Saturday, 29 May 2010

Trade Union Democracy

Why are the trade unions so blinkered when it comes to party politics?

At the general election, only 29% of the voting public supported Labour - 40% of the population didn't bother to vote for anyone at all, sad to say.

The great majority of ordinary union members did not support the Labour Party - because they vote just the same way as everyone else.

Uncomfortable as that may be for the trade union hierarchy - virtually 100% of whom are fully paid up Labour party members.

As many people know, the big public sector unions (GMB, Unite and Unison) align themselves to only one political party - Labour.

Despite the mixed and varied views of ordinary union members.

But in addition the unions recruit at a senior level from a very shallow pool of talent - from amongst people who are already Labour Party members and supporters.

Why - just where are all the SNP and Lib Dem supporters within trade union ranks?

At a time when other civic organisations are trying to be more inclusive and representative - the unions are as tribal and unreconstructed as ever - monolithic and one dimensional.

So, in the new politics at both Holyrood and Westminster - the views of partisan union leaders will start to count for less and less.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR)

Readers from Glasgow have been asking - what's happening with the claims associated with the council's Workforce Pay and benefits Review (WPBR)?

Well, the answer is that these will not be considered until October 1020 - when a further Case Managment Discussion (CMD) has been scheduled.

The cases have been 'sisted' or put on hold for the moment - because of the investigation that is underway by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - details of which have been reported in a previous post.

Arrangements for the CMD will be reported nearer the time - and individual Glasgow claimants are, as usual, entitled to attend.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Male Claims

Enquiries continue to flood in from readers who want to know what the rights of male workers are - in terms of equal pay.

Here's an article explaining the background - that was first published on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site in 2009 - the contact phone number has been changed, but nothing else.

The current position is that non-bonus earning male workers, generally speaking, do have a valid claim - but the situation varies from council to council.

So, if you need a word about the position in your own council - contact Mark Irvine or ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 652 7366.

"Monday, 10 August 2009

Male Workers' Claims

The recent breakthrough case male claimants at the Employment Appeal Tribunal – see post dated 25 June 2009 - has understandably generated a great deal of interest.

Lots of readers have been in touch to say “Well done” to Action 4 Equality Scotland - and Stefan Cross Solicitors.Because when male members raised the issue with their trade unions – they were told to get lost - that they had no chance of success.

But now the worm has turned – and the stance taken by Stefan Cross has been completely vindicated - by the recent landmark case of McAvoy v South Tyneside Borough Council at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The underlying issue was always about common sense and the right equal treatment under the law – about treating both men and women fairly – even though the majority of equal pay claimants in Scotland are female.

The key point is that the groups of male workers - who never received bonus payments – always had an argument – so long as female council workers were successful in establishing their own claims.

Once a settlement for the women had been achieved – the employers were in the difficult position of having to justify why the non-bonus earning male group – should be treated any differently to the non-bonus earning female group.

The court was invited to agree that to do so - without good cause - amounted to sex discrimination against the men.

Thankfully the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed - with the arguments advanced by Stefan Cross.

So, if you’ve been let down by poor union advice – and you want to pursue an equal pay claim via Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – then get in touch.

You can either drop Mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com or ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 031 652 7366"

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

South Lanarkshire - New Claims

Lots of new enquiries today from readers in South Lanarkshire - people want to know if they've left it too late to pursue an equal pay claim?

Well the answer is that council employees in South Lanarkshire can still register a claim - in fact they have potentially plenty to gain - and nothing to lose.

Because the unions have given up the ghost - they're not at the races - and despite a lot of brave talk the unions haven't taken up a single equal pay case in South Lanarkshire.

The only way to protect your interests is to register an individual claim with the Employment Tribunals - nothing else will safeguard your position.

The unions were telling their members recently not to worry - that any settlement achieved by Action 4 Equality Scotland would be extended to the unions as well.

But this is a load of old baloney - a lot of hot air - not one council in Scotland has made settlement offers to employees out the goodness of their hearts.

Settlement offers - in other councils - are now only being made to employees who have already registered an equal pay claim with the Employment Tribunals.

So, if you're in any doubt drop Mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

South Lanarkshire Meetings

Readers in South Lanarkshire are in touch on a regular basis - asking for information and feedback on a variety of topics such as:

I haven't made an equal pay claim yet, is it too late to submit a claim now?

Why is it so difficult to get basic pay information about how different council jobs are paid?

How do I go about asking a Freedom of Information question?

Should I contact and ask my local MSP for support?

So, to try and answer everyone's questions - I am making myself available for a series of readers' meetings - over the coming weeks and months.

If you want to organise a meeting in your own local area - just identify a suitable venue, make a provisional booking - and drop Mark Irvine a note to finalise arrangements at: markrvine@compuserve.com

The answer to the first question, by the way is - No, it's not too late to register an equal pay claim in South Lanarkshire!

If you want to do so - just e-mail Mark Irvine with your full name, address and post code.


Monday, 24 May 2010

More Kind Words

More kind words - this time from one of our regular 'APT&C' readers - who is clearly delighted at the recent EAT decision from Lady Smith (see post dated 23 May 2010).

"Hi Mark,

What great news about the former white collar workers!

At last we're seeing some progress. You and your team must be delighted as we are.

Keep up the good work and once again, THANK YOU!!!

AW"


Different councils had different arrangements - about which jobs were classified as former APT&C workers.

But broadly speaking these include - Classroom Assistants, Special Needs Assistants, Admin & Clerical Workers (school and non-school based), Social Care Workers, Catering Managers etc, etc.

Travel Perks

So, it has come down to travel perks.

10,000 British Airways cabin crew have gone on strike today on behalf of around 1,400 of their colleagues whose travel perks are being reduced - no longer do the people concerned (and their families) get flights or first class tickets - at a huge discount.

Now this is not what the strike was about - originally at least.

The strike began over staffing levels and pay - but with British Airways posting record losses of over £500 million - the reality is that the company has to live within its means.

