Monday, 19 February 2018

I'm So Sorry, Glasgow



I have had a really busy day, but I have now read all the media coverage of Richard Leonard's statement about equal pay claimants in Glasgow City Council being owed an apology, one that is long overdue if you ask me. 

The following BBC report is as good as any and the key words spoken by the Scottish Labour leader seem to be as follows:

"Many equal pay claims were settled under Labour in Glasgow, but there was too much resistance, too much legal obstruction and for that I think we owe those women an apology."

Now I agree with Richard about the need for an apology because Glasgow City Council did not stumble into this situation without careful thought and forward planning.

The City Council knew it was 'bang to rights' back in 2005 when Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) appeared on the scene and started to explain to low paid women workers that their jobs were being hugely undervalued and underpaid.

But the response of the council leadership (politicians and officials) was not to put eerie hands up and admit what was going on - what they did was to 'dupe' the women out of their right to equal pay.

Firstly, by offering cash 'buy-outs' of their existing equal pay claims (in 2005) which were capped at a derisory maximum of just £9,000 - a scheme which was not based on hours worked and excluded lots of female dominated groups.

Secondly, by bringing in an untried and untested WPBR pay scheme from an external consultant (Hays HR Consulting and a chap called Steve Watson) instead of using the Gauge Scheme recommended by the Scottish council employers (via COSLA) and the national trade unions - GMB, Unison and Unite. 

Thirdly, by setting up a range of ALEOs (Arm's Length External Organisations) in a cynical effort to stop the female claimants from comparing their earnings with the much higher pay of traditional male jobs.

In other words a great deal of effort and careful planning has gone into cheating Glasgow's lowest paid women workers out of their basic employment rights.

So the big question is: Who is going to apologise and what exactly will they apologise for?  

If you ask me, Glasgow's chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell should be handed this task because she has been a very senior official in Glasgow City Council throughout the whole time - unlike other people (some of whom have departed the scene) Annemarie has nowhere to hide.

Although it does have to be said that the real test for the council lies not just in saying sorry, but in putting things right which has to mean:

  • getting rid of and replacing the WPBR
  • compensating the claimants for their loss
  • dismantling Glasgow City Council's ALEOs  

  

Leonard: Labour owes Glasgow equal pay women an apology
Image copyright - PA

The Scottish Labour leader has said women in Glasgow City Council are owed an apology for "too much resistance" to their equal pay claims when the local authority was under Labour control.

Richard Leonard said Labour settled many equal pay claims but there was "too much legal obstruction".

The party was in power in the city for decades before being ousted by the SNP last May.

He was speaking to the party's Women's Conference in Glasgow.

The council dropped its legal challenge in January with cross-party agreement.

It had previously lost a Court of Session appeal against an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling that they had continued to discriminate against women through the introduction of payment protections upholding the earnings of male colleagues following the initial wave of equal pay awards.


Unison said the women want a fair and transparent pay scheme and compensation and that the council has agreed to discuss a settlement for the 11,000 claimants with it and other trade unions.

Mr Leonard said: "I am pleased that we are now on the right side of the argument with equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

"Many equal pay claims were settled under Labour in Glasgow, but there was too much resistance, too much legal obstruction and for that I think we owe those women an apology."

He emphasised plans to tackle discrimination and harassment within Scottish Labour and wider society in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals at Westminster and Holyrood.

Image copyright - PA Image caption -- Hundreds of women - some dressed as suffragettes - marched through Glasgow calling for equal pay from the council earlier this month

His focus on discrimination follows his leadership rival and fellow MSP Anas Sarwar speaking out about his own experiences of abuse and criticism of Mr Leonard's decision not to suspend MP Hugh Gaffney, who apologised earlier this month after making "deeply offensive and unacceptable" remarksabout the LGBT community and Chinese people.

Scottish Labour has announced plans to set-up a special sub-committee of the party's Scottish executive to develop an anti-discrimination and harassment policy.

Mr Leonard said: "Over the past few months the culture of politics, particularly in relation to gender equality, has rightly come under the spotlight.

"Politicians - including some in the Labour party - have been found to engage in behaviour, that falls well below the standards we in this room, and in this party and in this movement, expect and deserve.

