Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Xmas!

A very Merry Xmas to all of our readers!

Like most people I will be taking some time off over the holiday period - but normal service will resume again in the New Year.

Until then - compliments of the season - and very best wishes for 2011.

A Funny Old Business

Politics is a funny old business.

Who would have thought that Tommy Sheridan - a Scottish socialist firebrand - would have ended up the same way as Jeffrey Archer - one of Margaret Thatcher's loyal Tory lieutenants.

But that's what has happened - as the former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader faces the prospect of a hefty prison sentence in the New Year - having been found guilty of perjury by a panel of his peers.

And the reality is that Tommy Sheridan brough the roof down upon his own head.

By foolishly suing the News of the World for libel damages - when the crux of the paper's reports were in fact true - if presented in its usual salacious manner.

The only alternative to a guilty verdict was to accept Tommy's incredible defence - that he was a victim in all of this - not the motive force, brought down ultimately by his own actions.

For Tommy's defence to succeed the jury would have had to conclude that there was indeed a major conspiracy at work - based on an unlikely coalition involving the bulk of the SSP leadership, Lothian & Borders Police and the News of the World.

A lot of time, effort and public money has been wasted on getting to the truth - it has to be said.

But it also has to be said that none of this would ever have happened - if Tommy had kept his own giant ego under control.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Glasgow Home Care Workers

A Glasgow reader has been in touch to say that a dispute has broken out in Cordia - the arms length company established by Glasgow City Council - to deliver home care and other services.

Now Cordia is still run and controlled by the council - to all intents and purposes.

But apparently home care workers are being told that in future - they will not be paid overtime rates - for working beyond 37 hours and for working on public holidays.

All sounds very odd to me - because an employer cannot unilaterally change someone's contract of employment - if they do they're just asking for trouble.


So if these reports are correct - then the workers involved would be quite within their rights to tell the council - thanks, but no thanks.

Why should Cordia workers accept worse conditions - than other council employees?

Can you imagine the enormous row there would be if a group of male workers - refuse workers or gardeners, for example - were treated in such a fashion?

WikiWars

Julian Asssange - the WikiLeaks founder - continues to lash out at the people who are asking very reasonable questions about his behaviour - towards two women in Sweden.

To his credit, Assange gave his first extended interview the other day to Radio 4's John Humphrys - but his attempts to justify and explain his actions - make him sound decidedly odd and other worldly.

Pressed by John Humphrys to answer whether he was a 'sexual predator' - Assange's answer was that he ''just likes women''.

Even more strange were his attempts to dismiss the fears of the two separate women with whom he had unprotected sex - within the course of a few days.

Assange said that two women probably "found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had unprotected sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases".

Now I can understand the fears of someone who might worry about contracting HIV or some other sexually transmitted disease - especially if their 'partner' was being promiscuous and irresponsible.


So for Assange to describe these women as getting themselves into a 'tizzy' is not just insensitive - it's completely bizarre.

Organised Hypocrisy

Politics is often portrayed as organised hypocrisy - because politicians, of all parties, are so adept at saying one thing - then doing another.

Vince Cable - the business secretary - has been exposed for doing just that - in a sting operation organised by the Daily Telegraph.

The rules of the game are that the personal and private views of politicians - must never come before the interests of party or government.

So Vince lost the responsibility for presiding over a big business deal involving the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch - which was inevitable given his role as a supposedly impartial referee.

But he kept his position in the cabinet which is probably correct - because Vince seems a fair minded person - as opposed to political zealot.

Perhaps the reason Vince Cable was not cast adrift completely - is that the public have become inured to politicians behaving in a completely cynical fashion.

For years the Labour party insisted that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were best friends - but as soon as they lost power the truth emerges - they were really deadly rivals and, latterly, political enemies.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Union Wars

Yesterday the country's trade union leaders met with the Prime Minister - David Cameron - at Number 10 Downing Street.

The scene was set by an article which appeared in the Guardian newspaper that same day - written by Len McCluskey - the new general secretary of Unite.

The warlike heading - Unions, get set for battle - was provided by the paper's sub-editor, but accurately reflects the overall tone of the piece - here are a few extracts:

"Unions, get set for battle"

"Britain's students have certainly put the trade union movement on the spot. Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach.

The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss "general strike now" rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle.


The practical and legal hurdles cannot be dismissed. Thatcher's anti-union laws, left in place by New Labour, are on the statute book for just these occasions.

Unless people are convinced not just that they are hurting – not hard to do – but also that there is a coherent alternative to the Cameron-Clegg class war austerity, then getting millions into action will remain a pipedream. That alternative needs to be one the whole movement can unite around. A key part must be a rejection of the need for cuts. "What do we want? Fewer cuts later on", is not a slogan to set the blood coursing.

Trade unions need to reach out, too. Students have to know we are on their side. We must unequivocally condemn the behaviour of the police on the recent demonstrations. Kettling, batoning and mounted charges against teenagers have no place in our society."

Now as Unite general secretary Len McCluskey's job is to speak up for his members.

But let's remember that Len was elected by 6.8% of his total membership on a overall turnout of 16% - see post dated 24 November 2010.

So best not to get too carried away - with all this wild talk about manning the barricades.

The other issue worth mentioning is whether or not Len is actually on the same planet as the majority of Unite members - because not even the Labour party is advocating a policy of absolutely 'no cuts'.

In which case whose views is Len actually representing - his own or his members?

Likewise on the issue of trade union ballots - because having an individual secret ballot before embarking on strike action is viewed as a good thing - by most union members.

So why would a union leader - representing his members' views - want to sweep these democratic safeguards away?

Monday, 20 December 2010

South Lanarkshire

A regular reader has been in touch to say that she's going along to the tribunal hearing involving South Lanarkshire Council later this week - and why don't other claimants attend as well?

So if you're in Glasgow that day - here are the details:

Date - Thursday 23 December 2010

Time - 10am

Venue - Glasgow Employment Tribunal, 52 Bothwell Street, Glasgow - (10 minutes walk from Central Station)

Further hearings are already scheduled in the New Year - details of which will be posted on the blog site neaerer the time.

Blair's Best Bits

In an earlier post I commented that Tony Blair's memoirs - 'A Journey' - were a good read for anyone with an interest in UK politics.

Here are some of his best bits.

On the recession


Blair pulls no punches - it's not just the banks that caused financial meltdown and let the country down - but the various regulators and politicians who fell asleep on the job - including the last Labour government.

On the unions

Blair concedes that union bosses thought of him as a Conservative in Labour clothing - whereas he saw them as conservatives wearing labour clothes. In other words, true defenders of the status quo - paid up members of the Labour party, but conservatives with a small 'c' nonetheless.

On public services

Blair regards the public services as a noble cause - full of hard working and dedicated people - but dominated by vested interests, often those with the loudest voices. Services users and consumers should have much more say in shaping the future - choice is a good not a bad thing.

When he was elected as Labour leader, Blair swept all before him - scoring a clear majority in all three sections of the party's 'electoral college' - before going on to win three successive general elections.

Love him or hate him - Tony Blair casts a long shadow over British politics - and the Labour party in particular.


As Labour and the unions try and define themselves in a new political landscape - they should be asking themselves - why was Blair such a winner compared to other party leaders?

Double Standards

As it happens the Sunday Times had the best take yesterday on the ongoing WikiLeaks saga - see post dated 19 December 2010 - 'Celebrity Justice'.