The union, Unite, appears to have accepted the company's need to address its business costs - yet at the eleventh hour one of its Joint General Secretaries (Tony Woodley) makes a theatrical plea:

'Reinstate our members travel perks - and the planned strikes will be called off'.

The sticking point is no longer some noble cause or vital principle - but has become the perks of a small group of members - whose interests are being raised above everyone else involved in the dispute.

Unite knows that a strike ballot would produce a very different result if the question was - "Do you want to take 20 days of strike action to protect the travel perks of less than 15% of the members?"

So the union has its priorities all wrong.

Unite is making itself look foolish - just as its other Joint General Secretary (Derek Simpson) did by 'Twittering' his thoughts to the outside world - while sensitive negotiations were underway.

Unions are often conservative not radical organisations - preoccupied with preserving the status quo.

On equal pay the unions put much more effort into looking after the big bonus earning, traditional male jobs - organising strikes and nationally funded campaigns - while the interests of many low paid women workers took second place.

The final issue in the British Airways strike is now clear - travel perks are not even a contractual matter - so put the question to another ballot and see what the members have to say.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

EAT Decision

As reported previously, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision by Lady Smith is a real landmark judgment - that vindicates the stance taken previously by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

In her judgment Lady Smith reinforces and actually strengthens the decision of the earlier Employment Tribunal hearing from 2009 - where Edinburgh City Council was described as trying to 'defend the indefensible'.

Likewise, Lady Smith has some caustic comments of her own for the council - at one point summing up their approach as being 'blinkered to reality'.

Edinburgh City Council has wasted valuable time and large sums of public money in pursuing this ridculous argument - but now that they've lost hands down the council should do the decent thing and settle all the outstanding claims.

If you would like a copy of the EAT decision - this can be sent to you by e-mail on request - if you drop Mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Friday, 21 May 2010

Former APT&C Workers

Lots of people have been in touch about the test case victory at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) - on behalf of former APT&C workers who have outstanding equal pay claims.

Here's what two regular readers had to say.

"Hey Mark


Edinburgh Equal Pay Claim

Thought I was dreaming this morning when I logged onto the Action 4 Equality Scotland web site and read the good news.

I am a Social Care Worker and have had an equal pay claim against Edinburgh City Council for three years now.

So, fingers crossed we are now getting somewhere at last. Thanks for sharing the good news and keep up the good work.

Regards

EE"



"Hi Mark,

Congratulations

Please send my congratulations to the Stefan Cross team for their fantastic work in securing the correct outcome for the staff in Edinburgh.

Let's hope it is not too long before other councils see the error of their ways and settle theirs too!

Keep up the good work - love the blogs!

GJ"


Edinburgh - Test Case Victory

The recent test case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal - involving Edinburgh City Council - has resulted in a big victory for the claimants.

The council appealed an earlier Employment Tribunal decision from 2009 - arguing that former APT&C workers could not compare themselves to former manual workers - for the purposes of equal pay.

But the council's arguments were firmly rejected by Lady Smith at the Employment Appeal Tribunal - in what is likely to become a landmark judgment.

The judgment opens the way for all the outstanding claims - which Action 4 Equality Scotland has been fighting on behalf of former APT&C employees.

Here are some key points from the judgment - which has implications for all Scottish councils - not just Edinburgh.

The EAT agreed that white collar Claimants (APT&C employees) can make claims based on the bonus of earning manual workers.

The council argued that male manual workers were either not in the same establishment (e.g. gardeners and refuse workers don’t work in schools) and/or were not on common terms - as the council had not yet implemented single status.


But this argument was rejected roundly and the EAT decision will allow thousands of white collar (former APT&C) staff to pursue their equal pay complaints - and proceed to GMF hearings or a negotiated settlement.

In her judgment, Lady Smith held that:

A council is a single establishment for pay purposes

Even if men and women were not employed at the same establishment (workplace) - the implementation of the 1999 Red Book (Single Status) Agreement meant that common terms and conditions applied - from that date onwards.

The Council alone is responsible for setting the terms of both the Claimants and the Comparators pay - notwithstanding any historical role played by collective bargaining machinery.

The Council is a single source employer and responsible for remedying any pay inequality - it is not a defence to argue that workers in different parts of the council (covered by the Red Book) - are employed on different terms and conditions.


Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

The Employment Tribunal recently issued a written decision on the challenge to the Compromise Agreements used in Glasgow - the case of McWilliams and others v Glasgow City Council.

The news is disappointing because the employment judge found ultimately in favour of the council - and the claimants' case was not upheld.

The employment judge made some interesting comments on the case - here are a some extracts - that might be of interest to readers:

"Glasgow City Council will pay £1,000 plus VAT in respect of each adviser (to a maximum of 5) who attends and advises clients at 3 group advisory sessions (each approximately 2 hours duration) on the same day."

"Mr Bowers (for the council) submitted that advice is not an abstract concept. Here the agreement had been discussed and agreed with the unions."

"The claimants undeniably did not get the advice they wanted and had reasonably expected to get. However unfortunate and uncomfortable that maybe, it is not the question I have to address."


"Mr Mitchell (for the claimants) asks that I interpret that requirement (to give advice on the Compromise Agreement) to mean to give such advice as will allow the employee to make an informed decision. That is clearly desirable but with some reluctance I have concluded that that is not what section 77 requires."

"I say, with reluctance, as it seems to me that generally the point of getting legal advice is to get some guidance as to what course of action is in your best interests that this is what the claimants quite reasonably expected and they did not get it."

"I conclude that all that is required by section 77 is that the claimant is advised what the terms of the compromise agreement are and what they mean."

" If I am wrong in my conclusion that the presentation formed part of the advice, then I would have found that the individual sessions in isolation were not sufficient for the requirements of advice on the 'terms' of the compromise agreement and therefore the compromise agreements would not have fulfilled the requirements of section 77."

"Without the presentation, the individual meetings amounted to not much more than 'this is the amount on offer', 'you can take it or leave it, it's up to you but if you sign you won't be able to bring a claim.' That, I agree with Mr Mitchell is not advice on anything other than the effect of the agreement and that is not enough."

