Friday, 30 March 2012

South Lanarkshire


Here's an article from this week's Hamilton Advertiser which takes a big stick to South Lanarkshire Council - I think it's fair to say - over its attitude towards Freedom of Information.

Not every local paper is interested in the fight for equal pay - but the Hamilton Advertiser has covered the issue extensively - and is inviting readers to have their say.

So why not take the paper up on its offer - the local council election are only weeks away - and equal pay is a big issue for many people in South Lanarkshire - and their families.

What are you waiting for - tell the Hamilton Advertiser and South Lanarkshire Council what you think.

Not least because the present leadership of the council - has nothing to say for itself.  

Equal Pay Court Dispute

by Julie Gilbert - Hamilton Advertiser

Judges have thrown out a bid by South Lanarkshire Council to block the release of data concerning their pay structure.

Mark Irvine is helping around 2500 council workers in the area with equal pay claims.

He submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council asking about numbers of land service staff receiving a particular level of pay.

The former union official, the organiser of Action 4 Equality Scotland, wanted the figures to establish whether traditional low skilled male jobs in land services – such as gardeners, bin men and grave diggers – were actually paid more than traditional female jobs with an equal or higher level of skill. The latter would include home carers or classroom assistants.

But the council refused his request, saying that revealing the numbers could identify individual employees.

He appealed to the Scottish Information Commissioner, who said this concern was unfounded and that the council should release the figures.

Still not prepared to hand over the information, South Lanarkshire Council went to the Court of Session to challenge the Commissioner’s decision.

On Tuesday, Lord Marnoch published his opinion on the case, and he too said the council should release the figures as it is “important to achieve transparency on the subject of Equal Pay”.

When the Advertiser spoke to the council yesterday (Wednesday), they would not say whether or not the figures will be released following the judgment, simply saying they were still deciding on what course of action to take.

Mr Irvine – who works alongside the no-win-no-fee lawyers handling equal pay claims in North and South Lanarkshire – said the whole thing is a waste of council money, that makes South Lanarkshire look as if they have something to hide.

He said: “It’s the kind of information that’s freely available in all other councils across Scotland.

“South Lanarkshire are trying desperately to keep everything secret.

“I was looking for the information on an anonymous basis. It wasn’t anything to do with the pay of individuals.

“I just wanted to know how many people are paid at that rate of pay.

“All the council have to say is, here are the figures, but the fact they won’t do that makes them look like they have something to hide.

“This is a ridiculous use of tax payers money.

“And the Information Commissioner – which is also publically funded – has to got to court to defend a decision which makes perfect sense.”

A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said: “We are reflecting on the judgement issued [on Tuesday] and will determine a course of action once we have done so.

“General pay information is readily available within South Lanarkshire Council.”

Mark Irvine spent 20 years as a senior official within union Unison before becoming an independent consultant for workers with disputes regarding equal pay.

He posts regular updates on his blog at www.action4equalityscotland.blogspot.co.uk/

What are your view on the court’s decision?