Saturday, 31 August 2013

Frequently Asked Questions



A frequently asked question (FAQ) that has become topical again in relation to equal pay is:

"I haven't actually registered an Equal Pay claim, but I've been told that in the event of a settlement with my employer that I've nothing to worry about - because I'll get the very same settlement as everyone else."

"Is this correct?"

NO! - definitely, absolutely not - and there's not been a Council employer in Scotland which has made 'voluntary' settlement payments to employees who do not have a claim registered with the Employment Tribunals.  

Now I know that the trade unions have given this 'duff' advice to their members at times - but this advice is completely wrong - and lots of people have lost out as a result

So, if you're in any doubt register a claim - because that's the only way to protect your interests.

If you need any further details, drop me an email to: markirvine@compuserve.com

  

Surrender Monkey




In the slow march to war in Iraq in 2003, relations between the UK, France and America were at an all time low - as the UK Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair made a strategic alliance with a Republican President, George Bush, while a more natural political ally in the shape of the Conservative French President, Jacques Chirac, flatly refused to support the case for military action against Saddam Hussein.

As the world contemplates how to respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria, the political scene is very different to that in 2003 - America has a Democrat as President (Barack Obama), the UK a Conservative Prime Minister (David Cameron) and  France has elected a Socialist President (Francois Hollande).

All three are agreed that the Syrian Government has used chemical weapons against its own people - and all three are agreed that a carefully targeted military response would play an important role in helping to protect civilians from further such deadly attacks. 

President Francois Hollande is a lifelong socialist, of course, as is Ed Miliband - the leader of the Labour Party - which makes it all the more difficult to understand how two people who share the same broad political outlook can end up facing in completely opposite directions when it comes to dealing with difficult problems like Syria - especially as French socialists, according to opinion polls, are the strongest supporters of a strike against Syria, with their far right opponents the most vocal group against taking any action.

Now I can't see President Hollande being dubbed a 'poodle' - French or otherwise - for deciding to support a tough American led response to the latest Syrian atrocities, but in doing so President Hollande and his fellow French socialists must see something -  that is somehow escaping Ed Miiband and the UK Labour Party.     

Ed's Flip Flops




Here's an interesting article by Dan Hodges - a long time Labour supporter - who has resigned his membership of the party over Ed Miliband's 'flip-flopping' behaviour on Syria.


I remember when I left the Labour Party back in 1999 - sure I had lots of disagreements on policy issues such as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), but the straw that broke the camel's back for me also came down to the duplicity of people in leadership positions who - when the chips were down - behaved with a lack of integrity.

So I can understand where Dan Hodges is coming from - and I suspect he's not alone.


Miliband was governed by narrow political interests – not those of Syrian children. I have left the Labour Party


By Dan Hodges


Whatever your view of last night’s defeat for the Government over Syria – for what it’s worth mine is it was a catastrophe for the cause of progressive interventionism – there is no avoiding the fact that it was a triumph for parliamentary democracy. The legislature asserted its will over the executive in one of the most dramatic ways imaginable, and in doing so clearly reflected the prevailing view of the British people. Let’s not hear any more about how what occurs within the House of Commons is an irrelevance.

Another thing is crystal clear. This was a grievous blow to the authority of David Cameron. As Iain Martin wrote in the immediate aftermath of the vote, “It is no good Tory MPs who helped vote this down saying, as they are tonight, that this is not a personal blow to Cameron”. It is, though whether Iain is right to describe it as a “catastrophe” for the Prime Minister only time will tell.

What is not in any doubt is that this is a catastrophe for British foreign policy. This morning Britain has the international credibility of Luxembourg. There will still, rightly, be military action against Syria. It’s just that Britain will not be a part of it. Those who wanted to see a loosening, or severing, of the “special relationship” have finally got their wish. The US will respond on behalf of the global community to the use of chemical weapons on the children of Syria without us.

But the implications go far beyond Syria. There is now no prospect of British support for any military strike against Iran, for example. Hooray, many will say. Well, be careful what you wish for. Because the events of the past 24 hours will have been observed just as closely in Jerusalem as they have been in Damascus. And Israel will have watched the spectacle of British politicians stating events in the middle-east are not their concern, and she will not forget. Unlike us, when the Israelis say “never again”, they mean it.

Yesterday Nick Clegg said that he did not want to be part of a generation of British politicians that chose “to walk by on the other side”. Well, through no fault of his own, he is. Britain is now an isolationist nation. And neither we, nor the world, are stronger for it.

