Tuesday, 29 June 2010

SIC and SLC

The Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) has upheld my appeal against South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) - over my request for information about the council's in-house 555 job evaluation scheme.

The decision says:

"The Commissioner finds that South Lanarkshire Council failed to comply with Part 1 (and in particular section 1 (1) of FOISA in refusing to comply with Mr Irvine's request for information under section 14 (1) of FOISA. The Commissioner requires South Lanarkshire Council to respond to Mr Irvine's request for information in terms of Part 1 of FOISA, other than in terms of section 14 (1), by 8 August 2010."

A right of appeal exists to the Court of Session - which can be on a point of law only and must be made within 42 days.

The council argued that my request was 'vexatious' - but this was roundly rejected by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

More details to follow soon - if any readers would like a copy of the full decision, this can be sent to you on request by dropping an e-mail to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Monday, 28 June 2010

Falkirk Council

Good news - the agreement reached with Falkirk (see post dated 16 June 2010) - has been officially approved and ratified by the council.

So, revised settlement offers will start to be made in the weeks ahead - over the summer holidays.

Please resist the temptation to phone the Action 4 Equality Scotland office asking for an update about your own case - or a definite date by which the process will be concluded.

The nature and importance of these issues means that everything needs to be in writing - so phone calls to the office actually slow things down - instead of speeding them up.

Also the holiday period is about to get into full swing - and this will inevitably have an impact.

But on the positive side - all the uncertainty of recent months now appears to be over - and the next task will be to check and process all the paperwork.

In the meantime, just sit tight and relax - because the office will be in touch with people on an individual basis - as soon as there is any news.

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (4)

Some readers who have complained about Glasgow's action for expenses - see post dated 20 June 2010 - are receiving a rather strange reply to their letters and e-mails.

The response is from senior officials of the council - even though people's letters were addressed to elected members - including the new council leader, Councillor Gordon Matheson.

Now this may show a certain desire on the part of the elected members - to distance themsleves from the actions of their officials.

If so, that would be very welcome - as a sign that cracks are beginning to appear in the council's position.

But in any event the councils response is nonsense - and shows a complete ignorance of the law.

Why? Because the action for expenses names the Glasgow 'claimants' specifically - no mention whatsoever is made of Action 4 Equality Scotland - which is hardly surprising since Action 4 Equality Scotland not a party to the proceedings.

Put simply, Glasgow's officials have got it wrong.

The council is clearly rattled by the strength of protest - what must have seemed like a wizard wheeze at the time has now gone off the rails - with senior officials making things up as they go along.

The issue is now becoming something of an embarassment - probably because officials failed to get political backing from elected members - before initiating this ill-advised action in the council's name.

But the more and more people who complain the better - so let Glasgow's councillors know your views.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

East Dunbartonshire

A reader from East Dunbartonshire has sent in the following report from her local newspaper.

"Loan for Equal Pay

Council chiefs have borrowed more than £2.5 million to pay off equal pay claims in the next 12 months.


The loan which has been approved by the Scottish government will be used as negotiations continue with employees' who believe they have been underpaid in past years.

An East Dunbartonshire spokesperson said we can confirm that the council has arranged to borrow £2.7 million from the scottish government in order to settle any equal pay claims that arise in 2010/11."


What the reader can't understand is - why it's taking the council so long to get its finger out - and settle these outstanding claims?

Well that's a question for the council leadership to answer - because the loan from the Scottish government has not been approved willy nilly.

The loan of public money has only been approved - on the basis that it's a legitimate cost which the council has to meet - so East Dunbartonshire should now do the decent thing and get the job done.

Get a Lawyer!

A regular reader from Fife has sent in the following report about a recent union workplace meeting to discuss equal pay.

"Hi Mark,


Thought this might amuse you.

This occurred at a workplace union meeting in Fife.

Question: What advice would you give to non bonus earning male employees regarding an equal pay claim.

Answer: Get a lawyer!!!!!

Priceless.

Regards

G"

Friday, 25 June 2010

Trade Union Democracy

The last time Labour's 'electoral college' was wheeled out was in 2007 - for the ballot over the deputy leadership of the party - which Harriet Harman won.

How many people do you think voted in the trade union section of the ballot - which is worth one third of the total vote?

256,000 - is the answer - or only 8% of those entitled to vote, according to press reports.

But only 215,000 of these votes were valid - due to union members not ticking the box that required people to confirm their support for Labour - so the participation rate falls to an even less impressive 7%.

Well that's hardly surprising - given that trade union members are no different to anyone else in their voting habits.

The majority don't even support the Labour party - and many are blissfully unaware that they are actually paying a political levy - in their weekly or monthly union contributions.

When you first join a trade union - the political affiliation business is glossed over and not explained properly - with most people just signing up in double quick time.

For long standing members, opting out of the political fund is a deliberately difficult and time consuming process - so hardly anyone bothers.

The low turnout in such ballots raises a number of issues about trade union democracy, for example:

  1. How can a tiny minority of 7% speak for 100% of the members?
  2. Why do the trade unions waste their members money these ridiculous ballots - which must cost at least £2 million a throw?
  3. Why not just restrict the ballot to individual members of the Labour party - because the rank and file are clearly voting with their feet?

More Kind Words

More kind words for one of our regular readers in North Lanarkshire - along with my reply - it's good to hear that Action 4 Equality Scotland can make such a big difference to some people's lives.

"Hi Mark,

I would like to say a huge thank you to you and your team for my settlement - it's been a long wait but well worth it.

As a single parent, I have struggled and worried for years about money - my daughter is getting married this year and as mums do I wanted to buy her wedding dress and help her with her big day.

Now I can get her dress and myself something nice as I am giving her away. Its not just the money its the fact that North Lanarkshire and the union who let us down have now recognised that the job the female workers do is just as important as the male workers and that a lot of females are the bread winners, and have mouths to feed.

Thank you again from all my family - without people like you to take up fight for justice the fat cats will always win.

BA"


"Dear BA

Glad to have been of service - it's very heartening to see people like yourself getting what they deserve - especially after so many years of being deliberately kept in the dark by your employer and the trade unions.

Congratulations to your daughter - I hope you all have a fantastic day at the wedding!

Mark"

Wishaw Press

Here's an interesting article fom the Wishaw Press - about the activities of the GMB union in North Lanarkshire Council.

Yes, these are the same people who have the bare faced cheek - every now and then - to try and poach clients from Action 4 Equality Scotland - the 'brass neck' of some folks never ceases to amaze.

