Saturday, 27 May 2017

Court of Session - Breaking News

Addleshaw Goddard logo

The legal profession is constantly changing these days with new firms entering or leaving the market while others merge and expand.

HBJ Gateley have been providing A4ES with excellent legal support and representation for the past two years, in the Court of Session for example, but HBJ Gateley are now merging with a major new law firm called Addleshaw Goddard from 1 June 2017.

As before, when HBJ Gateley took over from Fox and Partners Solicitors, Action 4 Equality Scotland will continue to provide its clients with a first class legal service.

Which means there is no need for anyone to do anything at this stage other than sit tight and wait on news from the Court of Session, as this will have a big impact on the ongoing fight for equal pay in Glasgow.  

Here's what Addleshaw Goddard have to say about themselves, along with a link to their web site in case any A4ES clients wish to explore further.

"We are a premium international business law firm with an exceptional breadth of services.

"By delivering what clients want wherever they need it, from high value strategic advice, to the everyday, we pride ourselves on our straight talking approach and a service which is high quality, focused and consistently excellent.

"Experience how we can help to protect and grow your business through our long-term relationship investment, our understanding of your markets and sectors, combined with our collaborative team culture and we'll soon have you rethinking any fixed ideas you might have had about business lawyers.

"Read on for more information about the firm, how we make a difference and indeed, what's different about us."

I have just heard that the Court of Session decision on the 'pay protection' part of the appeal will be released next week.

So watch this space for news.


Breaking News (17/08/15)

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I've had a few enquiries today from readers who are a bit confused about letters they have received from Fox and Partners Solicitors which is ceasing to practice at the end of this month.

The position is that Fox and Partners (FAP) is the latest in a line of law firms which Action 4 Equality Scotland has instructed to represent our clients' interests at Employment Tribunal hearings, the others being Stefan Cross Solicitors and Fox Cross Solicitors. 

So all former equal pay clients of FAP continue to be clients of Action 4 Equality Scotland and A4ES will take responsibility for any further legal instructions that may be necessary, as far as future tribunal proceedings are concerned. 

As such, A4ES clients do not need to look for new solicitors themselves and, in fact, they should not do so as any new solicitor will charge for their services.

In other words there is no need for A4ES clients to do anything at this stage, other than to sight tight because A4ES will be in touch as soon as there are any developments to report.

So, please spread the word and let other A4ES clients know the score, especially those without access to the blog site via the internet. 

Breaking News (17/08/15)

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Everyone at Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) is sorry to hear that Fox and Partners Solicitors (FAP) is ceasing to practice from the end of August 2015, due to internal issues within the firm and personal matters on the part of Carol Fox.

Not least because the relationship between A4ES and FAP has proved to be very productive in recent times with landmark settlements being achieved in North Lanarkshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council, for example.

Regular readers of the blog site will be aware that the work involved in representing A4ES clients at the Employment Tribunals was carried out previously by Stefan Cross Solicitors and Fox Cross Solicitors before being transferred to FAP in 2010/11.

Action 4 Equality Scotland is in the process of making arrangements for this work to be carried forward in a way which maintains the high quality of service our clients have come to expect over the years.

So at the moment there is absolutely no need for A4ES clients to do anything other than sit tight and await further developments.

In the meantime we would like to place on record our appreciation to the staff at FAP and our best wishes for the future.

One thing is for sure though: Stefan Cross and Mark Irvine will both be continuing the fight for equal pay in Scotland, a campaign which they and Action 4 Equality Scotland first began in August 2005, a full 10 years ago this month.  

Glasgow - Court of Session (23/0517)

As regular readers know, two important appeals involving Glasgow City Council were heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh recently, ending on 4 May 2017 - the same day as the local elections.

The written decision of the court may be some time off, but here is my personal impression  of how things went and the big issues at stake.

Protection Period Claims

In the first part of the appeal the court heard about Glasgow’s pay protection arrangements and the City Council's commitment to maintain the earnings of former bonus earners at their previous levels via its Employee Development Commitment  (EDC) - without first of all bringing the pay of the women into line with the higher pay of the men.

