Saturday, 19 August 2017

Glasgow - Stop Digging!

Stefan Cross tells it straight in this agenda piece for The Herald about the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

In effect, Glasgow 'bet the house' but lost hands down, even though the City Council had the opportunity to settle these issues amicably, by negotiation, a long time ago.

Yet for some strange reason a succession of Labour-led councils relied on very poor advice from senior officials and legal advisers, instead of facing up to their obligations over equal pay. 

Many of those responsible have now left the council, through retirement or other generous terms, but the big challenge for the new SNP led administration is to accept that the Council is in a big hole of its own making - and 'stop digging'.

So maybe it's time that some of the City Council's senior officials and legal advisers were shown the door?

Will Glasgow drop fight against equal pay?

By Stefan Cross QC - The Herald

Stefan Cross QC

Every political party and every politician will tell you that they believe in the principle of equal pay for men and women.

But when you challenge that principle in practice it becomes a different story. Protecting the mens’ wages comes first, saving money comes second and the rights of the women come a distant last.

We are about to find out if that charge still sticks as today’s Court of Session ruling means that GCC faces a bill that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds purely because they have for over a decade set their face against resolving these issues with us on an amicable basis.

To understand how we got into this mess you have to go back over 30 years. In the 1980s all local councils agreed a new job evaluation scheme (JES) for manual workers covering all jobs done mainly by men such as refuse, gardening and road workers and all mainly female jobs such as catering, cleaning and caring.

This meant a home carer was graded the same as the driver of a refuse lorry. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with this scoring, what matters is that all the employers and the unions did so.

This meant that legally these two jobs should have been paid the same. By 2005 the nationally agreed rate for the job was about £11,000 and that what the women were paid, but because of automatic bonuses the men were getting paid anything up to £21,000.

The council now agrees that this was wrong and the women were therefore entitled to be paid the same £21,000. Did they? Err no.

Instead the council terminated the old pay arrangement and imposed a new pay structure.

Now this in itself was not unusual, indeed there was a nationally agreed scheme agreed with the unions to enable this to be put in place. But Glasgow City Council refused to follow the national agreement.

It decided to go it alone and create its own JES scheme. On top of that the council promised the men that they would protect their old earnings but refused to give the same protection to the women.

What did this mean in practice? It meant that instead of being paid the same as a man doing a job which has been of equal value for 20 years the council downgraded the women and gave them new salary still much less than the men.

Net result was that women had an effective pay cut of over £5,000. To rub salt into the wounds they also took away the womens’ right to overtime pay and other enhancements. Guess who kept those rights? Yes the former bonus earning men. This is supposed to be an equal opportunities employer!

We have challenged all these decisions. At the same time we urged the council to resolve these cases by agreement. They refused instead gambling that their lawyers advice was better than ours. They have now lost that bet.

The Court of Session in two decisions this year held, first, that the women were entitled to the same protection as the men but even more importantly that the council had failed to prove that its JES scheme was valid under the Equal Pay Act, the now nearly half century old legislation designed to make sure men and women’s labour is valued equally, and not tainted with discrimination. 

The council will either have to go back to the drawing board or let the tribunal do it for them. In the meantime the women have been paid anything up to £6000 a year less than men doing jobs which were of equal value. So will the council now agree to pay these women equally or will they find another excuse? We’ll wait and see.

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

I nearly died laughing at the comments issued by Unison, in Mike Kirby's name, after the Court of Session released its unanimous decision in the big Glasgow City Council equal pay appeal.

The reason for my uncontrolled hilarity is that Mike was a 'big cheese' in the Glasgow Unison branch 10 years ago when:
  • the local trade unions in Glasgow actively supported the introduction of the City Council's WPBR pay scheme back in 2007 
  • the local trade unions in Glasgow agreed to introduce a cockamamy, in-house job evaluation (JE) scheme against national the advice of national union officials
  • the local trade unions in Glasgow backed the City Council's scheme to cap settlement offers to equal pay claimants at a maximum of just £9,000.I
I've highlighted Mike Kirby's comments below which are taken from the BBC Scotland web site, but if you ask me it just goes to show you that some people have no shame.

"This judgement that the Glasgow scheme is flawed is great news for low paid women workers.

"The way Glasgow rates and pays workers has been the source of conflict and division for ten years.