The same can be said for the political party that I was a member of until late yesterday evening. There are many Labour MPs who voted against the Government yesterday in good conscience. But the spectacle of some of their colleagues who sprinted through the lobbies in support of the Iraq invasion tweeting self-righteous platitudes about how the Government has “to do better” in presenting the case for war was nauseating. If they have genuinely learnt the lessons of 2003 fine. But they should at least have had the good grace to do so with humility.

Which brings me to their leader. Before the vote I penned a piece in which I said Ed Miliband’s atrocious performance in yesterday’s debate, indeed his conduct over the past 72 hours, amounted to his “Westland moment”. In its aftermath my Twitter feed was filled with people joyously inviting me to recant in the face of his Commons “triumph”.

But in fact, I actually think yesterday’s vote serves only to underline my point. Up until yesterday I had thought Ed Miliband was a weak leader. I doubted, and still doubt, he has what it takes to make it to Downing Street. But I also thought that despite his numerous flaws, Miliband was basically an honorable man who was struggling to align his natural liberal instincts with the new conservatism that is the by-product of the age of austerity.

His conduct over the past week shows that’s simply not the case. In another passage of his response to last night’s vote Iain Martin asks, “Why on earth did the Conservative leader and his aides not war-game this properly? Their strategy was predicated on the Labour leadership falling in to line behind intervention. It was always a daft presumption”.

The answer is David Cameron believed Labour would fall in line because Ed Miliband kept telling him they would. Yesterday, there was lots of debate about who had said what to whom in what meeting or what phone conversation.

But these facts are indisputable. Ed Miliband said that if he was to back the Government, David Cameron would have to publish the legal advice upon which the case for war rested. David Cameron agreed, and did so.

Ed Miliband then said a solid case needed to be presented demonstrating the Assad regime’s culpability for the chemical attacks. David Cameron agreed, and published the JIC analysis which concluded “there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility”.

Ed Miliband then said the Government would have to exhaust the UN route before any recourse to military action. David Cameron agreed, and confirmed he would be submitting a motion to the P5 to that effect.

Ed Miliband said he would need to await the UN weapons inspectors report. David Cameron agreed.

Finally, and crucially, Ed Miliband said there would have to be not one, but two House of Commons votes before military action could be authorised. Once again David Cameron agreed.

And then, having sought – and received – all these assurances from the Prime Minister, Ed Miliband went ahead and voted against the Government anyway.

It may well be that the way Ed Miliband has conducted himself over the past week will work to his political advantage. There’s no doubt there will be lots of briefing today about a “game changing” moment. The line in his conference speech where he solemnly tells his audience, “people criticised me for the stand I took on Syria. But there are times when you have to do what’s in your heart” will already have been inked in. As will the pause to enable him to modestly acknowledge the subsequent standing ovation.

But Miliband’s “victory” has come at a price. David Cameron has lost much of his authority over Syria. But he at least had the courage to stand up, set out his case, and do what he felt was right.

Ed Miliband did not. Over the past week we have had the spectacle of the leader of the opposition busily beating his swords into plougshares, then back into swords, and finally back into plougshares again. I still have no idea whether he really supported or opposed military action against Syria, and now I never will. What I do know is that at every step of the way Ed Miliband’s actions were governed by what was in his own narrow political interests, rather than the national interest. As for the children of Syria, they didn’t even get a look in.

This week I’ve seen the true face of Ed Miliband. And I suspect that the country has too.

Living the Dream

I enjoyed this thoughtful and intelligent opinion piece by Philip Collins in the Times yesterday - which made me think about how history is made and how times change.

Sometimes events that seem earth shattering are forgotten within days, but at others they gain a peculiar momentum - and become capable of changing the world. 

They don’t make speeches like that any more

By Philip Collins

Unlike much of today’s rhetoric, Martin Luther King’s words made a difference — and their music is unmatched

Two score years and ten after Martin Luther King dreamt out loud, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, that every valley be exalted and that there could be no rest until justice rolled down like water, why does this speech still matter and why does nobody speak like this any longer? The answer to both questions is the same and it is visible in the man who on Wednesday paid tribute to King: Barack Obama.

The peculiar genesis of the speech which we know now as I Have a Dream explains why it could not be given today. In Behind the Speech, his memoir of being King’s speechwriter, Clarence B Jones quotes another adviser, Wyatt Walker, as saying: “Don’t use the lines about ‘I have a dream’. It’s trite. It’s cliché. You’ve used it too many times already.” King had, indeed, used the refrain many times before, most notably once at a large rally in Detroit.