The newspaper reported - without a hit of irony - that lawyers for Julian Assange are angry that incriminating police files have been published - giving graphic details of Assange's alleged sexual assault on two Swedish women.

Now I may have got this all wrong - but I understood that raison d'etre of WikiLeaks was that there's no such thing as private information anymore - that just about everything's up for grabs these days.

Not so it would appear - because Assange's Swedish lawyer (Bjorn Hurtig) said he would lodge a formal complaint to the relevant authorities and ask them to investigate how such sensitive material - was leaked into the public domain.

So it would seem that WikiLeaks is happy to publish any information from any source - but wants the right to complain and cry foul - if someone else decides to plays them at their own game

Sunday, 19 December 2010

What Ballot?

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch - regarding claims made in a Unison Members Briefing - see the previous post 'Compare and Contrast' - which is reproduced below for easy reference.

The readers say that this never happened - that a ballot of all members definitely did not take place - whatever union officials might say.

Now no documents have been produced by the unions to substantiate this claim - but if you can throw any light on the subject - drop Mark Irvine a note, in confidence, at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Compare and Contrast

A kind reader from South Lanarkshire has sent in a Unison 'Members Briefing' from December 2005 - which makes the union look completely daft.

Here's an extract of what it says;

"Councils and unions also had to cooperate to introduce a Job Evaluation system that measured jobs and ensured that jobs of equal value were paid equally - 'equal pay for work of equal value'.

Across the country employers refused to progress local negotiations either never started or proceeded very slowly. Except in South Lanarkshire, where the council were keen to progress.

Negotiations led to the introduction of the common conditions for all staff and the implementation of the Council's job evaluation scheme - the Competence Initiative.

UNISON, GMB and TGWU were fully involved in the negotiations. Finally, following a ballot of all members, an agreement was reached."

So in December 2005 - Unison were acting as cheerleaders for South Lanarkshire Council - extolling the virtues of a local Single Status Agreement - which 'the unions were fully involved in before an agreement was reached'.

Yet in November 2010 - the union finally admits that council employees may have a valid equal pay claim after all - here are Unison's latest thoughts which were published on the blog site recently

'We (Unison) recently commissioned an assessment of the scope for equal pay claims in South Lanarkshire - and we believe that as in other areas there may be some potential for some members being able to pursue equal pay claims'.

Now both statements can't be right - can they?

So lots of angry union members in South Lanarkshire - will be demanding to know - just what the hell's going on.

Celebrity Justice

Catherine Bennett has thought provoking piece in today's Observer newspaper.

Instead of swallowing the whole conspiracy theory line - so beloved of Mr Assange and his celebrity supporters - she actually poses some relevant, if rhetorical, questions.

Here's an extract of what Catherine Bennett has to say - read the full text in today's Observer:

"So, Mr Assange, why won't you go back to Sweden now?"


"The WikiLeaks founder's reluctance to face his accusers sits badly with his avowed role as champion of freedom

It could be a quality lost on suspicious interviewers, or one he has quite recently acquired, but in all the profiles I have read of the extraordinary Julian Assange, none has begun to convey the man's dazzling effect on his admirers, male as well as female.

For the woman who last week flourished the placard: "Julian, I want your babies", his release from Wandsworth must have come as particularly welcome news. But his chief British benefactor, the former army officer Vaughan Smith, has shown that the Assange effect goes way beyond standard manipulation of the groupie-reflex.

Smith's atmospheric account of the night before his hero turned himself in might easily have been set in the Tower of London, on the eve of a royal execution. "I feel that I am intruding," Smith writes, "but Julian smiles at me. He does that: brings you in and makes you feel you are important to him when most of us would feel too preoccupied to do such a thing." All too soon it is morning. "Julian is hungry, as he had no dinner last night."

In the most unexpected places, any interest in establishing the truth through the Swedish legal process, as opposed to claim and counter-claim in the media, instantly translates as disloyalty to Assange, the world's greatest champion of the truth.


Any sympathy for the women he slept with, as their frailties are indefinitely, globally exposed, will earn you none from, say, John Pilger, slamming the "false tribunes of feminism" he blames for trusting the "chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange".

On the internet, of course, the women can be joyfully named, pictured and pilloried, assessed and obscenely condemned for everything from their feminism to loose morals, clothing and idle, pre-WikiLeaks blogs.


Of course, if Julian Assange accepts his extradition, travels to this liberal hell-hole and answers the relevant questions, something approaching the facts might be established. Why doesn't he just do it? He could clear his name.

But any outcome would, surely, be better for his reputation than celebrity-funded evasion. To keep delaying the moment of truth, for this champion of fearless disclosure and total openness, could soon begin to look pretty dishonest, as well as inconsistent."

Quite so - and as Mr Assange himself might say: "Why run if he has nothing to hide?"

Friday, 17 December 2010

Useless Union Advice

Good news for male claimants in Stirling Council - settlement offers are being sent out this week.

I have a great sense of achievement when Action 4 Equality Scotland clients finally get what they are due - some after a longer fight than others.

But Stirling is especially satisfying as these claims involve, amongst others, a group of largely male janitors.

The janitors were told absolutely categorically - back in 2006 - by both the council and the trade unions - that they had no case, that they were wasting their time.

But instead of swallowing what their managers and unions had to say - they got in touch with me - and instead put their trust in Action 4 Equality Scotland.

So I might just toast their health and excellent judgment - over the course of this weekend.

Edinburgh Male Claimants

Good news for Edinburgh's male claimants.

Edinburgh is the only council, so far at least - to have excluded male claimants in predominantly female (former manual worker) jobs - from settlement offers.

The kind of jobs involved are male Home Carers and Catering Workers.

The council deliberately excluded this group from settlement offers being made to women workers - doing exactly the same jobs as their male colleagues.

But the good news is that the employment tribunals have now agreed to put these cases to a GMF hearing in March 2011 - which means that Edinburgh City Council has finally run out of road.

The council essentially has no case to argue, but will be in the position of having to defend the indefensible - if these claims proceed to a full hearing.

Because how can the council argue that a man and a women - doing exactly the same job - are not entitled to equal treatment under the law?

Now it doesn't take a genius to work out the answer to that question - but Edinburgh have spent years denying the perfectly valid claims of this group of male workers.

So the ball is now firmly in Edinburgh's court.

Blood From A Stone

A number of readers have been in touch - regular visitors to the blog site - who for one reason or another have taken an equal pay claim up with their trade union.

Trouble is they can't get any information out of their union when they ring up or send an e-mail - they say 'it's like getting blood from a stone'.


Now it has to be perfectly reasonable for a union member to ask their trade union - from time to time - for a proper progress report on their case.

To be fair, the union can't be expected to drop everything - and respond immediately to every minor point.

But they should be willing to provide proper feedback on what's happening - and to treat members with courtesy and respect.

If a member's case is being handled by a union lawyer - then the lawyer is also obliged to provide regular updates to clients - under rules laid down by the Law Society of Scotland.

So either way the point is if you have a sensible question - don't allow yourself to fobbed off - insist on getting a proper answer.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

More Questions Than Answers

Here are the two recent posts about the local press coverage on equal pay in South Lanarkshire - which appeared recently in the Hamilton Advertiser.

Lots of members have been asking for an explanation from their union - but as yet no one has received a straight answer.

