Sunday, 1 April 2012
I asked readers in North Lanarkshire for help the other day.
I wanted to know if people could help trace the background to the controversial North Lanarkshire Council bonus scheme - which has hit the newspaper headlines recently.
The one that seems to be restricted to only the most senior and highly paid officials - as far as anyone knows.
I asked readers if a reference (HR/IW) on the previously secret document - which has been dragged out of the council via an FOI request - might provide a clue.
Since then readers' suggestions have been flying in by e-mail and they all point in the same direction - that HR stands for Human Resources - and that IW stands for Iris Wylie, the council's Head of Human Resources.
Now that would make sense - why didn't I think of it before?
Because the name Iris Wylie is on the list as receiving a top-up or bonus payment of £5,758.56 - and HR is the obvious area of the council from which to seek advice on pay issues.
So who knows for sure?
Maybe the council will explain the background properly and publicly - or maybe Iris Wylie will get in touch directly and fill in some of the the gaps in people's knowledge - which I'm happy to publish on the blog site.
I first met Iris Wylie years ago - but haven't seen her in the flesh for some time.
The last occasion I remember seeing Iris was at the Scottish TUC in Glasgow in 1999 - when she was 'stepping out' - so to speak - with the Scottish Convener of Unison, Mike Kirby.
Mike has since moved on from his role as convener and stepped up - so to speak - to become the union's regional secretary in Scotland - a full-time paid official in other words.
Iris and Mike are both mentioned in a previous post to the blog site - one of the earliest posts in fact - going all the way back to April 2007.
So it all just goes to show what a small world it really is - though that doesn't help to explain why a Labour council - yes a Labour council - would introduce a secret incentive pay scheme - or a bonus scheme for those at the top, as I think it should be called.
Especially one that rewards only the most senior council officials - and appears to exclude the vast majority of the workforce - many of whom are very low paid of course - and many of whom are still fighting for equal pay.
No wonder people are so cynical about politics and politicans these days - and that includes the politics of local government.
Dog's Dinner (23 January 2012)
Here's another old post from the blog site archive - which mentions North Lanarkshire Council in dispatches.
I wrote this almost five years ago - would you believe?
Yet many council employees in North Lanarkshire are still fighting for equal pay - all this time later.
So let's hope that 2012 is the year that North Lanarkshire finally gets its act together.
Maybe the prospect of elections in May will concentrate people's minds - and persuade the council's top brass to resolve all the outstanding claims.
Odd Allies and Strange Bedfellows (April 16th 2007)
North Lanarkshire won't win any prizes for the council's handling of equal pay, but it has thrown up some odd allies and strange bedfellows.
Take Jim McCabe, leader of the outgoing council. Now Jim is a decent enough fellow, not a political heavyweight, but an experienced Labour party man and a former Nupe (now Unison) shop steward. So, he understands all the issues when it comes to equal pay - or ought to at least.
Yet, Jim's greatest claim to fame is not fighting against discrimination or low pay. Oh no, he is best known locally for dropping his pants at the office Christmas party - much to the embarrassment of fellow guests.Jim followed up this PR disaster with another - by puffing away in his office during an interview with a journalist. Effectively, thumbing his nose at the council's strict no smoking policy and the Scottish Parliament's smoking ban. Guess what made the headlines!
Jim is also leader of the CoSLA Labour group - CoSLA being the umbrella body for Scotland's 32 local councils. In recent months, Jim has been joined at CoSLA by a new chum, Joe Di Paola. Joe has been appointed as the secretary/adviser to the employers' side of the collective bargaining machinery, which negotiates with the unions on a wide range of vital employment issues. Including, of course, equal pay.
The spooky thing is that - until very recently - Joe did exactly the same job for the trade union side and 'led' the negotiations on implementing equal pay (and single status) from 1999 to 2006. Negotiations that stalled and made absolutely no progress under Joe's stewardship. With a track record of failure, Joe has now jumped ship to the employers' side, but his new bosses should remember the old saying: "You can only ride two horses at the same time, if you were born with two arses."
One of Joe's best buddies in the whole world is Grahame Smith, another Labour 'placeman' and new general secretary of the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress). As everyone knows, the STUC is the progressive and left leaning voice of the trade union movement. Needless to say, it's 100% in favour of equal opportunities, equal pay, motherhood and apple pie and so on. And the STUC is completely, utterly and resolutely against any form of discrimination. Oh yes!
What a surprise then that Grahame and the STUC's 'band of brothers' have been as quiet as church mice on equal pay - while one of the biggest employment rows to hit Scotland in years has raged in the press and media. The explanation is that General Council - the executive body that runs the STUC - is now controlled by only four big unions: Amicus, GMB, TGWU and Unison. So, they can appoint someone in their own image - absolutely tame, non-threatening and very much part of the establishment.
One of Grahame's General Council comrades is Mike Kirby - convener (senior lay member) of Unison Scotland since 1993 and key figure in the Unison Glasgow branch. A branch that kept their members in the dark about equal pay for years - then lost low paid workers thousands of pounds, by encouraging them to accept settlements that were worth much less than the real value of their claims.
Would things have been different with a woman at the figurehead at Unison? After all, women account for around 70% of the union's membership and had most to gain or lose. Mibbees aye, mibbees naw. The issue is more complicated than it seems because Mike's former long-time partner was none other than Iris Wylie - head of personnel at North Lanarkshire and key figure in the 'dog's dinner' that Scotland's 4th largest council has made of equal pay (back to where we started).
North Lanarkshire sat on its backside for years, then hurriedly cobbled together a new pay structure when Action 4 Equality arrived on the scene and let the cat out of the bag. The workforce threw the proposals out, following a secret ballot, so the council abruptly decided it would impose the new arrangements - the council didn't need the support of its employees and the trade unions after all. Wonder who gave the council this brilliant piece of advice?
So, the strange world of equal pay is laid bare for all to see - the wheels within wheels and strange goings on that connect North Lanarkshire Council, CoSLA, the Labour Party, the STUC, Unison and North Lanarkshire Council (again).
Scotland is such an interesting place to live and work.