While the news is a big setback - Action 4 Equality Scotland will now consider if there are reasonable grounds to appeal the decision - to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Trade Union Ballots

The fuss about the 'unlawful' ballot of British Airways cabin staff is turning into a bit of a farce.

Sure the unions chance their arm when it comes to membership ballots - databases are often woefully out of date - and the trade unions don't like the nuisance of having to publish full and factual results.

Because some ballots are poorly supported - sometimes the significance or even legitimacy of a particular result - might be open to challenge or interpretation.

But if so, the punishment should fit the crime - overturning the British Airways ballot result in the courts - declaring the whole business unlawful - seems rather disproportionate in the circumstances.

Taking a legal sledgehammer to crack a nut is not the solution.

In return the unions would be wise to adopt a policy of full and open disclosure - on all future ballot results, not just strike ballots - in which case these problems would never arise.

In the past, unions have been quite happy to 'spin' ballot results - hiding important information in the small print - even omitting crucial details from official statements.

Ballot results should explain the total number of voting papers issued, the number of votes cast Yes and No etc - and the total number of spoiled papers.

It's not just the law - it's a requirement of union rule books as well.

North Lanarkshire

Action 4 Equality Scotland has now received new settlement offers from North Lanarkshire Council.

All of these revised offers need to be carefully checked - on an individual basis.

Only once this task has been completed - can the paperwork start to go out to clients - and this will happen on a phased basis.

The aim is to start sending offers out by next Monday 24 May 2010 - and because of the large numbers involved this exercise will take several days to complete.

So, please don't phone the office unless you have a genuine query - a friend or neighbour might receive their paperwork first - but that's nothing to get worried or upset about.

If hundreds of people ring the office just to ask why they haven't yet received their papers - it just slows everything down.

So, sit tight - stay calm - and everything will fall into place.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Midlothian Council

A number of readers from Midlothian have been in touch - to say that they've received unsolicited letters from the council.

Apparently the letters state that all previous settlement offers have been withdrawn -and that any further communication will be made via Action 4 Equality Scotland or Fox Cross Solicitors.

Because the council letter has come out of the blue - it's made some folks anxious.

But it's absolutely nothing to worry about.

Settlement discussions have been taking place with Midlothian in recent weeks - progress is being made - and we hope to have some news for people soon.

Until we do - just sit tight.

Meeting the Costs of Equal Pay

As reported in last month several councils have applied to the Scottish Government for additional 'borrowing consents' - to help meet the back pay costs of settling their equal pay claims.

All of the councils involved have now been approached - to see if they are prepared to make renewed settlement offers - in the light of these new circumstances.

Any developments will be reported on the blog site - but readers are free to ask the same question of their local councillors and council leaders.

Contact details will be available on your own council's web site

"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."

Yehaa!

Here are some more kind words from one of our regular readers - glad to be of service.

"Hi Mark,

The money went in the bank today, yeeha!

Many thanks to you and all the team at Action 4 Equality Scotland and Fox Cross - for all your hard work.

It was well worth the wait.

Best regards

AS"


Friday, 14 May 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed

For almost a year now I have been asking South Lanarkshire Council to confirm the pay details of some of its traditional male jobs - in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The council refused my request - which is par for the course - on the grounds that this information amounted to personal data.

I asked for a review explaining that the information requested was clearly not personal - because it related only to the job and not to any individual person.

The council stood by its original decision and the case was appealed to the Scottish Information Commissioner - who initiated an investigation.

But since the original request was made the council has raised a new objection - never previously put directly to me - that the cost of meeting the request exceeded £600.

If the cost of a meeting single request exceeds £600, the council is not under a legal FOI obligation to disclose the information - though it could do so on a voluntary basis, of course.

When I heard this I thought - this must be how the House of Commons and the Speaker's Office behaved over MPs' expenses.

The council's attitude seems to be - delay, frustrate and (whatever you do) don't co-operate - with what looks like a perfectly simple request.

So, the request is now being re-submitted - because the simple truth is that people are entitled to know how public money is being spent.

If you have something to share about Freedom of Information - in your own local area - drop Mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Two Jags, Petrolheads and Sour Grapes

The Labour party's green credentials received a big boost recently - following the general election.

'Two Jags' John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister - has been racing around the media circuit these past few days - fueled by a revolutionary and apparently limitless new power supply - sour grapes.

Jeremy Clarkson - eat your heart out.

As most people know by now, Labour lost around 100 seats to the Tories - and ended up with only 29% of the popular vote.

Since then the Conservatives entered into a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats - and then proceeded to form a government.

But Two Jags can't accept this - he wants you (and me) to know that Labour really won the election - because everyone expected them to get an even worse kicking.

The fact that Labour tried to outbid the Conservatives to stay in power - doesn't register with John Prescott - perhaps because it would make him look like a complete hypocrite.

Nor does it seem to matter that the Lib Dems actually formed a government with Labour in Scotland - for the first two terms of the Scottish Parliament.

The truth is that Labour was perfectly happy to run the Westminster Parliament with less than 40% of the popular vote - for many years.

And as far as anyone knows - John Prescott never whined and complained - or tried to reform the discredited voting system.

Oh no, because that would be like expecting Jeremy Clarkson - to get on his bike, assuming he has one.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Seizing the Day

Speaking as someone who did not vote Conservative at the general election - you have to admit that David Cameron has played a blinder in the past few days.

At some point in the future - no doubt the wheels will come off the bogey.

Just as the shine from Tony Blair and Alex Salmond gradually lost its lustre - with the passage of time and events.

But for now and putting political prejudices to one side - the fact is that the Tory leader simply seized the day.

Cameron played his hand better than anyone else - and the truth is he has left political opponents trailing in his wake.

Such has been the speed of events, the sheer audacity of the project, that non-believers - inside and outside the Tory party - have been lost for words, more or less.

