Monday, 23 October 2017

The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow


Here's a comment I received over the weekend from a regular reader on the important subject of Pensions and Equal Pay. 

You are doing so well fighting our corner Mark and I thank you

As I have now retired what the council must remember is my pension has been effected by their non recognition of equal pay.

Many of my colleagues are in this same boat.

Keep going

Regards


Y

The reader is spot on, you know, because low paid women workers in Glasgow have been retiring for years on much poorer lump sums (normally tax free) and annual pensions than their male colleagues employed as council Gardeners, Gravediggers and Refuse Workers.

Now A4ES fought long and hard to have equal pay settlements paid on a pensionable basis (without support from the trade unions it has to be said) and so I'll post some information on the blog site to show what a huge difference this can make to people's retirement packages.

So watch this space.

  



The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow (22/10/17)


I promised to say more about Friday's lively equal pay meeting at the Dixon Hall on the south side of Glasgow, so here are some other issues that came up on the day.

Job Evaluation 
Glasgow's pay arrangements have been declared 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session which means that as well as settling all the outstanding equal pay claims, the City Council will need to replace or review its WPBR job evaluation scheme (JES).

Glasgow introduced its own 'in-house' JES back in 2007 instead of operating the 'Gauge' scheme which had been recommended by COSLA (the council employers' organisation) and the national trade unions.

So the national scheme would seem to be the obvious choice to replace the WPBR so long as it is implemented properly and independently because North Lanarkshire Council used the national scheme, but manipulated the results to suit its own purpose.

I have lots of information job evaluation and what happened in North Lanarkshire which I'll share on the blog site in the days ahead.     

Court of Session 
A4ES has now finalised its 'answers' to Glasgow City Council's application 'seeking leave to appeal' the Court of Session decision which judged the WPBR to be unfit for purpose.

I'll share the answers on the blog site in the next day or two because they make interesting reading and will give people an insight into just how weak a case the City Council is presenting.

I expect Glasgow's application to fail because of the strength of the earlier judgment from the Court of Session, but whatever happens I understand that we can expect to hear the outcome sometime in November, all going well.  

At that point the City Council still faces the same dilemma about whether or not to proceed with the appeal process to the UK Supreme Court although the council leader, Susan Aitken, has madder position very clear.

Strike action 
A number people have asked me whether taking industrial action would be a good idea - as a way of forcing the Council's hand

I suspect not, certainly not at this stage, because the new leadership of the City Council says it has 'got the message' and is determined to bring about a negotiated settlement of Glasgow's long-running equal pay dispute.

So I would park that issue for the moment and wait to see what actually happens over the next month or so.   

Settlement process 
I have lots of information about the settlement process in other councils which I'll share on the blog site. No two situations are ever completely the same, but this may give people some food for thought. 

Reporting back and involving people 
My blog site is the best and most reliable source information that I know of when it comes to the fight for equal pay and anyone with a question or comment is welcome to drop me a note to: markirvine@compuserve.com
  
  

The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow (21/10/17)


Friday's equal pay meeting at the Dixon Hall on Glasgow's south side went very well, I thought.

Around 100 people attended, predominantly Home Carers from Cordia, but I also met with Cooks, Cleaners, Janitors, Clerical Workers and Classroom Assistants, so a wide cross section of council staff turned out on the day.

As the new leader of an SNP-led Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken re-stated the new administration's intention to end the long-running legal battle in the courts and bring about a negotiated settlement of all the outstanding equal pay claims.

Cllr Aitken also gave an assurance that an urgent 'round table' meeting would be held soon  with Action 4 Equality Scotland and the other claimant organisations, Unison and the GMB, and that Council leaders would attend this first meeting to help 'set the scene' for future talks.   

Lots of questions and comments were made which I will deal with in a separate post, but if you ask me the most significant development was confirmation that at long last a serious dialogue with the City Council about potential settlement terms is about to get underway.  

I think it's pretty clear that a big battle is still taking place behind the scenes with senior council officials and advisers who would prefer to keep fighting through the courts which is perhaps not surprising, because many of these people are responsible for the 'deep hole' that Glasgow now finds itself in today.