"These women have already waited long enough to receive the pay they have worked hard for and deserve. It's time for Glasgow City Council to do the right thing and pay up on equal pay."

So I plan to send Mike a bottle of Brasso which can put to good use in polishing up his brass neck.

Image result for brasso + images

Campaigners hail Glasgow City Council equal pay ruling
Image caption - Campaigners claim home workers were paid less than workers in male-dominated jobs

Lawyers representing low-paid women workers at Glasgow City Council have won a long-running equal pay case.

The Court of Session decided a re-grading scheme introduced in 2007 may have provided less favourable treatment for women workers.

Campaigners argued that women such as home carers were left earning thousands of pounds less than men in jobs such as gravedigging or refuse collection.

Glasgow City Council said it would consider the impact of the ruling.

The judgement is the latest in a series of complex cases concerning the way jobs were re-graded by councils to address equal pay issues.

In May the court ruled that thousands of women employed by the council had been excluded from bonuses for years.

The latest judgement quashed an earlier ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal that the council's job evaluation scheme was valid in terms of equal pay laws.

The judges said the burden of proof rested with the council to demonstrate that it complied with the law - and that it had failed to produce sufficient expert evidence to do so. 

Image copyright - GETTY IMAGES Image caption - Glasgow City Council introduced a unified job grading scheme in 2007 but campaigned argue it was flawed

Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "This is a complex ruling about a complex matter. It is right that the council takes some time to consider the immediate impact and wider ramifications of this ruling.

"Council officers will require time to consider all the implications of this ruling, but I have instructed them to continue to speak to the trade unions about the application of the pay and grading scheme.

"We have recently settled the long running janitors' dispute and we are actively working with the trade unions to settle all cases relating to pay protection, where a number of women continued to be paid unequally even after the introduction of the new pay and grading system."

She added: "The city government was elected on a commitment to improve industrial relations in Glasgow City Council, including resolving inherited outstanding equal pay cases. Today's ruling has not changed that position."
'Great news'

About 6,000 women are already pursuing equal pay claims against the council, but campaigners said the ruling could lead to many more.

The trade union Unison said the re-grading scheme was unfair because it made it impossible for employees to know if they were being paid equal pay for equal work.

Unison's Scottish secretary Mike Kirby said: "This judgement that the Glasgow scheme is flawed is great news for low paid women workers.

"The way Glasgow rates and pays workers has been the source of conflict and division for ten years.

"These women have already waited long enough to receive the pay they have worked hard for and deserve. It's time for Glasgow City Council to do the right thing and pay up on equal pay."

Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) - which represents thousands of claimants - said the council's pay arrangements resulted in people employed in female-dominated roles, such as home care, receiving on average £3 an hour less than those in traditionally male roles.

Stefan Cross QC, from A4ES, said: "We have been saying for years that the city council could not justify paying highly skilled, hard working staff like home carers so much less than gardeners, gravediggers and refuse workers."

The Court of Session has now asked the Employment Tribunal to reconsider the matter.

Glasgow and Equal Pay (14/07/17)

A number of Clerical Officers from Glasgow have been in touch to say that they are really hacked off at their local trade union, Unison, over equal pay.

As regular readers know, many staff groups were deliberately excluded from the previous Equal Pay Compensation Scheme back in 2005/06.

The trade unions agreed the list of excluded groups with senior council management even though staff such as Clerical officers had perfectly valid equal pay claims.

So if you ask me, not all union members were treated equally or fairly, as the post below from the blog site archive explains.

Some Unison members have been in touch with the local Glasgow branch to ask why there are equal pay meetings for Cordia staff, but not a series of meetings open to all members.

Now there appears to be no good answer to that question or to the many others I posed in my recent blog post and in my letter to Unison's Mike Kirby, a former 'big cheese' in the local Unison Glasgow branch.

But if Glasgow union members wish to organise meetings under their own steam, as it were, I am more than happy to come along. 


Glasgow and Equal Pay (10/07/17)

The trade unions in Glasgow have a lot to answer for after failing to stand up for the lowest paid council workers in the long fight for equal pay.

So what does Unison's Mike Kirby have to say for himself?


Dear Mike

Glasgow and Equal Pay

I thought you might be interested in the article below from my blog site regarding the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Given your close involvement in these matters, during your time as an activist in the local Glasgow Unison branch, perhaps you would like to explain why the trade unions' failed to stand up for the City Council's lowest paid workers back in 2005/06?