Cosying Up With Employers

The Hamilton Advertiser published Alex Neil's press statement about South Lanarkshire Council behaving like a Victorian employer - see previous post dated 29 November 2010.

Predictably, South Lanarkshire rushed to its own defence - but hot on its heels came the local Unison branch - cosying up to the council like some kind of lovestruck teenager.

Here's an extract of the article from the local newspaper - which also reported Alex Neil's comments in full.

Hamilton Advertiser
"A council spokesman said this week: “The ongoing legal process around equal pay claims, which Alex Neil MSP is aware of, makes it difficult for us to comment as fully as we would like."

“However, South Lanarkshire Council was the first local authority in Scotland to achieve single status, including job evaluation."

“The council is confident in the integrity of the job evaluation scheme and we take our equality duties very seriously. Employees are involved, either directly or via their trade union, in the job evaluation process and we are unaware of any employee with an outstanding request for information.”

Stephen Smellie, secretary of South Lanarkshire’s Unison branch, took a dim view of the MSP’s comments.

He said: “It is a shame that a national politician wishes to make some political capital out of a situation of concern to many local people without actually knowing the facts.

“Whatever his view of South Lanarkshire Council, they don’t employ child chimney sweeps or send women down coal mines.

“Nor are they only council which did not use the national scheme he refers to. Nor is there a national review that can tell anyone what they should pay staff. Workers who wish to find out about these sort of things would be better speaking to their trade union.”

What the local Unison branch fails to explain is that the vast majority of councils in Scotland - used the nationally approved and recommended Job Evaluation scheme.

No other council in Scotland has behaved the same way as South Lanarkshire - which has failed to act openly and transparently - and has refused all requests to explain exactly what traditional male jobs are paid.

The trade unions clearly know - because the unions helped to negotiate the deals that favour some council jobs over others - so why don't they tell their members?


Victorian Employers in South Lanarkshire

Alex Neil MSP continues to champion the cause of council workers in South Lanarkshire - who are still fighting for equal pay.

Here's a copy of a recent press statement - in which Alex Neil compares South Lanarkshire Council to a Victorian employer.

"MSP Neil calls on South Lanarkshire Council to stop acting like Victorian employers"

Central Scotland SNP MSP Alex Neil has strongly criticised South Lanarkshire Council for treating many of its employees with contempt over the issue of single status and equal pay.

Mr Neil, who has taken up the case on behalf of hundreds of South Lanarkshire Council's workers, says the treatment being meted out to employees reeks of the contempt with which Victorian employers treated their workers.

At issue is the Council's refusal to provide the basic information it used to decide the wages of hundreds of workers as part of the introduction of single status, ie equal pay for the same work.

Many women workers in particular are losing out badly because the Council won't pay them the rate for the job.

A decision by Scotland's Information Commission is due and Mr Neil has strongly urged him to force the Council to reveal all the information on its review of equal status.

He added:

"For some strange reason the Tory/Labour Administration in South Lanarkshire is the only council out of 32 not to have taken part in the National Job Evaluation Scheme, which determined the outcome of these claims. It ran its own Evaluation but won't tell the workers who did it, what its terms of reference were, what its recommendations were or how it reached these recommendations.

The whole exercise is bringing the Council into disrepute and making it a laughing stock amongst all the other councils in Scotland.

They should fez up, tell the truth and settle on the basis of the national review, as clearly their own was deeply flawed."

Readers in South Lanarkshire are having a big effect by raising the the fight for equal pay with their MSPs - the issue is gathering steam - as we start the run in to the next round of MSP elections in May 2011.

What is your MSP doing - on your behalf?

More Moonlighting MPs

David Miliband is the latest MP to join the lucrative international speaking circuit - according to records published by the House of Commons.

The newspapers report that the defeated Labour leadership candidate was paid £25,000 for delivering a speech on relations between the West and the Muslim world - at a luxurious resort in the Middle East.

Apparently, the government of the United Arab Emirates helped to pick up the tab for his travel and five star accommodation.

Now £25,000 is not a king's ransom - but it is more than most council workers earn in a whole year - for doing something useful and socially productive.

No doubt Miliband senior was also being paid for his day job as an MP - while he was swanning about halfway across the world.

If so, someone should tell him that it's simply not right for MPs to be drawing a handsome public salary - when they're not even in the country to carry out their duties.

If he was a benefits claimant - he would be classed as 'unavailable for work'.

Job Evaluation

A reader from Clackmannanshire has been in touch - with a query about job evaluation.

Apparently, the council has upheld a job evaluation appeal made on behalf of council road sweepers - which means that their jobs move on to a new and higher rate of pay.


Previously the road sweepers (a predominantly male job) were on the same grade and rate of pay as council cleaners (a predominantly female job) - who work in local schools and other council buildings.

So the query is: "Do the cleaners have a claim to be put on the same grade and rate of pay as their male colleagues who working as road sweepers?"

Well they are certainly entitled to ask for a proper explanations of why the road sweepers had their grade changed - and rate of pay improved.

Presumably the trade unions supported the road sweepers appeal - so they must know the answer to that question as well as council management.

The key point is to understand the reasons for upholding the appeal - which factor scores under the job evaluation scheme were changed and why?

Armed with that information, a cleaner is in a position to consider - whether to mount an appeal using the same or similar grounds to the road sweepers.

If the council and the trade unions won't explain what's happened voluntarily - which they should, of course - then the details can be requested using a formal Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

After all job evaluation is supposed to be an open and transparent process - so that people can see for themselves - the basis on which different council jobs are graded and paid.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Unions in South Lanarkshire

Here are a few other posts about the behaviour of the trade unions in South Lanarkshire Council.

If you've got something to say or share about what's been going on - drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Having A Laugh

The 'Members Briefing' from Unison in South Lanarkshire is proving to be a big hit with readers - though for all the wrong reasons as far as the local union branch is concerned.

Here's another little gem from from December 2005 - setting out Unison's 'advice' to members on - Single Status, Equal Pay and South Lanarkshire:

"In brief, other councils are now rushing to catch up with the position arrived at in South Lanarkshire some time ago."

Now whoever wrote this must have been having a laugh - because no other council in Scotland has done what South Lanarkshire Council has done.

Seems to me that Unison was just acting as a mouthpiece for South Lanarkshire Council.

Instead of standing up for the interests of their low paid women members - who have lost out - compared to their counterparts in other Scottish councils.


Unison Briefing

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have already been in touch - to ask if they can get a copy of the notorious Unison branch briefing on Single Status.

Well, the answer is - of course you can.

All you need to do is to drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com - and I'll send you a copy straight back.

Angry union members should use this document - which is dated 1 December 2005 by the way - to ask some very pointed questions of the local Unison branch.

Because the advice to local Unison members has been completely contradictory - and many union members may have lost out - as a result.

See previous post dated 19 November 2010 - 'Don't Get Mad, Get Even'.


Compare and Contrast

A kind reader from South Lanarkshire has sent in a Unison 'Members Briefing' from December 2005 - which makes the union look completely daft.

Here's an extract of what it says;

"Councils and unions also had to cooperate to introduce a Job Evaluation system that measured jobs and ensured that jobs of equal value were paid equally - 'equal pay for work of equal value'.

Across the country employers refused to progress local negotiations either never started or proceeded very slowly. Except in South Lanarkshire, where the council were keen to progress.

Negotiations led to the introduction of the common conditions for all staff and the implementation of the Council's job evaluation scheme - the Competence Initiative.

