Thursday, 18 October 2018

Glasgow - Part of the Problem



I'm sure Stefan Cross ruffled more than a few feathers with his comments in the Evening Times which accused senior officials in Glasgow City Council of blocking a settlement to the long-running equal pay dispute.

But he's spot-on if you ask me, because the council's chief executive has been fighting 'tooth and nail' to defend Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements for years.

Even after the Council lost a unanimous decision at the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, which condemned the WPBR as 'unfit for purpose' the council's senior officials tried to fight on by seeking leave to appeal this damning judgment to the UK Supreme Court in London. 

Glasgow lost that argument as well in another unanimous decision from the Court of Session which concluded that the City Council had no reasonable grounds for appeal.

Yet the architect of this disastrous strategy, Annemarie O'Donnell, remains in post to this day and is nominally in charge of the Council Side of settlement talks which have gone nowhere fast after more than 10 months and 21 separate settlement meetings with senior officials.

Annemarie doesn't attend these meetings and nor do any of the Council's leading politicians which may well be why they have been not resulted in serious negotiations with the Claimants' representatives. 

In any event, the council's chief executive has less than zero credibility with the claimants who regard Annemarie as 'part of the problem' - and for very good reason, if you ask me.

  

https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16978743.council-boss-blocking-equal-pay-says-lawyer/


Council boss blocking equal pay says lawyer

UNISON women pictured in George Square in Glasgow, Saturday 10 February, continuing their demand for equal pay from Glasgow City Council. The march was led by 30 women dressed as suffragettes. The women are part of UNISON’s equal pay campaign. Havi

THE lawyer representing thousands of equal pay claimants in Glasgow has accused the council officers of thwarting a settlement.

Stefan Cross QC, of Action4Equality Scotland, said the executive officers of the council do not share the commitment of the political leadership to secure a fair deal for the women.

He said Susan Aitken, the SNP leader of the council, is being misled by the Chief Executive, Annemarie O’Donnell and her deputy Carole Forrest.

His comments come after Ms Aitken criticised the trade unions for taking members out on strike stating leaders are misrepresenting the progress made in negotiations.

Mr Cross said he has seen nothing to suggest the officers conducting he negotiations are seeking a fair negotiated settlement.

He said: “There has been no realistic attempts to negotiate. They have been going through the motions.

“We have had 21 meetings with Carole Forrest and we have negotiated absolutely nothing.”

He said that there was no agreed timetable of talks.

He said the council is looking to pay out less than what the women are entitled to and suggested that the officers are seeking to allow it to return to an Employment Tribunal.

Responding to Ms Aitken’s criticism of the unions he said: “The women are not being led on strike by thee unions. They are going on strike because they are being betrayed by the council.

“My only criticism of Susan Aitken is she is being misled by the officers.”

“Her commitment is wholly impressive. If officers delivered what she promised we would have no problems.”

He added: “The difference between Annemarie O’Donnell and Susan Aitken is chalk and cheese.”

Mr Cross said the claimant side had proposed comparators one of the elements of reaching a figure for individuals but that the council had not responded.

He said: “In all my years practicing law, I can’t say this is negotiation.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Officers are carrying out the instructions given to them by committee – but anyone who thinks the leader doesn’t press them pretty hard doesn’t know her at all.

“Councillor Aitken has made her commitment to equal pay very clear. Mr Cross is making these remarks on the day she took a paper to committee which commits the council to adopting an entirely new pay and grading scheme.”


Glasgow - Advice and Accountability (25/09/18)



Here's the first instalment in what is likely to become a series of posts explaining why I believe it is perfectly fair for Annemarie O'Donnell, Glasgow City Council's chief executive, to be be asked to resign her post.

First and foremost is the question of accountability and the fact that very senior, highly paid officials ought to be held responsible for their professional advice - because that's why they are paid such big salaries in the first place.

Now the fact of the matter is that Annemarie has been defending the Council's WPBR pay arrangements for many years and as chief executive she was directly responsible for the Council's legal strategy in the build up to the Court of Session hearing in 2017 - which resulted in three senior judges deciding unanimously that the WPBR was (and is) 'unfit for purpose'.

The political leadership of the Council, at the time, could have challenged and tried to overturn the chief executive's strategy, but they would in all likelihood have faced the threat of 'surcharge' for going against the strong legal advice of their own senior officials.