"There has, once again, been a breakdown of trust between politicians and those they hope to serve. So my job, our job is to work to rebuild that trust.

"We will work to ensure women across Scotland know that the Labour Party stands up for them. We will work to end discrimination both within the party and without."

He added: "Scottish Labour, under my leadership, will be at the forefront of the drive for equality."

Mr Leonard said he had already taken steps to make the party more equal, adding: "That action comes from the one driving principle - that there is no place for any form of discrimination in the Labour Party, be it sexism, be it homophobia, be it racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia."

I'm So Sorry, Glasgow! (18/02/18)



Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard must have been reading my blog yesterday because he's widely quoted in the news media today as saying that Glasgow's equal pay campaigners deserve an 'apology' over the way they're been treated.

Now I haven't read the full quote as yet, but it's certainly a start and a step in the right direction.

So tune in again later today when I'll have much more to say.

 

Glasgow's WPBR Pay Monster



I'm pleased to say that my local MSP John Mason has listened to what I had to say and to the views of Glasgow's claimants regarding the future of the City Council's WPBR.

Here's what John had to say along with my reply - so I think it's fair to say we are making progress.

Keep up the good work, everyone!


Thanks Mark

I accept that we have not gone over all these details before but I think we have gone over the main principles.  The key points are:

·         Men and women should be paid the same for equivalent jobs;
·         Going forward there needs to be a system in place which is negotiated and fair to all;
·         Compensation should be negotiated for past losses which women have suffered.

I have to say I am not very familiar with terms like NSWP, WPBR and JES.  When I was in the Council I do not think opposition councillors got into that level of detail concerning staff pay.  I have no idea if Labour councillors did get into that level of detail or if that was left to officers.

I totally agree that there should not be discriminatory pay practices.  I am happy to meet you if you want but I would be dealing with the main principles rather than the detail.  If people in the past did things wrong, it is they who should be apologising.

Sincerely


John


Dear John

Glasgow's WPBR

Well, I think that's a very positive basis on which to move things forward.

I also think it would be useful to meet up, not least because I haven't clapped eyes on you in a while - next thing you know we'll be getting on like a house on fire!

Kind regards



Mark



Dear Mark

Thanks for your email.

I think we have gone over this ground before but I am happy to say again that any solution must be acceptable to the Council, its employees, the trades unions, etc.  I do not believe it is possible for one party to impose its solution on the others.

It remains my opinion that Glasgow would struggle to find £500 million as a settlement which has been the suggested figure.  So all sides need to compromise if a settlement is to be achieved.  And going forward there needs to be a system in place which all parties will find acceptable.

Concerning a recent briefing on equal pay (9 February), I did try to confirm if this was still going ahead despite the recent announcements from the Council.  I sent an email on 7 February (see below) but got no response, therefore, assumed it had been cancelled:

“Dear Karl/Stefan

Further to previous emails I have not heard any more from you about the possible meeting on equal pay this Friday.  Therefore, I am assuming it has been cancelled because the Council has confirmed it is not pursuing a legal route but will negotiate.

My guess is that there will still be a challenge for the Council to find the necessary funding but hopefully if both sides compromise a bit then a solution can be found.

Yours sincerely

John”

Thanks anyway for being in touch about all of this.

Regards


John


Dear John

Glasgow's WPBR

Many thanks for your prompt reply to my email.

I'm afraid it's wrong to say that we have gone over this ground previously, because this is the first time I have raised with you the specific issue of replacing Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR with a new JES and pay arrangements which command the confidence of the City Council's largely female workforce.

Somewhat strangely, your response does not address the WPBR's discriminatory pay practices such as the indefensible 37 hour NSWP 'rule' which I highlighted in my original email.

Instead you talk about the need to avoid one party imposing its views on others while having nothing to say about the nature of the WPBR or the fact that the scheme has been treating women workers in Glasgow as second class citizens for the past 10 years.

If I remember correctly, you were a senior figure on Glasgow City Council from 2003 to 2008 which, of course, covers the period when the WPBR was introduced.