Smarty pants commentators who only days ago spoke admiringly of Labour's last minute attempt to woo the Liberal Democrats into coalition - now hurl childish abuse about 'posh boys' running the country.

Harold Wilson once compared the task of leading the Labour party - to driving a bus full of opinionated passengers:

'Put your foot down, drive like mad and everything's fine', was his sage advice. 'But as soon as you stop, they all get out start arguing with each other', he complained.

David Cameron's driving skills have still to be tested - where it will all end is anybody's guess - but he's certainly started the journey at breakneck speed.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

General Update

As regular readers know, many councils have been doing everything they can - to frustrate and delay the consideration of people's equal pay claims.

By arguing narrow, and ultimately irrelevant, procedural points - many councils have wasted time and tax payers money - instead of dealing with the merits of people's claims.

The good news is that the tribunals have now decided this issue - which became known as the Highland Council point - in favour of the claimants rather than the employers.

The employers argued that claimants had to name specific comparators and jump through other hoops - before their claims could even be considered - but this argument has been rightly thrown out by the tribunals.

So, the way forward is clear - and Fox Cross Solicitors will be asking the tribunals to to set early dates for GMF hearings all of the outstanding cases.

The past six months has seen a significant increase settlements - but the following councils have all been stuck in the mud for one reason or another - so a further effort is being made to move things forward:

Aberdeen City Council

Argyll & Bute

Clackmannanshire

East Dunbartonshire

East Renfrewshire

Highland

Midlothian

Perth & Kinross

South Ayshire

West Lothian

West Dunbartonshire

Councils are also being contacted separately - to see if they are now prepared to discuss new settlement proposals.

Because the experience of recent months suggests that a firm diary date for a GMF hearing - encourages the employers to face up finally to their responsibilities.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

End of an Era

So, it ended with a whimper not with a bang.

After a last desperate attempt to cling on to power, Labour was finally forced to admit defeat after 13 long years - and Gordon Brown had no option but to leave No.10.

For people who fought so hard to achieve a Labour victory in the 1997 general election - myself included - it was a day tinged with sadness and disappointment.

A project that started out so well under Tony Blair gradually lost its way - as the government became increasingly out of touch - then arrogant and overbearing.

We ended up with the incredible sight of a Labour government - a Labour government - supporting the Speaker's office in its tawdry efforts to keep the MPs' expenses scandal under wraps.

Most of those who were at the birth of New Labour were present to witness its demise - Gordon Brown, Peter Mandleson and Alistair Campbell - Tony Blair with his usual impeccable timing managed to be otherwise engaged.

Labour's track record is a mixed bag - some good, some bad - but on equal pay the party was truly awful.

We will not now see the new Equality Bill on the statute books - which Labour promised to deliver if returned to office for a fourth term.

But that's no great loss because Labour - both in local and national government - failed to enforce the existing equal pay legislation (Equal Pay Act) that has been on the statue books for forty years - since 1970.

Labour will now be pitched into a period of internal reflection - but honest debate may be a scarce commodity - as the unions flex their muscles and try to install a man with Balls as new party leader.

We live in interesting times.

The Politics of Gazumping

The antics of our politicians never cease to amaze.

While they all claim to be acting in the national interest - we can see with our own eyes that many MPs would sell their grannies to win the prize of power - and the keys to 10 Downing Street.

In years gone by, the housing market was rife with a scurrilous practice - known as 'gazumping'.

More prevalent in England than Scotland - it involved a house owner negotiating with a single buyer over a property purchase.

The seller having negotiated in 'good faith' and reaching agreement on price with the buyer - would then put things on hold and allow time for the legal niceties to be sorted out.

But in the 1980's - famous for Gordon Gecko and his leitmotif 'greed is good' - gazumping was seen as fair game to many house owners.

A product of its times - gazumping involved secret, duplicitous and parallel negotiations with another potential buyer - unbeknown, of course, to the original buyer.

The purpose of gazumping was to pull the rug from under the agreed deal - at the very last minute - for the sole purpose of achieving a better financial outcome for the house owner - nothing else mattered.

Gazumping bedevilled the housing market for many years - and it will do the same for politics at Westminster.

Whatever the Liberal Democrats are up to - it is laughable to claim that they are acting selflessly in the 'national interest'.

The voters are not stupid.

Monday, 10 May 2010

What Happens If?

A number of readers have been in touch to ask:

"What happens if I leave my job with the council - do I lose my equal pay claim?"

No, definitely not - is the simple answer.

All that happens is that your claim freezes on the last day of your employment - because you cannot continue adding time onto your ex-employee of the council.

So, if your employment ends for any reason - due to retirement, redundancy or because you simply decide to move on to pastures new - your claim still continues with all the rest.

For example, if your claim has accumulated 8 years and 10 months at that point - then that remains the basis of your claim against your former employer.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Freedom of Information

Here's what South Lanarkshire Council says on its web about Freedom of Information:

"Freedom of Information legislation is designed to ensure openness and accountability. This means that wherever possible, we will make the information you request available to you."

A number of readers have been in touch to say that their requests for pay information have been denied by the council.

The information people have asked for would simply allow them to understand how different groups of male and female workers - within the council - are paid.

So, it seems that South Lanarkshire supports the principle of Freedom of Information - except where it's inconvenient.

Why is the council so reluctant to share basic pay information - that other council employees in Scotland are able to access easily and freely?

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Last King of Scotland

The general election result accurately reflects the public mood.

No party won a majority of the popular vote - or a majority of Westminster seats.

The Conservatives made big gains - with almost 100 extra seats, mainly at Labour's expense - and emerged as the largest single party with with 307 seats.

Although the Conservatives won 36% of the popular vote - the first past the post voting system gives them 47% of the total number of (650) MPs in the House of Commons.

Labour's vote dropped significantly to 29% - but they still won 258 seats in the House of Commons - or 40% of the total - which means they are also over-represented compared to their share of the popular vote.

The Liberal Democrats marginally improved their share of the popular vote to 23% - but ended up with fewer seats to their name - 57 which represents only 9% of MPs' votes in the House of Commons.