Yet by refusing to accept the unanimous decision of Scotland's highest civil court that Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme is 'unfit for purpose' these individuals keep the good times rolling for a while more at least and can just walk away when it suits their purpose, having wreaked havoc on thousands of lives as well as the City Council's finances.

So the proof of the pudding will be in this long awaited 'round table' meeting getting down to serious business which means setting out a clear road map and timetable for achieving a settlement of the outstanding claims.

Visit the blog site again tomorrow for an update on lots of other important issues that were raised at Friday's meeting including: 
  • Job Evaluation - potions and good practice
  • Court of Session - seeking 'leave to appeal'
  • Strike action - would this help or hinder the cause
  • Settlement process - what happened in other councils
  • Reporting back - how to keep people informed and involved
  

The Fight For Equal in Glasgow (20/10/17)


I am going along to an Equal Pay meeting later today which is being held at 1.45pm in the Dixon Hall on the south side of Glasgow.

I understand that the Leader of the City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, is planning to be there which is good news if you ask me, because there is precious little information coming from City Council council officials.

I hope there will be some definite progress to report on two particular issues:
  • the provision of pay data on the operation of the WPBR/EDC - which the Council has been promising for months
  • the establishment of a proper negotiating process and timetable for settling all of the outstanding equal pat claims
So fingers crossed!

I will post a brief report and my own thoughts about the meeting when I get a minute over the weekend. 

  

The Fight for Equal Pay in Glasgow (19/10/17)


Here is my latest FoI request to Glasgow City Council which asks for copies of or access to the minutes of the council's senior management team over the past 10 years.

Now it's my belief that this is not really an FoI request at all because this information ought to be freely available (as it is in other councils) from the City Council's archives in both hard copy and digital form.

But I decided to submit a formal FoI request because this forces the City Council to respond and explain its position, in writing, which has the the advantage that the FoI process provides for the independent scrutiny of GCC's response via the Scottish Information Commissioner, if necessary.

The City Council could have responded to my request days ago, in a positive and helpful manner, by explaining how and where this information can be accessed either at the City Chambers or elsewhere.

So far I've heard nothing further and I suspect I'm unlikely to do so until the council exhausts its deadline for responding to my FoI request (20 working days) which will take us into the middle of November 2017. 

In them meantime, I'm not hanging around and I'm going to make my own enquiries about accessing the City Council's archives with a view to inspecting important council-wide and departmental reports, as well as 'minutes' from the the Corporate Management Team.

Now all of these documents should be freely available to public view and should not be restricted in any way; if any vital papers are missing that will tell its own story and the City Council's ability to defend the cockamamy WPBR/EDC pay scheme will fall apart.

After making some initial enquiries about how best to conduct this search, I will be looking for some volunteers to help out and get to the bottom of things - which is where this FoI hunt differs from others I have made in the past with Glasgow and other councils. 

As I've said on the blog site lots of times - 'Many Hands Make Light Work' so if you think you can help, drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com 

Glasgow council librarians and committee clerks are especially welcome to get in touch, in complete confidence of course.


Annemarie O'Donnell
Chief Executive
Glasgow City Council


Dear Ms O'Donnell

FOISA Request
I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. 
  1. Please provide me with the minutes of Glasgow City Council's Corporate Management Team (CMT) for the period between December 2006 and December 2016. 
  2. I suspect these minutes may well be available online, as they are routinely in other Scottish councils, in which case I would be happy for Glasgow City Council to provide me with an appropriate internet link/s so that I can peruse the relevant documents for myself.
  3. If there are any issues about inspecting the minutes online, please explain how I can access and peruse 'hard copies' of these documents from within the City Council's archives.
In any event, I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by e-mail at: 

markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards



Mark Irvine 

GMB, Union Dues and Equal Pay



Regular readers of the blog site are suitably unimpressed at the latest revelations involving the GMB union.

"Was with the GMB for years now retired, never very supportive of their years!"

A


"Fsake!"

L


"Imagine paying your union dues for years and being treated like that. No wonder members are leaving the GMB hand over fist."  