So can I ask you directly if you supported the introduction of the WPBR at the time and if so, do you now believe that this was a very costly mistake and one for which the council's lowest paid workers are now due an apology?

I would be happy to meet up to discuss the matter further, but I would urge you to focus upon the way in which the council's women workers have been treated for more than a decade and the role of senior council officials who have been defending the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR since it was first introduced in 2007. 

Kind regards



Mark Irvine  

  

Glasgow's WPBR Pay Monster (17/02/18)


Here is John Mason's response to my email regarding Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay scheme which, as regular readers know, has been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland.

Dear Mark

Thanks for your email.

I think we have gone over this ground before but I am happy to say again that any solution must be acceptable to the Council, its employees, the trades unions, etc.  I do not believe it is possible for one party to impose its solution on the others.

It remains my opinion that Glasgow would struggle to find £500 million as a settlement which has been the suggested figure.  So all sides need to compromise if a settlement is to be achieved.  And going forward there needs to be a system in place which all parties will find acceptable.

Concerning a recent briefing on equal pay (9 February), I did try to confirm if this was still going ahead despite the recent announcements from the Council.  I sent an email on 7 February (see below) but got no response, therefore, assumed it had been cancelled:

“Dear Karl/Stefan

Further to previous emails I have not heard any more from you about the possible meeting on equal pay this Friday.  Therefore, I am assuming it has been cancelled because the Council has confirmed it is not pursuing a legal route but will negotiate.

My guess is that there will still be a challenge for the Council to find the necessary funding but hopefully if both sides compromise a bit then a solution can be found.

Yours sincerely

John”

Thanks anyway for being in touch about all of this.

Regards


John

Now John is looking at this issue through the wrong end of the telescope if you ask me, because the problem that needs to be put right is the way in which the council's largely female workforce has been treated for years.

Which is what I've said in my reply to John so I hope he reflects on his current position because just as it's impossible to be a 'little bit pregnant' - I fail to see what compromise there is over people's basic employment rights and entitlement to equal pay.



Dear John

Glasgow's WPBR

Many thanks for your prompt reply to my email.

I'm afraid it's wrong to say that we have gone over this ground previously, because this is the first time I have raised with you the specific issue of replacing Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR with a new JES and pay arrangements which command the confidence of the City Council's largely female workforce.

Somewhat strangely, your response does not address the WPBR's discriminatory pay practices such as the indefensible 37 hour NSWP 'rule' which I highlighted in my original email.

Instead you talk about the need to avoid one party imposing its views on others while having nothing to say about the nature of the WPBR or the fact that the scheme has been treating women workers in Glasgow as second class citizens for the past 10 years.

If I remember correctly, you were a senior figure on Glasgow City Council from 2003 to 2008 which, of course, covers the period when the WPBR was introduced.

So can I ask you directly if you supported the introduction of the WPBR at the time and if so, do you now believe that this was a very costly mistake and one for which the council's lowest paid workers are now due an apology?

I would be happy to meet up to discuss the matter further, but I would urge you to focus upon the way in which the council's women workers have been treated for more than a decade and the role of senior council officials who have been defending the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR since it was first introduced in 2007. 

Kind regards


Mark Irvine  

And while I'm on the subject let me repeat that the council's lowest paid workers are due a humble apology over the way this whole affair has been handled for years.

Because the scandal of 'unequal pay' was bad enough to begin with, but the council made things a great deal worse by bringing in its cockamamy WPBR scheme which repackaged the old discriminatory pay practices and gave them a better disguise - until the project finally came crashing down at the Court of Session.

I think it would be a good idea to re-run the A4ES briefing on equal pay and if we do so, let's hope there's a full turn out next time from Glasgow's MSPs and MPs.

  

Glasgow's MSPs and MP(19/12/17)


Here's what Wikipedia has to say about John Mason, the SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Glasgow Shettleston constituency. 

Now I knew that John had been a Glasgow councillor in a previous life, but I didn't realise that he was the Leader of the SNP Opposition Group between 1999 and 2008.

Which is very significant, of course, because this covers the period when the fight for equal pay first began in Glasgow in 2005 and the period that followed when the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme was introduced in 2006/07. 