If so, I would be happy to publish your comments on my blog site as I'm sure lots of people would be very interested in what you have to say - including many Unison members.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine 

Questions for Unison (07/07/17)

A number of readers have been in touch to say that the local Unison branch in Glasgow City Council is holding a series of equal pay meetings starting next week - week beginning Monday 10 July 2017.

Now the current regional secretary of Unison in Scotland is a chap called Mike Kirby who used to be a 'big cheese' in the local Glasgow branch back in 2005 - when equal pay first became a big issue thanks to Action 4 Equality Scotland, of course.

So I hope Mike will be heading back to his old stomping ground to where some of the bodies are buried, so to speak, and here are a few topical questions Unison members might like to ask of Mike and their local union representatives:
  • Why did Unison agree to the arbitrary cap on equal pay settlements back in 2005 which resulted in very poor offers of compensation - lower even than the £13,500 figure proposed by COSLA (the council employers' body)?
  • Why did Unison agree to exclude groups such as Clerical Officers from the Equal Pay Compensation Scheme?
  • Why did Unison agree to exclude non-bonus earning male workers such as School Janitors and Special Needs Drivers from the Equal Pay Compensation Scheme? 
  • Why did Unison agree to much lower and insulting compensation payments to  groups such as Classroom Assistants?
  • Why did Unison agree to exclude overtime from the Equal Pay Compensation Scheme when so many people, especially the lowest paid, relied on additional overtime hours?
  • Why did Unison not attend the 'acceptance meetings' in November/December 2005 and provide its members with its own legal and other advice on the Council's Equal Pay settlement offers?
  • Why did Unison not threaten strike action to bring the pay of the women into line with their male comparators?
  • Why did Unison only threaten strike action to defend the former bonus earnings of male dominated 'red circled' jobs?
  • Would Unison behave the same way again today the the clocks were turned back and if so, why should union members have any trust in Unison in 2017?
If Mike Kirby and/or the local unison branch would like to debate these issues, I would be delighted to come along to a future Glasgow members meeting.


Glasgow Equal Pay News

I said the other day that I would explain more about the staff groups who were deliberately excluded (by the City Council and local trade unions) from receiving 'Equal Pay - Compensation Payments' back in 2005.

So here you are:
  • Clerical staff in council offices
  • Clerical staff in council schools
  • Male workers in non-bonus earning jobs
  • School Janitors (despite being on high Manual Worker grades)
  • Special Needs Drivers (even though they had to hold special licences)
  • All City Council employees with less than 1 year's service - despite having claims worth up to several thousand pounds (depending on hours worked)
I find it interesting that the trade unions bitterly criticise the government over workers being denied 'employment rights' until they complete a year's service - they (rightly in my view) campaign for employee rights from Day 1.

Yet when it comes to the fight for 'Equal Pay' the local trade unions ganged up with senior management to deny compensation to any council employee with less than 1 year's service.

Amazing - and completely hypocritical into the bargain!

Not just that, of course, because the unions agreed with the decision to exclude Admin & Clerical staff from compensation payments and then wrongly advised hundreds of non-bonus earning male workers, e.g. Janitors and Special Needs Drivers, that Equal Pay was only for women!

No wonder 80% of equal pay claimants in Glasgow City Council are pursuing their cases with Action 4 Equality Scotland.


Glasgow Equal Pay News (19/06/17)

Here is some more information about the 'Equal Pay - Compensation Payments' agreed between Glasgow City Council and the local trade unions back in 2005.

As regular readers know, these payments were highly controversial in a variety of ways:
  • Payments were capped in a completely arbitrary fashion, without a proper explanation, and a maximum ceiling of  £9,000 imposed
  • Pupil Support Assistants, Child Development Officers and others received widely varying, often derisory payments - again without a full explanation of the differences in pay with male comparator jobs
  • People were credited with contracted hours only - no credit whatsoever was given for overtime working which was very prevalent (and still is) in some parts of the Council
  • Many groups were deliberately excluded  for these payments despite having perfectly valid claims - more to follow on this issue shortly 
Under the 'Questions and Answers' section the document says "Staff can also contact their Trade Union to ask for further guidance" reinforcing the message that this whole business was carefully worked out and agreed with the local unions.

