Friday, 16 October 2015

North Lanarkshire Update

The questions about the GMB's handling of its members equal pay claims in North Lanarkshire Council continue to pile up.

For example, if the GMB is now pointing the finger at Digby Brown, then what about the 52 members who have reportedly accepted extremely poor offers of settlement based on their unions advice?

So if you ask me, the right thing for the GMB to do is to agree to compensate these members for the financial loss they have suffered while the argument about who, or what, is responsible for this mess are finally resolved.

Because one thing's for sure - the GMB's low paid members in North Lanarkshire should not be asked to take a huge financial 'hit' or someone else's incompetence.   

NLC Update (02/10/15)

The Herald newspaper picked up on the scandal in North Lanarkshire where GMB members are still fighting their own union as well as the local Labour-run Council over equal pay.

As I said in a separate post yesterday, it's remarkable that the GMB has allowed any of its members to accept such poor settlement offers and according to a North Lanarkshire Council spokesperson the terms of settlement were proposed by the GMB itself:

“We have offered compensation payments to 205 GMB members, 52 of which have been accepted to date, based on settlement terms proposed by the GMB and based on the claim GMB had lodged against the council."

So I'm not surprised to hear that moves are afoot to sue the GMB for negligence if the union fails to clear up a mess of its own making. 

Apparently the same situation applies in South Lanarkshire where the trade unions face legal action over their advice to members not to pursue equal pay claims against the local Labour-run Council.

As a former Nupe (now Unison) trade union official like myself, I wonder what the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, might have to say about this appalling state of affairs. 

GMB union facing legal action from own members over historic equal pay deal fiasco

GMB union facing legal action from own members over historic equal pay deal fiasco

By Gerry Braiden - The Herald

ONE of Scotland’s biggest trade unions faces being sued by its own members after they missed out on years of back pay in a long-running legal battle.

Hundreds of low-paid female council workers have missed out on as much as £10,000 after the GMB agreed a settlement on historic equal pay claims vastly inferior to that negotiated by other trade unions and legal firms.

The union, which has 60,000 members north of the border and whose Scottish boss has been sidelined in recent weeks, offered North Lanarkshire Council a pay settlement going back three years, which the authority accepted.

However, thousands of colleagues who went with specialist legal firms' and members of Unison and Unite secured deals backdated in some instances more than eight years.

Disgruntled GMB members have contacted legal firms with a view to taking negligence claims against the union, claiming they were offered little or poor advice on such a significant financial decision.

The union, meanwhile, is taking the settlement it agreed with North Lanarkshire back to the Employment Tribunal in the hope of having it improved.

It is understood this is likely to be contested by the local authority.

DM Legal, which has represented many of North Lanarkshire Council’s employees, said it had been approached by members of the GMB now seeking legal recourse for the settlements.

Donna-Marie Gray, who set up the legal firm, said: "The GMB had a roadshow offering people disgraceful settlement amounts. Many of these people have contacted us asking what the GMB has been playing at.

"We've now established that there may be a case for negligence here and GMB members who trusted their union on this are refusing the offer their union is making to them and want to raise an action against them."

Senior sources involved in the pay deal with the council have claimed the likely explanation of the GMB's readiness to strike a quick deal with North Lanarkshire was due to its desire to keep legal costs down.

While Unison had 1,000 members making claims and legal firms' Action 4 Equality had 3,000 clients involved, the GMB had just over 200.

It is also claimed that it failed to pursue North Lanarkshire on points around how jobs were scored, which is likely to be crucial grounds for any negligence case.

It is understood the GMB has in recent weeks sacked the legal firm pursuing its equal pay claims against Fife Council.

Mark Irvine, of Action 4 Equality, said the estimated GMB members collectively lost in excess of £1 million as a result of the early settlement.

He added: "They've badly let their members down and are now open to actions for failing to provide the correct advice over what for many other members was a very significant decision."

One senior trade union source said: "It was all about the economics for the GMB and it's been deeply embarrassing for them.

"They will have looked at this, assessed how much it was worth their while pushing it given the legal costs and will have wanted it sorted quickly. But given some specifics of the case, including the tribunal saying the council's case had been found wanting, it was a surprise to all that they settled for what they did.

"I'm not sure it says much about the GMB as a union but it is very embarrassing for them and could leave them open to negligence claims."

Gary Smith, acting secretary of GMB Scotland, said: "We have submitted amended claims. Our members have been advised that this is a top priority. We remain determined to get justice for our members

"The solicitors acting for our members, Digby Brown, are providing us with a full report and we will determine our further course of action after that. Our members best interests will be the criteria we use for any necessary additional next steps."

Last week it emerged that Harry Donaldson has been removed from his post as regional secretary of the GMB amid claims he has become a victim of a power struggle at the top of the organisation.