So the Labour leadership played safe and backed the chief executive's position since the threat of surcharge meant they could potentially be held personally and financially responsible, if the things went badly wrong and blew up in the Council's face.

Yet that's exactly what happened anyway - the City Council 'bet the house' on winning at the Court of Session but lost in a devastating, landmark judgment which condemned Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme as 'unfit for purpose'.

By this time (August 2017) the City Council was under new political leadership in the shape of a newly elected  SNP administration who were visibly keen on a negotiated settlement.

However, instead of facing reality and admitting that she had got things terribly wrong, the chief executive's advice was to fight on and seek 'leave to appeal' the Court of Session's decision - to the UK Supreme Court in London.

I presume the political leaders of the Council were again warned about the possible risks of surcharge, if they 'ignored' their own legal advice and tried to enter into settlement talks while another appeal was pending in the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

Predictably, in December 2017 Glasgow lost its 'leave to appeal' case in another unanimous judgement at the Court of Session before elected Councillors finally exerted their authority, on a cross party basis, and squashed the attempts of senior officials to continue with their plan of a further direct appeal to the UK Supreme Court. 

Against this background I think it is reasonable to criticise the chief executive's advice and judgment because she has been backing the wrong horse for years and even now defends the role of senior officials who oversaw the introduction of the WPBR in 2007 by claiming that they acted in 'good faith'.  

For the life of me, I can't see how someone who comes from a legal background and who is paid such a high salary (more than the First Minister and Prime Minister) can't see that the WPBR's notorious 37 hour rule blatantly discriminates against the City Council's largely female workforce. 

Which is why I believe that the chief executive has zero credibility with Glasgow's 12,000+ equal pay claimants -  because the lowest paid workers within the Council were badly let down by the very people who were supposed to be looking out for and protecting their interests.

So while Annemarie has enjoyed a long and lucrative local government career, she will probably be best remembered for defending so stoutly, and for so long, Glasgow City Council's indefensible pay arrangements.

More to follow - next up is Annemarie's role in the great Cordia debacle.


  


Glasgow - Rewarding Failure (16/04/18)



Since the WPBR was introduced in 2007 the small group of senior officials in Glasgow City Council have paid themselves a small fortune - around £27 million by my calculation, i.e. 12 x £2,250,368 = £27,004,416.

No wonder Scotland's public spending watchdog, the Accounts Commission, last year described the handling of equal pay as a 'decade long failure of local and central government'.

Glasgow's wage bill for senior officials salaries in 2017 came to £2,250,368 - the same year in which the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, condemned the WPBR pay arrangements in Scotland's largest council as 'unfit for purpose'. 

The figures are taken from Glasgow's Annual Accounts for 2016/17 and include basic salary, election duty fees and the employer's pension contributions.

Annemarie O'Donnell - Chief Executive
£167,853 plus Election Duty Fees of £46,663 = £214,515 + £38,345 =£252,860

Carole Forrest - Director of Corporate Services and Solicitor to the Council
£122,853 plus Election Duty Fees of £4,000 = £116,524 + £21,717 = £138,241

Lynn Brown - Executive Director of Financial Services (from 1 April to 30 September)
£72,893 plus Election Duty Fees of £2,000 = £74,893 + £134,147 = £209,040

Richard Brown - Executive Director of Development and Regeneration 
£135,372 + £26,127 = £161,499

Maureen McKenna - Executive Director of Education Services
£135,372 + £26,127 = £161,499

Brian Devlin - Executive Director of Land and Environmental Services (1 April to 31 December 2016)
£143,182 (includes 12 weeks pay in lieu of notice and unused annual leave) + £20,600 = £163,782

Susanne Millar - Chief Social Work Officer
£100,603 + £19,416 = £120,019

Anne Connolly - Strategic Adviser to the Chief Executive
£82,348 + £15,893 = £98,241

Chris Starrs - Executive Communications Manager (from 1 April to 28 January 2017)
£57,674 plus Election Duty Fees of £2,150 = £59,824 + £11,131 =£70,955

Morag Johnston - Action Executive Director of Financial Services (from 3 October 2016)  
£56,412 (Full Year Equivalent £122,562) + £21,825 = £78,237

George Gillespie - Acting Director of Land and Environmental Services (from 1 January 2017)
£25,959 (Full Year Equivalent £122,562) + £20,298 = £46,257