More to follow on the 'excluded groups' - so watch this space.


Glasgow Equal Pay News (17/06/17)

I promised the other day to share information on the blog site about the 'Equal Pay Compensation Payments' agreed between Glasgow City Council and the local trade unions back in 2005.

So here's an extract from an official document that the City Council published at the time which confirms that senior management and the unions really were working 'hand in glove'.

"Equal Pay - Compensation Payments"

"What is Glasgow City Council doing about Equal Pay?

"The Council, in partnership with the Trade Unions, has begun the process of tackling financial inequality in the workplace through the offer of compensation payments.

"All staff who are being offered a compensation payment are being provided with information about what the Council and Trade Unions have negotiated.

"Remember: Both the Council and Trade Unions are working jointly." 

Over the next week or so I'll share further extracts from this document which will explain how the council's lowest paid workers were effectively 'duped' into accepting very low offers of settlement - when what they really deserved was equal pay with their male comparators. 

As I said the other day, I am happy to discuss and debate these issues with the local trade unions in Glasgow.


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

The Herald reports on the landmark equal pay ruling from the Court of Session which has driven a 'coach and horses' through through Glasgow City Council's current pay arrangements - known locally as the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) 

The Council leader has apparently instructed officials to speak with the unions about the pay and grading scheme, although it is important to explain that the local unions have been part of the problem all along, as they actively supported the introduction of the WPBR back in 2007.

Former Labour council leader Frank McAveety is also keen to re-write history with his comment about 'lots of people having together to get their heads together' because it was a succession of Labour-run administrations that managed to dig the City Council into an ever deeper 'equal pay' hole.

Stephen Purcell was the Labour City Council leader in 2005 when A4ES started its equal pay campaign and he was followed by Charlie Gordon, Gordon Matheson and finally Frank McAveety before Labour lost political control of Glasgow at the local elections in May 2017. 

So while the most important thing now to put things right - it's also important to understand how and why the City Council ended up is such a terrible mess.

Workers’ joy and council angst as women win landmark pay case
By David Leask - The Herald

Left to right, home carers Alice McIntyre, Janice Feeney, Sandra Johnston, Frances Stojilkovic, Mary Caldwell, Lynn Paton, Katrina Lower and Jacqueline Brennan celebrate after winning their equal pay claim. Picture: Kirtsy Anderson

THOUSANDS of women have won an historic equal pay case that could potentially cost Scotland’s biggest local authority hundreds of millions of pounds just as austerity bites hardest.

Lawyers for more than 6000 workers have secured a ruling at the country’s highest civil court that Glasgow’s entire salary system may be unfair.

Their landmark victory comes after a 12-year fight against the city, which has been described by unions as “rogue” for grading jobs dominated by men, such as gravediggers, above those largely done by women, such as home carers.

Three judges at the Court of Session, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian; Lady Paton; and Lord Menzies, quashed an employment tribunal ruling that the grading system met equal pay laws.

Unions and lawyers now hope the council, whose new SNP administration has said it is committed to equal pay, will now negotiate a deal. But - without such an agreement - the ruling means thousands of women can go back to tribunals to seek a wage rise and back pay.

Insiders stress, however, stress that any settlement - whether through individual employment tribunals or negotiation - could have a dramatic effect on city finances.

Stefan Cross QC, whose Action 4 Equality Group, represents 6000 workers in the large and complex action said: “There is now bound to be a huge influx of new cases against the City Council which faces a mammoth bill of £500 million after stubbornly refusing to face up to its equal pay obligations for the past 12 years.”

The case is the second and more significant of two lost by the council over the summer. Back in late May the Court of Session ruled that women workers have been effectively excluded from bonuses widely used by men for years.

The former Labour administrations in Glasgow had thought their re-grading of posts would help them avoid what they saw as a financial blow.

Politicians and officials of that generation have now largely left, to be replaced by city leader Susan Aitken.

The SNP councillor said her administration was elected to improve industrial relations, including settling the equal pay row.

Ms Aitken said: “This is a complex ruling about a complex matter.

“It is right that the Council takes some time to consider the immediate impact and wider ramifications of this ruling.

“Council officers will require time to consider all the implications of this ruling, but I have instructed them to continue to speak to the trade unions about the application of the pay and grading scheme.