At the time, King yielded to the advice. He too was bored, as he admits in his autobiography, of this rather obvious locution, which had grown stale through repetition. He printed the final text at 4am on August 28, 1963, as the light was breaking outside. There was no reference to a dream in it anywhere.

That morning 250,000 Americans, most but not all of them black, rolled into Washington from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, from the mighty mountains of New York, from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, from the curvaceous slopes of California, from Stone Mountain of Georgia, from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee and from every hill and molehill of Mississippi to tell their legislators that every man and woman of America was of equal worth.

The March to Washington was held, according to the diaries of Arthur Schlesinger Jr, against the express wishes of President Kennedy, who feared that any violence would be used in Congress as a pretext for opposing his Civil Rights Act. The activists proceeded anyway, although Kennedy insisted on control of the on-off button for the sound. Alcohol was banned for the first time since Prohibition as the multitude gathered. Sixteenth on the bill was the noted leader of the Southern Christians, the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King.

When King spoke, he was greeted with muted applause by a crowd that had become weary in the heat. As he was moving into his peroration, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was standing behind King and who had seen his Detroit speech, cried out: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin. Tell ’em about the dream.”

Watch the speech now and you can see the moment that King shifts his body and pauses, rather awkwardly. At that moment he abandoned the text crafted by his writers. “So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow,” he said, “I still have a dream.” “Aw, shit,” said Walker. “He’s using the dream.”

The passage that follows is as cogently structured and vividly rendered as any in all the history of public speech. It has all the hallmarks of having been crafted and rehearsed, which of course it had. King had said something like it many times. This was a common tactic of the era. The speaker would test an idea, rather like a comedian improving her material in every theatre. JFK had done the same with: “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .”, which he said more or less every time he went on the campaign trail.

Any speaker who tried that today would be written off as rhetorically exhausted. There are too many people watching, each with a voice that can easily be made public. The repetition is also compelling evidence that it is not the power of the words alone that make a speech memorable. All of the previous versions of I Have a Dreamare lost to posterity because they were not uttered on a suitably grand occasion or with historic cause. When the question is the legal status of the black citizens of Birmingham, Alabama, the biblical imagery works. When the issue is taking ten minutes off the commuting time to Birmingham, West Midlands, it doesn’t.

This time the words mattered and the effect lingered, which is the next lesson. Rhetoric is always written off as silver-tongued flattery or duplicity unless the words become deeds. Before King wandered off with all his talk of dreaming, the speech had the title of Normalcy, Never Again. It’s hardly a resounding phrase but it is a fine description of what a great speech has to accomplish. The reason we still refer to I Have a Dream is because it was followed by, even if it did not directly cause, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the award to King of the Nobel Peace Prize and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

After the March on Washington it was never normalcy again. It is true that the march had been called for jobs as much as for civil rights and that hope remains desperately unfulfilled. But the demand for equal treatment with respect to the civil law was won. This period marked the start of the long and incomplete American effort to expiate the greatest blemish on its history, the disgrace of slavery.

To the extent that it has done so, great speeches are harder to make. The anthologies of great speeches are full of people who righted a wrong. Like history itself, these are books full of the victors. We tend not to record fine words said in losing causes.

On Wednesday the President of the United States, the grandson of a Kenyan goatherd, commemorated King’s legacy. That sentence contains the main reason why it is hard today to speak as poetically as King did then. It is because, by conjuring unmatched oratorical power honed by years in the Church, the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King changed the world.

It would be wrong to say that the nations in the developed world are free of injustice for they never will be. The great causes, though, are mostly to be found in the dreams and the hopes of those who have a fraction of even the worst-off in the lucky countries of the world. A great speech crystallises the truth of the present and helps to create the future. The fact that no great speech has yet emerged from the Arab Spring tells you that this is an inchoate struggle across many nations that has yet to find either definition or an eloquent spokesman. Without either it will, in every country, be vulnerable to those who repel words with guns and gas. I have a dream, though, that 50 years on we might be commemorating the speech that brought civil rights to Syria, China, Iran, North Korea.

This is not the fond hope it sounds, because King offers a reminder that scribbled marks on a page, arranged in order, connect to something deep within us. I often ask people to read any Obama speech out loud. Without the President’s singing voice, the effect is flat. Then I ask them to read the final words of I Have a Dream.