"North Lanarkshire union members angry over lost pay claim documents

Jun 23 2010 by Graham Miller, Wishaw Press

A GROUP of North Lanarkshire Council workers may lose out on significant equal pay settlements because, they claim, their union have “lost” vital documents.

Six female community centre caretakers allege that, in November 2004, they commenced equal pay claims through the GMB union.

All the women were represented by the union at the internal grievance hearing stage of the process with North Lanarkshire Council.

In recent weeks, the women have been made aware of colleagues and other NLC workers having their claims settled – with offers in some cases in excess of £14,000.

However, when they contacted GMB for clarification on the status of their claims, they’ve discovered none of the claims were registered with employment tribunals. This means the women stand to lose out on several years of their claim.

One disgruntled GMB member said: “It has turned into an absolute nightmare. After waiting almost six years, and watching other people begin to receive settlement figures, I’ve been told that my claim was never registered with the appropriate employment tribunal.

“After all these years of paying my monthly subs to the union, I’ve been extremely disappointed by the way I’ve been treated by GMB. It appears that they’re unwilling to accept that they are at fault. I now feel I’m going to have to take legal advice in an attempt to resolve this.”

Mark Irvine from the campaign group Action 4 Equality Scotland said: “ In the circumstances, you would think that the unions would put their hands up, admit their mistake and agree to compensate people for their financial loss.

“But so far at least this hasn’t happened. In fact, people are just being fobbed off and have not even been given a sensible explanation as to what went wrong and why?”

Harry Donaldson, regional secretary for GMB, said: “We are not in a position to make any comment at present other than the matter of equal pay claims are the subject of ongoing employment tribunals which I would not wish to prejudice.”

Wishaw Press have reported North Lanarkshire Council are being made to pay almost £16 million to hundreds of workers to avoid further legal proceedings over equal pay claims."

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Four XXXX

Martin Kettle in today's Guardian has an interesting piece on the Australian Labor party's decision to install a new leader - a woman, no less, named Julia Gillard.

Here's a extract which highlights the ridiculousness of Labour's electoral college in the UK.

Point is that the Aussies wouldn't give a Castlemaine XXXX about ballotting all these trade union members - who have nothing to do with the election in the first place.

Read the full article on line at - http://www.guardian.co.uk/ - better still buy a copy of the paper.

"Seen from Britain, though, it just makes one weep. Why did Labour here not have the guts and the gumption to do the same thing when it had the chance. Brown dragged Labour down. His leadership perhaps cost Labour around 30 seats on 6 May. Under a new leader – and a better and a more honest one – Labour would have been in a much stronger position to shape the aftermath of the hung parliament, perhaps even forming a coalition itself. But it didn't, and the rest is history.

I would love to know why the Australians have it in their system and their DNA to do something that the British simply cannot do. One major reason is perhaps that the Australian Labor leader is chosen by the party's MPs and not by the more cumbersome but wider democratic process that Labour chose for itself nearly 30 years ago, thus encumbering itself with an institutional inertia factor that hugely benefits incumbents. I'm all for democracy. But hats off to the Australians for knowing what to do and when to do it – and for doing it quickly and well.

Labour here should be so lucky."

Short and Sweet

More kind words from a reader in North Lanarkshire - short, sweet and to the point.

"Hi Mark

Thanks to everyone at Action 4 Equality Scotland and Fox Cross Solicitors - for all their hard work in getting a fair settlement to my equal pay claim.

I am very pleased with the outcome and appreciate the determined fight you have all put up on my behalf.

Without you we would have been nowhere.

CC"

Glasgow - Outstanding Settlements

A relatively small, but significant number of Glasgow claimants are still waiting for details of their settlement offers - several months after other people's claims have been resolved.

Understandably, the people involved are extremely frustrated at the delay - and ring the office on a regular basis asking for an update.


The position is that Action 4 Equality Scotland is doing everything possible to speed things up - and the council has been asked to put additional resources into the task of answering all of the outstanding queries.

If you are one of the people in this position - rest assured that the office will be in touch as soon as there is a response.

In the meantime, please try and resist the temptation of phoning the office to ask for an update - because there is nothing further to tell people at this point in time.

As soon as that changes - we will let you know.

Clackmannanshire Council

Readers in Clackmannanshire report a sudden flurry of activity over equal pay.

Out of the blue, letters have been issued - to say that that the council intends to settle eligible and outstanding claims - at the same time as implementing the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

Well it's only taken them 11 years - but better late than never, as they say.

The letter goes on to say that the council will be holding 'briefing sessions' over the summer - and will invite eligible employees to attend.

Quite what all this means is a mystery, for example:
  1. What does eligible mean?
  2. Who will be at these meetings?
  3. Why doesn't the council just write to people setting out the details of their settlement offers?
  4. Why doesn' the council explain how these offers are to be calculated?
In my experience, if something smells fishy - then always proceed with great care - and I for one wouldn't touch these 'briefing sessions' with a extra-long barge-pole.

Because the council may try to use them to 'persuade' people into giving up their claims on the cheap - as others have done in the past.

If the council has a serious proposal to make - then they should do so via Action 4 Equality Scotland and/or Fox Cross Solicitors - which they know fine well.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (3)

A head of steam is building up over the council's action for expenses - against some of its lowest paid employees - see post dated 20 June 2010.

More and more readers make their views known to the new council leader, Councillor Gordon Matheson - here's another example.

"Dear Mr Matheson

I write with reference to the Employment Tribunal decision which found in favour of Glasgow City Council in respect of the`independent legal advice` given to us.

Now the Council is seeking to claim an expenses award of £27,153.98 against myself and other claimants.

The anger I feel at this action after 26 years of dedicated but low paid service in the employ of Glasgow City Council is only overshadowed by the disbelief that the council leadership could have authorised such an action against some of it's lowest paid workers who were foolish enough to believe the council were being fair with us when they provided the `free independent legal advice' which led to us receiving only a fraction of the money the council knew we were entitled to.

The reputation of Glasgow City Council has suffered great damage as a result of recent events, if this action is not halted they will again become a laughing stock.

So I ask you as the new leader of what claims to be an open and honest council to end this action which will only serve to further dishearten an already dissatisfied workforce.

I look forward to hearing that you have reversed this action

Regards

MC"

Edinburgh City Council

One of our regular readers has been in touch to ask what's happening in Edinburgh following the Employment Appeal Tribunal decision from Lady Smith - see post dated 21 May 2010.

