Monday, 7 August 2017

Breaking News!

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I think the GMB must be really rattled because a kind reader from Glasgow has just sent me an Equal Pay Update which effectively admits the GMB has made a terrible hash of things (with its 3-year restriction palaver) and is now preparing to register 'new claims' to bring the union into line with A4ES and all the other claimant organisations.   

Now I've not had much time to digest the contents of the latest letter, but it sounds like a great big U-turn to me and so I'll have more to say tomorrow.

In them meantime, if any A4ES clients have received a copy of this GMB update letter, there is no need for you to do anything because your equal pay claim with A4ES has been in safe hands for some time.   


Breaking News! (04/08/17)

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A reader from Glasgow has been in touch to say that the recent GMB ballot declared an almost 2 to 1 majority in favour of accepting the latest pay offer from Cordia.

Apparently 64% voted to Accept and 36% voted to Reject although strangely the GMB does not seem to have released the total number of ballot papers issued.

Now trade unions normally withhold this information when they have something to be embarrassed about, such as a very low turnout.

Using the example from yesterday, if only 200 members voted and the result was declared as 64% in favour of Acceptance - this would mean that only 128 people decided the outcome on behalf of 1,000 members, or just 12.8% of the total. 

Now you could say this was perfectly democratic because while you can 'lead a horse to water etc', you can't force people to vote in a ballot which is not compulsory.

But on such an important issue you could also say something is very wrong if so few people bother to vote and take urgent steps to investigate why the turnout is so low.

So for any GMB members out there who are interested in asking their union a few pointed questions why not try these out for size:

  • How many ballot papers in total did the GMB issue and how many were returned?
  • Did the GMB arrange for the ballot to be independently scrutinised?
  • If not, who conducted and oversaw the count? 
  • Why was the ballot conducted during the peak holiday period?

Like lots of GMB members in Glasgow I'd be interested in what the union has to say.


Glasgow - Union Ballots (04/08/17)

A Home Carer from Glasgow has been in touch about the recent GMB of members over the recent pay offer from Cordia - regular readers will recall that the union regarded the Cordia offer as a big breakthrough and the first 'decent' pay in years.

In any event, apparently the GMB ballot went in favour of accepting the offer which came as a surprise to this particular Home Carer who says that everyone she knows voted to 'Reject' Cordia's proposal.

Most trade union ballots these days are scrutinised independently, so that everyone can have confidence in the outcome and although I've no idea what happened with the GMB ballot the following information would normally be declared in announcing the result.

1 Number of ballot papers issued - 1,000 (for argument's sake here)

2 Number of ballot papers returned - 600 (which would mean a 60% turnout)

3 Number of ballots in favour of ACCEPT - 340 (57% of the votes cast)

4 Number of ballots in favour of REJECT - 260 (43% of the votes cast)

The result might also show the number of spoiled ballot papers, if any, and in the event of a very low turnout there might be some additional comment on how to move the issue forward.

For example, a Yes vote to take industrial action based on a very low turnout would certainly have given me a big pause for thought when I was Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland.

Because a vote based on a simple majority is not necessarily a strong mandate to do anything, if it is based on a very poor turnout of the members involved.  

As I said I don't know the details of the GMB ballot, but if anyone can throw some light on the subject I'll happily share this information on the blog site.


Glasgow and Equal Pay (21/07/17)

A reader from Glasgow has kindly sent me a copy of the latest 'Mr Angry' letter from Gary Smith, the regional secretary of the GMB.

Now as I said in a previous post Gary would, in all likelihood, not be where he is today were it not for the campaign (back in 2015) to knock some sense into the GMB over its strange decision to restrict members' equal pay claims in North Lanarkshire to only three years.

Gary seems to have a bee in his bonnet over what he refers to 'private lawyers' when, in fact, both Digby Brown and Thompsons are private law firms, but leaving that to one side for the moment read on and consider Gary's latest comments. 

Dear Colleagues 

GMB Scotland - Equal Pay Update 

There is a lot of speculation about claims from private lawyers that they are going to fight for "10 years back pay". It seems to us that this is purely hypothetical until we know the outcome of the second appeal in Glasgow. The amount of back pay that can be claimed will depend on whether a challenge to the job evaluation system is successful. The challenge to the system of job evaluation in Glasgow is subject to an appeal case but it is worth remembering this challenge has failed twice in the lower courts. Our lawyers have a strategy that we will enact if the appeal against the job evaluation system is successful. 

At this stage it is fair to say that claims around fighting for "10 years back pay" is a marketing tool for the private lawyers who are desperately trying to drum up business. Private lawyers have made a fortune out of Equal Pay cases across Scotland and every penny they have made has ultimately come from individual claimants. Glasgow is the last really big Equal Pay case of its type in Scotland and therefore the last big potential earner for the private lawyers. As I have said previously if individuals want to go with the private lawyers and line their pockets so be it. 