What the country needs is serious voting reform - which rewards the parties and candidates with a number of seats that broadly equates to their share of the popular vote.

Labour performed well only in Scotland - successfully fighting off the SNP and Lib Dems.

For the moment, Gordon Brown is king of his castle in Dunfermline East - but the picture elsewhere in the country tells a very different story.

North Lanarkshire

A number of newspapers have been in touch to ask for a comment about North Lanarkshire Council - so here's a copy of the statement that's been released - for your information and interest.

"Action 4 Equality Scotland has finally forced North Lanarkshire to face up to its obligations over equal pay, but it was on the eve of a crucial hearing employment tribunal hearing that the council came to its senses.

No doubt its decision was influenced by the quality of the legal team fielded by Fox Cross Solicitors - including Daphne Romney QC one of the leading equal pay barristers in the country.

The result is that we have achieved much better settlements offers than those put forward originally by the council and endorsed by the unions in 2006.

At that time, the council tried to 'buy-out' people's claims with the lowest settlement offers of any council in Scotland, which were particularly poor for vital groups such as Home Carers.

Because the trade unions failed to stand up for the workforce the majority of council employees came to Action 4 Equality Scotland for help in pursing a claim to the Employment Tribunals.

In the latest tribunal proceedings Action 4 Equality Scotland had 1621 claimants while the combined union total came to only 548 - so the workforce essentially voted with its feet.

While the latest round of settlements is a real breakthrough North Lanarkshire is not out of the woods yet. The council needs to face up to the fact that there are many groups (e.g. Classroom Assistants, School Support Workers and various male jobs) still waiting on settlement offers to resolve their claims."

Thursday, 6 May 2010

South Lanarkshire Hearings

A number of hearing dates for South Lanarkshire Council are in the diary for May - 10, 11, 26 and 28 May to be precise.

The May dates have now been set aside because of the sad and sudden death of the equal pay expert, Joan Keogh - who provided Fox Cross Solicitors with a detailed report and assessment of South Lanarkshire's 'in-house' job evaluation scheme (JES).

The postponement of the May dates will allow Fox Cross Solicitors the time they require to instruct a new equal pay expert - so the hearings on 10, 11, 26 and 28 May will not take place.

A separate hearing is due to take place in July - an appeal initiated by South Lanarkshire over an order from the tribunal to release pay information - and that should still go ahead as planned.

The actual dates will be published on the blog site nearer the time.

Meantime thanks to the readers who attended the hearing on Wednesday 5 May - for their thoughts and feedback on the proceedings.

Pensions and Equal Pay

Here's an article from today's Independent newspaper - regarding a significant change in pension regulations which will impact on thousands of low paid council workers.

You have to ask yourself why a Labour government would do something so mean-spirited - it really does beggar belief - and it's a sign of cowardice that it's slipped out quietly on the day of the general election.

'A good day to bury bad news', no doubt - as a government spin doctor famously said - they should be ashamed of themselves.

"Change in law excludes pensions from equal pay"

"Thousands of low paid female council workers could be condemned to an impoverished old age after the Government quietly changed the law to stop them receiving better pensions.

Dinner ladies, cleaners and care assistants are among the workers who will be affected by the change to the local government pension scheme regulations. Under the new rules, women who win equal pay cases will no longer be able to have their pensions upgraded to bring them in line with those of male colleagues.

The change in the regulations has also been backdated to 1 April 2008, meaning that any equal pay claimant who settled their case after this date will lose any pension uplift they had secured. One of the women affected, who did not want to be named, is a clerical worker for South Tyneside council, against which she lodged a successful equal pay claim.

She was paid around £16,000 a year, whereas male refuse collectors and road sweepers judged to be doing comparable work were paid more than £20,000. She settled her claim in 2008 and received a lump sum of around £20,000 for six years' of back pay and an agreement that her pension would rise. Because her case was settled after April 2008, she is no longer entitled to a higher pension.

She said: "I just think it is scandalous that a Labour government which is supposed to be in favour of helping the low paid and tackling inequality has chosen to bring this in."

Equal pay cases have become extremely controversial and have pitted trade unions against no-win, no-fee lawyers. One of these is Stefan Cross, who has secured large payouts for his clients – most recently for the 4,000 women in Birmingham who could be entitled to share up to £600 million in compensation.

Mr Cross said: "This is a very significant change. We have been doing thousands of these cases and councils had agreed to increase these women's pensions in line with their settlements. Now the Government has changed the rules, with no consultation. I think it is absolutely staggering that a government that is introducing an equality Bill can then do this by the back door."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Truth Will Out

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch to say that they've got in touch with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - here's a previous post from 23 April 2010 explaining the background.

Good for them - people are perfectly entitled to challenge South Lanarkshire's secretive ways over basic pay information - more power to their elbow - this may be a long hard fight, but sooner or later the truth will out.

Friday, 23 April 2010

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.




Taking the Bull by the Horns

A number of readers have been in touch to ask why the unions are so hateful towards Stefan Cross?

Well the answer to that is very simple.

Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross have shown the trade unions up - made them look lazy and flatfooted - too cosy by far with the employers - more interested in party politics than the 'bread and butter' issues of concern to ordinary members.

As the interview with the Guardian shows - see post dated 2 May 2010 - clients of Stefan Cross are delighted that he came along and took the bull by the horns on equal pay.

Because no one else did - and if people had been relying on the trade unions or the employers to do the job - they'd have ended up with precisely nothing.

So, we can live with the fact that some senior council bosses - and a few trade union bigwigs have their noses out of joint.

Because they don't speak for the thousands of low paid women workers who've been losing out on equal pay for all these years .

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Counting by Numbers

We've often said that the trade unions are all over the place when it comes to equal pay.

But every so often the unions comes out with such a silly statement that we hardly need to say a word - because the facts speak for themselves.

Here's a comment from the GMB which appeared in The Observer newspaper at the weekend:

"The GMB union declared that its women members in Birmingham can now expect substantial payouts, probably worth £30 million."...."This estimate is based on the average £20,000 payout expected by the GMB's lawyers for each of the 1,400 women they were representing."