Try it yourself now. Even in your voice, in your home, 50 years after the event, you have to be hard of heart not to feel their force: “From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


So to make things easy for readers - here's a clip of that famous speech again

Friday, 30 August 2013

Green for Go



I attended a really enjoyable meeting in Lanark last night organised by the Green Party in Lanarkshire - to discuss Equal Pay and Freedom of Information (FOI).

I didn't really know what to expect, but as it turned out there were over 30 people present on the night - which was an impressive turnout by any standards.

I think it's fair to say that no one had a good word to say about South Lanarkshire Council - or the local trade unions for that matter - although this all contributed to a lively debate about recent developments at the UK Supreme Court and the Council's approach for serious talks about a possible settlement of all the outstanding A4ES equal pay claims.

I was struck by how angry and betrayed people feel by a Council which is supposed to look after their interests, how they were kept in the dark for so long - until the UK Supreme Court finally lifted the veil of secrecy which has kept the Council's pay arrangements hidden from public scrutiny all these years.  

Yet despite an air of evident disbelief that a Labour led council has behaved this way - without challenge from supposedly independent and highly paid senior officials9or the unions) - the people present last night were determined to see things through to the end and make their voices heard.

So, I fully expect local councillors, MSPs and MPs to hear increasingly from local voters and  constituents - demanding to know what their political representatives are doing to hold South Lanarkshire Council to account.

The Green Party in Lanarkshire are happy to play their part and can be contacted via the following web link: www.lanarkshiregreens.org

I came away really buoyed up by the evening's events and a peculiar thing happened on my way out of as I left building (Harry Smith Centre) - the following piece of music was being played over the public address system -  'In the Arms of an Angel' by the Canadian singer songwriter Sarah McLaughlin.

Now the reason this song stopped me in my tracks had nothing to do with Equal Pay of Freedom of Information - it's because the music was played at the funeral of my dear Mum and the track was specially chosen by my young brother, Kevin, who sadly died in a motorbike crash in Bolivia last year.

"What a strange coincidence", I said to myself at the time, yet another bad omen for South Lanarkshire Council - because with mysterious powers like that at work there's simply nowhere left for this rogue Council to hide.       

In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLaughlin



Herald Editorial

Here's a hard-hitting editorial from yesterday's Herald newspaper that needs no further comment from me - let's hope that South Lanarkshire Council is listening.


Shocking that equal pay claims still being fought

Public bodies have certain obligations which, while potentially costly, are non-negotiable.
Providing similar pay to men and women doing jobs requiring similar levels of skill, is one of those obligations.
It is not hard to imagine the dismay felt by council finance directors when faced with potentially expensive equal pay claims from underpaid women, but, to use an American term: too bad.
Paying women less than men for similarly skilled work is an iniquitous hangover from an age when women who worked were regarded as second class employees who were invading the male sphere, and reflects an ongoing tendency for jobs in which women prevail - caring and administrative roles, for instance - to be undervalued. Forty-three years after the Equal Pay Act it is laughable that women must still fight to have the true value of their work reflected in their pay packets.
News that talks are now to take place between South Lanarkshire Council and the representatives of claimants is welcome, but woefully overdue. It reflects very badly on the council that it has only been brought to the negotiating table after having resisted revealing information related to pay scales all the way to the Supreme Court.
Not only has the bloody-minded pursuit of that doomed challenge cost council taxpayers a sum thought to be in the region of £200,000 - for South Lanarkshire's own legal costs and that of the Information Commissioner - but the council's intransigence in not settling the claims sooner may have have added significantly to the final bill. If resisting the claims seemed like a good idea once, not any more. Every year that has passed since these claims were brought has ratcheted up the bill the council will eventually have to pay. There are 3000 unfair pay claims outstanding in the South Lanarkshire case - some dating back to 2000 - which some estimates suggest could in the end cost the council over £100m to settle.
Let this sorry tale be a warning to other councils and indeed other employers generally who might be minded to delay or resist such a process. The longer employers stand in the way of claims, the larger the potential bill becomes.
It is not as if South Lanarkshire is the first council to face such claims, after all.
The case has finally reached this point following the efforts of the group Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) - not a campaign by unions. If, as A4ES's Mark Irvine suggests, this is because of an unwillingness on the part of South Lanarkshire unions to fight the issue, that is worrying and can only harm the unions in the long term.
It is not over yet. Hearings were to have taken place at the employment tribunal in Glasgow in September but have now been postponed. Instead, talks are to take place to resolve the claims. If they can be settled fairly, amicably and above all prompting it will be best for all concerned.

More Belly Laughs


Here are some more 'words of wisdom' from the Stewards Briefing issued by the Unison South Lanarkshire Branch - eight years ago on 25 August 2013.