Well what's happening is that Edinburgh City Council is behing urged to stop wasting time and huge amounts of taxpayers money - which is what it's been doing for the past year and more.

The council should either settle all the outstanding claims - or get on with defending them at a full GMF hearing in the Employment Tribunals.

At a GMF hearing Edinburgh would have to explain and justify - the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs.

Someone should ask the council - under a Freedom of Information (FOI) question - exactly how much Edinburgh has spent on external legal fees - in trying to frustrate and deny the claims of former APT&C staff.

Bound to be a pretty penny.

Edinburgh readers can play their part as well if they want - by raising these costly and ridiculous delaying tactics with the council leader - Jenny Dawe whose e-mail address is: jenny.dawe@edinburgh.gov.uk


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Robin Hood in Reverse

The final salary pension schemes operated by Scotland's councils - are a fine example of Robin Hood in reverse.

Why? Because they take from the 'poor' and give to the 'rich'.

What happens is that low paid employees - end up subsidising much higher paid groups - including many senior and middle ranking officials.

In effect, the part-time cleaner is subsidising the lifestyle - of the council chief executive.

The system works in favour of senior council staff of all kinds - including many teachers.

Let's take an example to illustrate the point - a chief executive paid £150,000 a year - now the person doesn't actually work at that salary level throughout his or her council career.

But their pension is based on this final salary - even if they've only done the job for a relatively short time - as part of their overall service which can be a maximum of 40 years.

The pension scheme rules changed in April 2009, but for the great majority of employees (i.e. those in post before April 2009) - the maximum pension is still worth half of a person's annual salary - plus three times their annual pension as a tax free lump sum.

So, a chief executive on £150,000 and a maximum service would receive - £75,000 annual pension plus £225,000 as a tax free lump sum, i.e. 3 x £75,000.

The new post-April 2009 rules provide for an even bigger pension - worth two thirds of a person's final salary - 25% of which can be converted into a tax free lump sum.

But under both sets of benefits and rules - the reality is that other lower paid council workers (and other tax payers) - are helping to subsidise the scheme - for the benefit of the better paid staff.

Why? Because the higher paid take out much more than they pay in - over their working lives.

Meanwhile - at the other end of the pay ladder - the scheme is not so generous.

Because most low paid workers remain relatively low paid - by and large they don't have a career path - or many opportunities for promotion.

For most low paid workers - their pensions reflects what they pay in to the scheme over the years - because their pay rises only very slowly and mainly through an annual 'cost of living' pay increase.

Now what would be much fairer - and more progressive - is a scheme based on average salary.

So that people get back roughly what they put in over their working lives - this could even leave a bit of room to boost pension benefits - in favour of the lower paid.

The unions like to pretend they're on the side of the low paid when it comes to pensions - but in truth they're propping up a system that favours the relatively better paid.

Does this remind anyone of how the trade unions behaved over equal pay?

Monday, 21 June 2010

WHAT'S GOT HIS GOAT?

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister - he set out to achieve a Government Of All Talents, or GOAT for short - according to his spin doctors.

At the time, this was hailed as a wizard wheeze by Labour cheerleaders - as a sure-fire way for a sure-footed PM - to wrong-foot and confound his political opponents.

The search for GOATS led to a Tory MP crossing the floor and becoming a junior Labour minister - and to other prominent Tory supporters joining the government via the House of Lords.

Oh how the People's Party clapped and cheered - at the cleverness of it all.

But now the boot is on the other foot under a new coalition government - things have turned sour.

John Prescott, former deputy Labour leader, is decrying some of his former Labour colleagues as 'collaborators'.

Strong words indeed - intemperate even, some would say.

What has got John Prescott's goat is that the new Prime Minister has asked two leading Labour figures - John Hutton and Frank Field - to carry out major policy reviews on behalf of the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

John Hutton will chair an inquiry into public sector pensions - while Frank Field will lead a review into poverty - and into the causes of poverty, presumably.

John Prescott said of his former comrades, now turned collaborators: " I've been in politics for over 50 years but even I can't believe what's happening."

Now politicians are used to saying one thing - then doing another whenever it's convenient.

But John Prescott takes the biscuit.

The about to be ennobled 'Lord Two Jags' is a wonderful example of a truly tribal politician - one who will say 'white is black' then 'black is white' - just to suit his own political interests.

Glasgow's Lost the Plot (2)

One of our regular readers has sent the leader of Glasgow City Council, Cllr Gordon Matheson, an excellent e-mail - which speaks the truth, gets straight to the point and pulls no punches.

Let's hope more readers are inspired to do the same - the more people who do so the better - see post dated 20 June 2010 for further details.

"Dear Mr Matheson

I write with reference to the recent Employment Appeals Tribunal decision which found in favour of Glasgow City Council with respect to the “independent legal advice” supposedly given to many workers with regards the Equal Pay Compromise Agreement.

I have been informed by FoxCross Solicitors Ltd that the Council has instructed their London QC to seek an expenses award of £27,153.98 which will be made against myself and the other claimants.

I wish to express my utter disdain at such action. I cannot believe that the Council would embark on a course of action which would result in, the already acknowledged, low paid workers suffering further financial loss. I am surprised that this course of action would be taken given the extent of reputational damage it would cost the Council, especially given the already fragile position of the Council’s reputation as a result of recent events.

I trust this course of action will be halted, and look forward to your confirmation of such.

Regards

ER"

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Glasgow's Lost the Plot

Glasgow City Council has raised an action for costs against some of its lowest paid workers - in the wake of the recent tribunal decision over the Compromise Agreements and settlement process - used by the council in 2005.

The action is not being raised against Action 4 Equality Scotland or Fox Cross Solicitors - but against the thousands of low paid women workers who had the courage to complain about their shameful treatment - at the council's hands.

I say the council's behaviour is a complete disgrace - they may have won the initial tribunal hearing - but their defence was based on narrow legal and technical points.

What's not in question is that the many thousands of women who accepted Glasgow's original cash offer in 2005 - were poorly advised and badly let down by the settlement process.

People did not know the value of their claims - and neither the council or the trade unions advised them properly on this score - nor did the 'independent' lawyers who say they were acting on the employees' behalf.

Effectively, the lowest paid workers within the council were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

'Independent' lawyers - selected and paid for by the council - gave only very limited advice to employees - about the significance of signing their rights away under a Compromise Agreement.

But no one gave them any advice about the real merits of their claims - or whether they would be better off potentially by taking their claim to an Employment Tribunal.

