Wednesday, 3 August 2016

North Lanarkshire Update

As regular readers know Action 4 Equality Scotland continued the fight for a fair equal pay settlement on behalf of for NLC Classroom Assistants at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal.

The Council's position was that Classroom Assistants could not compare their pay to that of an NLC Gardener even though there was only one single point of difference between the two jobs.

The Employment Tribunal subsequently appointed an Independent Expert to consider in detail the responsibilities and scores of the two (male and female) jobs - and that process has been underway behind the scenes.

In my view the report of the Independent Expert will find in favour of the Classroom Assistants although there are now encouraging signs that NLC is now prepared to reach a settlement of these long running cases.

The cases involve A4ES clients only because the trade unions in North Lanarkshire Council are not party to these claims. 


NLC Update (24/04/16)

Great news for some more of the A4ES clients in North Lanarkshire who are still fighting for equal pay.

North Lanarkshire has finally conceded the 'equal value' argument in respect of Sheltered Housing Wardens and Clerical Assistants, so next week's hearing will still go ahead, but on the basis of determining an appropriate remedy for the A4ES claimants involved.

Date - Wednesday 27th April 2016
Time - 10 am
Venue - Eagle Building, 215 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7TS

The Council is still sticking to its argument that Classroom Assistants are not of equal value to a Gardener (2), so the fight will go on for this particular group.

Welcoming the news Stefan Cross QC said:

"We are delighted that North Lanarkshire Council has finally come to its senses in respect of  Sheltered Housing Wardens and Clerical Assistants and we will ensure that the awards for these two groups are now implemented as quickly as possible. 

"Where appropriate, the awards will be made on a pensionable basis which means that claimants will have equality of access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

"For reasons best known to itself the Council is stubbornly refusing to agree that the job of a Classroom Assistant is of equal value to that of a Gardener. I find it incredible that a Labour council is splitting hairs over two jobs that are separated by just one single point on the council's job evaluation scheme which was severely criticised at the long-running Glasgow Employment Tribunal.

"I suspect that many people will find it very hard to accept that a Classroom Assistant's job on 260 points is not worth at least the same as a Gardener (2) on 261 points"

Now I am familiar with the duties and responsibilities of both of these jobs, from my previous union experience with NUPE and my role as Head of Local Government for Unison in Scotland.

So if you ask me, there's no way that a Classroom Assistant's job doesn't measure up to to the work done by a council gardener.

North Lanarkshire Update (19/03/16)

A reconvened Employment Tribunal hearing is scheduled for next week (27th April) to continue the case against North Lanarkshire Council on behalf of Sheltered Housing Wardens, Classroom Assistants and Clerical Assistants.

Despite the progress that appeared to have been made at the previous hearing in March, the North Lanarkshire is now having problems clarifying its position in respect of a number of important and outstanding issues.

So the various witnesses (claimants and comparators) will all have to appear at the Employment Tribunal next week in Glasgow even though North Lanarkshire has no real case to defend.

Which is another terrible waste of people's time and public money, if you ask me.

I thought that the new political leadership in North Lanarkshire was a sign that the Council might finally get its act together over equal pay, but for the moment at least things are still in an awful mess. 

I'm told that the new council leader, Cllr Jim Logue, receives regular reports on what I have to say on the blog site.

So let me take this opportunity to alert Cllr Logue to the fact that some of his senior officials need a well deserved 'boot up the backside' over all the unnecessary stress being caused to all the hard working NLC employees who are potential witnesses in this case.   

North Lanarkshire Update (24/03/16)

The recent tribunal hearing involving North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) seems to have made some real progress in resolving the outstanding 'First Wave' equal pay claims of Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Assistants and Classroom Assistants.

As regular readers know, the Council has been arguing for many months that these female dominated jobs are not of 'equal value' to the earnings enjoyed by traditional male jobs (e.g. refuse workers and gardeners) which have been chosen as 'comparators'.

