Spotlight on South Lanarkshire

Alex Neil is another MSP who has been in touch - about the recent post on South Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay - see post below dated 23 July 2010.

Alex has also passed on contact details for two local SNP councillors from the East Kilbride area - whom readers may wish to contact, if they wish to take these issues up.

Anne Maggs who can be contacted by e-mail at:

David Watson who can be contacted by e-mail at:

No doubt these councillors - and others as well - can be also reached by phone - details of their contact numbers will be available via the council's web site:

Spotlight on South Lanarkshire (Friday 23 July 2010)

"Here's a copy of a letter that has been sent today by e-mail to all South Lanarkshire MSPs - a list of South Lanarkshire's Consituency and Regional List MSPs' has been published previously - in the post dated 15 July 2010.

Dear MSP

South Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

I attach a copy of a letter to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The letter focuses on the refusal of South Lanarkshire Council to publish basic pay information about traditional male council jobs.

The problem stems from a strategic decision taken by South Lanarkshire in February 2003 - which is summarised in the following extract from an official council report:

“Acceptance and implementation of the Single Status package would be on the basis of trying to avoid employees experiencing a reduction in basis contractual earnings, this would be achieved using the Competence Based Grading Scheme.”

“This would include double time payments for Sunday overtime where this is part of employees existing conditions and current shift payments being consolidated and matched across.”

“The aim will be not to disturb protections in place for existing groups of employees which have already been agreed, such as arrangements for holidays, overtime working and how bonus has been dealt with.”

What South Lanarkshire Council did was to preserve on a personal basis the much higher, bonus-related salaries of traditional male jobs.

In my view, the council's actions fatally undermined the commitment to equal pay and fair treatment which were at the heart of the 1999 Single Status Agreement.

No other council in Scotland has behaved in this fashion - nor has any other council tried to bury the evidence by refusing to publish the pay rates for traditional male jobs.

In fact, every other council in Scotland came clean long ago including neighbours such as North Lanarkshire Council and Glasgow City Council.

The issue at stake here is openness and transparency - versus deliberate concealment and obfuscation.

The point is that people are entitled to know how public funds are being used - the workforce is entitled to know how male council jobs are paid compared to their female counterparts.

In truth, these details should be freely available - and at nil cost.

Instead the information is being dragged out of South Lanarkshire - bit by bit - with the council using its huge resources to obstruct the spirit and intention of FOISA (Freedom of Information Scotland Act).

So the issue is simple: should a major public institution such as South Lanarkshire Council be allowed to thumb its nose at FOISA and the Scottish Parliament's freedom of information regime?

I am encouraging readers of the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site, especially those in South Lanarkshire with equal pay claims, to raise these issues with their MSPs.

My own appeal is currently with the Scottish Information Commissioner, but this does not, of course, prevent MSPs from speaking out on the issues and making clear where they stand.

MSPs are not being asked to indicate support for individual claims or groups of cases - the point is to challenge the council's behaviour which is making a mockery of its public 'support' for the principle of freedom of information.

Equal pay is all about comparators, as you know.

To my mind the best comparator for South Lanarkshire Council's behaviour is the former Speaker's Office in the House of Commons - which fought an unprincipled, but ultimately futile, battle to prevent the public from understanding the true extent of the MPs' expenses scandal.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine"

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