The council's actions seem designed to intimidate people - and may well not have the political support of the council's elected members.

Why would Scotland's biggest council try to squeeze money out of their lowest paid workers - largely low paid women who were all let down by the council in the first place?

So, if you are as angry about the council's behaviour as I am - let the new council leader, Gordon Matheson, know what you think. His e-mail address is: gordon.matheson@councillors.glasgow.gov.uk


Alternatively you can contact your own local councillor - their contact details are available from the council's web site: www.glasgow.gov.uk

If enough people raise the roof - it will help stop this nonsense in its tracks.


Friday, 18 June 2010

More Kind Words

More Kind words from oneof our readers in North Lanarkshire - who has some choice words to say about the trade unions as well as the employer.

Hi Mark,

I would like to thank yourself, Stefan and all the team for the fantastic settlement I received for equal pay - against North Lanarkshire council.

I cannot thank you all enough.

Looks like the GMB Union have sailed their members down the Clyde again - they have negotiated much lower offers than Fox Cross - looks like there still crawling up NLCs A**E.

NLC has contracted SUPPORTA CARE to do a lot of our work and all overtime is given to them, some of their staff are working 82 hours per week.

Is this legal?

Gavin Whitefiled (the council chief executive) is earning more than the Prime Minister, and it's stuff us!

Once I receive my cheque I think it's time for the local press to be involved - after all we do pay GMB and should not be sold down the river!!

WA"

The answer to the query about working 82 hours per week, by the way - is that it's not OK - it's against the Working Time Directive - no one should be working such long hours on a regular basis.

Unions and Pianos

Some readers in Falkirk report receiving unsolicited letters from their trade unions - where have they been all this time?

The letters ask people to fill in and send back a form - allegedly;y to 'protect' their interests over equal pay.

But this is the usual old baloney from the unions - it's just the latest attempt to dupe people into transferring their equal pay claims.

Yes, back to the same old trade unions who kept their members in the dark - and let them all down so badly - in the first place.

If you have an existing equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland - then you can safely ignore these unsolicited letters.

People's claims for the post-Single Status (job evaluation) period are already in hand - there's no need for you to do anything at this stage - certainly not at the unions' behest.

The trade unions', as usual, are at the coo's tail and - given their track record - you can trust them about as far as you can carry a piano.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Falkirk Council

The long drawn out settlement saga with Falkirk Council - is being given one final chance to succeed.

Previous discussions with Falkirk led to an 'in principle' agreement with the council being reached.

The agreement should have led to issue new settlement offers being issued to Action 4 Equality Scotland clients.

But the council moved the goalposts at the eleventh hour - and everyone's hopes were dashed again.

Having marched up and down the hill on more than one occasion now - it's impossible, dangerous even to make firm predictions about what will happen next.

The current position is that the Full Council is meeting next week on Wednesday 23 June 2010 - and will again consider an 'in principle' agreement covering all of the outstanding cases.

So, the ball is firmly in Falkirk Council's court - but for one last time.

If they deliver it's all systems go - if they don't it's straight back to the Employment Tribunals.

Glasgow - Ongoing Claims

A regular reader from Glasgow has been in touch to say that a trade union has offered to take up an equal pay claim on her behalf.

The same union that took the side of the council - when poor settlement offers were made to some staff - back in 2005.

But the laugh is that she already has an ongoing claim - which Action 4 Equality and Fox Cross Solicitors are already pursuing on her behalf.

So, here's the e-mail I sent in response to reader's enquiry earlier today:

Dear Colleague

Glasgow Enquiry

If you have already received a settlement via Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross/Fox Cross Solicitors - then you have an ongoing claim which Action 4 Equality is already dealing with on your behalf.

All the union is doing is trying to dupe you into transferring your claim to them - and that would be a very foolish thing to do - because the unions have let down so many of their members in the past - and will do so again given half a chance.

The best response would be to just tell the union to get lost!

Mark

Justice Is Truth In Action

People often know the truth of an issue, but sometimes the truth itself is not enough - because what's needed is justice - the truth in action to deliver an outcome or verdict.

Well, that's what The Saville Report finally delivered yesterday - justice for the families who waited for almost 40 years for their loved ones to be finally vindicated.

As the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in parliament - their killings were 'unjustified and unjustifiable'.

Likewise with equal pay - because people have known the truth about pay discrimination for many a year - but what they really needed (and wanted) was determined action to change things for the better.

The employers knew that they were not facing up to their responsibilities - the trade unions knew they were not standing up for their low paid members.

And council employees knew that they were being badly let down - by the craven behaviour of both the employers and the trade unions.

In some areas councils are still refusing to face up to reality on equal pay - but a measure of justice is now being delivered - as more and more people receive proper settlements of their claims.

Where that is happening - the difference has been made by Action 4 Equality Scotland - because we know that actions speak much louder than words.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Male Claimants

Just back from another highly successful meeting - with group of male claimants, i.e. male workers in non bonus earning jobs - such as janitors and drivers in education and social work departments.

The trade unions have long neglected these male groups and - of course - the employers don't want these male workers to know that they have a potential claim in the first place.

But generally speaking they do - depending on local circumstances - which vary from council to council.

So if you are in a predominantly male job - one that never attracted the high bonuses paid to other male council workers - you may well have a significant claim.

For further information and advice contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Man's A Man

Regular readers of the blog site have shown a surprising passion for poetry - in recent weeks.

So I thought I'd publish the full version of Robert Burns insipring words - from A Man's A Man (Is There For Honest Poverty).

See post dated 7 June 2010 - by way of background.

Is there, for honest Poverty
That hings his head, and a' that;
The coward-slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Our toils obscure, and a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that. -

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a that.
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A Man's a Man for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that;
Their tinsel show, and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that. -

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, and stares, and a' that,
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
His ribband, star and a' that,
The man of independent mind,
He looks and laughs at a' that. -

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might,
Gude faith, he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Their dignities, and a' that,
The pith o' Sense, and pride o' Worth,
Are higher rank than a' that. -

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Boys and their Toys

A regular reader has been in touch to ask why Tony Woodley's top of the range Range Rover - failed to get a mention in my recent post about Unite - the largest union in the UK.

See post dated 6 June 2010- 'In Charge of the Office'.

True, the general secretary's fancy car does seem a bit excessive - newspapers report the cost at a whopping great £45,000.

But what people do with their own money - by and large - is their own business, in my opinion.

And if boys want to spend large sums of money on grown up toys - then that's up to them - I think.

