Monday, 31 July 2017

Glasgow, FoI and Equal Pay



Glasgow City Council is behaving very badly if you ask me, by refusing to provide me with details of its controversial EDC (Employee Development Commitment) scheme.

So I have decided to ask the City Council to review its decision to decline my request on the grounds of cost - see letter below.

Carole Forrest
Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council


Dear Ms Forrest

FoI Review Request

I refer to the letter from Glasgow City Council dated 7 July 2017 rejecting my earlier FoI request on the grounds that the cost involved exceeds £600.

I am asking for a review of the City Council's initial decision for the following reasons:

1 In my view the cost of providing the information I have requested is minimal and requires only an hour or two of someone's time.

2
The information must be contained in Council Committee reports and, as such, is capable of being readily and easily retrieved from digital or paper records.

3 By my reckoning the Council's chief executive is paid around £75 an hour which would allow even Annemarie O'Donnell a full 8 hours to complete this relatively simple task without exceeding the £600 figure set out in Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.


4 By way of comparison an employee earning a lower and more typical rate of pay of £8.50 an hour, for example, would have over 70 hours or two full working weeks to complete the task.

5 If on reflection the City Council is still not prepared to provide this information, I would ask you to explain the basis of your cost calculations in responding to my FoI Review Request, as I intend to register an immediate appeal with the Scottish Information Commissioner.
I look forward to your response and would be grateful if you could reply to me by email at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

If the City Council does not quickly come to its senses, I will take the matter to the independent Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC). 


   


Glasgow and Equal Pay (29/07/17)


A number of readers have commented on yesterday's post about Freedom of Information and the fight for equal pay in  Glasgow City Council - here's what they had to say.

City council should realease details and just get this over and done with its a shambles from the council


T

I noticed Mark, that you put this FOI request in on March, so that would have been under the labor leadership, so is the refusal from the old labor leadership or the new SNP leadership, and is there anything we can do to get this issue addressed quickly, I for one don't mind contributing to this to move this forward.


K


Hi Mark had a wee chuckle about latest Glasgow post.Funny how there seems to be unlimited funds to fight indefensible appeals but they can't find £600 for an f.o.i request. How's about a wee crowd funding.


M


I have now decided to ask Glasgow City Council to 'review' its initial decision as I do not believe that the cost of answering my FoI request is more than £600. 

If necessary, I will also appeal the decision to the Scottish Information Commissioner. 

I'll share my Review Request on the blog site as soon as it's finished. 


   

Glasgow and Equal Pay (248/07/17)


Here's a good example of Glasgow officials doing their level best to hide and obscure details of the City Council's WPBR pay arrangements.
Back in March I asked the City Council to provide a breakdown of the number of employees who benefited from its controversial Employee Development Scheme (EDC) which gave a guarantee (in response to the threat of union strike action) that the earnings of former bonus earners would be maintained and preserved beyond 2009 - when the agreed protection period was was due to end.
Having taken weeks to respond my FOI request the City Council's says it will cost more than £600 to provide this information, so they are refusing to do so under Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Now this is the first FOI request (from me) that the City Council has refused to answer on the grounds of cost and I have to say I think it's highly significant that they should play this card in relation to the Employee Development Commitment.

Because the EDC, as regular readers know, effectively gave traditional male jobs more favourable treatment than their female colleagues.

So maybe the fight's not over in Glasgow - maybe there are still senior officials in Glasgow who reject my argument that Scotland's largest council should be open, honest and transparent over its WPBR pay arrangements


Dear Mr Irvine
Request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

I refer to your request received on 20 March 2017 requesting that the following information be provided to you:

‘Please provide me with following anonymised information regarding the operation of the City Council's Employee Development Commitment (EDC) programme which was introduced alongside the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) in 2007:

 1.  The total number of council employees involved in the EDC programme in each year from 2007 onwards - until the EDC programme was finally closed

 2.  The gender breakdown of council employees involved in the EDC programme each year from 2007 onwards - until the EDC programme was finally closed 

Glasgow City Council ‘The Council’ is treating your request as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

The response to your questions are given below.

This particular request will cost the Council more than the upper limit allowed by section 12 (1) of the Act and the fees regulations made under the Act (this limit is currently £600). The Council has the option of complying with requests where costs exceed £600.00. However, on this occasion we have decided not to due to resources (both financial and human) which voluntary compliance with this request would divert away from our core business. Accordingly we are unable to comply with your request.

The Council accordingly has complied with your request. 


So watch this space.

   


Glasgow and Equal Pay (27/07/17)


As we approach the end of July and with the holiday season drawing to a close, lots of readers are asking me what is going behind the scenes with Glasgow City Council regarding a settlement of all the outstanding equal pay claims.

Now I explained the formal position back at the beginning of June right after the big appeal hearing in Court of Session in Edinburgh which found in favour of the claimants - see post below dated 01/06/17.

Shortly afterwards the new SNP led administration in Glasgow stated publicly that the City Council would not be appealing the Court of Session judgement, the SNP Group having  pledged during the election campaign to resolve the long standing issue of equal pay.

Previous Labour councils had, of course, dragged things out for many years - since 2007 in fact.