M


  

GMB, Union Dues and Equal Pay (19/10/17)


Here's a copy of a letter a reader sent me recently in which the GMB threatens to stop representing someone on whose behalf the union has been pursuing an equal pay claim.

Now I could see the reason for this if the person simply decided to stop being a union member, but in this case I understand that the woman left her council employment for another job where there is no point being a member of the GMB.

The same would be true if someone stopped working altogether or retired from their job, for example, so this all sounds rather harsh and punitive if you ask me. 


Dear Sir/Madam

GMB Equal Pay Claim

Our records show that you have lapsed in your membership of GMB Scotland. For us to continue to represent you legally in a claim for Equal Pay, as per GMB's rule book, you have to be a financial member of GMB.

Should you wishful us to continue representing you please contact our membership department to reinstate your subscriptions to GMB, and possibly complete a legal mandate to pay back arrears (amounts will vary depending on circumstances). Please contact Fiona on 0141 352 8122 or Claire on 0141 352 8154 who will assist you.

If you have been in touch with GMB to address the issue, please disregard this letter.

We look forward to hearing from you 

Regards



GMB Scotland 


  

GMB, Pensions and Equal Pay (17/10/17)



I heard from another GMB member who has been left high and dry over a long-running request to make an equal pay settlement from North Lanarkshire Council payable on a pensionable basis.

Hi Mark,

Hope you are keeping well.

I just read your blog on NLC pensions re calculations - or the lack of.

I've put in an official complaint to NLC and am still waiting for my complaint to be "investigated " 4/5 weeks later.

I emailed the pension office on Thursday for an update but no answer yet.

I reckon there must be people dying whilst waiting for this inept bunch to get the finger out.

You can pass my email on to the person who wrote to you as we both received our pay settlement in January.

Regards


C

I can't for the life of me figure out why the GMB union should leave these members to fight for themselves, but it's a disgraceful state of affairs. 

The length of time North Lanarkshire Council is taking to sort things out is a disgrace too which is why anyone in this position should ask their local MSP and MP to get involved.

A written complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman would encourage NLC to get its finger out as well.

  

GMB, Pensions and Equal Pay 


Here's another example of why it makes a lot of sense to have A4ES in your corner in the fight for equal pay.

I have to say I find it hard to believe that the GMB union can be so useless, especially after all the hard work has already been done by Action 4 Equality Scotland.

So for anyone still fighting for equal pay, don't let anyone tell you that it makes no difference who handles your claim - because all the evidence suggests it does.

Hi Mark,

I write once again regarding the NLC Equal pay shambles. I have been onto Strathclyde pensions twice since receiving my payout in January and they have confirmed on both occasions that they have not received the pension contributions that were deducted from my offer.

I’m unsure if it’s the council themselves or if it would be the union or their lawyers who should have sorted this. The person I spoke to today in pension place has assured me there is no backlog and can see no reason why they haven’t received my money.

I've checked with a few of the other girls and it seems this problem isn't just isolated to me. I'm just wondering what you would do in our position.

Gary Smith suggests raising a grievance with my employer but I'm unsure.

Kindest regards


E


Hi E

Pensions and Equal Pay 

I'm afraid that I can't get directly involved in your individual case as you are not an A4ES client.

If I remember correctly you are a member of the GMB union which may help to explain why things have gone so badly wrong with the handling of your equal pay claim.

As you know, A4ES fought a long campaign to win the right or equal pay claimants to have their settlements paid on a pensionable basis.

A4ES raised a successful appeal with Scottish Government Ministers which resulted in huge benefits for many low paid workers in North Lanarkshire Council, and elsewhere.

Sadly, the GMB union did not support this campaign or the appeal to Scottish Ministers and I believe the trade unions, more generally, were advising their members that equal pay settlements could not be made on a pensionable basis.

Now this was incorrect advice, of course, as A4ES proved, like so much of the 'advice' the trade unions have issued in relation to equal pay over the years.

I see that you have been in touch with the GMB's regional secretary in Scotland, Gary Smith, who suggests raising a grievance with North Lanarkshire Council, according to your email at least.

But I would expect the GMB to do this on your behalf instead of leaving you to fend for yourself, as if Equal Pay and Pensions were some kind of DIY project.