But if the car in question is being provided as part of the general secretary's remuneration package - then that's another matter altogether.

After all, why should Unite members pay for such extravagance out of their union contributions?

If Unite wants to set the record straight - I'm happy to share this information on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Meaning of Words

Do words actually mean what they say or - when it becomes convenient - can they be regarded as just a random jumble of letters?

Evidently South Lanarkshire Council believes the latter - if its response to my latest FOI request is anything to go by - because here's what the council says about FOI on its publicly funded web site:

"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."

And, as promised, here's a copy of my latest FOI letter - asking for a review of the council's decision to reject yet another request for basic pay information - about male dominated council jobs.

Maybe this Labour-led council will reflect on one of the party's better slogans from the 1990's: 'Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say'.

7 June 2010

South Lanarkshire Council

FOI Review Request Team

By e-mail to – foi.reviews@southlanarkshire.gov.uk

Dear Colleague

South Lanarkshire Council – FOI Review Request (LSO 3 – SCP 25)

I refer to the letter from South Lanarkshire Council dated 1 June 2010.

I am asking for a review of the council’s decision not to release this information on the following grounds:

1 The information I am requesting should be freely available as it relates to the use of public money and the provision of public services.

2 The information I am requesting is gathered and published routinely by many organisations in the public and private sector - for equality monitoring purposes.

3 The information I am requesting is freely available from other councils in Scotland and at nil cost.

4 The council’s response is at odds with the following commitment given on South Lanarkshire Council’s web site: "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."

5 My request may be inconvenient for the council if its publication confirms widespread pay discrimination against traditional female council jobs, but I fail to see how my request can be regarded as vexatious.

I note that South Lanarkshire Council is not raising any issues about the cost of meeting my request, nor is the council raising any issues about personal data and the Data Protection Act, as it has done previously.

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

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Daylight is the Best Disinfectant

Last year I asked South Lanarkshire - via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request - to explain the hourly rate of pay for certain categories of male dominated council jobs.

As usual with requests about equal pay - the council refused to provide the information - on the basis that this was personal data covered by the Data Protection Act.

I asked for a review which is part of the FOI regime - arguing that the information did not amount to personal data - because it was requested on an anonymous basis and could be used to identify any individual.

In essence, the request was about the job and not the person - but at the eleventh hour the council suddenly changed tack - and decided that this was not really a matter of principle after all - but a simple matter of cost.

South Lanarkshire claimed it did not have to provide the information - because the cost of doing so would exceed £600 - allowing them to claim an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act.

In my view, this was a completely cynical move on the part of South Lanarkshire Council - a deliberate time wasting tactic - and an abuse of the FOI process.

Why else would the council wait until the last minute - to produce a new objection that had never been raised by the council before?

So, I submitted a new request on a different basis - details of which will follow shortly.

The council says this is vexatious and unreasonable behaviour - and that they should not have to disclose the information - to me or anyone else

I say this is how FOI campaigners must have felt when asking for details of MPs' expenses - from the previous Speaker's Office and House of Commons.


I also agree with the comment of Lord Nolan - who led the first Committee on Standards in Public Life - Lord Nolan said: 'Daylight is the best disinfectant'.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Fox Cross Solicitors

Great news for people seeking help and advice.

Fox Cross Solicitors now has a web site which is going live this weekend. The web site contains a wealth of information - on a wide variety of subjects including:
  • Equal Pay

  • Equality and Discrimination

  • General Employment Law

  • Trade Union Members

  • Foreign Workers

Have a look at the web site by visiting - www.foxcross.co.uk - here's what the web site has to say about Carol Fox and Stefan Cross.

Carol Fox

Carol is a qualified solicitor and is an Accredited Specialist in Discrimination Law by the Law Society of Scotland. Carol is dedicated to representing claimants and ONLY represents employees and workers. She leads the team in the Edinburgh office. Before establishing this law firm Carol was Head of Litigation for Scotland at Stefan Cross Solicitors, and prior to that Carol was Head of Equality for Scotland at Thompsons Solicitors. Through her strong advocacy skills Carol has successfully achieved many hundreds of positive outcomes for clients at Employment Tribunals.

Carol also has a particular interest in resolving workplace issues outside the full tribunal process. She is an advocate of the mediation process and has had further training in mediation. With over 20 years' experience advising and representing people in difficult circumstances, Carol has also worked with Equal Opportunities Commission, and as a full time trade union official in Scotland and London. Carol can truly identify with the stressful issues employees go through at work especially when related to inequality and discrimination matters. Carol is a proud and positive single mum of one.

Stefan Cross

Stefan Cross is recognised as one of the UK's leading employment lawyers. He was rated as one of the “Top 100” lawyers in the UK by The Times in 2008.

Stefan established his first law firm in Newcastle in 2002 and specialised in equal pay claims. The introduction of the 1997 Single Status Agreement (SSA) was influenced by a case Stefan successfully fought on behalf of the GMB union against Cleveland Council in 1995. The case resulted in £5 million being paid to 1,500 council employees. He has now lodged over 30,000 equal pays claims throughout Scotland and England and is described as ‘a dominating presence in equal pay class action’ - Chambers 2009.

Stefan is a father of four children and is a passionate supporter of Newcastle United Football Club.




Edinburgh - New Contracts

Edinburgh City Council has issued 90 days notice to employees covered by the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

The council is also threatening to impose new contracts of employment - once the 90 days notice period is up.

The reason Edinburgh is going down this path is because it has failed to reach agreement with the trade unions over Single Status - after 11 long years of negotiations.

See post dated 5 June 2010 - 'Two Tales of One City' - for a more detailed explanation of what's been going on for the past ten years and more.

The council will now invite employees covered by the 1999 Agreement - to sign up to the new package of pay and conditions on a voluntary basis.

If people refuse to do so, the new package will simply be imposed - and work will carry on as normal under the new terms.

Other councils have gone down this road already - it really is nothing to get worried or excited about.

The best thing to do is not to agree to the changes on a voluntary basis - wait until the council imposes the new package - which it will have to do in writing at a later date.

In the meantime - sit tight and don't be 'panicked' into doing anything against your own best interests.

More Kind Words

More kind words from another regular visitor to the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site:

"Hi Mark

My sister in law received her settlement offer last week and she has asked me to thank you on her behalf.

She could not put in to words how much this money will mean to her as her daughter is getting married next year and by yours and Stefan’s hard work there has been a great deal of financial pressure lifted off her shoulders.