According to the Observer the remaining claimants, represented by other unions, can expect a similar amount.

But the pay difference in Birmingham between male and female groups of workers - which, of course, the trade unions knew about all along - was around £19,000 a year, every year.

So, £20,000 hardly seems a fair or realistic settlement covering a period of several years - even allowing for the fact that a number of women claimants will have worked part-time.


Are the unions planning to sell their members short - again?

The pay differentials in Birmingham were right off the Richter scale - unbelievable almost - with male bonuses worth up to 160% on top of basic pay.

So the bill for the city council will be a great deal more than £30 million - much more in fact.

Try £500 million and keep counting - because Birmingham has the distinction of being, by far, the the largest council in the UK with about 60,000 employees.

So, the unions demonstrate once again and more eloquently than we ever could - that they can hardly count - never look after the interests of women workers when it comes to equal pay.

South Lanarkshire - Hearing dates

A new round of hearings with South Lanarkshire Council gets underway today at the Employment Tribunal in Glasgow - there are also further dates already scheduled for May which are detailed below:

Monday - 10 May 2010

Tuesday - 11 May 2010

Wednesday - 26 May 2010

Friday - 28 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

These hearings 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.

Monday, 3 May 2010

A Short History of Equal Pay

Action 4 Equality began its activities on equal pay in Scotland in August 2005 - but before we arrived on the scene equal pay was dead a dead issue.

The landmark 1999 Single Status Agreement had still not been implemented in Scotland and had missed two implementation deadlines in 2002 - and again 2004.

No significant activity was taking place in the employment tribunals over equal pay.

The trade unions had always said that legal action against the employers would follow - if collective bargaining failed to deliver change - but nothing happened as the original agreement was allowed to slowly wither and die.

In reality, both the trade unions and the council employers lacked the political will to end the widespread pay discrimination in Scottish local government – which they had both promised to sweep away in 1999.

In 2005 Action 4 Equality Scotland began to explain - for the first time - the huge pay gap between men and women’s jobs – and the ability of women workers to pursue equal pay claims to the employment tribunals.

At first, the employers insisted that they had no equal pay issues - but as more and more employees voted with their feet by signing up with Action 4 Equality Scotland.

In response, the unions and employers hastily cobbled together a new National Framework Agreement - issued as Scottish Joint Council Circular SJC/22 - which recognised there were ‘many valid equal pay claims in the workforce’.


Where had they been all this time?

The SJC circular proposed compensation payments ranging from a minimum of £6,937 to a maximum of £13,875 (based on 37 hours and a maximum of 5 years service).

Significantly, these figures were agreed without consultation with union members or the wider workforce.

Yet, the original 1999 Single Status agreement was struck only after individual membership ballots - in all three signatory trade unions (GMB, Unison and Unite).

So, the unions were effectively dancing to the employers' tune - but without a mandate from their members.

Glasgow City Council (Scotland’s largest council) led the way in making settlement offers to their employees – in the form of one-off cash buy-outs which diluted even the proposals contained in circular SJC/22.

The employers refused to explain the basis of their offers - but often they were worth much less than 50% of the real value of people’s claims - in some cases around only 30%.


In every case where Action 4 Equality Scotland has achieved a settlement – the value of the Action 4 Equality Scotland settlement has been significantly higher than that proposed by the employers and trade unions under circular SJC/22.

The background to equal pay in Scotland should be seen in the context of a period of substantial growth - council budgets effectively doubled over the 10 years up to 2007/08.

Yet equal pay never became a big enough priority for the employers or the unions during this period - despite their alleged support for equal opportunities and equal pay.

The truth is that Action 4 Equality Scotland has been the catalyst for change - and the great thing is that well over 100,000 low paid, predominantly female, council workers have benefited - as a result.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Vote Early, Vote Often

Lots of readers have been in touch to ask for our views on the general election.

Action 4 Equality Scotland is an non-party organisation - strictly neutral when it comes to party politics - so we won't be telling anyone how to place their vote.

But on a personal note - I hope our readers will go out and use their votes - for whichever candidate or party that best reflects your views.

Because it would be a sad day if the public fury over the MPs' expenses scandal - or the bad behaviour of individual politicians - made people so fed up that they just stayed at home.


So, think again Mrs Duffy of Rochdale - and anyone else of similar mind - don't let the buggers get you down (see post dated 29 April - "He's Not As Nice As He Looks").

It's true that many politicians do view the general public as useful idiots - as cannon fodder to propel them into power - who can be safely ignored once the election is out of the way.

But it doesn't have to be that way.


After all our MPs were finally rumbled over their expenses, by a mixture of determined work by FOI campaigners and newspaper journalists, for which The Telegraph newspaper deserves a special mention.

The truth came out despite the best efforts of the political establishment to cover things up - and the momentum for change has now built up a real head of steam - whatever the outcome of the election.

Multi-party politics is the big winner of the 2010 election campaign - and voting reform is firmly on the agenda for Westminster as never before - a more representative democracy would be a good thing for politics, as the Scottish Parliament has shown.

Because voting reform at Westminster politicians would mean that UK politicians would be less arrogant, have less power and less ability to lord it over the rest of us - as they've been doing for so many years.

So, whatever you do - go out and vote on Thursday - and keep doing your best to hold our politicians to account.

The Guardian Interview - Stefan Cross

The Guardian newspaper ran a major article about Stefan Cross on Saturday - the piece written by Simon Hattenstone - can be read online at - http://www.guardian.co.uk/

"Stefan Cross has just won yet another huge payout for low-paid women – in Birmingham this time. Councils despise him. But why are unions also at war with the activist fighting for gender pay equality?

Stefan Cross says his background gave him a passion for the underdog – his mother was a cleaner and his father struggled to hold down a job; the family were constantly moving to avoid debts.