I would also contact your local MSP for support especially as the 'argument' involved has been determined previously by Scottish Ministers.

So I fail to see what the problem is for the GMB union, or anyone else, because the truth is that on this issue A4ES has already done all the 'heavy lifting', as it has done on so many others.

I will put this email on my blog site (without mentioning your name or personal details) in case there are other people in North Lanarkshire who are experiencing the same problems.

If anyone gets in touch with me, I will pass on their contact details which may allow you to work together to sort things out.

Good luck!



Mark

  

Pensions and Equal Pay (31/08/17)


A number of readers from North Lanarkshire have been in touch to say that they complained to NLC's chief executive (Paul Jukes) about the delay in making their equal pay settlements 'pensionable'.

A council official has responded to say that NLC intends to hand over all the required information to the Strathclyde Pension Fund by the end of September 2017 and what the readers wish to know is:

"Shall we withdraw our complaint and 'stand down' local North Lanarkshire MSPs and/or MPs who have been asked to support the complainants?"


Definitely not, I would say, because we have been here before with North Lanarkshire Council saying one thing and then doing another - or in this case not doing anything at all, for months and months.

So I would keep on at the Council and continue to lobby local politicians for support because it seems like the threat of complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman has finally forced the council to 'get its finger out'.


Regular readers will recall that Action 4 Equality Scotland fought this campaign to have equal pay settlements paid on a pensionable basis all on its own - the trade unions were never involved.


So when people like Gary Smith of the GMB says it makes no difference who pursue an equal pay claim - that everyone achieves the same results - try and not laugh too hard because it's complete nonsense, of course. 


  


Second Class Citizens(01/08/17)


A number of readers have been in touch to say that they are still waiting on North Lanarkshire Council recalculating their equal pay settlements on a pensionable basis - something that is hugely beneficial to many claimants.

Now I don/t know what the problem is, but if you ask me it's completely ludicrous that the Council can take this much time to provide people with this information.

Scottish Ministers told North Lanarkshire Council to get its finger out well over a year ago after a successful appeal by Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) which potentially benefited around 1500 low paid workers.


A4ES is still pressing the Council to get this task completed, but individuals may also wish to turn the heat up by writing a formal letter of complaint to NLC's chief executive, Paul Jukes, along the following lines.


Dear Mr Jukes


I wish to register a formal complaint about the length of time North Lanarkshire Council is taking to provide details of recalculating my equal pay settlement on a pensionable basis.


I am asking you to give me a firm date for this task to be completed as I believe it is quite outrageous for the Council to leave me waiting well over a year to access my pension benefits on the same basis as other employees.


Please note that if I do not receive a satisfactory answer within the next 10 working days, I intend to raise a complaint with the Scottish Local Government Ombudsman (SLGO).


In the meantime, I am also contacting my local MSP and MP to ask for their help and support because this issue has been allowed to drag on for far too long.


Yours sincerely



An Angry Former NLC Employee  



The email address I have for Paul Jukes is - jukesp@northlan.gov.uk - and as well as sending a copy of your complaint to the appropriate MSPs and MPs in NLC, I would also think about getting in touch with Tom Gordon who originally covered this story for The Sunday Herald.


By the way, the SLGO cannot deal with complaints about a person's terms and conditions of employment, their access to pension benefits, for example.

But this issue has already been decided by Scottish Ministers - North Lanarkshire Council lost the argument and the trade unions failed to support the A4ES campaign for equality of treatment over access to pensions. 


Instead this dispute is about 'maladministration' or NLC's failure to put sufficient resources into tackling an issue affecting its lowest paid workers - one they were told to sort out well over a year ago.


Regular readers will recall that NLC"s head of human resources (Iris Wylie) left the council's employment last year having been in post and earning a big salary throughout the 2005-2015 period when North Lanarkshire made such a terrible mess of equal pay.


Now I'm sure that when Iris Wylie parted company with NLC that all her entitlements (including any pension benefits) were bang up to date and calculated properly which begs the question:


"Why should North Lanarkshire Council's lowest paid workers be treated as second class citizens?"