“We are actively working with the trade unions to settle all cases relating to pay protection, where a number of women continued to be paid unequally even after the introduction of the new pay and grading system.”

Some of the pay anomalies between male and female workers were stark. Unions argue their female members such as carers, cleaners, catering staff, classroom assistants, clerical workers and so on were typically paid £3 less an hour less than male gardeners, gravediggers or binmen.

That can add up to a shortfall for women of £5000 per year. A final settlement could potentially, therefore, mean workers getting the shortfall for the last decade plus interest.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has backed the equal pay cause after a series of victories for workers over councils.

Labour figures in Glasgow suggested the Scottish Government may have to help local authorities handle big bills with more generous funding arrangements.

Frank McAveety, who Ms Aitken replaced as city leader in May, said: “This judgment has huge financial challenge for the city and a lot of people are going to have to get their heads together, including the government.”

What the Papers Say

Here's what The Daily Record has to say about the big decision yesterday from the Court of Session on equal pay.

What a great feeling when the highest court in the land comes out and agrees that A4ES was right all along.

And it needs to be said that the people who kept digging Glasgow City Council into an ever deeper hole over the past 10 years - ought to be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour.

Glasgow City Council faces £500m bill after court rules pay scheme discriminated against women

The council was battling in court over the scheme, but lost its case.

BY SALLY HIND - The Daily Record

The council now face a colossal bill dating back 12 years (Image: Daily Record)

Thousands of women were celebrating yesterday after winning their equal pay fight in a case which could cost Scotland’s largest council £500million.

Glasgow City Council will have to make payouts to thousands of female workers after the Court of Session ruled a 2007 pay scheme designed to close the gender wage gap had discriminated against women.

Action 4 Equality Scotland represented 6000 staff in the long-running case. Their lawyer Stefan Cross QC said: “This is great news for low-paid women workers.

Bonuses joy for women workers as council loses appeal in equal pay dispute

“The council faces a mammoth bill of £500million after stubbornly refusing to face up to its equal pay obligations for the past 12 years.”

He warned the authority are likely to face a “huge influx” of claims from former staff.

Women employed as carers, cleaners, catering staff, classroom assistants and clerical staff were typically paid £3 an hour less than men in low-paid roles, A4ES said.

The council's pay scheme was ruled to have discriminated against women

The council accepted in 2005 that their pay arrangements could not be justified, with settlements being made to staff with equal pay claims.

But in March last year the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that the women were entitled to make additional claims.

And yesterday the Court of Session ruled that the council’s evaluation scheme was not fair to women.

Council leader Susan Aitken said officers would need time to consider the implications. But she said councillors were elected on a commitment to resolving equal pay cases, adding: “The ruling has not changed that position.”

All The President's Men

America's 45th President has been in post for just over six months, but in that short space of time Donald Trump's turbulent style has resulted in the loss of his National Security Adviser (Mike Flynn), Chief of Staff, (Reince Priebus), Press Secretary (Sean Spicer) and Chief Strategist (Steve Bannon).

So whoever said that 'Trump is to leadership what bulls are to China shops' was clearly understating the problem because as this photograph from the White House shows, of the six men gathered round the President's desk only Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence are left.


All the President's Men (30/07/17)

Image result for all the president's men

Donald Trump's latest recruit to the White House - his new communications director Anthony Scaramucci - seems to be an egg sandwich or two short of a picnic.

Here are some of the dumb things the "Mooch' said in a recent foul mouthed rant with a journalist from the New Yorker magazine.

On leaks and leakers

“I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”

“What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.” 

On Trump's chief of staff (Reince Priebus)

“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.

“‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months."

On Trump's chief strategist (Steve Bannon)

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock.

“I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”

Now this may sound like 'locker room banter' to some people, but if you ask me this clown Scaramucci is not up to the serious business of government - it's almost as if he's auditioning for a part in 'Goodfellas'.   


Is Trump An Idiot? (29/07/17)


3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why can't manage to pass his agenda.
After sacking his own chief of staff (Reince Priebus) in less than six months an urgent question has to be asked: 

"Is Trump an idiot or is Trump an Idiot?"

Please send your answers to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC.


Mad House v White House (28/07/17)

The seat of American Government looks more and more like a 'mad house' these days with the President attacking the Attorney General Jeff Sessions whom Trump appointed only a few months ago. 