When I came to Scotland a bit under 2 years ago one of the first things I did was get rid of Digby Brown as our lawyers. I was not happy with the service and advice they provided. We now use Thompsons who are the preeminent solicitors when it comes to Equal Pay. We will continue to be guided by Thompsons as we try to secure the best outcome we can for our members. 

GMB Scotland will work now to ensure the Council honour their commitment to settling the most recent pay protection judgement without further delay. 

Yours sincerely 


I suppose the key point to make here is that Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES) been fighting these '2nd Wave' equal pay claims in Glasgow for past 10 years and during that time A4ES has not charged its clients a single penny. 

Whereas the GMB has been collecting millions of pounds in fees from low paid women members throughout these years, despite doing a very poor job, if you ask me, of protecting its members' interests over the introduction of new pay arrangements in Glasgow City Council.

In my opinion, Glasgow's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), WCD and NSWP Payments and the Employee Development Commitment (EDC) - have all set out to protect the interests of traditional male jobs instead of promoting the interests of the City Council's women workers who make up the majority of the workforce.  

I think it's also fair to point out that A4ES managed to achieve much better outcomes for its clients in relation to the previous 1st Wave claims because, as regular readers know, the local unions in Glasgow agreed (with senior management) that these equal pay settlements should be subject to an arbitrary cap, or a ceiling, of just £9,000.

Now I seem to recall Gary Smith saying previously that he was launching and inquiry into the events in North Lanarkshire which led to Digby Brown being 'got rid of', but after all this time there is still no written report or explanation into exactly what went wrong.

For example, who was responsible for the GMB's decision to restrict its members' equal pay claims to only 3 years in North Lanarkshire Council - was this a policy decision of the GMB itself or was the decision based on legal advice from Digby Brown?

In Glasgow all of the claimant organisations including the other trade unions have followed Action 4 Equality Scotland's lead in challenging various aspects of the City Council's WPBR pay arrangements - with the exception of the GMB.    

So if GMB members in Glasgow would like to discuss any of these issues in more detail, feel free to drop me a note or even arrange a local members' meeting as I would be delighted to come along.


Glasgow and Equal Pay (13/07/17)

As I said yesterday, a kind reader from Glasgow sent me a very strange letter from the GMB in which the union talks up the latest pay offer from Cordia, as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Now the Cordia pay offer has the same basic elements as the one proposed by COSLA for all Scottish local government employees, namely:
  • A flat rate increase of £350 for employees paid up to £35,000 based on a 37 hour week
  • A 1% increase for employees paid above £35,000
  • A commitment to use the Scottish Local Government Living wage of £8.51 as the minimum level for all pay and allowances
But the GMB goes on to bang the drum about the latest pay offer because Cordia is apparently proposing, in addition to the COSLA pay award, a 1% increase in WCD (Working Context and Demand) Payments and NSWP (Non Standard Working Pattern Hours) Payments which are peculiar to Glasgow - being part of the City Council's WPBR pay scheme.

Now while the GMB describes this as "the first decent increase on the basic pay for over a decade" the reality is that the offer is still worth less than 2% for Home Support Workers, for example, which really means a cut in basic pay year on year with inflation running at 3%.

To add insult to injury all the male comparator (former bonus earning) groups within the City Council are to receive the same flat rate increase, so the pay gap between male and female jobs will remain largely untouched.

So if you ask me, as far as the fight for equal pay is concerned the Cordia pay offer is a big disappointment because it does nothing to bring women's pay into line with the pay of their male comparators - which is what the fight for equal pay is all about.

The GMB letter goes on to highlight the 1% increase in NSWP and WCD payments, yet fails to point out, for example, that over 80% of female council employees receive no NSWP payment (a zero payment) because they do not work 37 hours a week.

In other words a 1% increase on NSWP and WCD payments does nothing for most women workers in Cordia who make up more than 70% of the workforce. 

Seems like the employers and the trade unions have learned nothing over all these years if you ask me.

Because if they were really trying to close the pay gap, they would concentrate on the bottom of the pay ladder which continues to be dominated by a variety of low paid women's jobs, of course.

The reality is that the WPBR pay arrangements (introduced in 2006/07) favoured traditional male jobs and the unions and Cordia are now compounding the problem by increasing NSWP and WCD payments which mainly benefit these male dominated jobs.

The reader who sent me the GMB letter asks if this new pay offer will have any impact on her equal pay claim and the answer to that has to be - not much, if at all.

Because any slight benefit from the flat rate £350 payment (for 37 hours) has to be offset against the increase in NSWP and WCD payments which actually increase the the pay gap between male and female jobs.

I'll have more to say on Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme (of which the NSWP and WCD are part) in the days ahead, but regular readers will be recall that although the unions are now carrying 'foul', they agreed to the introduction of the WPBR arrangements in the first place.

So watch this space.