It looked like a great day for women, trade unions, public-sector workers, idealistic lawyers, the whole kaboodle. In short, a great day for justice. Everybody seemed to have won when it was announced this week that 4,000 women in Birmingham would be compensated for a pay and grading structure that had discriminated against them for decades. The reality was somewhat different. As the trade unions claimed victory for themselves and the lawyers claimed victory for themselves, this could not have been less of a celebration of solidarity.

Perhaps it's fitting that this story has reached its finale now at the sunset of the New Labour years. It all started back in 1997 with Tony Blair and the promise of a new kind of fairness. The government agreed to introduce a pay structure for council workers that would eradicate the white collar/blue collar divide. The single status agreement was supposed to guarantee equality by creating a comparative system. So, for example, those on the same grade (care assistants and binmen, say) should be paid the same. It was bound to expose inequalities, but nobody knew at the time the extent of them. What it revealed was an appalling system of trade union/employer protectionism and discrimination – not so much jobs for the boys as bonuses for the boys. In the male-dominated industries, the men were by and large paid bonuses for everything from productivity to turning up for work. In the female industries (cleaning, caring, admin) these bonuses were by and large unheard of. Which meant that with overtime and bonuses some men were earning more than £50,000, while women on the same level earned £12,000.

It was bound to be a fiscal and ethical nightmare for all those taxed with ensuring a new fairness. Local councils orcentral government would be landed with huge compensation bills, trade unions would have to divert much of their time and money to fighting equality cases. There was a tremendous incentive for all involved to compromise. Which is what happened. In most cases, trade unions quietly negotiated a settlement with councils. The councils got off lightly, the unions got the chance to focus on other important issues, and the women were compensated. So everybody was happy.

Then along came lawyer Stefan Cross. He had already won equality cases for Cleveland dinner ladies while working for trade unions in the 1990s. But now it was a new millennium and he had his own company. He took out adverts in local papers inviting women to meetings where he told them they had been screwed by their employers and trade unions. For many women the fact that they were underpaid was news. The unions had, understandably, not shouted out about the discriminatory bonuses – after all they had negotiated them in the first place. Cross told them that he could win far bigger payouts than they would receive from union-council settlements. Of course, he would charge them – 25% of winnings initially, later reduced to 10% plus VAT – but he said they would still be better off with him. And that's when the whole thing exploded.

Since 2004 more than 1,000 Middlesbrough council workers have won over £10m in payouts. In 2007, it was revealed that Scotland's 32 authorities had paid out £117m in equality compensation – some won by trade unions, some by Cross. And this week huge figures have been thrown up like so much confetti after Cross's biggest victory. While trade unions suggested the Birmingham payouts might run to a modest £30m, Cross has suggested that the figure for those 4,000 cases already heard could run to £600m. And he estimates the final payout could be four times as much. Stories have emerged this week saying that, if he continues like this, this Porsche-driving ambulance-chaser Stefan Cross could singlehandedly bankrupt the country's local authorities.

He laughs at the suggestion. Rubbish, he says. "Anyway, I don't drive a Porsche." He's on the road as we speak. "I swapped it for a Ferrari. It's what I do the school run in." The number plate is perfectly personalised CRO5S ST (surname and initials).

Cross is 49 and has four children. He grew up in Surrey and Hampshire and says he was the first one in his family to get decent O-levels, never mind go to university. His mother was a cleaner, his father worked as an ice-cream man, postman, bus conductor, but couldn't hold a job down. The family were always on the move, running away from his father's debts. Cross says his background gave him the passion he has today for the underdog. He was a teenage trade union activist, and after university worked for the union solicitors Thompsons. After 16 years there he decided the unions were not fighting as hard as they could be for their members.

"The number one priority was to protect the pay of those who were already getting the higher pay; the men essentially. A study done in 1999 by local government showed that 80% of men's jobs were getting bonuses while only 1.2% of women's jobs were." He squeals in fury. "What's more shocking is that the unions and the employers already knew. There was a report in 1997 saying these bonuses were discriminatory."

In 2005 some of his clients in Middlesbrough took their union, the GMB, to court, and won – the Allen v GMB tribunal held that the GMB indirectly discriminated against female members by focusing on pay protection for men than on back-pay for women. The tribunal said that the GMB failed to explain to female members that the deal on offer was substantially less than they were likely to receive if they were successful before an employment tribunal, and that they were being asked to accept a smaller figure so that funds could be used to protect the pay of losers in the job evaluation scheme, including male bonus-earners.

Was he surprised that he ended up at war with the unions? "Yes. The trade union movement is very tribal. I put in over 20 years, I was a councillor, a labour activist, I put in years of graft and now I'm seen as persona non gratis and the most hated lawyer in Britain. Councils hate me, government hates me, but the unions hate me most. They hate me because I'm stepping out of line, embarrassing them, making them do things they don't want to do."

It sounds like a boast? "No, I don't like being hated actually. I try to be philosophical about it. I think I'm doing a helluva good job …"

Clerical workers Rose and Andrea are sitting in the snug of a Birmingham pub. They don't want to give their surnames – the council still doesn't know they took action against them. When did they discover they were underpaid? Andrea takes a piece of paper from her pocket – it's a newspaper advert for Cross's services. "I cut it out," she says. She reads it out. "Call in to one of our drop-in meetings. We will help you win. Make a claim on a no-win, no-fee basis."

But why didn't they just go to their unions for help? After all, Unison would have charged them nothing. "They never told us we were entitled to anything," Rose says.

What did they think when the public-service unions claimed this week's victory as their own? "Sick," Andrea says. "I thought, you crafty buggers."

Over at Unison headquarters, Anita Edwards, team leader in the West Midlands equal pay unit, is making coffee in the break-out area. "Real coffee beans," she says with a smile. "Macchiato or cappuccino?" She is delighted with this week's ruling. "It's great. Really good news … as the biggest local authority in the country what happens in Birmingham often leads us elsewhere. We've got 6,000 equal pay claims at various stages, and 1,500 are with the council."