"Who are these "No Win No Fee" lawyers?"  


"Action 4 Equality are led by a lawyer called Stefan Cross who has made a name for himself, and lots of money, cherry picking cases in the North of England. The "No win no fee" lawyers identify where employers have been slow to address equal pay. They pick a few easy cases where they can demonstrate a woman doing similar work valued work is paid less than a man. If they win at tribunal they cream off up to 30% of the settlement for themselves. Workers going with them are obliged to sign a contract that gives them the right to drop the case whenever they choose, usually when they deem that they can't make enough profit." 

Now there are so many things wrong with this ridiculous statement it's difficult to choose where to start, but here are a few obvious points to correct.

South Lanarkshire Council was not 'slow' to deal with equal pay and single status - in fact the Council claims to have been the first in Scotland to apply the 1999 Agreement (in 2004) - so South Lanarkshire has not been targeted for being at the back of the pack.

Instead South Lanarkshire is in a terrible mess because it deliberately ignored advice from COSLA (the employers' body) on job evaluation - having helped to draw up that advice - and instead went its own arrogant way with an in-house job evaluation scheme which has since been declared as 'unfit for purpose' by the Employment Tribunals.

The trade unions at Scottish level gave the same advice to their local branches, but the local union reps in South Lanarkshire seem to have become far too close to the Council - because why else would they fail to heed the advice of their national union leaders? 

Readers can draw their own conclusions, but in my experience this is a classic case of   trade unions at a local level becoming far to cosy and chummy with the Council - to the detriment of their lowest paid members.

Action 4 Equality Scotland has not picked up a 'few easy cases' which is a laughable thing to say - especially as A4ES has been fighting for equal pay in South Lanarkshire for the past 8 years while the trade unions, including Unison, were doing their level best to discourage members from raising equal pay claims.

A4ES charges a success fee of 10% on clients' settlements and that figure has always been the same - which seems like a great deal to me when you think that all the costs of fighting these cases since 2005 has not cost our clients a single penny.

The trade unions on the other and have been taking their members' union contributions - week in week out since 1999 - yet all the while they have been making a complete dog's dinner of equal pay. 



Tickety Boo! (26 August 2013)


I promised to return to the 'Stewards Briefing' from  the Unison South Lanarkshire Branch  which was passed on to me recently - so here are a few extracts of what it has to say. 

The document is dated 26 August 2005 - exactly eight years ago today.

"EQUAL PAY CLAIMS - WHY SOUTH LANARKSHIRE IS DIFFERENT"

"Stewards will have seen the press coverage of a firm of English lawyers who are offering to run equal pay claims in Scotland. You may also have seen leaflets from this firm in the name of Action 4 Equality Scotland, promising thousands of pounds in compensation. Mark Irvine, who was formerly a UNISON official, is fronting this firm. 

The situation in South Lanarkshire is different from the other 31 local authorities in Scotland. Here the Council has negotiated and agreed a settlement with UNISON, TGWU and GMB that deals with equal pay and the overall issues of Single Status.

Most, though not all, other Councils have adopted the Job Evaluation Scheme recommended by the Scottish Joint Council (SJC - COSLA and the 3 unions at Scottish level). South Lanarkshire Council has instead used the Competence Initiative to assess and grade jobs within the Council. At the same time they negotiated with the 3 unions to introduce common terms and conditions."

Now I think a fair summary of what this briefing document is saying is that everything in South Lanarkshire is just 'tickety boo' - that Single Status is a done deal and union members don't need to be concerned about equal pay or any need to pursue equal pay claims with their Council employer.

But this is the same South Lanarkshire Council whose 'in-house' Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) was declared 'unfit for purpose' by a Glasgow Employment Tribunal last year - because it fails to comply with Equal Pay legislation.

What the document doesn't say is that after the Job Evaluation exercise the Council's female dominated jobs - carers, cooks, catering staff, cleaners, classroom assistants, clerical workers - all stayed firmly at the bottom of the Council's pay ladder.

Yet the purpose of the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement in Scotland was to sweep away years of historical pay discrimination facing these traditionally female dominated jobs - and give them a much better deal in future.

The argument then, as now, was not that traditional male jobs were paid too much - but that the women's jobs were paid far too little - how could a gardener's or a refuse worker's job be worth £9 or £10 an hour and a carer's or cook's job, for example, be worth only £6 an hour?  