Glasgow's ALEOs

City Building - £137,477 (Graham Paterson) + £26,533 = £164,010

Glasgow Life -£135,209 (Bridget McConnell) + £23,256 = £158,465

Cordia - £105,091 (Andy Clark) + £20,426 = £125,517

City Parking - £71,980 (William Taggart) + £13,892 = £85,872

City Property - £102,521 (Pauline Barclay) + £19,787 = £122,308

Jobs and Business - £80,398 (Calum Graham) + £13,168 = £93,566

  



Glasgow - Rewarding Failure (11/04/18)



A little reminder from the blog site archive of the remuneration package Glasgow City Council paid its chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, in 2017 - the year in which the Court of Session, Scotland highest civil court, judged Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme to be 'unfit for purpose'.

Later today I'll be sharing a post on Glasgow ALEOs including Cordia which are being dismantled as 'arm's length' companies and returned to direct council control - a very good thing if you ask me!  

But Annemarie O'Donnell who is now overseeing the dismantling of these discredited organisations is the same Annmarie O'Donnell who played a key role in their creation in the first place - back in 2007/08.

So it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Annemarie has to say about this latest 'about-turn' in council policy! 

  


Glasgow - Rewarding Failure (23/03/18)



I plan to publish the salaries paid to all of Glasgow City Council's senior officials on the blog site over the next few days, but to kick things off here is the remuneration package for the Council's Chief Executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, for the year to 31 March 2017.

Basic Salary - £167,853

Election Duty Fees - £46,662

Employer's Pension Contribution - £38,345  

Total Remuneration - £252,860

Now 2017 was the year in which the scandal of equal pay in Glasgow City Council finally came under the spotlight as the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, handed down its damning and unanimous judgement - that the pay arrangements of Scotland's largest council are 'unfit for purpose'.

To add insult to injury, Glasgow City Council now claims to have no proper records to clarify how its controversial WPBR pay scheme was put in place back in 2005/06/07  and senior officials are either unwilling or unable to explain:

  • the WPBR's Terms of Reference
  • the WPBR's procurement arrangements
  • the cost of the WPBR to the public purse 
I don't know about anyone else, but this seems to me like a classic case of 'rewarding failure' with an eye-watering salary package which dwarfs that of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

It really is a disgrace when Glasgow City Council is in such a scandalous mess over equal pay.

  


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (09/01/18)



Here's an interesting article from 'Holyrood Magazine' which was published back in 2014 just as Annemarie O'Donnell's was appointed as the new and first woman chief executive of Glasgow City Council.

The upshot is that Annemarie has been in a variety of senior positions within the council for a very long time - through the Christmas 2005 'capped' settlement offers, the introduction of the WPBR in 2007 and the establishment of Glasgow's ALEOs - before succeeding Ian Drummond as executive director of corporate services and then George Black as CEO.

What puzzles me though is why there has been such a long and hard fight for equal pay in Glasgow when the City Council has such powerful women in its senior ranks?

Regular readers will know that Carole Forrest succeeded Annemarie as executive director of corporate services (which deals with Freedom of Information requests) and that Glasgow now has a woman Lord Provost (Eva Bolander) and a woman council leader (Susan Aitken).

The political changes at the top of the City Council are relatively recent, of course, but isn't it remarkable that the battle over equal pay has been so fierce in Glasgow - even with women officials in the most senior positions.

  

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/new-chief-executive-glasgow-city-council

New chief executive for Glasgow City Council

Written by Kate Shannon on 12 November 2014 in News

Annemarie O’Donnell has been appointed

Glasgow City Council has appointed a new chief executive to replace George Black, who retires next month.

Annemarie O’Donnell, who has been the council’s executive director of corporate services since 2011, was chosen for the role last week.

Black announced his retirement in August and will leave the council on 11 December.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The quality of candidates was exceptionally high but Annemarie brings a wealth of experience, passion and vision to the role and was the unanimous choice of the interview panel.

"There has never been a more exciting time to work in Glasgow, with the city in the spotlight like never before following the best ever Commonwealth Games and the signing of Scotland’s first city deal. I am in no doubt that Annemarie is the best possible choice to lead our dedicated and talented staff through the next chapter in our city’s long and proud history.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank George Black for his exceptional work on behalf of the city and wish him every happiness and success in the future.”