But the Council seems to be backing away from that position and while a further Employment Tribunal hearing has been set for 27 April 2016 the Council now appears willing to negotiate a settlement on behalf of these claimants which would be a great victory for common sense.

Discussions will continue over the next few weeks and with a bit of luck the tribunal hearing  scheduled for April will not be necessary, although as the old saying goes 'until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed'.

So there's still a real possibility that these outstanding cases will end up back in front of an Employment Judge for an adjudicated decision.

In other words, fingers crossed and watch this space for more news.

NLC Update (10/03/16)

Regular readers in North Lanarkshire will be interested to know that a further hearing of 'First Wave' equal pay claims is taking place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal next week.

Date - Tuesday 15th March
Time - 10 am
Venue - Eagle Building, 215 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7TS

Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council will continue at this hearing to make the case that Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Assistants and Classroom Assistants jobs are not of equal value to traditional male jobs such as Gardener (2) and a council Refuse Collector.

Little wonder if you ask me that so many NLC workers are completely disillusioned at the way Scotland's fourth largest council is being run.

NLC Update (28/01/16)

The recent tribunal hearing involving A4ES and North Lanarkshire Council (on behalf of Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Workers and Classroom Assistants) did not resolve the various issues that are still in dispute.

However the Employment Judge did set dates for a full hearing in May 2016 which could last, potentially, up to ten days.

In the meantime the Council has been ordered to specify its defences to the claim that these female dominated jobs are not of 'equal value' to their male comparators. 

Sounds crazy, I know, North Lanarkshire is persisting with the argument that a Gardener 2 was rated and paid more highly than a Sheltered Housing Warden (SHW), quite properly according to Council bosses. 

Despite the fact that under NLC's 2006 job evaluation scheme (JES) the female SHW job was awarded new NLC Grade 6 while the male Gardener 2 was awarded the lower NLC Grade 5.

So how does that work? - I ask myself.

Because it seems to me, the higher graded female job (whose duties never changed by the way) cannot at any time have been worth less than the lower graded male job - unless we're all living in some kind of equal pay version of Alice in Wonderland.

Any sensible council would have settled these issues a long time ago and goodness knows A4ES has proposed settlement talks, but the Council leadership in North Lanarkshire has dug its heels in, not for the first time, which means that the ongoing fight for equal pay will remain a major issue in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016.

Because the review of NLC jobs (which was supposed to be completed by the end of 2015) is still outstanding and if this is not done quickly and satisfactorily, thousands of equal pay claims from Council Home Carers could end up back in the Employment Tribunals along with those from Sheltered Housing Wardens, Clerical Workers and Classroom Assistants.

I'll have more to say on the subject soon, but it looks as though things are gearing up for a major new campaign in North Lanarkshire over the next few months.

So watch this space.

North Lanarkshire Update (21/01/16)

Tomorrow's tribunal hearing in Glasgow is about North Lanarkshire Council's stubborn refusal to accept that female dominated jobs (Sheltered Housing Warden, Clerical Worker and Classroom Assistant) are not of equal value to their chosen male comparators - a council Refuse Collector and Gardener (2).

I'm sure readers will be amazed, possibly even insulted, to learn that North Lanarkshire was arguing that a Sheltered Housing Warden (SHW), a job which clearly carries enormous responsibility, deserved to be graded and paid considerably less than a council Refuse Collector.

SHWs are now comparing themselves to a Gardener (2) because their jobs were raised from NLC Grade 3 to NLC Grade 6 under the Council's new job evaluation scheme (JES) back in 2006/07 - while the old Gardener (2) job was placed on NLC Grade 5.

So it seems like an open and shut case given that the tribunal has already ruled that the Wardens' duties did not changed, in which case how can a job on NLC Grade 6 not be of equal value to a council Gardener on the lower NLC Grade 5?

Seems like yet another terrible waste of taxpayers' money if you ask me, and from a supposedly cash-strapped Labour-run council which has been making a complete dog's dinner of equal pay for the past 10 years.  

Watch this space.