And as everyone in South Lanarkshire knows now - thanks to the UK Supreme Court - the Council tried to keep these pay details secret for years instead of coming clean and explaining the true nature of the 'deal' that had been struck with the unions.  

So these chickens are now coming home to roost, but I was struck by the language directed towards Stefan Cross as an 'English lawyer' - as if his nationality was in any way relevant to the fight for Equal Pay.

Not surprisingly, ordinary union members in South Lanarkshire didn't listen to this drivel and voted with their feet by pursuing equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland - in their thousands.

In my view, the unions became far too close and cosy with the Council - because they failed to stand up for the interests of their lowest paid members when it mattered most - and they're paying a high price for that craven behaviour now. 

Mickey Mouse and Equal Pay

I put this post up on the blog site back in June 2013 - before the FOI appeal involving South Lanarkshire Council reached the UK Supreme Court in London on 8 July 2013.


The subsequent decision of the UK Supreme Court has forced South Lanarkshire to release certain pay information which - in my view - demonstrates that the Council was operating a 'two tier' workforce in which traditional male jobs were more favourably treated than their women colleagues.

I think this matter should now be reported to the Accounts Commission for Scotland - the public spending 'watchdog' for all Scottish Councils.

So watch this space. 

Mickey Mouse and Equal Pay (19 June 2013)


Here's what I said about South Lanarkshire Council's 'Mickey Mouse' job evaluation scheme - back on 16 January 2008.

Four years later these words have been vindicated - with the Employment Tribunal in Glasgow deciding that the South Lanarkshire Council scheme does not comply with the terms of the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

What a shocker for the leadership of this increasingly ridiculous council - but what a victory for the thousands of low paid women - who have been fighting for equal pay all these years.

I will have more to say in the days ahead - for the moment what I had to say in 2008 will suffice - although it's worth pointing out that Action 4 Equality Scotland now represents more than 2,400 clients in South Lanarkshire.

South Lanarkshire Council should hang its head in shame - if you ask me, its behaviour has been a total embarrassment and disgrace.
  

Mickey Mouse, South Lanarkshire and Job Evaluation

South Lanarkshire Council has asked Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross to explain the basis of our challenge to its Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

We're delighted to do so. In fact, so delighted, we've decided to give them what they really deserve - both barrels.

So, here's what we've said on behalf of our 1500 South Lanarkshire clients.

The history of single status is that the pre-2003 pay arrangements were widely accepted as discriminatory - by both the employers and unions - so any scheme that simply reproduces the old pay differentials (between male and female groups) is itself discriminatory and unfair

The council failed to use a recognised and professionally approved scheme - instead they used a Mickey Mouse scheme dreamed up by a handful of senior councillors and council officials - a scheme that no one can now explain or defend.

The JES is completely subjective and does not measure the day-to-day demands of people's jobs - which is what's supposed to happen with a professionally approved scheme.

4 A variety of posts have been amalgamated into single job categories and given the same grade - even though the content and demands of these posts are very different.

5 The grading exercise was done by job families which are segregated along gender lines and so are tainted with sex bias - e.g. almost all Land Services employees are men and they're paid better (surprise, surprise) than the female groups.

The grading exercise was carried out by different people and on a different basis for each job family - so the scheme is not consistent or fair.

The grading exercise was carried out by line managers who were not independent or qualified to do such work - management lackeys in other words.

The council is concealing how all the jobs were assessed and scored - job profiles contain no information about Factor Headings, Factor Levels, Factor Weighting and individual Job Scores.

The underlying purpose of the exercise was really to maintain the status quo - i.e. the higher pay of the traditional male jobs - see post dated 14 November 2007.

10 Pay and grading were done together - so that past pay was taken into account - which is very, very naughty and against all JES rules.

11 Actual pay bears no relation to the score of a post - e.g. a Band 2 female post does not receive the same pay as a Band 2 male post. Why?

12 The JES process is not transparent, open and user friendly - as required. Key information is still being withheld to conceal the fact that many traditional male jobs continue to earn much more than their female colleagues.

13 The grading exercise was undertaken in 2003, but was not subject to an independent Equal Pay Audit until two years later - predictably the details of the independent audit have been kept secret as well. Wonder why?

14 Bonus payments in South Lanarkshire have not really disappeared - they've simply been consolidated into much higher salaries for the men.

Now all of this is very well know to the senior councillors and managers who negotiated South Lanarkshire's single status scheme in 2003 - along with Unison and GMB officials.

And while Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross want the facts to come out into the open - the council and the unions want to keep the workforce in the dark.

Who's kidding who?