UNISON, GMB and TGWU were fully involved in the negotiations. Finally, following a ballot of all members, an agreement was reached."

So in December 2005 - Unison were acting as cheerleaders for South Lanarkshire Council - extolling the virtues of a local Single Status Agreement - which 'the unions were fully involved in before an agreement was reached'.

Yet in November 2010 - the union finally admits that council employees may have a valid equal pay claim after all - here are Unison's latest thoughts which were published on the blog site recently

'We (Unison) recently commissioned an assessment of the scope for equal pay claims in South Lanarkshire - and we believe that as in other areas there may be some potential for some members being able to pursue equal pay claims'.

Now both statements can't be right - can they?

So lots of angry union members in South Lanarkshire - will be demanding to know - just what the hell's going on.

Moonlighting MPs

I watched 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' last night - the hit satirical programme from America.

Gordon Brown was one of the guests - he was truly awful - and kept breaking out in manic laughter at inappropriate times - more often than not at one of his own 'bon mots'.

The former Prime Minister was promoting his new book about the collapse of the banks - Beyond the Crash - which he manages to squeeze in on top of his day job as a Westminster MP.

Speaking with conviction and passion at times - Gordon sounded as if he knew what he was talking about - as most true policy wonks do.

But he failed to explain how a government in which he was such a senior figure for 13 years - managed to preside over a near collapse of the UK economy - and then have the gall to try and pin the blame for what happened on everyone else.

For some reason the interview cut short suddenly - and the programme ended with the bizarre sight and sound of Vladimir Putin singing the Fats Domino track 'Blueberry Hill' in a thick Russian accent - at some celebrity charity event.

I should definitely read more books.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Conspiracy Theories

Sweden is an unlikely country to put at the centre of an international conspiracy - one where dark forces are able to manipulate the internal workings of the Swedish courts and judicial system.

Two Swedish women have made complaints about the behaviour of the WikiLeaks founder - Julian Assange

But instead of taking the complaints seriously - and agreeing they should be properly investigated - the WikiLeaks campaigners immediately conclude that their man is being fitted up - by the CIA presumably.

Now women do make false accusations about sexual assault and rape - but it's very rare.

And it's even more rare for two separate women to be involved - in bringing forward a complaint about the same person.

The two women involved both knew Julian Assange in Sweden - and both supported the work of WikiLeaks at the time - as volunteer campaigners of some kind.

Assange apparently had sexual encounters with both women within the space of a few days - and while such tom-catting behaviour is rather strange and unsavoury in a forty year old man - on the face of things it's hardly a criminal offence.

Maybe Assange was taking advantage of his mystique and Svengali-like reputation - by playing the two women off against each other.

But if so, he should say so - and spare us all the amateur dramatics and boring conspiracy theories.

So why doesn't he just go to Sweden and agree to help the authorities with their enquiries - because that would be the right and proper thing to do?

Rules and Religions

Sky news today shows a woman in Sudan being publicly whipped - for the 'crime' of wearing trousers under her Islamic dress.

Apparently this is an offence under strict Sharia law - and the poor woman was flogged in the street - as a largely male crowd looked on - some of whom were clearly enjoying the spectacle.

But it just goes to show what can happen if countries let people with strong religious views - determine the laws that everyone else lives under.

Elsewhere in the UK - an elderly couple who run a Bed and Breakfast business in Cornwall - are in court in Bristol for refusing a booking from a gay couple.

The B&B owners are devout Christians and believe they should be entitled to refuse any guests - who are not heterosexual and not married.

Makes you wonder why they went into business in the first place - but more importantly what business is it of theirs - whether people are gay or married?

None whatsoever, of course.

Just as it's no business of mine whether a B&B owner is a member of the Church of Scotland, a Mormon or an atheist.

Where religious leaders and religious views determine the laws of the land - you are asking for trouble.

Because the lesson of history is that the 'moral majority' can't help trying to impose their strict religious views - on non-believers and those with a different faith.

Multiple Choice

Question: Why does a 'peaceful' protester take a snooker ball to a student demonstration?

Is the correct answer:

a) To have a game of snooker or billiards

b) To share the simple beauty of completely spherical object with fellow protesters

c) To throw the snooker ball at a police officer or police horse

The right answer is of course c) - and top marks to everyone who saw through a) and b) - which of course were not remotely believable - to anyone whose head doesn't button up the back.

At last week's latest student protest outside Westminster - it was a poor old police horse that got whacked in the head with the said snooker ball.

Causing the terrified animal to throw and injure its rider - before trying to bolt into the crowd - where even more people could have been hurt by the protester's stupid and criminal behaviour.

The scene of the latest mini-riot and widespread vandalism was Westminster Square - and student leaders had agreed to avoid that area - as part of their peaceful protest.

Yet hundreds of students broke away from the main march - providing useful cover for the rioters and vandals to go about their work.

Another way of describing them would be as 'useful idiots' - who then have the cheek to complain about police tactics.

To my mind the protesters caught up in these increasingly violent demonstrations have little to complain about - because they put themselves in harm's way.

The poor police horse had no such choice - yet it was on the receiving end of a violent attack.

Union Advice on Equal Pay

Here's a recent enquiry from a visitor to the blog site - about the advice provided by her trade union - in connection with a potential equal pay claim.

Hi Mark

I thought i would contact you because I've been asking questions of my employer and union for the best part of 18 months and still have got no answers!


I work for XXXXX Council and am also a senior union rep.

My job title is marketing assistant and I'm on a grade C which was the old scale 3. I believed I had an equal pay claim, but when I raised this with the union they didn't support me.

My question is Mark, do I have a valid claim because i've been led to believe from the union and the council that I haven't?

I will quote one officer of the council "If we start paying out for admin staff now then we might as well close the council down now".

Any answers you've got for me will be much appreciated because I'm not sure of where to turn now.

Kind regards

SM

Dear SM

Action 4 Equality Scotland has achieved equal pay settlements for many admin workers in Scotland.


The blog site explains why admin workers (or former APT&C) workers have just as valid equal pay claims - as employees in former manual worker jobs.

The real issue is the skill and responsibility of your job - and how you are paid in comparison to other council employees.

So don't believe what council managers and the unions tell you - they are effectively on the same side as each other - in many areas of the country.

Kind regards


Mark

Leave Them Kids Alone?

The latest student protester to be charged with 'disorderly conduct' is 21 year old Charlie Gilmour - son of the legendary Pink Floyd guitarist - David Gilmour.

Charlie was privately educated at the £9,000 a term Lancing College in West Sussex - so making a bigger contribution to his higher education - should be like a stroll in the park.

Now Charlie's dad could probably buy a whole university - never mind afford an extra few thousand pounds to help pay for his son's higher education - from the fortune he's made as a rock star.

And of course his parents were perfectly happy to do just that - while young Charles was going to his private fee paying 'secondary' school.

So, the whole business of charges and fees is full of hypocrisy - the point is that those in a position to make a greater contribution should do so.

Otherwise the rest of us are subsidising Charlie and his famous dad - through the public purse - which is plainly bonkers.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Which Side Are They On?

Here are two recent posts about Unison in South Lanarkshire - where for years the union has been supporting the council and its senior managers - in the ongoing dispute over equal pay.

Unison now appears to be singing a different tune - presumably because the union is rightly worried - about the quality of advice issued previously to members.

But as everyone knows - you can't face in two opposite directions at the same time.

