers have been in touch - about the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing involving Edinburgh City Council

No decision was reached at the end of this hearing - which is quite normal.


The Employment Appeal Tribunal will issue a written judgement in due course - and this process normally takes weeks rather than days.

But as soon as there is any news to report - the details will appear on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site



Saturday, 17 April 2010

Gissa Job - Michael McCann

Readers in South Lanarkshire will be interested to learn about the Labour party's new candidate to fight the East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat.

Step forward Michael McCann - heir apparent to Adam Ingram MP who is stepping down to spend more time on his outside interests (including building a defence academy in Libya) - which have apparently been earning our former defence minister £173,000 a year.

Interestingly, Michael McCann is currently the deputy leader of South Lanarkshire Council.

And as our readers know, South Lanarkshire is the council equivalent of a 'black hole' - when it comes to basic pay information - about the differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs.

Michael is also a former civil servant and trade union official - and a former parliamentary aide to Adam Ingram (i.e. he worked in the MP's constituency office in addition to his day job).

So, during the general election campaign be sure to ask Michael McCann a topical question or two about equal pay - if you get the chance.

Because there are lots of people still fighting for their rights in the East Kilbride constituency - and the deputy council leader owes the voters some answers.

When will South Lanarkshire Council publish pay information that its workforce can understand - which shows how different groups of male and female workers are paid?

Why are South Lanarkshire's home carers, catering workers and classroom assistants - paid so much less than refuse workers and gardeners?

"Union Lied at Jobs Hearing"

The Herald ran an interesting story during the week - about the performance of the Unite trade union at the Employment Tribunals.

Here's what the paper had to say - just another example of a big trade union letting its members down - which explains why they try and ride on the coat tails of Action 4 Equality Scotland.

"Union lied at jobs hearing "

"Raymond Williamson: one of the union’s witnesses gave evidence that was ‘almost totally incredible’.

Union chiefs have been accused of lying at an employment tribunal about the transfer of thousands of council jobs and now face six-figure legal costs .

Raymond Williamson, the tribunal judge, said Unite provided evidence that was “almost totally incredible”, and deliberately misconstrued the position of Glasgow City Council on staff rights.

He also rejected Unite’s tribunal bid and ordered the union, the largest in the UK, to pick up the legal costs for the dispute.

The damning findings followed a six-day hearing into the process by which the council set up City Building in 2006.

The creation of the new body, one of many arm’s-length organisations established by former council leader Steven Purcell, resulted in about 2,000 staff being transferred from the local authority’s old building services department.

Unite, then Amicus, opposed the shake-up over fears it could lead to job losses, and went to the tribunal on the grounds that it had not been provided with information regarding the changes.

Both the council and City Building were the respondents in the case.

In a written submission, Unite representatives claimed that the union had not been given enough time by the council to consult on the date of the transfer, or on its legal, social and economic implications.

They also claimed they had not been informed at an early stage about changes in the disciplinary structures of staff, arguments that were rejected by the council.

In response, the council stated that the union’s witnesses had lied to the tribunal as they continued to be “implacably opposed” to the transfer.

The employment judge’s ruling made clear that he sided with the council and City Building.

In dismissing the union’s claims, Mr Williamson had harsh criticism for Unite regional secretary Alan Finlayson, listed as one of the union’s witnesses.

His judgment stated: “The tribunal found Mr Finlayson’s evidence almost totally incredible.

“The tribunal did not believe he [Mr Finlayson] was either negligent or incompetent but that he deliberately lied to the tribunal.”

“It follows from the tribunal’s findings that the claimant has deliberately misconstrued and misrepresented the first respondent’s position and lied to the tribunal that the claim is vexatious and/or unreasonable and/or misconceived.”

The decision is a rare piece of good news for City Building, which has endured a barrage of negative publicity over its links to Scottish Labour.

The limited liability partnership (LLP) has been criticised for awarding lucrative contracts to firms owned by party donors and for handing Labour about £4,000 for attending two fundraising dinners.

It was revealed earlier this week that City Building had asked Labour to return the cash after council chief executive George Black banned the practice.

Unite is currently Labour’s largest financial contributor, effectively bankrolling the election campaign.

Since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007, the union has handed over more than £11 million to the party.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We are pleased at the outcome.”

A City Building spokesperson said: “We are obviously very pleased that this issue has come to a satisfactory conclusion and that the tribunal has unanimously judged that the correct TUPE procedure was followed when the LLP was formed.”

No-one from Unite was available for comment last night.

The union is currently involved in a costly dispute with British Airways that resulted in two lengthy stoppages earlier this month.