I plan to do the same exercise for other Glasgow MSPs and MPs to check on who else may have a  background in local government.

Because anyone with experience as a local councillor has no excuse if you ask me, for not being 'up to speed' and understanding all the important issues surrounding equal pay.

  

JohnMasonMSP20110509.JPG

Councillor

Mason has lived in the East End of Glasgow for the past 20 years, and was elected as the councillorfor the Garrowhill ward in Glasgow City Council at a by-election in 1998, and was re-elected in 1999 and 2003.[3]

He rose to become the Leader of the Opposition in Glasgow City Council, and led the SNP Council Group on the majority Labour-run Council between 1999 and 2008. He was the SNP's longest serving Glasgow councillor, and during his term, he led many protests against Labour's moves to weaken effective opposition by altering the council committee system.[3]

In his ward, he attended a wide variety of community groups, including Garrowhill and SwintonCommunity Councils, local school boards, tenants association, and Garrowhill Action Partnership. He was also on the management committee of Tenant Controlled Housing, which aims to give local tenants control of their housing, in place of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA).[4]


Glasgow - Insulting and Ridiculous (18/12/17)



I circulated a copy of yesterday's post about John Mason's comments on the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council - to all Glasgow MSPs, MPs and local councillors along with the following Twitter message: 

"John Mason's suggestion that equal pay claimants in Glasgow should 'pay' for their own rights to be upheld is insulting, ridiculous and a complete non-starter"

I don't think I need to add anything further at this stage, but watch this space for more news because there's a lot going on at the moment. 

  

Glasgow - Breaking News (17/12/17)

Image result for breaking news + images


I said in a post the other day that Glasgow's MSPs and MPs have been strangely quiet   during the long fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council.

A kind reader has just shared this email from John Mason MSP which, if you ask me, is ill-judged, patronising and insulting because of the strange way John qualifies his 'support' for equal pay.

John's suggestion is that the Glasgow claimants who have been cheated and robbed of their rights to equal pay for years should come up with a solution themselves and consider accepting less than they are entitled to given the potential impact on jobs and services. 

Thanks for your email.

Yes, I do agree with you that this dispute should be settled as soon as possible.

The problem is how much money it will cost and where that money will come from. Figures up to £500 million have been mentioned and Glasgow does not have that money. Labour should have made cuts to pay for the equal pay.

Do you think the SNP should cut jobs and services in order to pay the equal pay claim? Or should the workers who are entitled to the money take less so their colleagues can keep their jobs?

Happy to hear any ideas you have about where the money should come from.

Sincerely

John Mason

(MSP for Glasgow Shettleston)

Now I didn't hear Nicola Sturgeon qualify her support back in October when she said at an SNP conference in Glasgow in October 2017:

"The injustice suffered by low paid women in this city will be put right.

"Equal pay for equal work, denied for too long, will be delivered by the SNP."

Nor have I heard SNP MPs at Westminster say that the pension rights of the 'WASPI' women should be restored so long as they come up with proposals for making cuts in other areas of public spending!

I must check on this point with Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, and Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire, who has been very vocal in support of the WASPI campaign, but I'll eat my hat is that is the stance being taken by the SNP in Westminster.

And while I agree with John that previous Labour-led administrations in Glasgow have a lot to answer for, if I remember correctly, John was a Glasgow councillor at the time the City Council approved its 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay arrangements back in 2006/07.

So John trying to 'wash his hands' of the whole affair simply won't do although I'd be happy to sit down and discuss how the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government might help Glasgow City Council find a way out of the huge mess it finds itself in today.

But what do the claimants in Glasgow think of John's email?

Let me know and I'll see if we can find a way of bringing Glasgow's MSPs and MPs together for a constructive discussion with some of the claimants in the New Year.

Russian Fairy Tales

Image result for russian fairy tales

Russia's foreign minister airily dismisses the FBI's charge that Russian agents interfered in America's presidential election and no doubt his words were cleared in advance with Donald Trump's favourite world 'leader', Vladimir Putin.  

But it is worth remembering that President Putin and Russia also deny their involvement and responsibility for the following events as well:
  • The shooting down of a civilian aeroplane Flight MH 17 over Ukraine
  • The poisoning and murder of Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium
  • Organised cheating and doping on an industrial scale at the Sochi Winter Olympics 
So who are you going to believe?