Thank You Very Much.

KF"

Thursday, 10 June 2010

An Affront to Democracy

The Labour party is in the process of electing its new leader - via a cumbersome, three-way 'electoral college' - which will operate over the summer.

Now most modern political parties have a simple system for their internal elections - it's called one-member-one-vote (OMOV) - and it does what it says on the tin.

Each member has the same and equal vote - for deciding important issues - like who should be the new party leader.

But the Labour party has a rather different approach - which means that some members are much more equal than others.

The numbers in the different constituencies can vary - but broadly speaking the numbers stack up like this - 258 MPs = 200,000 Party Members = 4,000,000 Affiliated Trade Union Members.

How's that for equality? A better description would be car crash democracy.

Each of the three constituencies or colleges have the same weighted vote - so MPs have the greatest say, followed by individual members (200,000 is a generous guess).

At the coo's tail are 4 million trade union members - the majority of whom don't even support Labour - with many unaware that they are actually paying a political levy in their union contributions.

No wonder the Labour party doesn't wheel its electoral college out very often - it's a ridiculous, Heath Robinson contraption - an affront to democracy and common sense.

The results of the trade union ballots are never well publicised - because of the very low turn out which the unions don't like admitting - and because many returns are stuck out if union members admit they don't support the Labour party.

So, what's the point of balloting them in the first place - why not just let individual party members have their say - and dispense with all the other nonsense including the huge waste of union funds?

After all, who can defend a system that allows an MP three votes - if s/he is also a union member - all of which have wildly different values.

Under the present set up a single MP's vote is worth around the same as 15,000 union members (4 million divided by 258 = 15,500).

Crazy or what?

Do the right thing

A number of women union members from North Lanarkshire have been in touch - all members of GMB, Unite and Unison.

All of these women started up an equal pay claim with their trade unions - and all say they were represented at the internal grievance hearing stage of the process - with North Lanarkshire Council.

But for reasons that have still to be explained - none of their cases were then registered with the Employment Tribunals - which means they have lost out on several years of their claim - money they can ill afford to lose.

Now this is not the fault of North Lanarkshire Council or the Employment Tribunals - it's down to the unions who failed to protect their members interests properly.

In the circumstances, you would think that the unions would put their hands up - admit their mistake - and agree to compensate people for their financial loss.

After all the unions are great big organisations - with huge financial resources - compared to ordinary individual members.

So surely the unions should just do the decent thing - and ensure their members don't lose out?

But so far at least this hasn't happened - in fact people are just being fobbed off - and have not even been given a sensible explanation as to what went wrong and why.

The good news is that the local press is onto the affair - let's hope the unions will now be shamed into doing the right thing.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

What's In A Name?

The five hopefuls to become the next leader of the Labour party have just been announced - in alphabetical order the runners and riders are:

  1. Diane Abbott

  2. Ed Balls

  3. Andy Burnham

  4. Ed Miliband

  5. David Miliband
Collectively, their initials spell out - DAEBABEMDM - which can be re-arranged into something far more interesting, such as:

ME BE MAD, BAD!

Let's hope this is not a bad omen for the future - but let's also wait and see who wins.

Dealing with Redundancies

As everyone knows, council spending budgets are in for a bumpy ride over the next few years.

Some councils have already indicated that redundancies may be necessary - voluntary or otherwise - but either way it's an anxious time for many people.

So, what are your rights in a redundancy situation?

First of all, employers are obliged to consult with employees (and trade union reps) - as soon as possible.

Second, employers must follow a fair procedure - they can't just make things up as they go along - or treat some groups more favourably than others.

Third, employers must do everything they reasonably can to avoid redundancies - which should only be contemplated as a last resort.

Fourth, employers are obliged to offer you 'suitable alternative employment' - if you are displaced.

Fifth, employers are not judge and jury over what constitutes an offer of 'suitable alternative employment' - employers must try to address their employees reasonable concerns.

For example, requiring a day shift worker to work permanent nights would almost certainly be deemed to be unreasonable - and would not therefore amount to suitable alternative employment.

Sixth, if an offer of alternative employment is unsuitable - employees are entitled to redundancy pay and might also have a claim for unfair dismissal - if an employer has behaved unreasonably or has failed to follow a fair procedure.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Openness and Transparency

According to recent news reports the new coalition government is urging councils in England and Wales to publish all spending over £500.

The government's says this will lead to greater value for money - and is part of their ongoing 'revolution' in being open and transparent.

The aim is that by September 2010 all councils will be expected to publish details of spending above £500 - for the public to see and scrutinise for themselves.

The government is also urging greater clarity on councillors' expenses and over the minutes of council meetings - to explain clearly what was discussed and decided.

Now - setting partisan politics aside - that really is a grown up approach to good local government and good local decision making.

Knowledge is power, but all too often in the past - knowledge and vital information were carefully controlled - allowing decisions to be made by small groups - in secret and behind closed doors.

So, the more open and transparent the decision making process - the better for all concerned in the long run.

Monday, 7 June 2010

"Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord"

Robert Burns hit the nail on the head in his famous poem - 'A Man's A Man'.

"Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord

What struts, and stares, an a' that

Though hundreds worship at his word

He's but a cuif for a' that"

The House of Lords is still packed to the rafters with knaves and fools - 736 of them as of April 2010 - 89 more than the 647 strong House of Commons - with more to come as the new government brings in plans to 'reform' the system.

The last Labour government had plans too - but after 13 years in power the second chamber was and remains largely unreconstructed - dominated by retired, unaccountable, second-rate politicians.

Insult is about to be added to injury as the likes of John Prescott and Michael Howard are invited to don their ermine robes.

John Prescott, former union rep, class warrior and deputy prime minister - will continue to have his nose in the public trough - along with Michael Howard, former Tory leader and Home Secretary - once famously described as 'having something of the night about him'

At a time when the public finances are in such a dreadful state - the best thing to do with the House of Lords would be to abolish it altogether.

Who needs a second chamber anyway?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

South Lanarkshire

Readers in South Lanarkshire will no doubt be interested in the following article which appears in today's Sunday Herald.

"Councillor in SPT expenses row lands new job"

Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor

6 June 2010

"A Labour councillor who quit Scotland’s biggest transport quango during a row over expenses has been handed a new job by his colleagues in South Lanarkshire.

Davie McLachlan stepped down as vice-chairman of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) in February after it emerged he claimed more than £10,000 in mileage in just two years.