The upshot being that when the WPBR was introduced in 2006/07 women workers were in a much less favourable financial position because their pay was thousands of pounds a year behind their bonus earning male comparators.

So before WPBR came into play a Home Carer on £12,000 (basic pay) and Grade MW5 was being paid much less than a Gravedigger on the lower grade of MW3 because bonus pay took his earnings to @£22,000 a year.

After the WPBR a Home Carer and Gravedigger ended up on the same PESB 3 Grade, but a Gravedigger’s earnings remained at @£22,000 while the Home Carer’s increased to only @£15,000.

So, the effect of WPBR was to preserve the higher, bonus-related pay of male comparator jobs - rather than to substantially improve the lot of the women’s jobs which had been undervalued and underpaid for many years.

The trade unions seemed to share this objective and a Council minute of December 2006 confirms that the unions threatened strike action in support of maintaining the earnings of the male dominated ‘red circled’ jobs.

Yet strike action was never threatened over the demand for 'equal pay for work of equal value' which would have brought the pay of Glasgow's women workers (the majority of the workforce) into line with the higher earnings of their male comparators.

If the 'protection part' of the Court of Session case is upheld, this will extend the period of people's second wave equal pay claims until at least 2009, i.e. until the pay preservation arrangements for the male comparator jobs came to an end.

Glasgow's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) 

The judges spent a lot of time trying to get their heads round the rationale behind the WPBR which is Glasgow’s name for its own ‘in-house’ job evaluation (JE) scheme and associated pay arrangements.

Glasgow did not use the Gauge JE scheme which had been developed alongside the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement and which was recommend for use across Scotland by CoSLA (the employers umbrella body) and the national trade unions (GMB, Unison and Unite).

For some reason, Glasgow City Council decided to call in an external consultant to work up its own ‘in-house’ scheme based on one previously used in Greater London. Even more bizarrely, the trade unions in Glasgow went along with the council’s plans without putting up any resistance.

If you ask me, the local trade unions lacked the expertise and knowledge required to deal with a completely new JE scheme and let their low paid members down because local union reps were completely out of their depth.

Core Pay and Job Evaluation

The judges had difficulty in grasping the different elements of Glasgow’s WPBR which were explained as Core Pay (Basic Pay), a separate payment for Working Context and Demands (WCD) and another payment for Non-Standard Working Pattern (NSWP) - the latter replacing shift payments or unsocial hours pay.

Only the Core Pay element related directly to objective job evaluation criteria which assessed different jobs on the basis of their skills and responsibilities, using a combination of factors and weightings, before awarding a new Grade and a place on the pay ladder.

WCD and NSWP relied upon new local ‘rules’ determined by the City Council (with input from the trade unions), but many of these were drawn in such a way as to deliver a desired outcome. For example, the arbitrary rule that says only employees working 37 hours can receive 7 (working hours) points under the NSWP element of the scheme - which was worth £800  a year in 2006 (see posts below).

The effect of WCD and NSWP allowed the City Council to maintain the higher pay of former bonus earning groups beyond the original 3 year protection period, even though these two elements of pay were not related to the grade of the job. 

In other words, having gone to all the trouble of introducing a objective JE scheme with evaluation criteria based on the skills and responsibilities of people's jobs, the City Council created another set of 'rules' which disproportionately benefited the former bonus earning male groups.

If the challenge to the Glasgow JE scheme succeeds, the WPBR will fall away and the result is that women doing work of 'equal value' to the men will be entitled to the same pay as their male comparators - both up until now (from 2006/07) and going forward from 2017. 

A successful challenge to the WPBR will also open the door to a whole raft of new claims in addition to those from existing A4ES clients. 
NB The GMB union did not support the A4ES led challenge to Glasgow's WPBR at the recent appeal hearing in the Court of Session. The GMB has restricted its claims to the protection period only. 

Court of Session Decision

The next steps in the fight for equal pay in Glasgow will hinge on the decision of the Court of Session. If the written judgment favours the claimants, Glasgow City Council will find itself in a similar position to North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire councils.

So fingers crossed and watch this space.