Friday, 22 July 2016

A Life Well Lived!

My Uncle Pat didn't last too long after his 100th birthday which came as no great surprise because his 'batteries' were pretty run down towards the end. 

He is being laid to rest today following a service at St. Catherine’s Church in West Drayton (London) which I can't attend due to other commitments, but I plan to mark his passing in my own private way.

Pat never lost his sense of Scottishness even though the spent the rest of his life in England after the Second World War; he was a charming, hugely interesting and very generous person like so many of his generation.

I loved this pamphlet which was on display at Pat's 100th birthday party in March - A Soldier's Guide to Rome - having been issued to the allied troops who helped liberate Italy from the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. 

A Life Well Lived! (22/03/16)

I was in London last week for a remarkable event - a celebration of the life and times of my Uncle Pat who turned 100 years of age on 18 March 2016. 

Pat's family and friends in Scotland always knew him by his middle name (Patrick), but when he settled in England after the Second World War he became known by his first name, as John Fitzgibbon.

Here is Pat as a baby in his mother's arms alongside Edmund, his older tousled-haired brother in an family photograph from 1916. 

Pat's war service took him to Africa where he fought with the Royal Signal Corps and on to Italy to dislodge a fascist Italian government which had allied itself with Nazi Germany.

And here is Pat's birthday cake in the shape in the shape of a St Andrew's Cross which was presented to him on the big day along with a card from the Her Majesty the Queen, signed Elizabeth R.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

North Lanarkshire Update

I still receive emails on a daily basis asking for information and an update on North Lanarkshire Council's job evaluation (JE) review.

The current position is that Action 4 Equality Scotland has asked North Lanarkshire Council to explain exactly how the backpay element of the JE review impacts on all A4ES clients. 

Once this information is to hand A4ES will be able to check the figures and will write to clients on an individual basis, but the current delay is down to North Lanarkshire Council. 

The workforce is understandably fed up at this state of affairs which is why so many people have been writing to the NLC chief executive, Paul Jukes, urging the Council (politely, of course) to 'get its finger out'. 

After all, the JE review should have been completed before the end of December 2015 whereas, in reality, it's still very much a work in progress.

The chief executive's email address is:


North Lanarkshire Council (08/07/16)

I've been contacted by more readers in North Lanarkshire who say that their letters to the Council's chief executive, Paul Jukes, are being responded to by someone called Anne Burns, the acting Head of Business (Organisational and People Solutions).

Now I don't know this person, but she seems to have replaced the former head of human resources, Iris Wylie, and if so, that may well be a good thing.

In any event Action 4 Equality Scotland has requested details of all the A4ES clients whose grades are affected by the JE Review to check the figures and calculations in relation to any backpay that is due. 


North Lanarkshire Update (07/07/16)

I have been contacted by a reader who says that and email she sent recently to North Lanarkshire's chief executive, Paul Jukes, has 'bounced back' as if the Council is blocking email access to its most senior official.  

Now I would be amazed if the Council had done such a thing because what happens if NLC employees were to write (by snail mail) to Paul Jukes - would his staff return people's letters marked 'NOT KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS'?

I'll have to check things out myself, but I've always used: and I've never had a problem until now anyway.

So I'll send a test email and let people know how I get on although I've heard from other readers who say they've also contacted Mr Jukes and are still waiting on him to reply to their query regarding the JE Review.

As I've said before the best thing would be to share all the relevant information about the Council's JE Review so that employees can understand the logic and reasoning behind key aspects the re-grading exercise. 

"What happens if Mr Jukes' office is just blocking my email?" - asks another reader, clearly frustrated at what is going on.  

Well I don't know I have to admit because it's new territory for me - I've never come across anything like this before.

So I'll give it some thought and see what ideas I can come up with especially as people are only asking to be treated with a bit of dignity and respect. 


North Lanarkshire Update (05/07/16)

I have received a number of queries from readers in North Lanarkshire asking how they can notify Action 4 Equality Scotland of a change in their personal details, for example a change of address.

Well the way to do this is to send an email to: - and remember to include your National Insurance number for security purposes.

Lots of readers continue to raise queries about North Lanarkshire's job evaluation (JE) review and as I've said in previous posts the best thing to do is to put these issues in writing directly to the Council's chief executive, Paul Jukes.

As the 'head of the paid service' Mr Jukes has a duty to respond to issues raised with him by NLC employees whose jobs are affected by the JE Review. 