The union can't be standing up for its members in South Lanarkshire - while Unison officials continue to support the actions of the council and senior council managers.


Don't Get Mad - Get Even

As regular readers know - after years of being in denial - Unison has suddenly decided that some of its members in South Lanarkshire - might have an equal pay claim after all.

See previous post dated 16 November 2010 - Unison in Turmoil.

Sounds a little odd to me - especially as South Lanarkshire Council claims that Unison has been at the heart of local negotiations over single status - since 1999.

But set that aside for a minute and consider what Unison is actually saying - to its members in South Lanarkshire:

'We recently commissioned an assessment of the scope for equal pay claims in South Lanarkshire - and we believe that as in other areas there may be some potential for some members being able to pursue equal pay claims'.

Now Unison members who have loyally followed the union's advice - by doing nothing about equal pay for all these years - should be asking Unison some pointed questions:

1 When was this 'assessment' carried out?

2 Who did the 'assessment' - and what are its key conclusions?

3 How do I get a copy of the 'assessment' so I can see for myself what it ?

4 What is Unison going to do about the 5 years I've wasted - by following the union's advice not to lodge an equal pay claim - up until now?

5 Does Unison intend to compensate me for the money I've lost - which runs potentially thousands of pounds?

If you're one of the many members let down by Unison in South Lanarkshire - contact Mark Irvine and Action 4 Equality Scotland for advice - 0131 652 7366 or
markirvine@compuserve.com


Unison in Turmoil

Unison is in complete turmoil in South Lanarkshire - as the union finally admits that it might have got it wrong all along - over equal pay.

The credibility of the union is now in tatters - as officials concede that they may well have given poor advice for the past five years and more - against the interests of their own members.

The union is writing to all members in South Lanarkshire - with a weasel-worded message to say that - 'some members' may have a valid equal pay claim after all.

As regular readers know - this comes after many years of the unions betraying the interests of their own low paid members - by doing deals with the council that benefited the better-off.

Unison in South Lanarkshire - according to reliable local sources - has been actively discouraging members from pursuing claims up until now.

And the Unison members who followed this advice have lost out - because their claims should have been registered years ago.

The reality is that while Action 4 Equality Scotland has spent the last five years fighting for equal pay council employees in South Lanarkshire - Unison has been sitting on its backside.

Contrast that with Action 4 Equality Scotland clients who have had had 18 days in the employment tribunal over the past year - with a further round of hearings already planned in the New Year.

Union reps and union legal advisers have been sitting in on the Action 4 Equality Scotland case - keeping a watching brief - but still the unions have taken no action.

So Unison is really shooting itself in the foot - because their advice to members looks woeful and downright shocking - in the cold light of day.

The union appears to have no shame as it tries desperately to change its tune - after years of delay and being in cahoots with the employer.

Members who have been let down in this way should consider holding Unison to account - by seeking compensation for their financial loss - which may well be substantial.

If you are one of the members let down by Unison - contact Action 4 Equality Scotland for advice - send your details to
markirvine@compuserve.com or ring the Edinburgh office on 0131 652 7366.

You may well be able to hold Unison to account for any losses you have suffered up until now - which may run to thousands of pounds - due to loss of opportunity and the union's poor advice.

And the good news is that you can hold Unison to account - at the same time as pursuing an equal pay claim against South Lanarkshire Council.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Unison Members in South Lanarkshire

Have you delayed or avoided submitting an equal pay claim against the council - because of the advice issued by Unison?

If so, you may well have lost out financially - to the tune of thousands of pounds.

Is it too late to submit an equal pay claim now?

No, it's not - but you are starting years after most other people and the five years or so that you've lost - cannot be recovered from South Lanarkshire Council.

What should I do now?

Take up an equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland - well over 2,000 South Lanarkshire Council employees have done so already - you will be in good company.

What about the poor advice I've received from the union?

We can help you with that as well - but the sooner you take action to protect your interests the better.

How do I go about making a claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland?

E-mail your contact details to: markirvine@compuserve.com or ring the Action 4 Equality Scotland office in Edinburgh on 0131 652 7366.


What if I've already got a claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland?

Just sit tight - there's no need for you to do anything - as your claim is already well underway at the Employment Tribunals.

Unison and Equal Pay

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch - to say that they've received an unsolicited letter from Unison on equal pay.

"Do I need to do anything about this letter?", readers wish to know.

If you are an existing client of Action 4 Equality Scotland.

The answer is NO - because your equal pay claim is already underway and has been for several years - for most people.

If you are not an existing client of Action 4 Equality Scotland.

The answer is YES - if you have not registered an equal pay claim because of Unison's previous poor advice - then you should definitely be asking the union what it's playing at.

Because for years Unison has been telling members in South Lanarkshire that they do not have an equal pay claim.

In fact the local Unison branch has been speaking up in support of the council over single status and equal pay - on a regular basis.

So how can the union be facing both ways at the same time - actively supporting the council yet claiming to stand up for its members?

Unison members who do not already have an equal pay claim underway with Action 4 Equality Scotland - should be asking the union if it intends to make good any financial loss you have suffered by following Unison's previous advice.

If Unison fobs you off or doesn't give you a straight answer - then you should consider taking action against the union - because you may well have lost out financially, big time.

In any event Action 4 Equality Scotland can probably help - so contact Mark Irvine by e-mail at: markirvine@compuserve.com or ring the Edinburgh office on 0131 652 7366.

I will re-publish all the recent posts about Unison and South Lanarkshire Council - for the benefit of both new and existing visitors - to the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Rumpled But Affable

The Guardian has a remarkable editorial today - praising the Home Secretary - the slightly rumpled but ever affable, Ken Clarke.

A policy U-turn most definitely - completely at odds with the Conservative manifesto in the general election - but not a protestor or howling mob in sight.

As they say - politics is a funny old business.

"In praise of … Ken Clarke

The justice secretary has a hinterland that makes him certain of who he is - and certain that he has nothing to prove

It wasn't the first time he'd provided radio listeners with a breath of fresh air: thanks to a BBC strike in 2005, clock radios set for the Today programme did not wake their owners to John Humphrys' grumbling, but to the altogether more agreeable sound of Ken Clarke chortling about Dizzy Gillespie.


When the justice secretary took to the airwaves yesterday, his purpose was more serious – to blow a gale through a generation of failed thinking on prisons, a failure that started the moment Clarke last lost control of penal policy. Since he was shuffled out of the Home Office in 1993, the prison population has doubled – a vastly wasteful development in financial and human terms.

Yes, Ken can be arrogant, and yes, he has peddled cigarettes, but his great appeal is that once he is persuaded by the force of an argument, he doesn't give a monkey's for what editors, colleagues or anyone else thinks. Pushed to reaffirm that prison worked yesterday, he offered hard-headed pragmatism in place of the dogma Michael Howard bequeathed to a line of New Labour successors.

Sweeping up evidence from New York to the Netherlands, a swaggering Clarke dismantled the link between mass jailing and the downward drift in crime, giving liberals a moment of cheer in a week dominated by Europhobic legislation and broken promises on university fees.

Like another prime minister that wasn't, Denis Healey, the bird-watching Clarke has a hinterland that makes him certain of who he is – and certain that he has nothing to prove."

Punch and Judy Politics

The current furore over tuition fees is a fine example of Punch and Judy politics - at its worst.

The Conservatives have of course been in favour of tuition fees for years - as firm believers in people generally - and students in particular - taking more personal responsibility for services they consume.