Trump then makes matters worse by releasing his new attack dog Anthony Scaramucci (also known as the director of communications) who immediately savages the President's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, another of Trump's senior presidential appointments.

To round off a really miserable week at the Mad House, Trump lost a senate vote on his bill to kill off Obamacare after a dramatic intervention by Senator John McCain whom the President described as a 'bare American hero' earlier in the week.

The only conclusion to draw is that Donald Trump is a 'disaster'.

Scaramucci challenges Priebus over leaks to the press

BBC US & Canada

Media caption - Emily Maitlis talks Trump, Russia... and chicken with Anthony Scaramucci

The newly-hired communications director for US President Donald Trump says he has a "very good idea" who the "senior leakers" are at the White House.

In a quickly-deleted tweet, and in interviews on Thursday, Anthony Scaramucci appeared to point the finger at Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

"If Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that," he told CNN in a phone interview.

"He's gonna need to speak for his own actions", he added. 

President Trump has said that leaks from the White House are a national security threat and must stop.

The tensions between two of his top aides appeared to be made public when Mr Scaramucci tweeted on Wednesday night that his government financial disclosure form had been leaked.Image copyrightTWITTER @SCARAMUCCI

The tweet, which he subsequently deleted, ended by tagging Mr Priebus' Twitter handle.

After journalists began reporting that the tweet was a threat, Mr Scaramucci posted: "Wrong!

"Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks."
Feuding on live television

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington

This is not how any of this is supposed to work. The newly installed White House communications director accusing - on Twitter! On a morning news show! - the White House chief of staff of criminal leaking.

In a White House that has been characterised by feuds and shifting centres of power, these latest developments may represent an attempt by Anthony Scaramucci - and others - to push out veteran Republican Party hands and clear the decks for Mr Trump's more unvarnished band of outsiders.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer and one of his top assistants are already gone. Reince Priebus could be next.

There's no telling how Mr Trump is taking all this. On one hand, he seems to have a visceral connection to Scaramucci, a brash New Yorker not unlike himself. On the other, the president hasn't always reacted well when subordinates step into his limelight.

Where Abraham Lincoln had his famous "team of rivals" in his administration, this is something different. Trump White House seems more akin to the final scene in Reservoir Dogs, where everyone is yelling and pointing a gun at someone else, and there's a good chance no one is going to come out unscathed.
Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks.

Mr Preibus, who formerly chaired the Republican National Committee, and former White House spokesman Sean Spicer, had reportedly opposed the hiring of Mr Scaramucci.

Mr Spicer announced his resignation on the same day that Mr Scaramucci was hired.

"I don't know if [my relationship with Mr Preibus] is repairable or not," said Mr Scaramucci on Thursday. "That will be up to the president."

On his first day in the job last week, he told reporters that he and the chief of staff were personal friends who like "rough each other up" once in a while. "But he's a dear friend," he added.

Donald's Losing It (26/07/17)

Donald Trump is such a doofus that he's even started attacking people he appointed  to his own cabinet just weeks ago.

Jeff Sessions, the US Attorney General, is the latest to attract Trump's out of control temper and this follows hot on the heels of the President sacking the highly respected FBU chief James Comey for not showing sufficient loyalty.

America's system of government is fast becoming a laughing stock around the world.

Trump savages 'very weak' Attorney General Jeff Sessions
BBC US & Canada

President Donald Trump has launched yet another attack on US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, labelling him "weak".

His latest Twitter onslaught comes amid reports the president is consulting advisers about possibly firing the country's top prosecutor.

On Monday, he called Mr Sessions "beleaguered" in another tweet.

Mr Trump has made clear he is unhappy with Mr Sessions for recusing himself from an FBI inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Moments earlier he questioned in another post why Mr Sessions was not looking into a report earlier this year that officials in Ukraine had sought to influence last year's US presidential election in favour of Mr Trump's Democratic rival.

The Washington Post reports that Mr Trump has asked an adviser how firing Mr Sessions would be received in the conservative media.

Anthony Scaramucci, the president's new communications director, fanned speculation on Tuesday that the attorney general's days could be numbered.

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt put it to Mr Scaramucci that it was pretty clear Mr Trump wants Mr Sessions gone.