I imagine it would be a much better use of everyone's time for the Council to explain the details of the JE Review directly to the workforce and all of the claimant organisations involved, but unfortunately this has not happened so far at least.

The Council's chief executive can be contacted via the following email address: 


North Lanarkshire Update (04/07/16)

Here is a small selection of the many questions I've been asked about North Lanarkshire Council's late-running job evaluation (JE) review in recent days.
  1. When will I receive any backpay I am due?
  2. Why is my new grade not been backdated to 2007?
  3. Why has my rate of pay not gone up as the Council said it would?
  4. Why does my backpay not take into account my length of service?
  5. Why is my grade less than other people doing the same job as me?
  6. Why is my rate of pay less than other staff I am required to supervise?
  7. Why is my rate of pay less than other people doing the same job as me?
  8. Are male workers on the same grade as me now at the top of their grade?
  9. What will happen to all the jobs which have been excluded from the JE Review?
Now I don't know the answers to these questions which is why I have advised people to contact the Council's chief executive, Paul Jukes, at the following email address:

The sensible course action is for the Council to publish full details of the JE Review, but so far the top brass has failed to do so - hence the importance of writing to Paul Jukes as the head of the paid service.


North Lanarkshire Update (01/07/16)

Here's a copy of an email I've just sent to the chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council's, Paul Jukes, at the following email address:

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Irvine 
To: jukesp 
Sent: Fri, Jul 1, 2016
Subject: North Lanarkshire Council - Job Evaluation (JE) Review

Dear Paul

North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) - Job Evaluation (JE) Review

I have received literally hundreds of email and Facebook enquiries recently (from NLC employees) regarding the Council's late-running job evaluation (JE) review.

As I am sure you appreciate, the responsibility for answering people's queries and concerns lies with North Lanarkshire Council, as their employer, and not the trade unions. 

To my mind the best way to deal with this situation would be for the Council to publish full details of the JE Review on its web site and also to share this information with all claimant organisations, but as far as I know this has still to be done even though key aspects of the JE Review were announced to the press weeks ago.

So the Council workforce has lots of unanswered concerns and questions and no doubt you understand the importance of treating all NLC employees equally, regardless of whether or not they are members of a trade union.

In the circumstances, I plan to post this email on my blog site and redirect people towards you as the Council's chief executive and head of the paid service. If and when more sensible arrangements are made, I am happy to publicise these too since that would seem to me to be in everyone's best interests.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Now if you ask me there's no need for NLC employees to be given the 'run around' in this way and if proper arrangements were in place, there would be no need for people to bombard the Council's chief executive with huge numbers of individuals enquiries.

But until this does happen my advice to employees who have queries about the Council's late-running JE Review is to email Paul Jukes directly.

North Lanarkshire Update (30/06/16)

I said the other that that I was overwhelmed with enquiries about North Lanarkshire Council's late-running job evaluation (JE) review.

Not just that, I also explained that I was unable to answer most of these queries because the Council's senior management and the local trade unions are the 'architects' of the latest JE exercise - not Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES).

A4ES is attempting to clarify various issues with the Council, but so far at least the Council has been unable or unwilling to explain important aspects of the JE Review.

The efforts to get some sense out of North Lanarkshire Council will continue and any news will be reported on the blog site.

In the meantime, individual employees who are being given the run around may wish to drop a note to the Council's chief executive Paul Jukes who can be contacted at the following email address:

For the avoidance of any doubt equal pay claimants whose cases were previously handled by Stefan Cross Solicitors, Fox Cross Solicitors and Fox and Partners Solicitors are now being represented by Action 4 Equality Scotland Limited. 

North Lanarkshire Update (22/06/16)

I have received lots of enquiries from North Lanarkshire in the past 24 hours, via email and Facebook, regarding the Council's late-running job evaluation (JE) review.

Now I don't have the time or resources to respond to all of these queries on an individual basis which is why I tend to communicate with readers via the blog site.

I will do what I can to shed some light on aspects of the JE review that are causing people most concern, but I can't of course speak for the Council and/or the trade unions.

Nor can I necessarily explain the problems or anomalies about a 'deal' which the Council and the unions have struck between themselves, not least because many of the details are still unclear even at this late stage.  

So my advice to trade union members is to raise a query with your own trade union in the first instance, in writing, and keep a copy of your enquiry for future reference along with any response received.

For readers who are not in a trade union, your line manager is the first port of call and again I would raise any queries in writing (by email) rather than over the phone, for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

PlaySchool Labour

Image result for playschool + images
I suggested last year that electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party made about as much sense as appointing the school caretaker (janitor) as its new head teacher.