  


Pensions and Equal Pay (17/02/17)



Here are two posts from the blog site archive which explain the significance of the battle waged by Action 4 Equality Scotland to have people's equal pay settlements paid on a pensionable basis.

As I've explained before the unions originally advised their members that this could not be done, and were not part of the dispute which went all the way to Scottish Ministers before being resolved in the claimants' favour.


As usual the unions are trying to claim credit for something when all the real work and 'heavy lifting' has been done by A4ES.


  



NLC Update (12/06/16)


Here's great article by Tom Gordon in today's Sunday Herald which explains the fight over pensions and equal pay that is being waged between Action 4 Equality Scotland and Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council. 

The trade unions have stayed out of this battle for some reason, even though the payment of equal pay settlements on a pensionable basis results in huge benefits for the lowest paid council workers.

I plan to circulate the Sunday Herald piece around all North Lanarkshire MSPs and MPs with the aim of encouraging local politicians to join the campaign to knock some much needed sense into Scotland's fourth largest council. 



http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14551814.Council_ordered_to_pay_pension_costs_of_hundreds_of_women_it_underpaid/

Council ordered to pay pension costs of hundreds of women it underpaid


North Lanarkshire Council HQ, Motherwell

By Tom Gordon - Scottish Political Editor, The Sunday Herald

A LABOUR council is facing a £1million bill after trying to duck its pension duties to hundreds of female staff it previously tried to squeeze out of equal pay.

North Lanarkshire Council has been ordered to cough up after the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA) found it tried to “obstruct” a fair deal for almost 700 women.

The 681 women were systematically underpaid for years by the council, earning lower wages than male colleagues doing jobs of equivalent worth.

Last year, after initially forcing the authority to give them back-pay through a tribunal, they reached a second negotiated settlement worth a further £7.1m, after being represented by equal pay experts Action 4 Equality Scotland.

However, their final salary pension deals remained below those of male counterparts, as their contributions were lower while they were underpaid.

According to recent local government pension regulations, all back-pay must be treated as “pensionable”, meaning bigger pensions and bigger lump sums for those affected.

It also means errant councils must top up their employer contributions to pension funds.

However in February North Lanarkshire tried to sidestep its duties to the Strathclyde Pension Fund, which covers the female staff, by claiming the women’s second round of back-pay was actually a form of negotiated “compensation” and therefore not pensionable.

The women’s lawyers appealed to the SPPA in March, pointing out the potential differences would be profound if the back-pay was not made pensionable.

Some of the North Lanarkshire women would be denied a pension rise of £1500 a year and lump sums of more than £4000, a lifetime difference of around £50,000.

The SPPA has now ruled the council “misconstrued” the law, and criticised its arguments as “confused and an obstruction to finding an equitable solution to the disagreement”.

It said the council must pay the income tax and national insurance on the second wave of back-pay as well as employer contributions, an estimated total of £1m.

Although the women would also need to make contributions of around £360,000, this should ultimately bring them £10m in higher pensions benefits.

The council now has until August 20 to decide whether to fight the decision by launching a costly judicial review at the Court of Session.

Elizabeth Cross, 67, from Gartcosh, who retired four years ago after a decade as a home support worker in North Lanarkshire, would be £28,000 better off under the SPPA ruling.

She told the Sunday Herald the council’s refusal to pay up was “terrible”.

She said: “It’s ridiculous. This is the second time down the road. They discriminated against the women that worked for them over equal pay and now they’re doing it again over pensions.

“We should get exactly the same pensions as the men. All the girls are raging.

“The council are lucky they still have any women working for them, the way they have treated us all. It’s disgusting what they’ve done.

"Everyone in North Lanarkshire should be kicking up about the money the council are wasting trying to get out of paying us what we’re owed.”

Lawyer Sarah Gilzean of HBJ Gateley, who represented the women’s case to the SPPA, said: “We think the SPPA decision is unequivocally in our favour.”

Stefan Cross QC, of Action 4 Equality Scotland, said: “I find it incredible that a Labour-run council has been fighting tooth and nail to deny low-paid women workers the right to equal treatment under the Local Government Pension Scheme. If North Lanarkshire had got its way, some of the council's lowest paid workers would have been penalised for the rest of their lives.