Russia and President Putin or: the FBI, America's Justice Department, a judge-led UK public inquiry, the UK Government, the Dutch Government, the Ukrainian Government, Malaysia Airlines and the World Anti-Doping Agency?

  

Russia-Trump inquiry: Russian foreign minister dismisses FBI charges

Media caption - The Russian foreign minister called for "facts" before commenting further

Russia's foreign minister has dismissed as "blather" the charges levelled by the FBI special counsel against 13 Russians for election meddling.

Sergei Lavrov said at a major security conference in Germany he would not comment further until he saw "facts".

The charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller are seen as a major development in his continuing probe into the US 2016 election.

President Trump has said the indictment shows his campaign did "nothing wrong".

The Russian foreign minister was being questioned by participants at the Munich Security Conference.

Asked about the charges, he said that even Vice-President Mike Pence had called the investigation into question.

"So until we see the facts, everything else is just blather."

But Mr Trump's National Security Adviser, H R McMaster, said evidence of Russian meddling was "now incontrovertible".

It would become harder to conceal attempts to "interfere in our democratic process", he added.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump has repeated his assertion that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia.

On Saturday, he quoted remarks by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who said that no American had knowingly participated in the Russians' activities.

However, Mr Rosenstein's comments only refer to the indictment which was published on Friday.

What does the indictment say?

The 37-page indictment says a group of Russians:
  • Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name; some visited the US
  • Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising
  • Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation
  • Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States
  • Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens
  • Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton
  • Received money from clients to post on US social media sites
  • Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram
  • Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)
  • Financed the building of a cage large enough to hold an actress portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform
The indictment says those involved systematically monitored the success of their internet posts.

All of the 13 people named were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three have also been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft. Three companies have also been charged. 


Media caption - Russians recruited 'real Americans' as part of 'information warfare'

"By 2016, defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online persons to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election," the indictment says.

"They engaged in operations primarily to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump."

One of the companies targeted is the Internet Research Agency, based in St Petersburg, which the indictment said "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election".
Any reaction from those named?

One of the people named in the indictment - Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as "Putin's chef", denied election tampering.

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef", has denied election tampering

"The Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see...," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti on Friday. "I'm not at all upset that I'm on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him."

Mr Prigozhin has been a friend of Mr Putin since the 1990s. He has built up a business empire and has been accused of using companies to diffuse pro-Kremlin opinions via fake internet identities.

Heat is increasing

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

On Friday, Robert Mueller's team released a slate of indictments that lays bare what it asserts is the full shape of the Russian meddling apparatus.

And what an apparatus it was. In the run-up to the US presidential election "Project Lakhta", as it was called, had an operating budget of more than $1m a month.

The indictment does not suggest collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, however, and the White House may breathe a sigh of relief at this.

But the heat is increasing, and the investigation isn't over yet. At the very least, if Mr Mueller's allegations hold up in court, it will become increasingly difficult for the president to argue that Russian meddling on his behalf is an unsubstantiated hoax.

Read Anthony's key takeaways

What do social media companies say?

Politicians from both major parties have responded with calls for social media to do more to prevent political interference via their platforms.

Facebook said in a statement that it had worked "proactively" with Mr Mueller's investigation, but had "more to do to prevent further attacks".

Twitter said the activities were "intolerable" and that it was working with investigators, but that tech companies could not defeat the new threat alone.
What is the investigation about?

US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to sway the 2016 presidential election in favour of Mr Trump.

In May last year, Mr Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate whether anyone from his campaign colluded in the effort.


Media caption - All you need to know about the Trump-Russia investigation

As part of the inquiry, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine, conspiracy to launder money and more recently with submitting false information to obtain a mortgage.

A business associate of Mr Manafort's, Rick Gates, was also charged with conspiracy to launder money. A third adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

In December, Mr Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to making false statements about a meeting he had with the Russian ambassador in 2016.

This week President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was interviewed by Mr Mueller.

Mr Trump has been accused by opponents of trying to interfere with the investigation, which he denies.