In any event, the time limit for registering an appeal to the UK Supreme Court has now passed and so the 'new' City Council has to deliver on the manifesto on which the SNP (the largest group) fought the May 2017 local elections in Glasgow. 

Thankfully, the process involved in reading a settlement is not 'rocket science' - instead it's just a matter of the City Council being open and honest about the pay arrangements that were put in place following the introduction of the WPBR back in 2006/07.

We know from the recent Court of Session hearing in Edinburgh that Glasgow's pay protection arrangements extended well beyond 2009, due to the so-called Employee Development Commitment (EDC) which guaranteed that the earnings of traditional male jobs (e.g Gravediggers, Gardeners and so on) would be maintained into the future.

So as far as reaching a settlement is concerned all the City Council has to do is to 'open the books' and explain the detail of these pay arrangements to Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) and the other claimant organisations.

A4ES has asked the City Council to do so without delay so that serious settlement negotiations can get underway and set a realistic timetable for completion.

If this does not happen, another option is to go back to the Employment Tribunals to seek a remedies hearings and for the tribunal to issue orders compelling Glasgow City Council to release the required pay information.

But given the previous stance of the SNP which called for Glasgow to be open and transparent, I  suspect the new administration will prefer to get down to brass tacks in pursuit of a fair settlement of all the outstanding claim

   

Glasgow - The Next Steps (01/06/17)


Lots of readers have been in touch to ask about the 'next steps' in the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council which was given a huge boost with yesterday's victory in the Court of Session.

The City Council is now under new management following the local elections on 4 May 2017 and the new council leader, Cllr Susan Aitken, has already stated publicly that there will be no further appeals. 

So, presumably the City Council has finally realised that it's in a big hole and the first thing to do when you're in a hole is to 'stop digging'.


Next Steps

The Court of Session appeal hearings in Edinburgh considered two main issues:
  • the pay protection arrangements put in place by Glasgow City Council (GCC) following the introduction of its WPBR pay scheme in 2006/07
  • the job evaluation (JE) side of the WPBR and its component parts - Core Pay, WCD and NSWP - which has been challenged by A4ES
The judgment of the court on 'pay protection' has gone in favour of the claimants and the previous decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal has been upheld - a further decision is now awaited on the job evaluation (JE) aspects of Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements.

A4ES is now preparing to seize the initiative and move things forward.


Protection Period Claims

Winning pay protection in the Court of Session means that a further entitlement is now triggered for all existing claimants for the period from 2006/07 onwards - and at least until 2009.

If you ask, it's also very possible that pay protection claims could extend well beyond 2009 because Glasgow’s arrangements did not stop after just 3 years, as a result of the Council's Employee Development Commitment (EDC).

The EDC gave a guarantee (to male workers only) that the higher earnings of former bonus earning jobs, e.g. Gravediggers, Gardeners etc would be maintained at their previous levels  and without limit of time.

The trade unions threatened strike action to gain this further EDC concession from the Council, but this applied only to the former bonus earning, male comparator jobs.

For all their brave talk about championing equal pay the trade unions in Glasgow never threatened a similar campaign of industrial action to bring women workers' pay into line with their male comparators.

So thousands of female dominated women jobs lost out including: Home Carers, Cooks, Cleaners, Catering Workers, Clerical Staff, Classroom Assistants etc.


Glasgow's JE Scheme

If the Court of Session upholds the challenge to the JE scheme (WPBR) existing claimants will have further 'second wave' entitlement from 2006/07 to date (i.e. 2017) and also going forward until these cases are finally resolved.

If the Court of Session finds the WPBR to be unsatisfactory and not ‘fit for purpose’, this will opens up a whole new raft of claims for employees who have not registered an equal pay claim up until now. For existing council employees, a newly registered claim would jump back 5 years, in time i.e. to 2012, but could still be very significant.

Former employees may also be able to register new claims by taking action in the Sheriff Court (instead of the Employment Tribunals) which would potentially help thousands of ex-GCC workers who left their employment over the past 5 years without registering an equal pay claim.

A4ES is now prepared to consider lodging new claims on the basis that these will be actively pursued in the event of a favourable judgement from the Court of Session in respect of the City Council's JE and WPBR pay arrangements. 

Waiting until the decision is actually released and its implications assessed will delay the starting date of any new claim, so it makes sense for potential claimants to act now and protect their interests.


Settlement Discussions with GCC

A4ES remains willing to enter into settlement discussions with the City Council, but the previous Labour-run administration failed to engage seriously on this issue between August 2016 and January 2017.

So before any serious negotiations could get underway, the City Council would need to ‘open the books', as it were, to allow the size and scale of any possible settlement to be fairly and properly assessed. 

Up until now the City Council has failed to deliver the pay information to explain fully the workings of the WPBR or, for example, its Employee Development Commitment to former bonus earning workers.


Enquiries and Further Information

If any readers in Glasgow would like to pursue this further, please contact Action 4 Equality Scotland at the following email address: enquiries@action4equality.co.uk - or ring A4ES on: 0131 659 9958. 

If you cannot get through by phone straight away (because of the volumes of calls), please leave a message and someone will get back to you as quickly as possible.