"If there's this level of tension in the relationship that's public, you're probably right," Mr Scaramucci said.

No one is safe - Analysis, by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News 

Like some sort of medieval torture device, the political pain applied to Attorney General Jeff Sessions is steadily increasing - and Donald Trump is behind it all, turning the screws.

After months of hints in the media that he wasn't happy with his attorney general, the president said last week that he wished he had never appointed his close campaign confidant. He then tweeted that the man was "beleaguered" and finally called him out by name as "very weak" in a latest round of tweets.

Mr Trump is apparently unhappy that his attorney general allowed the Russia investigation to morph into the ever-expanding independent counsel probe. And with each new revelation of the investigation's growing reach, the president has reacted more aggressively.

Last week's Bloomberg story that Robert Mueller and his team of veteran prosecutors are looking into the president's business dealings have been followed by this week's presidential Twitter tirades.

The campaign to undermine the attorney general could come at a high price, however. Reports circulate of an administration constantly looking over its shoulder.

If the president can turn on Mr Sessions, the thinking goes, no one is safe.

Mr Sessions was in the West Wing on Monday, but did not meet with the president, according to deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The attorney general has recently asked White House aides if he can meet Mr Trump to resolve their fallout, reports AP news agency.

But Mr Scaramucci said on Tuesday: "My guess is the president doesn't want to do that."

Image copyright - GETTY IMAGES Image caption - Attorney General Jeff Sessions was one of Mr Trump's earliest supporters in Washington

Last week, Mr Trump expressed regret about appointing the former Alabama senator to be top US prosecutor, telling the New York TimesMr Sessions "should have never recused himself".

It was reported on Monday that the president was considering replacing Mr Sessions with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But Mr Giuliani told CNN on Monday that Mr Sessions had "made the right decision under the rules of the Justice Department" in recusing himself from the inquiry.

Media caption'Alternative facts': 1984 on Broadway

Mr Sessions, known for his hardline anti-immigration stance, was one of then-candidate Mr Trump's earliest supporters in Washington.

But in March he recused himself from the Russia inquiry after failing during his confirmation hearing to disclose a meeting with the Kremlin's envoy.

If Mr Trump were to fire Mr Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would take over the job on an acting basis.

Mr Trump has also been sharply critical of Mr Rosenstein for his handling of the Russia inquiry.

Some commentators suggest Mr Trump's ultimate target is Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is leading the Russia investigation.
Special counsel: What is it?

Mr Sessions said last week he intended to stay in his post.

Image copyright - AFP Image caption - Robert Mueller is leading the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the election

"I'm totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump also appeared to suggest on Tuesday morning that the acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, was corrupt.

He tweeted that Hillary Clinton gave $700,000 (£535,000) to Andrew McCabe's wife.

The president appeared to be referring to nearly $500,000 which Clinton ally and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe's political action committee donated to the Virginia state senate campaign of Dr Jill McCabe.

Trump is a 'Liar' (09/06/17)

The former director of the FBI, James Comey, is not a politician and has a reputation as a 'straight-shooter' having served two previous American presidents in George W Bush and Barack Obama before Donald Trump entered the White House.

The President initially showered praise on Mr Comey, but finally sacked the FBI director in the most prejudicial way after failing to pledge his 'loyalty' to Trump.  

The BBC reports on a day of high drama in the American Congress where Comey made a point of emphasising the seriousness of Russia's meddling in the presidential election which Trump has still not condemned.


Comey: Trump White House 'lied' about the FBI

BBC US & Canada

Media caption - Comey's most revealing moments

Ex-FBI chief James Comey told Congress that the Trump administration's comments about him and the FBI were "lies plain and simple".

Mr Comey told a Senate committee they were wrong to denigrate the agency and its leadership.

He was also "confused" by the "shifting explanations" for his sacking, which came as he led a probe into any links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

President Donald Trump later said he never sought to impede the inquiry.

Mr Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, said in a statement Mr Comey's testimony "finally confirmed publicly" that the president was not under investigation as part of any probe in Russian political meddling.

In the statement, Mr Trump also denied asking Mr Comey for his loyalty or to drop an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn during private meetings.

In his testimony, Mr Comey said Mr Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a "great" job.

He also suggested he was fired to "change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted".

The former FBI boss remained largely composed throughout almost three hours of testimony but became impassioned when delivering his opening remarks.