It has opened a £700,000 war chest to help cabin crew fight the bitter dispute over pay and conditions."

Friday, 16 April 2010

South Lanarkshire Council

A reader from Hamilton has been in touch.

Apparently a bizarre rumour is doing the rounds - suggesting that Action 4 Equality Scotland is no longer pursuing equal pay cases against South Lanarkshire Council.

The good news is that this is completely untrue.

Maybe it's the result of wishful thinking by the council and/or the trade unions - but whatever the source it's absolute nonsense from start to finish.

More news to follow about South Lanarkshire soon - a further round of tribunal hearings is due to get underway in May 2010.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Fife Council

Action 4 Equality Scotland has written to all clients in Fife Council with details of new settlement proposals.

The prospect of a GMF hearing in February 2010 finally brought the council to its senses - but this is an 'interim' settlement only - a further period is still in dispute and is the subject of ongoing legal action.

The proposed new settlement covers only the period up to the implementation of Singe Status in Fife Council - i.e. up to 31 March 2007.

From 1 April 2007, all Action 4 Equality Scotland clients in Fife Council have an ongoing claim - which we are continuing to pursue on your behalf.

However, existing clients do not need to take any further action.

Your claim is already underway - and you can simply ignore any unsolicited letters you might receive from the trade unions.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Holding MPs to Account

Less than 200 people may have decided who will become the next MP in East Lothian

Because by 130 to 59 votes the local Labour party finally decided to ditch Anne Moffat as their candidate - after years of controversy and party in-fighting.

So, if the new person goes on to win the East Lothian seat - just 189 people will have set the whole process in motion - for good or ill.

Yes, but the wider electorate still has to have their say - I hear you say - that provides an important democratic safeguard, does it not?

Yes, up to a point - but what the Anne Moffat debacle highlights is just how difficult it is to hold our MPs to account - once they have been elected into office.

In reality, there's no effective mechanism for getting rid of the buggers - if you find out they're no good - or that they've been up to no good.

What happens is that they hide behind their original election victory - pretending to have a mandate from the voting public.

Since the last general election, voters in East Lothian have learned a lot about Anne Moffat - which they didn't know when they elected her as their MP - for example, her ability to run up monumental expenses claims.

Yet, there was no effective way of holding her to account - and it's taken a huge effort by her own party to finally show her the door.

What's needed is a right of recall for MPs - the ability of the voting public to trigger a by-election in the event of some scandal or bad behaviour by their honourable member.

Now that would keep the next intake of MPs on their toes.

More Kind Words

More kind words from Action 4 Equality Scotland readers about the settlement of their equal pay claims:

"Thank you so much for getting me the compensation I was entitled to - but would never have received without Action 4 Equality Scotland's help.

AM"

"Just a wee note to say 'Thank You' for all your work in getting me my equal pay claim - it was well worth the wait.

Thanking you.

MB"

Friday, 2 April 2010

Meeting the Costs of Equal Pay

Several Scottish councils have asked the Scottish Government for permission to borrow extra funds - to help them meet the back pay costs of their outstanding equal pay claims.

Here's what they've been allocated by way of additional 'borrowing consents' from the Scottish Government

Clackmannanshire Council
£1,513,000

East Dunbartonshire Council
£2,786,000

Falkirk Council
£5,633,000

Midlothian Council
£9,091,000

West Dunbartonshire Council
£4,413,000

It seems fair to assume that having asked to borrow these additional funds - the councils involved should now get their fingers out and put firm proposals on the table.

And given that large sums of public money are involved - Action 4 Equality Scotland will ensure that there is a fair and just settlement of people's claims.

West Lothian

Here's an e-mail from one of our regular readers in West Lothian - if you have a story to tell, get in touch.

"Hi Mark

Thought you would be interested in the story on the front page of our local paper.

Headlined GERMAN WEASELS about how our SNP led West Lothian Council - who have to save 45 million and will likely have to shed 1000 jobs - are taking themselves on a jolly paid by guess who over to their friends in Germany.

So there we go they have not any funds to settle their moral right with the low paid hard working people who are about to get the chop - while they go swanning off with what seems not a care.

People who were considering , like myself, voting SNP will no doubt have second thoughts after seeing how these jokers perform.

I hope it wont be long till you and your team bring them to book on the equal pay - for all the home helps, carers, dinner ladies etc."

The SNP-led council has been a big disappointment on equal pay - they've blow hot and cold about new offers settlement - but have still to make firm proposals.

If you would like to exprss a view to the council leader, Councillor Peter Johnston here is his e-mail address:
peter.johnston@westlothian.gov.uk