Labour were against tuition fees, of course, when they were in opposition (just like the Lib Dems) - but that policy quickly went out the window - as Labour faced up to the realities of government.

Labour were first to introduce tuition and followed this up with the ability to charge top-up fees - as the number of young people going into higher education continued to expand.

'Who should pay?', asked Labour?

'The students who stand to gain most from going on to study at colleges and universities', came the answer.

Labour also set up the latest independent review of tuition fees - with Lord Browne providing the analysis and arguments in his recent report - to justify raising fees still further.

So both Labour and Tories were set on raising tuition fees going into the general election - yet the Lib Dems have taken all the brickbats and abuse.


Even though the Libs Dems have fewest MPs - and the least public support according to all the opinion polls - and as shown in May's general election.

Now it could be argued - and I'm sure some students and their supporters would argue - that the Lib Dems should have simply held their potential coalition partners to ransom - by refusing to move their ground over tuition fees.

But that would be a ridiculous position for any smaller party to adopt - and it goes against the very grain of what coalition politics are supposed to be about - compromise and negotiation.

As it stands the Lib Dems have negotiated a package that is better than the one left behind by the last Labour government:


- no up front fees
- more financial help for students from less well off backgrounds
- a better deal for part-time students
- nothing to pay until you begin to earn above £21,000 a year

In other words a better outcome than would have been the case - if either Labour or the Tories were returned to power on their own.

Buying A Dog and Barking Yourself

A regular reader has been in touch - she already has an equal pay claim underway with Action 4 Equality Scotland.

But her enquiry is on behalf of two work colleagues - who have taken the issue up with their trade union.

Problem is that the union has asked the women to identify a 'comparator' - for the union to use in pursuing their claim.

Which is a bit like buying a dog - then doing all the barking yourself!

Because a 'comparator' is simply a higher earning male dominated job which - as the term implies - is used for comparative purposes - by women workers pursuing equal pay claims.

As the trade unions have negotiated the rates of pay for all jobs - it follows that the unions know who earns what - and why.

Putting the onus on union members to find their own comparator is completely crazy - it's turning equal pay into to some form of Do It Yourself adventure game - which begs the question:

'What are union members paying their dues for?"

So the answer for anyone in this position is to transfer their claims to Action 4 Equality Scotland - because having a dog and barking yourself is a terrible waste of time and energy.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Glasgow Unison

A group of Unison members from Glasgow have been in touch - apparently these women all submitted equal pay claims three years or so ago.

But for some reason - which has still to be explained - their claims were never processed - and now the women have been told that their claims are out of time.

Even though they've all asked Unison - politely and very reasonably it would appear - for a proper explanation about what happened - the members have not been given a straight answer.

So, they all want to know whether Unison should be responsible - for any financial loss they've suffered?

And the answer is - of course Unison should take responsibility for its actions.

Whoever's dropped the ball, the low paid members involved should not be asked to pay the price - they've already done what they were asked to do - and kept their end of the bargain.

Now is must be Unison's turn to step up to the plate - by promising to make good any financial loss the women have suffered - and the sooner the better.

All Change At Unison

Today is a big day for my old Unison colleague, Mike Kirby - who's been a big cheese in the Glasgow Unison branch for the past 17 years - as well as being the union's 'regional convener' in Scotland for all that time.

Mike has apparently been given the job of Unison's regional secretary in Scotland - replacing the previous incumbent - Matt Smith - who also held the post of regional secretary continuously - since it was first created in 1993.

Spooky or what?

The difference between the regional secretary and regional convener - is that the regional secretary is employed by Unison and manages all the other full-time staff in Scotland - on behalf of the London-based general secretary and executive council.

Whereas the regional convener is an 'ordinary' lay member - in Mike's case employed by Glasgow City Council for the past 17 years - and elected by other Unison lay members in Scotland.

No doubt Mike's appointment will have caused a bit of a stir - because he has leapfrogged right over all the other full-time officials - to claim the top job.

Regular readers will know that Mike is no stranger to the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site - here's a previous post from February 2009.

Union City Blues

Bumped into Mike Kirby in Glasgow the other day – had the look of a worried man, but then he’s got a lot to be worried about these days.

Mike is the Scottish Convener (senior elected lay member) of Unison – a position Mike has held continuously since 1993 - when the new union was formed by a merger of its three predecessors - COHSE, NALGO and NUPE.

For all of these 16 long years, Unison (Scotland) has failed to elect a woman as its Convener – despite the fact that women make up the great majority (over two thirds) of its membership.

How odd, but maybe that helps to explain why the union can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to equal pay.

Mike is also a big cheese (and permanent fixture) in the Glasgow City Council Unison branch – the largest branch in the country.

But ordinary members in Glasgow are increasingly perplexed at their union’s craven attitude towards the council’s in-house job evaluation scheme – or Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), as it’s known locally – see post dated 25 January 2009.

Some say that Unison has lost its mojo in Glasgow – its old fighting, campaigning spirit.

Remember, this is the same union branch that actively encouraged low paid women members to accept poor settlement offers from the city council in 2005 – a truly shameful episode.

So, let’s hope things start to turn round in 2009 because – when it comes to equal pay – Unison members in Glasgow have nothing to lose but their chains!

Just like buses - nothing changes in Unison for ages - then two big changes come along right at the same time.

Across the Pond

What does Wal-Mart - the giant American supermarket chain - have in common with employers in Scotland?

Well the answer is that American employers - just like employers over here - are quite prepared to use any tactics to frustrate and, if possible, prevent a proper hearing of workers' equal pay claims.

Here's an extract of a recent article from the New York Times which explains the background.

New York Times

"The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal in the biggest employment discrimination case in the nation’s history, one claiming that Wal-Mart discriminated against hundreds of thousands of women in pay and promotion.

The lawsuit seeks back pay that could amount to billions of dollars.

The question before the court is not whether there was discrimination but rather whether the claims by the individual employees may be combined as a class action.


The court’s decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of class-action suits, including ones asserting antitrust, securities and product liability, as well as other claims.

If nothing else, many pending class actions will slow or stop while litigants and courts await the decision in the case. Arguments in the case are likely to be heard this spring with a decision expected by the end of June.

Wal-Mart, which says its policies expressly bar discrimination and promote diversity, said the plaintiffs, who worked in 3,400 different stores in 170 job classifications, cannot possibly have enough in common to make class-action treatment appropriate."

Wal-Mart's argument is that employees working in diverse and different locations - should not be able to compare their pay and conditions - one to another.


Where have we heard that before?

Wal-Mart is also using its access to unlimited funds to hire expensive lawyers - with the sole purpose of frustrating the process - instead of dealing with the real issue: does pay discrimination really exist in the workplace?

Ring any bells with anyone?

An Irresponsible Strike?

According to the new general secretary of the Unite trade union - Len McCluskey - there's no such thing as an irresponsible strike.

Well most people living in Spain - and everyone travelling to and from Spain last weekend - would completely disagree - because they're giving the country's air traffic controllers absolute pelters.

Why?

The reeason is that the strikers took wildcat action last Friday and Saturday - which was deliberately timed to coincide with one of the biggest Spanish holiday weekends of the year.

The air traffic controllers had little, if any, public sympathy - not just because of the disruption to so many people and their families.

But because many of those involved are actually very well paid - earning up to 320,000 Euros a year - not to mention the damage done to the Spanish economy and the tourism industry.