He told the panel that the White House "chose to defame me, and more importantly the FBI" by claiming the agency was "poorly led".

"Those were lies, plain and simple. And I'm so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them," he continued. 

Media caption - A blockbuster that lived up to the hype. Watch the explosive first 10 minutes

"The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent," he said in his opening remarks.

Mr Comey was leading one of several Russia investigations before Mr Trump fired him.

US intelligence agencies believe Russia interfered in the US election and they are investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

But there is no known evidence of collusion and President Donald Trump has dismissed the story as "fake news".

His spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Thursday hit back at Mr Comey, saying: "I can definitively say the president is not a liar."

'Staggering blow' for Trump - Anthony Zurcher, BBC News

For Donald Trump the good news from James Comey's testimony is that the former FBI director clearly said the president was not directly under FBI investigation at the time he was fired. The bad news was, well, everything else.

On multiple occasions, Mr Comey said he was either concerned or knew that the president or his administration was lying "plain and simple" - about the circumstances of his dismissal and about the nature of his meetings with the president.

It's clear the president woefully mishandled this, for which he has paid a high price ever since. By unceremoniously sacking him, and offering a muddle of explanations for it, he created an adversary with both the means and the motivation to respond in the most damaging way.

Mr Comey had a friend leak disturbing information about the president's actions to the media. He was given the biggest spotlight in a generation to publicly air further details. He stood before a Senate committee not just to defend himself, but also the honour of the FBI.

The White House may claim today's testimony is a technical exoneration. Politically, however, it's a staggering blow. And when it comes to the presidency, politics is everything.

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Man in the spotlight - Comey takes the oath

During Thursday's testimony, Mr Comey emphasised that Russia's political meddling was "not a close call", adding: "There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever."

When asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee whether the president tried to stop the Russia investigation, Mr Comey said: "Not to my understanding, no."

He said he it was not for him to say whether Mr Trump's actions were an obstruction of justice.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the committee's vice chairman, pressed Mr Comey on why he decided to keep a record of his conversations with Mr Trump.

Comey 'confused' by Clinton probe order
Key quotes in Comey prepared statement
The Trump-Russia story - in 200 words

"I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting" he said.

Media caption - Comey hearing 'is our Super Bowl'
James Comey: From 'brave' to fired
Russia: The scandal Trump can't shake
How Trump's Russia trouble unfolded

Mr Comey, who published his prepared remarks a day before the hearing, detailed one meeting with Mr Trump in which the president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House aide Jared Kushner to leave the Oval Office.

"I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to," he said. "I remember thinking that that was a very disturbing development." 

Media caption - Comey on Flynn conversation: "It's not for me to say if obstruction of justice"

During another meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Comey said the president appealed to him to "let go" an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to the Kremlin.

After US media reported the conversation, the president warned Mr Comey in a tweet, saying he "better hope there are no 'tapes' of our conversations".

Mr Comey told the committee he hoped there were tapes, calling on Mr Trump to release them.

"The president surely knows whether he taped me, and if he did my feelings aren't hurt. Release all the tapes, I'm good with it," he said. 

The White House has refused to say whether any such tapes exist.

Media caption - Comey: "Lordy I hope there are tapes"

After Mr Trump's tweet about potential tapes, Mr Comey said he realised it was important to release his own account of the story.

He revealed that he asked a "good friend of mine" who is a professor at Columbia Law School to share contents of the memo with a reporter, in order to build pressure for a special counsel.

As a result of this episode, former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to lead an independent investigation into the Trump campaign's potential ties to the Kremlin.

Mr Comey said he was "sure" Mr Mueller was also looking at whether Mr Trump obstructed justice.

Mr Trump attacked Mr Comey for leaking the documents, saying it showed that members of the US government are "actively attempting to undermine this administration".
What's the reaction?

"He's new in government, and so therefore I think he's learning as he goes," said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. "I'm not saying it's an acceptable excuse. It's just my observation."

"If you want to convict the president of being inappropriate, putting Comey in a bad spot, being rude, crude and a bull in a china shop, you would win," Senator Lindsey Graham told the BBC.

"The American people elected a bull in a china shop to help them with their lives, not this."

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said "it's hard to overstate the impact of Jim Comey's testimony today" and that "it seems like the walls are closing in".