Not a bad analogy, as things have turned out, and although the appointments system has been broadened out, under new Labour Party rules, the result in some ways is akin to giving school pupils (party members) the same voice about who gets the top job as their teachers (Labour MPs).

Now that's a good thing you might say since a political party is not a school and more direct democracy has to be welcomed, generally speaking, except that other 'outside' interests also have a big say in who should become Labour leader, such as trade union bosses like Len McCluskey and 'registered' Labour supporters.

Meanwhile, going back to the school analogy, the parents (Labour voters) and the wider community (the electorate) are forced to sit on the sidelines while this unedifying drama is being played out viewing developments with a mixture of detached interest, horror and bemusement.

In effect the 'glue' which held the old system together by giving MPs a strong say in who should become their leader has been discarded and, amazingly enough, the weighted voting of the old electoral college has been replaced by something even more dysfunctional.

So we now have a standoff in which the majority of Labour MPs have no confidence in their leader, but nonetheless the pupils and supporters are now running the school while sticking two fingers up at the 'establishment'. 

Will the school start to function again, will the staff begin to leave or will the parents and wider community vote with their feet? 

I don't know to be honest al though I would say that having lived through Old Labour and then New Labour, I never thought I'd see the day of PlaySchool Labour.

Willie for Leader! (05/08/15)

Where is Gordon Brown when you need him?

The former prime minister is regarded, in some quarters, as an intellectual heavyweight within the Labour party, one of the key architects of the New Labour project who understood the need for his party to make itself electable again.

But as Labour flirts with the idea of electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader, Gordon is nowhere to be seen or heard, even though the former Iron Chancellor is well placed to explain that Labour needs a Marxist economic programme like it needs an extra hole in its head at the moment.

Alan Johnson, the avuncular and well-liked former Labour minister, has come off the fence with an article in The Guardian calling on Labour members to end the Corbyn 'madness' and you can read what he has to say via the following link:

In effect Johnson is arguing that Jeremy Corbyn is simply not up to the job of leading the Labour party or becoming a Labour prime minister in 2020, which is a devastating comment coming from some who is not normally associated with personal attacks on his political friends or foes.

I agree with Johnson's assessment although I would put things this way - if the Labour party were to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader it would be like appointing the school janitor as the school's new head teacher.

Now I can see what fun some of the kids can see in Groundskeeper Willie replacing Principal Skinner, but on sober reflection I've no doubt that even Homer Simpson would take a very different view.

Johnson on Jeremy

Credit: PA Images

Alan Johnson wrote a scathing letter about the behaviour of the Labour leader's office drying the EU referendum which explains d his reasons for backing the recent vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn.

“The lukewarm approach by Jeremy was bad enough but there is no doubt in my mind that at least three of his closest associates in the leader's office were actively undermining the party's efforts.

“They wanted Leave to succeed and at best Jeremy could not control them; at worst he was sympathetic to their views

“Either way his performance in the campaign was risible and a taster for what to expect in a general election.

“The fact that he refuses to take any responsibility whatsoever adds insult to injury.”

Mr Johnson also warned that Labour would suffer third consecutive election defeat if Corbyn stayed as leader.

"We in the Parliamentary Party have observed at first hand his woeful performances in the Commons, his inability to take responsibility, demonstrate leadership or give the slightest indication that he is capable of moving beyond meaningless platitudes.

“Anti-austerity is a slogan not a policy. To beat the Tories we need something more than Jeremy's conviction that the support he has amongst the membership, particularly those who joined to get him elected, will somehow translate to the public at large.

“We cannot go into another general election with an unpopular leader. We can't walk into a third consecutive election defeat.” 

Now Johnson is a widely respected Labour MP, few people have a bad word to say about him, which is why his judgment on Corbyn is so powerful and devastating. 

TUs Need New Gene Pool (10/06/16)

David Aaronovitch wrote an interesting article for The Times the other day (behind the paywall) in which he argued that its fine for people in leadership positions within membership organisations to hold views which are at variance (to the left or right) of the people whom you are paid to represent.

So long as you don't push your views too far, or pretend that you are speaking for all of the members, especially when it comes to controversial issues.

Now that makes perfect sense to me and it was my own personal experience as well for many years, throughout my trade union career, from my days as a NUPE shop steward in the NHS to my role as Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland.

But in Scotland the unrepresentative nature of trade unions is becoming a bad joke, stuffed to the rafters as it is with Labour Party hacks at every level, many of whom have been in the same or similar positions for years.