The strikers actually turned up for work - yet refused to carry out their normal duties - and though the action was organised and co-ordinated - the unions pretended it was some kind of spontaneous -'grassroots' revolt.

Nobody bought that for a minute, of course - not even Spain's Socialist-led government - which promptly declared a state of emergency - and ordered all the strikers back to work.

Prime Minster - Jose Luis Zapatero - slated the strikers for abusing their monoply position to inflict misery on fellow Spaniards and the many visitors to Spain.

Sometimes trade unions are their own worst enemies.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Labour Union Links

Readers in South Lanarkshire continue to raise the extraordinary behaviour of the local Unison branch - which seems to have become some kind of cheerleader for the council.

As well as taking things up with the union directly - readers might wish to contact two local MSPs who have long standing links with Unison - Karen Gillon and Andy Kerr.

Both Karen and Andy are former members of Unison - and may well have regular contact with the local union branch - as well as the Unison hierarchy in Glasgow.

Here are their e-mail addresses:

Karen.Gillon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

Andy.Kerr.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

The e-mail addresses of other South Lanarkshire MSPs are detailed in a previous post - dated 1 December 2010.

Cosying Up With Employers

The Hamilton Advertiser published Alex Neil's press statement about South Lanarkshire Council behaving like a Victorian employer - see previous post dated 29 November 2010.

Predictably, South Lanarkshire rushed to its own defence - but hot on its heels came the local Unison branch - cosying up to the council like some kind of lovestruck teenager.

Here's an extract of the article from the local newspaper - which also reported Alex Neil's comments in full.

Hamilton Advertiser
"A council spokesman said this week: “The ongoing legal process around equal pay claims, which Alex Neil MSP is aware of, makes it difficult for us to comment as fully as we would like."

“However, South Lanarkshire Council was the first local authority in Scotland to achieve single status, including job evaluation."

“The council is confident in the integrity of the job evaluation scheme and we take our equality duties very seriously. Employees are involved, either directly or via their trade union, in the job evaluation process and we are unaware of any employee with an outstanding request for information.”

Stephen Smellie, secretary of South Lanarkshire’s Unison branch, took a dim view of the MSP’s comments.

He said: “It is a shame that a national politician wishes to make some political capital out of a situation of concern to many local people without actually knowing the facts.

“Whatever his view of South Lanarkshire Council, they don’t employ child chimney sweeps or send women down coal mines.

“Nor are they only council which did not use the national scheme he refers to. Nor is there a national review that can tell anyone what they should pay staff. Workers who wish to find out about these sort of things would be better speaking to their trade union.”


What the local Unison branch fails to explain is that the vast majority of councils in Scotland - used the nationally approved and recommended Job Evaluation scheme.

No other council in Scotland has behaved the same way as South Lanarkshire - which has failed to act openly and transparently - and has refused all requests to explain exactly what traditional male jobs are paid.

The trade unions clearly know - because the unions helped to negotiate the deals that favour some council jobs over others - so why don't they tell their members?

Haw Maw

The knives are out for Ed Miliband apparently - which seems a tad unfair as he's only few months into the job - as opposition leader and top banana in the Labour party.

I didn't have a vote in Labour's leadership election - though many people had two, three and even four - as a result of party's crazy electoral college system.

If I did have a vote, I would probably have voted for Ed's brother David - as the majority of individual party members did - and the majority of MPs as well.

But no matter what's done is done - even if the new leader has been foisted on the Labour party by a handful of boring trade union bosses - who 'united' to put their man in the hot seat.

The problem for leaders of any political party is that you've got to hit the ground running - lead from the front, not the back - and brook no nonsense from your team.

Ed Miliband made a good start the other week - when he announced that he was going to reform Labour's electoral college - yes the very same system that propelled him into office.

Ed's plan was to open things up to the public in some way - admittedly unspecified - but perhaps along the lines of the 'open' selection contests - used sometimes by the Democrat and Republican parties in the USA.

An interesting proposal - if a bit woolly - but no sooner had he floated the idea than he was slapped down by his own shadow Chancellor - Allan Johnston - a former union boss himself.

Johnson flatly rejected the plan - on the basis that it would enable members of other political parties to have a say - in who becomes Labour leader.

Yet that is precisely what happens now - in the trade union section of the electoral college.

During the Labour leadership election there were regular reports - from SNP and Lib Dem supporting trade union members.

Making fun of the fact that they had been sent a ballot paper - to choose between the Milliband brothers, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott - even though they supported other parties.

The obvious solution, of course, is to move to a system of One Member One Vote - which would put an end to all this nonsense.

Fair and democratic for sure, but it would lead to no end of Haw Maw in the Labour party - because it would put the gas of the union bosses at a peep.

Snowstorms and Equal Pay

COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) is the voice of local councils in Scotland - on everything from the weather to equal pay.

But it is also an incredibly old-fashioned, inward looking body - which takes itself far too seriously - and is hyper-sensitive to criticism.

Take the latest example whereby the Scottish Education Minister - Mike Russell - issues a mild rebuke to councils that operated a blanket policy of closing all schools - during the recent bad weather.

Instead of taking the side of the people - with a measured, considered response - COSLA effectively tells him to clear off and mind his own business - which is an odd thing to say to an Education Minister.

The point Mike Russell was making is rather simple - how come the council in Glasgow decided to close all of its schools - when they remained open in neighbouring East Renfrewshire?

Now East Renfrewshire council had the same kind of snow falling from the heavens and the terrain - if anything - is even more difficult to navigate in inclement weather than the rather more benign geography of Glasgow.

So what's the answer?

Glasgow's 'independent' schools remained open - leaving parents to decide whether the journey was safe for their children to make - instead of council bureaucrats.

Yet COSLA isn't interested in these contradictions - and takes the view that individual councils know best - even when they make completely different and directly opposite decisions from each other.

And that essential lack of leadership explains why COSLA is such an inward looking organisation - and why it fails to grasp the nettle on key issues - including equal pay.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Who's Kidding Who?

More interesting revelations over the Unison 'Members Briefing' from December 2005 - here's a further extract:

"Whilst South Lanarkshire ended bonus payments as part of the local single status negotiations, thus ending this discrimination, other councils continue this practise (sic).

The payments being offered in Glasgow are in recognition of this historical and continuing discrimination and to avoid the need for workers to take equal pay claims.

Discussions are ongoing at Scottish level to see if a framework can be arrived at for all other councils.

South Lanarkshire have not made these payments since they ended the bonus payments as part of the local agreement."

Now here comes the strange bit.


Because a reader from South Lanarkshire has passed on a copy of a letter signed by the local Unison Branch Secretary - Stephen Smellie (pronounced Smiley not Smelly) - dated 13 November 2007.

And in the penultimate paragraph of his letter Stephen Smellie says on behalf of the local Unison branch:

"In relation to your specific questions, there is no separate 'Single Status Agreement' which was signed in South Lanarkshire."

Yet the Unison briefing from 2005 couldn't be clearer - because here's what it says:

"Negotiations led to the introduction of the common conditions for all staff and the implementation of the Council's job evaluation scheme - the Competence Initiative.

Unison, GMB and TGWU were fully involved in the negotiations. Finally, following Unison's ballot of all members, an agreement was reached."

So who's kidding who here?

Sunday Post

A regular reader from South Lanarkshire has sent me a copy of her e-mail letter to the Sunday Post.