What if this bankrupts the council? "My understanding is that you can't bankrupt a local council. It's a red herring. And the council has been getting our members on the cheap for years. We'd be remiss if we didn't ensure our members got what they are entitled to. Anyway some of the figures are just ridiculous: £4bn I've seen quoted by the no-win, no-fee solicitors."

Was she always aware that these bonuses were unfair? "You'd have to be stupid not to be, but if you ask me did we know the employers were fiddling these bonuses in some instances, no." She quotes yet another ruling – this time last year's court of appeal victory for Unison against Coventry city council. "The judge used the expression, 'the council cannot hide behind the skirts of the trade unions' because Coventry tried to argue that it was the trade union's fault, they made us put these bonuses in place. Birmingham tried to rely on that defence and the chair of tribunal threw the defence out straightaway."

Fair enough, but why did the unions only begin to fight for their members once Stefan Cross lodged claims? And what about people like Andrea and Rose who said the union had not been there for them? "Well, that's not my understanding of the real world. I think Stefan Cross would like you to believe that." She finally mentions him by name. "Actually, Unison won the first massive equal pay claim for school meals workers way before Stefan Cross's activities began."

Look, says Edwards, it's easy for somebody like Cross – all he has to do is litigate. "Trade unions were founded to negotiate. Our phrase in relation to equal pay used to be educate, negotiate, litigate. And I still passionately believe the job of a good trade unionist is to negotiate. Not at any cost obviously. But we've got to balance all those interests. What I do know is that whatever amount those women win, my colleagues, male or female, don't stand to gain a penny from it. Our members will get every penny of what they achieve in the employment tribunal." A GMB representative levels the same charge against Cross – he's a get-rich-quick merchant.

But isn't he a friend of the unions because he's won compensation for their members. Edwards looks as if she could explode. "Well, if you consider somebody who brings claims against a trade union a friend of a trade union, yeah, but not in my view."

Councillor Alan Rudge is a well-fed man in a smart blue jacket and blue tie. He is a proud Tory in Birmingham's Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition, and cabinet minister for equalities and human resources. Where did everything go wrong? Simple, he says. "The inequalities were brought about by a combination of the Labour government and the unions. The unions had too much power and the Labour government was too feeble and did what the unions told it." At times, it sounds as if he runs the city singlehandedly. "All I will say is, and read what you want into this, I have got rid of every bonus system in Birmingham. They were inappropriate, so I terminated them. The unions created the inequalities. I solved the inequalities and made us the fairest city in the country."

As for the notion that the local authority could be bankrupted, that's just crazy, he says. "The figures quoted are preposterous. Been formulated by no-win, no-fee lawyers. Lawyers are supposed to be professionals not double glazing salesmen."

How long will it be before the women get their money? "Could be ages." They might never see it? "It depends how long they live! Hehehe!" He insists he's joking.

In a quiet suburb of Birmingham Theresa Daly lives with her disabled son. She has worked as a laundress at the local school for 25 years, and for the council for 40 years. At 72, she still works five days a week, 6.30am-noon. She was one of the test cases for Cross and last week she heard that they had won. Last night she was on television; today everybody made a fuss of her at work. "They were terrible, asking for my autograph and everything."

Like Rose and Andrea she thought she was underpaid but had no proof. "I was mad, really mad when I found out about the benefits. I couldn't believe it. I didn't feel it was wrong that they were getting the money, I thought it was wrong that we weren't. But women are always lower class than the men."

How will the ruling change her life? Her eyes light up, and she grins through gummy teeth. "It depends how much money I get. I'd be happy with about £100,000. That would transform my life completely, I could retire, relax, do the things I've never done, go on holiday."

Does she resent the fact that her lawyer could get rich off people like her? You're joking, she says. "If he makes money out of it and gets help for other people, good luck to him."

Stefan Cross is on the way to his office in a rough part of town – "the Beirut of Newcastle," he says. He's driving the Volvo today. Is he still a member of a trade union? "No. I came to the conclusion that I was deluding myself that I was welcome within the union movement. It's a cause of massive regret." Whatever his doubts, he says he would always recommend his clients to join unions.

Although there are many issues to be resolved, he thinks his work is beginning to wind down. "I think the unions will now submit lots of new cases as they should do. I would be surprised if we were still running a significant number in three years' time."

What will he do then? "I think my career will be over, and I won't be able to get a job." Because he's done too good a job or because he's made too many enemies. "Both," he says. And he laughs, a little uncertainly.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

More Kind Words

Here are some more kind words from one of our regular readers in the west of Scotland - we're glad to have been of service.

"Hi Mark

First of I would like to thank you and Stefan for our wonderful settlement.

I have been a regular on your blog over the last 4 years and you have always returned any e- mails that I have sent.

I have also printed out many of your blogs and took them in to my workplace to let the other claimants know what was happening as they didn't have access to a computer.

Thanking you once again for all your hard work

Kind regards

MA"

Takes Your Breath Away

Every so often the hypocrisy of the unions takes your breath away.

The latest attempt to steal Action 4 Equality's clothes - follows another major success in the big test case in Birmingham City Council.

The reality is that the unions are shamelessly trying to re-write history - by portraying themselves as champions of equal pay.

Of course, this is complete baloney - the trade unions have actually been part of the problem - a real barrier to change for many years.

Because these are the same unions that negotiated the 'male only' bonus schemes - in the first place - not just in Birmingham, but right across the country.

In Birmingham, pay differentials were right off the Richter scale - unbelievable almost - with bonuses worth 160% on top of basic pay - but only for those employed in traditional male jobs.

The trade unions negotiated these bonus schemes - but then chose to keep women workers in the dark - about the huge pay differences between male and female groups.

The truth is that workers in Birmingham only found out they were being taken for a ride - because Action 4 Equality began to highlight the big pay differences between male and female jobs.

The trade unions understood the scale of the problem - because that's why they signed up to the Single Status Agreement - which promised to end the 'second class' status of many female dominated jobs .

But no one challenged the widespread pay discrimination in Birmingham effectively - in the courts - until Action 4 Equality appeared on the scene several years later.

Sound familiar?