The Labour Party is now supported by around 1 in 5 Scottish voters and was pushed into third place at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections; a real shocker of a result, but a fair assessment of public opinion these days.

Yet in terms of leadership positions in local branches and all the way up to Scottish or UK level, trade unions are represented by dreary old hacks whose politics have Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone as heroes and role models.   

If, as the historian Tom Nairn once said, 'Scotland will be free when the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post' then the same is true of trade unions.

Trade union members will get the service they deserve when union leaders are drawn from all walks of life - not just from the increasingly dried-up gene pool of the Labour Party.

My commie days were mild compared to this

By David Aaronovitch - The Times

Malia Bouattia, the new leader of the NUS, has failed to grasp that you can’t impose your views on all your members

Have I ever told you the one about meeting the 45-year-old leaders of the Romanian youth delegation? It was back in the Iron Curtain days and I was representing the National Union of Students at an international event and these balding men in shiny suits wanted a “bilateral” to discuss getting one over on their equally elderly comrades in the Soviet youth delegation.

It struck me then, as it does now, that while there are lots of youth organisations run ostensibly for young people, there are very few run by them. The NUS is one of those organisations. It has existed for nearly 100 years and over that time has done a rather adult job of representing the UK’s scholars — even when I was its president. Of course it is flawed: young people tend to make young people’s mistakes. But it’s to the credit of this country that it maintains one of the biggest democratic youth organisations in the world.

Sadly, it was always possible that someone would come along one day and mess it all up. And this spring, a new president who was, even by NUS standards, a left-field candidate was voted in. Malia Bouattia is the first black, Muslim female president (the first woman and first black presidents were my immediate predecessors three decades earlier), but she is also the first president whose election in itself has sparked moves from college unions to leave the NUS. In the past few weeks several unions have held votes on disaffiliation and three have decided to depart. A decision by Cambridge University students is due to be announced tomorrow.

Unrepresentative Unions

Unrepresentative Unions (07/05/16)

Image result for unrepresentative + images

Len McCluskey has every right to support the Labour Party, but the Unite boss is deluded if he thinks he's speaking for the wider union membership when he says that "The Labour Party is our party".   

Because in Scotland the standing of the Labour Party is at an all time low of around 20 to 25% and the truth is that far many more Unite members in Scotland support the SNP and parties other than Labour.

So Len should would do us all a favour by abandoning the bogus claim that Unite is a 'representative' organisation, because on the question of political affiliation in Scotland such a claim is self-evidently untrue.   

Labour was 'built to serve us', Unite boss Len McCluskey says

Len McCluskey, the Unite boss, says that Ed Miliband's flagship manifesto commitments are 'our policies'

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the union Unite Photo: PA

By Steven Swinford - The Telegraph

Len McCluskey, the Unite leader, has said that the Labour Party was built "to serve us" and that Ed Miliband's flagship pledges are "our policies".

In his first major intervention of the election campaign, Mr McCluskey urged his members to "take back our country" and "restore decency, dignity and justice".

He claimed that David Cameron will "change our nation forever" with "cuts that will take us back to the 1930s" and union attacks that will "place us in chains".

Message sent by Unite's Len McCluskey to union members

His comments will fuel criticsm by the Conservatives that Ed Miliband is dependent on his union "paymasters".

According to the Electoral Commission Unite has given £19million to the Labour party under Mr Miliband, including £1.3million in the first two weeks of the General Election campaign.

Striking public sector workers protest in Trafalgar Square in central London Photo: REUTERS

The Conservatives claimed that Mr Miliband receives more than £4,392 an hour from the unions.

In the foreward to Unite's in-house magazine, Mr McCluskey said: "The Labour party is our party. We built it, to serve us, the people. Never forget, the rich and powerful have their party, the Tories.

"And Ukip is no friend - they are frauds, charlatans who will roll back every advance won by working people.

"One May 7, we can vote for a government that will build homes, give our kids hope, save our NHS and attack the evil of zero hours, hire and fire working.

"These are our policies. These are the changes that you have been fighting for these five long years. They are now withing our grasp."

He goes on to warn: "Do not for a moment forget this: should Cameron and his cronies win on May 7, they will change our nation forever - but not for better.

"Cuts that will take us back to the darkest days of the 1930s. Attacks on unions will place us in chains so we cannot defend you, our members. Our common wealth, the homes and services we have built and paid for over generations, will be destroyed, gifted to boardrooms so that they may feast on our riches."