Sunday, 24 June 2012
Famous Last Words
I am currently trawling through the blog site archive searching for interesting articles about the equal pay debacle in South Lanarkshire Council - here's one I came across from 27 August 2011.
I have highlighted a couple of comments from the council leader - Eddie McAvoy - who, in my considered opinion, is understating the problems facing the council by a very long way.
Because South Lanarkshire is now in a much deeper hole - than its neighbour in North Lanarkshire.
So the real question for South Lanarkshire is: 'When will the council finally stop digging and making its equal pay problems even worse?'
"Bitter Equal Pay Battle"
Here's a good article on the ongoing fight for equal pay in South Lanarkshire - which appears in this week's edition of the Hamilton Advertiser.
The piece might well be published in other local papers - which are part of the same newspaper group.
Readers will note that the Hamiton Advertiser is asking its readers what they think of the 'equal pay battle' in South Lanarkshire - either via the telephone (01698 283200) or by e-mailing the paper at: firstname.lastname@example.org
So this is a great opportunity to let a local newspaper know what people in South Lanarkshire really think - about the way in which council and the trade unions have behaved over equal pay.
To my mind the Labour-led council and the Labour-supporting unions have been far too close to each other - in each other's pockets effectively - and the people who have lost out are the lowest paid council workers - mainly women of course.
If readers contacting the newspaper are worried about using their own names and personal details - just say that you do not want to be identified - because the paper will withhold this information.
"South Lanarkshire Council locked in bitter equal pay battle"
"SOUTH Lanarkshire Council are currently locked in a bitter battle with their own staff over equal pay.
No fewer than 2133 employees and former staff – most of them women – have lodged claims under the Equality Act and sex discrimination legislation.
The women believe the council pay them less than men, even though their jobs are of equal worth and, in some cases, require higher qualifications.
Lawyers have been instructed to represent the claimants at an employment tribunal pre-hearing which resumes later this month.
It has been going on intermittently since September, 2009, and is likely to conclude in early October after hearing over 54 days of evidence. It’s one of the longest pre-hearings on record.
Lawyers engaged by the council have finished presenting their case and, from August 31, the claimants’ solicitors will give their evidence.
The tribunal panel, chaired by employment law judge Frances Eccles will then have to decide whether the way in which the council evaluated jobs, following the introduction of equal pay legislation, was fair. A decision is expected before Christmas.
If the council lose the case, they will have to fork out millions of pounds in back payments – stretching over the last 10 years – to the claimants, many of whom are low-paid frontline workers in schools and social work.
South Lanarkshire Council are one of the last authorities to settle their claims under equal pay legislation.
North Lanarkshire Council in April last year agreed to pay out £16m to hundreds of workers who were threatening legal challenge.
A year earlier, Glasgow City Council paid out £26m to 4000 female workers who had equal pay claims outstanding.
South Lanarkshire Council thought they had settled their equal pay issues in 2003 when they concluded a so-called ‘single outcome agreement’ with unions.
But the row has rumbled on since then, with employees claiming that the agreement graded jobs unfairly in comparison to others.
Bosses at the council have continually resisted releasing information – on how the council evaluated traditionally male-dominated jobs in the authority – to lawyers acting for the female claimants.
Earlier this year, they lodged an appeal to the Court of Session against a decision by Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion ordering them to release the data. The court has yet to hear the council’s appeal.
That Freedom of Information request was lodged by Mark Irvine, the independent consultant and former senior union official, who is representing many of the claimants on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Mr Irvine, who runs the Action 4 Equality Scotland website, instructed Edinburgh-based labour law specialists Fox Cross Solicitors to represent claimants at the employment tribunal.
He said: “What we have been trying to do is to get South Lanarkshire Council to explain how they went about putting together the new pay structures."
“South Lanarkshire are unique among Scottish councils in not being willing to tell people what rates of pay are for specific jobs."
“It seems to be a state secret in South Lanarkshire.”
Mr Irvine, who has had to used the Freedom of Information Act to extract pay data from the council, said the local authority’s appeal to the Court of Session would cost thousands of pounds of public money.
“Why are they trying to keep that information under wraps if they don’t have something to hide?” he added.
Mr Irvine said the claims being processed by Fox Cross and Action 4 Equality came from home carers, cooks, catering assistants and teaching assistants, some of whom had retired since the proceedings began.
He added: “You can have a cook in charge of a school kitchen who is managing a staff of 10 and requires qualifications for her job."
“She can be paid less than traditional male manual jobs, typically a refuse worker, gardener or driver.”
Many of the female claimants say their jobs did not attract the ‘bonus’ payment paid to those in male-dominated posts such as binmen and roadworkers. These further skewed rates of pay in male and female-dominated sections of the council.
Council Leader Eddie McAvoy estimated that if they lose the case they will probably have to pay about the same required by North Lanarkshire to settle their cases.
He added, however: “The council’s position is that the deal struck by the council with the union took care of all the (pay inequalities).
“The lawyers, including counsel, hired by the council to represent them in these cases are very confident that the council have no case to answer.”
What do you think of the council staff’s equal pay battle? Let us know by contacting editorial on 01698 283200 or by sending an email to email@example.com