“We welcome the landmark decision of the SPPA and we are calling on North Lanarkshire to face up to its obligations, accept this decision and do everything they can to ensure the lowest paid council workers are able to maximise their pension benefits."

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “We note the decision of the Scottish Ministers in this case. We are examining the decision and will reach a view on our next steps in due course. However, the council remains committed to equality and has settled more than £100m of claims. We will continue to do so where these are justified.”

North Lanarkshire Update (14/06/16)



I've written to all MSPs and MPs in North Lanarkshire regarding the ongoing dispute over pensions and equal pay.

Because this a really big deal for the people involved and if you ask me, it's a disgrace that low paid workers are having to fight so hard to achieve equal treatment under the Local Government Pension Scheme.

North Lanarkshire's 'male comparator' jobs don't have this problem and nor do the Council's senior officials. 





Dear MSP/MP

NLC, Pensions and Equal Pay

Here's a post from my blog site about the ongoing dispute over Pensions and Equal Pay in North Lanarkshire Council.

I also attach a briefing note I supplied to Tom Gordon at the Sunday Herald which explains that there are, in fact, two categories of claimant, i.e. 1st and 2nd Wave.

North Lanarkshire Council has been dragging its feet over the 1st Wave claimants for more than a year and while the Council has until August 2016 to decide to appeal the 2nd Wave judgment, via a judicial review to the Court of Session, the right thing to do surely is to accept the SPPA decision and the principle of equal access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

I will be encouraging A4ES clients to contact their MSPs and MPs for support and if you require any further information on these issues, please drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards


Mark Irvine


Briefing note for the Sunday Herald

1 Two categories of claimants exist - 1st Wave and 2nd Wave

2 The 1st Wave claims relate to the period prior to the introduction of new job evaluation based pay arrangements in 2007 - the 2nd Wave claims related to the period after the introduction of JES in 2007.

3 The 1st Wave claims have been adjudicated by a formal decision of the Glasgow Employment Tribunal in May 2015 - North Lanarkshire Council accepts that these claims can and should be made pensionable if the claimants wish so, but over a year after the ET decision the Council has still not actioned people's requests, having deducted employee NI contributions from claimants' awards.

4 The 2nd Wave claims have been achieved by a negotiated settlement (rather than an ET award) and this is the issue that was tested by the Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA). NLC's position is that although the settlement represented 'arrears of pay' they should not count for pension purposes - and that position was rejected by the SPPA on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

5 A total of £218,000 in NI contributions was deducted from A4ES clients as part of the 1st Wave award, but only 35 of these clients would benefit from having their awards paid on a pensionable basis because of the final salary year pension rules and the fact that NI deductions are mandatory, even if the individual benefit derives no direct benefit from their NI contributions.

6 The 35 A4ES clients who would benefit from their awards being made pensionable have already had £27,000 deducted from their settlement awards but have gained no benefit from these payments even though some have been retired for years - NLC is required to pay an additional £65,000 but over a year later people are still waiting on the Council getting its finger out and pass both employees and employer contributions (£92K) to the Strathclyde Pension Fund.

7 Of the total number of 2nd Wave claimants 681 would benefit from their settlements being made on a pensionable basis - the total cost of this to the claimants would be £360,000 and to NLC £915,555 -  by way of additional NI employee and employer costs.

8 The total lifetime benefit to the claimants (collectively) would be in excess of £10 million because of the increased lump sum and annual pension benefits - and these benefits are already enjoyed by equivalent NLC male workers, of course. The additional lump sum (tax free payments) to 2nd Wave claims, for example, is worth around £800,000. 

9 I have spoken with two A4ES clients who are willing to be interviewed and have their photos taken - W who is a 1st Wave claimant and C who is a 2nd Wave claimant, both are retired.

10 Action 4 Equality Scotland has been pursing this issue on its own up until now, i.e.. without any support from the trade unions, although hundreds of union members stand to benefit from the recent SPPA ruling as well. 

I'll give you a ring later today to discuss how you want to proceed and I can provide further comments via Stefan Cross QC and Sarah Gilzean at HBJ Gateley, the solicitors acting for A4ES clients.

Regards



Mark