He went on a £17,000 SPT trip to New York and a £1500 trip to Manchester which coincided with Rangers playing in the Uefa Cup Final.

Last week, a report by external auditors KPMG revealed much of the paperwork covering SPT’s corporate credit cards had been shredded. KMPG also questioned whether all McLachlan’s mileage claims were value for money.

But before the report was published, McLachlan’s colleagues at South Lanarkshire voted him into a new post when he insisted he would be vindicated.

He is now the spokesman on youth issues, a job that means he becomes chair of the Regen-FX Youth Trust, which pays a £8405 salary. The appointment was part of a wider reshuffle caused by a councillor becoming an MP.

SNP members of the Labour-run council claim McLachlan was given the post to cushion the blow of losing his £11,000 salary as SPT’s vice-chairman.

Anne Maggs, leader of the SNP opposition, said of McLachlan: “He does not come out of [the report] smelling of roses. There have been some bad judgments and I would be expecting some of this money to be paid back.”

McLachlan, councillor for Hamilton North and East, did not return calls."

Freedom of Information

Glasgow City Council has a new leadership - following the sudden and unexpected departure of former council leader - Councillor Stephen Purcell

One issue the new regime will want to get to grips with is highlighted today in a report by the Sunday Herald - here's summary of the article written by Tom Gordon.

"Quango spent £50,000 on taking bosses to football, dinners and pop concerts"

Tom Gordon, Scottish Political Editor

6 Jun 2010

"A controversial construction quango spent almost £50,000 on hospitality for senior managers, councillors and business contacts in two years, according to files obtained by the Sunday Herald.

City Building (Glasgow) LLP, a spin-off of Labour-run Glasgow City Council, lavished thousands on sporting dinners, football matches, charity events and pop concerts.

Senior managers attended gigs at Hampden Park by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Take That on the questionable basis it would help them drum up new work for the organisation. Bosses also spent almost £8500 on black-tie evenings at boxing matches.

However, the Sunday Herald understands City Building’s entire business model is now under review after it failed to meet its key goal of attracting private sector contracts.

Created in 2006 out of Glasgow’s former building services department, City Building was supposed to secure extra work outside the city from local authorities and the private sector. But it has struggled to expand, and its 2200 staff remain reliant on a massive inherited contract with Glasgow Housing Association.

The £160 million quango’s future is now central to a review of all the arms length external organisations (Aleos) set up by Glasgow City Council to run services such as parking, property sales, markets, and sports centres.

The shake-up comes as the full extent of entertainment spending at City Building emerges under Freedom of Information laws.

In the two years to April, it spent £47,320 at 53 events, including awards ceremonies, charity dinners, burns suppers, football matches and concerts.

John Foley, City Building’s finance director, was at 36 events, managing director Willie Docherty at 28, director of corporate services Steve Kelly at 27, and director of operations Graeme Paterson at 20.

They were frequently accompanied by their wives, as well as junior staff.

In November 2008, City Building spent £2112 taking 24 people to the Scottish Football Association Hall of Fame dinner in Glasgow. Of these, 15 were Labour councillors and only four were from the private sector.

City Building executives were also regulars at the St Andrew’s Sporting Club, which organises boxing matches in Glasgow and has a black-tie dress code.

Last year, concerts at Hampden started to feature in the entertainment budget. In June, Foley took three people to Take That’s Circus tour at a cost of £376; the next month, Docherty treated three people to Bruce Springsteen for £252; and in August, Kelly took three contacts to see U2 for £360.

The quango initially refused to divulge the details and did so only after a challenge by the Sunday Herald. It is still refusing to name the business people who enjoyed its hospitality. As City Building failed to keep a hospitality register in 2006 and 2007, the true cost of its entertaining is likely to exceed £50,000."

Yet again Freedom of Information has unearthed details that people in powerful places would rather keep secret.

In Charge of the Office

The joint leaders of Britain's largest trade union - Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson - are a godsend to the headline writers.

Unite's joint general secretaries are widely known to dislike each other - they are a dysfunctional double act - the trade union movement's answer to Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Unite's latest gaffe is widely reported today - as Tony Woodley flies of for a week in the sun - while his BA cabin crew members gear up for yet another week of strike action.

Sensing the obvious criticism - Unite released a statement saying that Derek Simpson is in charge of the office - he's ready and willing to meet BA at any time in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Yes, no doubt - but this is the same Derek Simpson who Twittered a running commentary on the last round of settlement talks.

Secret, sensitive negotiations that were so rudely interrupted - and effectively broken up - by a rent a mob from the Socialist Workers Party.

So, it seems a tad unlikely then that there will be a big breakthrough in the dispute - while Derek Simpson is at the helm.

Going off on holiday while your members are on strike is no crime - as general secretary some group of members, somewhere or other are always likely to be on strike - just when you want to head off to the beach with your bucket and spade.

But imagine the fuss and outrage - if BA's chairman and Unite hate figure, Willie Walsh, did the same thing.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Two Tales of One City

The good citizens of Edinburgh are entitled to scratch their heads in disbelief - at the antics of their local council and trade unions - on the vital subject of equal pay.

A ground breaking Single Status (Equal Pay) agreement was signed by all Scottish Councils and the unions over 10 years ago - in 1999.

But ever since the unions and the council have been in 'negotiations' - to implement the agreement in full.

The first deadline came and went in 2002 - the second in 2004 - but still the talks in Edinburgh continued.

The latest statements from the two sides illustrate the problem perfectly.

True, they may be talking, to each other - but in completely different languages it would seem.

The council was upbeat in a recent announcement:

"Delivering fair and equal pay across the City of Edinburgh Council took a significant step forward yesterday. Although no agreement was reached at the final day of Modernising Pay negotiations between the Council and trades unions, it is recognised that both sides made a determined effort to reach agreement."

But the unions have a very different take on things - as a visit to the local Unison web site demonstrates:

"UNISON calls for real talks as council serves notice on 'Modernising Pay'........ Consultation brings clear rejection of proposals."

So, there we have it - after only 11 years of meetings and endless talks about talks - both sides have simply agreed to disagree.

