Tuesday, 21 February 2017

FoI and Equal Pay

I have published countless posts on freedom of information (FOI) during the long fight for equal pay in North Lanarkshire (NLC) and South Lanarkshire (SLC) Councils.

Now both are Labour-run councils, of course, and have been since 1996 when Scottish local government was reorganised into 32 single-tier councils.

Both councils also claim to be 'equal opportunity' employers and supporters of the public's right to know - or freedom of information as it's also known.

But in relation to equal pay nothing could be further from the truth and over the past 12 years both councils have fought tooth and nail to avoid spilling the beans about their pay arrangements.

The Scottish Information Commissioner ruled against both councils and in the case of South Lanarkshire they had to be dragged all the way to the UK Supreme Court before finally admitting defeat.

So I plan to re-publish some of these posts from the blog site archive which will encourage readers in Glasgow to take heart because as far as North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils were concerned there proved to be no hiding place in the end. 


NLC Update (27/04/15)

As regular readers know I fought a long Freedom of Information (FoI) battle with North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) in order to discover more about the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) which was carried out before the Council finally implemented new pay arrangements in January 2007.

Now the Equality Impact Assessment had been demanded by the trade unions and the terms of reference were agreed with the trade unions via the Council's head of human resources, Iris Wylie.

The declared purpose of the EIA was, of course, to ensure that all jobs were treated fairly and that the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value' was at the heart of  the new pay arrangements which flowed from the Council's job evaluation scheme (JES).

As everyone now knows, this is not what happened and the new pay arrangements favoured traditional male jobs which is astonishing if you ask me, especially as the simple common sense test of looking at the 'rank order' of jobs would have shown that many predominantly female jobs had lost out during the whole JES process.

I will have more to say about this issue in the days ahead because NLC will have to review the grades of various Council jobs and if you ask me, it is essential that this further process is conducted in a completely transparent manner.

So that NLC employees can see what's going on for themselves and understand how the current failings of the JES are to be addressed, otherwise there's a very real risk of things being done behind closed doors and without proper scrutiny which is precisely what happened before, of course.    

More on this subject to follow.  

FOI and NLC (31/01/15)

I am due to hear from North Lanarkshire again on Monday 2nd February 2015 the date by which the has to disclose the information so ordered by the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC). 

Yet again North Lanarkshire argued that the release of these details would be 'prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs', but SIC gave the Council's case short shrift and agreed with me that this was nonsense.

I said to SIC at the time that North Lanarkshire was really just trying to shield senior officials from proper scrutiny and I think I've been proved right.

So let's see what arrives on Monday - I can hardly wait.  

NLC and FOI (4 December 2014)

The Scottish Information Commissioner has been in touch to confirm that an appeal I registered against North Lanarkshire Council will now proceed to a formal investigation.

As regular readers know this involved a refusal by the Council to release details of an email setting out the extent of the consultation which took place between the Council and the trade unions over an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA).

I will share the contents of my appeal to SIC in due course, but in the meantime here's what I had to say to North Lanarkshire Council back in September in support of my case that this information belongs in the public domain.    

Curiouser and Curiouser 4 (5 September 2014)

Here's my FoI Review Request to North Lanarkshire Council regarding its refusal to release details of an Equality Impact Assessment (EIS) carried out back in 2006.

Now I don't know what the Council has to hide, but if you ask me the Council does not have a valid reason to withhold this information and, as such, is in danger of turning itself into a laughing stock.

Maybe someone from within the Council will leak this information because other people must know what went on, for example Unison must know who was involved on their side and the extent of the consultation with the trade unions.

September 2014

June Murray
Executive Director of Corporate Services
North Lanarkshire Council

By email
Dear June

FoI Review Request

I refer to the attached letter from North Lanarkshire Council's Freedom of Information Coordinator, Angelene Kirkpatrick, and would like to register the following Review Request in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
  1. First of all, I have to say that it is completely absurd for the Council to suggest that the release of information regarding an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out in 2006 is in any way prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs in 2014. 
  2. In my view the exact opposite is true and the release of this information would allow people (including the council workforce) to see for themselves how the terms of reference of the EIA were drafted and the extent of the consultation that allegedly took place with Unison.
  3. North Lanarkshire Council has not offered any evidence to demonstrate how the release of this information would impact adversely on the ongoing Employment Tribunal or any settlement discussions taking place outside of the Employment Tribunal, but as far as I am concerned the two things are entirely unconnected.
  4. Furthermore, I would say that instead of acting in an open and transparent manner the Council is in danger of being seen to be trying to shield senior officials from proper scrutiny, on a matter which affects large numbers of staff and involves the use of significant amounts of public money.
  5. So taking all the issues into account I hope you will reverse the decision to reject my initial FoI request because the Council is bound to lose this argument, in my view, if I have to appeal this matter to the Scottish Information Commissioner.
I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards

Mark Irvine     

Curiouser and Curiouser (3)

I don't know who is calling the shots over at North Lanarkshire Council 's Freedom of Information (FoI) operation these days, but if you ask me whoever is in charge has taken leave of their senses.

Because the Council has just refused my FoI request asking for details of the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) which the Council carried out back in 2006 on the ridiculous grounds that disclosing this information would "prejudice substantially the effective conduct of public affairs".

But I have to ask myself in all seriousness - 'How can it possibly prejudice anything in 2014 to be told who Iris Wylie was talking to in Unison back in 2006 and how can people knowing more about the EIA terms of reference possibly do the Council any harm?"

Unless the Council has something to hide of course which is why I'll be submitting a Review Request pretty damn quick - so watch this space.

Gavin Whitefield
Chief Executive
North Lanarkshire Council

Dear Mr Whitefield

FOISA Request 

I would like to make the following request under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002.
Please provide me with a copy of the e-mail from the Council's Head of Personnel to Unison dated 7 March 2006 which sets out detailed terms of reference for the Equality Impact Assessment conducted by the Council over its plans to implement the 'single status' agreement with effect from 1 April 2006.

I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by e-mail to: markirvine@compuserve.com
Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Curiouser and Curiouser 2 (18 August 2014)

I wrote recently about the Equality Impact Assessment Impact (EIA) carried out by North Lanarkshire back in 2006, the purpose of which must have been to ensure that the Council's job evaluation scheme (JES) was operating in a non-discriminatory way.

In other words not treating male jobs more favourably than their women colleagues.

Yet that is exactly what appears to have happened in North Lanarkshire, if recent developments at the Employment Tribunal are anything to go by because the Council has been forced to concede that many jobs have been wrongly graded and that the bonus payments of male workers were into account when these jobs were moved over on to new pay structures.

So I was amazed I have to say at the following comments from the EIA report which is marked "Private and Confidential" and is dated 14 March 2006"

"Implementation Strategy"

"While I have not been asked to review the entire implementation proposal I understand that pay equality in the new pay and grading structure is underpinned in the proposed NLC arrangements for:
  • assimilation to the new structure
  • incremental progression
  • improved detriment protection beyond the provisions of the SJC 'single status' agreement
  • addressing pay inequality arising from bonus payments to male manual workers"   
Now I'm almost lost for words at complacency involved because what was the point in asking someone independent of the Council to review the impact of the JES and the pay arrangements that flowed from the JES, if that person did not actually complete the job?

If you ask me that is and was a completely crazy state of affairs which is why I've submitted a further FoI request about the EIA's terms of reference which appear to have been set by Iris Wylie, the Council's head of human resources.