Last week the paper ran an article about Scottish councils wasting millions of pounds on expensive lawyers - most of it in defending equal pay claims from low paid council workers.

Here's what the letter says:

"Dear Sir

Congratulations on last week's paper which exposed local councils in Scotland for wasting millions of pounds on fancy lawyers.

I have an ongoing equal pay with South Lanarkshire Council which has been spending public money like it's going out of fashion - yet refuses to explain what male jobs within the council are paid.

The fact is that women's jobs in South Lanarkshire Council are all concentrated at the bottom end of the pay ladder which is a complete disgrace.

Let's hope the council gets what it deserves when these case comes to court because they can only hide behind their lawyers for so long.

Yours sincerely

MJ

Rutherglen"

The reader has also sent her letter to local MSPs - asking what they're doing to stand up for their constituents - and hold South Lanarkshire Council to account.

Labour's Dirty Double

Two former Labour MPs finally met their Waterloo today - albeit in the courts, not on the field of battle.

Former Labour minister, former GMB official and former NUS president - Phil Woolas - lost his appeal in the High Court over a dirty general election campaign - last May.

Phil Woolas had previously been found guilty of telling blatant and deliberate lies about his Lib Dem opponent during that campaign - and a special election court declared the result null and void.

Woolas refused to accept the result - hence his appeal to the High Court which upheld the original decision, as widely expected.

Woolas may now face disciplinary action by the Labour party - as he remains an individual member even though he is no longer an MP.

Elsewhere in another court, David Chaytor - another former Labour MP - pleaded guilty to three charges of false accounting.

Chaytor falsely claimed £18,350 in rent for properties in London and Bury - by producing bogus tenancy agreements which he presented to parliament for payment - as part of his MP's expenses claims.

Chaytor also falsely charged £1,950 for IT support services in May 2006 - saying that he supplied two invoices from a man named Paul France for his 'professional services' - when in fact the services had not been provided.

Chaytor will be sentenced in the New Year - for his dishonesty.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

How They Voted

Here is a list of how Holyrood MSPs voted on Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill - interesting that only one Labour member supported the proposal.

THOSE IN FAVOUR:

Christine Grahame, SNP, South of Scotland

Robin, Harper, Green, Lothians

Patrick Harvie, Green, Glasgow

Jamie Hepburn, SNP, Central Scotland

Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat, South of Scotland

Bill Kidd, SNP, Glasgow

Richard Lochhead, SNP, Moray

Margo MacDonald, Independent, Lothians

Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat, Orkney

Ian McKee, SNP, Lothians

Anne McLaughlin, SNP, Glasgow

John Park, Labour, Mid Scotland and Fife

Jeremy Purvis, Liberal Democrat, Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Iain Smith, Liberal Democrat, North East Fife

Sandra White, SNP, Glasgow

Bill Wilson, SNP, West of Scotland

THOSE OPPOSED:


Brian Adam, SNP, Aberdeen North

Bill Aitken, Conservative, Glasgow

Wendy Alexander, Labour, Paisley North

Alasdair Allan, SNP, Western Isles

Jackie Baillie, Labour, Dumbarton

Richard Baker, Labour, North East Scotland

Sarah Boyack, Labour, Edinburgh Central

Rhona Brankin, Labour, Midlothian

Ted Brocklebank, Conservative, Mid Scotland and Fife

Gavin Brown, Conservative, Lothians

Keith Brown, SNP, Ochil

Robert Brown, Liberal Democrat, Glasgow

Derek Brownlee, Conservative, South of Scotland

Bill Butler, Labour, Glasgow Anniesland

Malcolm Chisholm, Labour, Edinburgh North and Leith

Willie Coffey, SNP, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

Angela Constance, SNP, Livingston

Cathie Craigie, Labour, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth

Roseanna Cunningham, SNP, Perth

Nigel Don, SNP, North East Scotland

Bob Doris, SNP, Glasgow

Helen Eadie, Labour, Dunfermline East

Fergus Ewing, SNP, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber

Linda Fabiani, SNP, Central Scotland

Patricia Ferguson, Labour, Glasgow Maryhill

Ross Finnie, Liberal Democrat, West of Scotland

Joe FitzPatrick, SNP, Dundee West

Kenny Gibson, SNP, Cunninghame North

Rob Gibson, SNP, Highlands and Islands

Karen Gillon, Labour, Clydesdale

Marlyn Glen, Labour, North East Scotland

Trish Godman, Labour, West Renfrewshire

Annabel Goldie, Conservative, West of Scotland

Rhoda Grant, Labour, Highlands and Islands

Iain Gray, Labour, East Lothian

Hugh Henry, Labour, Paisley South

Fiona Hyslop, SNP, Lothians

Adam Ingram, SNP, South of Scotland

James Kelly, Labour, Glasgow Rutherglen

Andy Kerr, Labour, East Kilbride

Johann Lamont, Labour, Glasgow Pollok

John Lamont, Conservative, Roxburgh and Berwickshire

Marilyn Livingstone, Labour, Kirkcaldy

Kenny MacAskill, SNP, Edinburgh East and Musselburgh

Lewis Macdonald, Labour, Aberdeen Central

Ken Macintosh, Labour, Eastwood

Paul Martin, Labour, Glasgow Springburn

Tricia Marwick, SNP, Central Fife

Jim Mather, SNP, Argyll and Bute

Michael Matheson, SNP, Falkirk West

Frank McAveety, Labour, Glasgow Shettleston

Jamie McGrigor, Conservative, Highlands and Islands

Alison McInnes, Liberal Democrat, North East Scotland

Christina McKelvie, SNP, Central Scotland

David McLetchie, Conservative, Edinburgh Pentlands

Michael McMahon, Labour, Hamilton North and Bellshill

Stuart McMillan, SNP, West of Scotland

Duncan McNeil, Labour, Greenock and Inverclyde

Pauline McNeill, Labour, Glasgow Kelvin

Des McNulty, Labour, Clydebank and Milngavie

Nanette Milne, Conservative, North East Scotland

Margaret Mitchell, Conservative, Central Scotland

Alasdair Morgan, SNP, South of Scotland

Mary Mulligan, Labour, Linlithgow

Elaine Murray, Labour, Dumfries

Alex Neil, SNP, Central Scotland

Gil Paterson, SNP, West of Scotland

Peter Peacock, Labour, Highlands and Islands

Cathy Peattie, Labour, Falkirk East

Mike Pringle, Liberal Democrat, Edinburgh South

Mike Rumbles, Liberal Demcorats, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

Mike Russell, SNP, South of Scotland

Alex Salmond, SNP, Gordon

Mary Scanlon, Conservative, Highlands and Islands

John Scott, Conservative, Ayr

Tavish Scott, Liberal Democrat, Shetland

Dr Richard Simpson, Labour, Mid Scotland and Fife

Margaret Smith, Liberal Democrat, Edinburgh West

Nicol Stephen, Liberal Democrat, Aberdeen South

Stewart Stevenson, SNP, Banff and Buchan

David Stewart, Labour, Highlands and Islands

Nicola Sturgeon, SNP, Glasgow Govan

Dave Thompson, SNP, Highlands and Islands

Maureen Watt, SNP, North East Scotland

David Whitton, Labour, Strathkelvin and Bearsden

THOSE ABSTAINING

Jackson Carlaw, Conservative, West of Scotland

Charlie Gordon, Labour, Glasgow Cathcart