What a palaver.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Poet's Corner

Here's another piece of equal pay prose from one of our regular readers in the west of Scotland - all contributions gratefully received:

"The Councils' stance is wrong
They had us working for a song
for when it's time to pay us
they'd rather whip and flay us
oh but when it comes to expenses
they hide behind their fences
squandering the taxpayers money
they seem to find it funny
when the little people want to know
where the f @ *k did the money go
in the end we'll have what's ours
so they can't spend thousands on fancy flowers
the game is up and they've been caught
yet still no money.. d'ya think they've forgot?
let's not forget the unions we pay
that helped the councils' so we had no say
we'll get the last laugh when we get our wages
even though it's taken for ages
there is a lesson to be learned
for all the Councils' and those concerned
you may flaunt the laws and the rules
but Stefan Cross and the E.T. are no fools
you can bury your heads and hope it'll go away
but this will never happen 'til you give us our pay.

AB"

Thursday, 3 June 2010

North Lanarkshire - Male Home Carers

Lots of e-mails and phone calls from male Home Carers in North Lanarkshire - asking if they are included in the latest round of settlement offers.

The answer to that is a definite - Yes.

But as yet the council has still to send details of the individual settlement offers for the male Home Carers.

When these do arrive - they will be sent out in the same way as the offers to female Home Carers.

So, in the meantime sit tight - don't panic - and don't listen to the rumour mill.

Poet's Corner

The long, hard fight for equal pay has its lighter moments - for example, it has inspired the lyrical side of one of our regular readers - as follows:

"On a cold and icy winter night up to St Bridgets we all did trot
to get a letter from the "council" and find out how much cash
we got

It was a bit of an anti-climax but we thought it will be fine
when a voice was heard: "Don't do it , don't sign the bottom line!"

So we all went back to Pat's house, where Agnes explained
things with all her might

And after a few gin and tonic, we thought maybe oor Agnes was right

So the next day, we got the ball rolling,and signed up with Stefan Cross
but with all her texts and emails we knew Agnes was our boss

After a long hard battle, they were wrong and Agnes was right
we all got our money and the "council"was right in the sh**e

So forget about your Browns and Camerons and all your dodgy
political men


I just wish we could vote for Agnes and get her into Number 10"


Any further contributions to Poet's Corner are very welcome
.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Edinburgh Male Claims

Some groups of workers fighting for equal pay continue to get a very raw deal - and one of the worst offenders is Edinburgh City Council.

The position in Edinburgh is that male workers - in predominantly female jobs such as carers, cooks and cleaners - are still being denied settlement offers by the council.

Even though their female colleagues - doing exactly the same jobs - were made settlement offers long ago.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been pushing the council for some time to settle these claims - and the Employment Tribunals have also been asked to set a date for a GMF hearing, if Edinburgh refuses to come to its senses.

Because the council's position is plainly ridiculous - no other council in Scotland has adopted the same view.

All other Scottish councils have made offers to male workers in these predominantly female jobs - at the same time as offers have been made to the female workers.

Edinburgh has just lost another big decision at Employment Appeal Tribunal - which has been reported extensively on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

The treatment of the these male workers is yet another example - of the council trying to 'defend the indefensible'.

Action 4 Equality Scotland is confident that these claims will be ultimately be successful - even though the council's behaviour is incredibly frustrating for everyone involved.

The saving grace is that the additional time people are being made to wait - is being added on to their original claim - so long as the claimants' remain in the council's employment.

So the message is - 'don't give up or give in' - the male workers in Edinburgh will triumph in the end.

Who'da Thought?

Who would have thought the new coalition government - would take a more radical line on Freedom of Information that the last Labour government?

But if the latest reports can be believed - that's exactly what Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat allies are planning.


The new regime has announced plans to make more government information - including local government - more accessible to the public.

Mr Cameron says he wants to rip off the "cloak of secrecy" around government and public services - and extend transparency as far as possible.

Good for him - let's hope he sticks to his word - because that will put lots of councils in the spotlight - where they belong having tried everything to keep their employees in the dark - for all these years.


Francis Maude, a Cabinet Office minister is quoted as saying:

"I think this is ridiculous. It's your money, your government, you should know what's going on. So we're going to rip off that cloak of secrecy and extend transparency as far and as wide as possible.

"By bringing information out into the open you'll be able to hold government and public services to account."

Precisely, because the truth is that councils that want to keep things secret - to prevent public scutiny of their actions - always have something to hide.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

More Kind Words

More kind words from a regular reader in Glasgow:

"I received my cheque yesterday and want to say thank you to Mark, Stefan, and all concerned - for fair and equal pay and treatment.


You are doing a great job and I appreciate all your hard work on my behalf.

Many thanks again"

SB"

North Lanarkshire Settlements

We've had lots of enquiries about the North Lanarkshire settlements - which started to go out last week.

A common question is - "Why does the claim only go up to January 2007?"

The answer is that North Lanarkshire Council is only prepared to settle your cases up to the date when the council finally introduced its new Single Status pay and grading arrangements.

And this happened in January 2007.

Everyone has an ongoing claim from January 2007 onwards - because of the protection period offered to the male bonus earners.

Action 4 Equality Scotland is already taking this up on your behalf - so there is no need for you to do anything - just sit tight and this additional part of your claim will be settled in due course.

But the point is that although the council is not prepared to settle your full claim now - we take the view that this initial payment - is better in your pocket than the council's bank account.

We are continuing to fight for the rest people are owed - and will let you know as soon as there are any developments.

Sometimes the unions try to confuse people over this further claim - telling members they need to take a claim up via the trade unions - but this is a load of baloney.

So, if you receive an unsolicited letter from a trade union - that's let you down in the past - pass it on to Action 4 Equality Scotland - we'll deal with any issues on your behalf.

Old Habits v New Politics

The new Westminster Parliament is only just bedding down - a new coalition government is in place - but already there have been two incidents suggesting that old habits die hard.

No sooner had the new MPs taken their seats - than it was announced that Labour MP Eric Illsley faced three charges under the Theft Act.

Three other Labour MPs facing similar charges before the election - were dropped like proverbial hot potatoes - even though none of them had been found guilty as charged.

But Eric Illsley is still with us - despite being accused of dishonestly claiming £20,000 in council tax and other domestic charges over three years - he is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on June 17 2010.

Over the weekend another even bigger name fell to the curse of the MPs' expenses scandal - this time a Liberal Democrat MP David Laws - also a member of the government and Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Laws was exposed by the Telegraph for claiming £40,000 in rental costs which were paid to his partner - in clear contravention of the expenses rules.

David Laws promptly resigned his government position over the weekend - depart, he did, with dignity and - unusually - to much sympathy from political friends and foes alike.

But it does beg the question - just what planet are these people living on?

If David Laws wanted to keep his private life private - all he had to do was to not use public money to subsidise his personal living arrangements - then it would have been no one's business but his own.

Simple really.