Thursday, 25 May 2017

Glasgow - Court of Session

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.  


Glasgow's Pay Arrangements (06/04/17)

A Home Carer from Glasgow has been in touch to say that she (and many others) work a 50 hour week and a 20 hour week the week week, so why don't they qualify for a NSWP payment in Week 1 at least?

Now that's a good question because fairness and common sense would suggest that such a shift working arrangement would qualify for an NSWP payment at Level B for at least half the year, perhaps more if overtime hours were also taken into account.

But I'm pretty sure that Glasgow City Council interprets these 'cockamamy rules' in a way that is to the disadvantage of Home Carers by treating the 2 weeks as a 35-hour average so that the staff concerned receive no payment. 

My own view is that the NSWP working hours payment ought to be paid on a 'pro rata' basis like other pay related benefits such as sick, holiday pay and sick pay - that way all Home Carers on a 35 hour working week would receive 35/37ths (or 95%) of a Level B NSWP payment.

The trade unions should be on to this as well if you ask me, because you don't have to work 37 hours before becoming eligible to join a union or to take part in a union strike ballot.

The real problem is that Glasgow City Council has just invented these 'cockamamy rules' which are impossible to justify as they go against the spirit and letter of the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement which is based on equal treatment for part-time workers.


Cockamamy Council 'Rules' (05/04/17)

As regular readers know, Action 4 Equality Scotland is challenging various aspects of Glasgow's WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review) which the City Council introduced back in 2006/07.

One of the most controversial aspects of the WPBR scheme is over additional payments that are made under the heading of NSWP (Non Standard Working Pattern) payments.

I wrote previously on the blog site about how the Glasgow's predominantly female jobs seem to fare badly under the WPBR compared to their male colleagues, and this is also true when it comes to NSWP payments. 

Because one of the NSWP 'rules' is a requirement for employees to work 37 hours before they qualify for 7 'working hours' NSWP points.

Now points mean prizes under the WPBR and 7 NSWP points means that a 37 hour a week employee qualifies for Level B Payment which was worth £800 a year in 2006 - almost £10,000 over 12 years - and a whole lot more than people have been receiving in terms of annual pay increases, for example.

So who made up this barmy 'rule' and on what kind of twisted logic is this NSWP rule based?

Because it's completely crazy if you ask me - people don't have to work 37 hours to qualify for holiday pay, sick pay, or maternity pay - for example.

And can it really be a coincidence that the vast majority of Glasgow City Council employees who work less than 37 hours a week are women? 

Curiously all of Glasgow's hardworking Home Carers were placed on 35 hour a week contracts some years ago, so they miss out on a Level B Payment even though they work 95% of a 37 hour working week.

The 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was supposed to ensure equal treatment for part-time workers, but that seems not to have happened in Glasgow where mysterious rules have been invented (by whom?) to exclude the council's lowest paid workers.

As far as I know the trade unions in Glasgow haven't called or even threatened a single strike to defend the rights of thousands of part-time workers affected by this cockamamy 'rule' which is a complete disgrace, if you ask me.

Because if points are to be awarded for hours worked, they should be pro-rated just like all other payments and benefits - not deliberately designed in such a way that treats women workers much less favourably than their male colleagues. 

No wonder the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council can't defend his party's position over equal pay, but readers are invited to drop Frank McAveety a note by email or Twitter and let him know what you think.

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