I believe we have the energy, the ideas and, crucially, the best people to meet those challenges

O’Donnell, 49, is a qualified solicitor and a member of the Law Society of Scotland. She has two adult children and her husband is a lawyer specialising in criminal law.

After joining Glasgow District Council from a legal practice in the east end of Glasgow in 1991, she worked as a solicitor and then senior solicitor in a team focusing on construction, housing and planning.

Following local government reorganisation in 1996, she was promoted to chief solicitor, leading the council’s work on commercial contracts, procurement, planning and environmental law.

In 2003, O’Donnell was appointed assistant head of legal and administrative services, a new post that saw her take responsibility for the running of elections for the first time – along with committee services, registrars, litigation, licensing and corporate law.

Following a two year secondment as deputy director of social work services, she returned to corporate services in 2007, serving as assistant director and head of external governance as the council established its ALEOs.

She said: “I am delighted and humbled to have been appointed. This is a really exciting time for Glasgow. There is no doubt the next few years will be challenging for everyone in local government. But I believe we have the energy, the ideas and, crucially, the best people to meet those challenges.”

Read Holyrood’s full interview with George Black here.


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (22/03/18)



Here's the letter I mentioned on the blog yesterday from Glasgow City Council's chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell.

Now I am quite astonished, I have too say, that such a poor letter can be written by the highest paid local government official in the whole of Scotland (more on this issue to follow soon).

So I have pasted a copy of the original letter on the blog, first of all, followed by a second version into which I have inserted my own comments in bold (setting the record straight) where Annemarie O'Donnell is putting forward a point of view that needs to be challenged.

Dear XXXX,

EQUAL PAY FOR GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL WORKERS 

Thank you for writing to me about the current Equal Pay negotiations and specifically the future of the current WPBR pay and grading scheme.

I’m afraid that I cannot agree with you that there is a lack of progress being made. These are extremely complex discussions and it was the claimants’ representatives who took the view that a year would be required to resolve issues. This was based on their experience of similar negotiations with other councils in Scotland and across the UK. Senior officers are meeting the claimants’ representatives every fortnight and progress is being made. In particular the council is developing an approach to the processing of payments for pay protection. 


Turning to your view that the WPBR requires to be replaced with the Red Book Scheme, I can advise you that the meeting of officers and claimant representatives, last week, agreed to set up a separate work stream to review the current scheme and take whatever action is necessary, based on that review. The working group is composed of council officers but also representatives of the trade unions whose members would be affected by any new or substantially revised pay and grading scheme, together with a representative of A4E (Action for Equality).

I believe that we must give the working group the space to do their work and then consider their recommendations when these are presented. 

In terms of your request that the council should offer an apology, that implies that senior officers and the council at the time consciously set out to discriminate against female workers. I simply do not accept that. Instead I believe that acting in good faith, officers and the council sought to put in place arrangements which they believed removed discrimination from the council’s pay arrangements. If through the ongoing discussion and analysis that benefit is found to be erroneous the council is fully prepared to take steps to rectify this. 


Yours sincerely, 

ANNEMARIE O’DONNELL CHIEF EXECUTIVE 

cc Robert Anderson, Executive HR Manager


Chief Executive 
Annemarie O’Donnell LLB DipLP 


Chief Executive’s Office
Glasgow City Council
City Chambers
George Square
Glasgow G2 1DU
Email: annemarie.odonnell@glasgow.gov.uk 


Dear Xxxxxx,

EQUAL PAY FOR GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL WORKERS 

Thank you for writing to me about the current Equal Pay negotiations and specifically the future of the current WPBR pay and grading scheme.

I’m afraid that I cannot agree with you that there is a lack of progress being made. These are extremely complex discussions and it was the claimants’ representatives who took the view that a year would be required to resolve issues. This was based on their experience of similar negotiations with other councils in Scotland and across the UK. Senior officers are meeting the claimants’ representatives every fortnight and progress is being made. In particular the council is developing an approach to the processing of payments for pay protection. 


1) According to the latest update posted by Stefan Cross "no real negotiations yet. We've not even received a considered response to our protection period figures which we presented to the council in January."

2) The claimants' representatives have never suggested that settlement negotiations will take a year - a point which has been made repeatedly to councillors and council officials

3) GCC officials have previously threatened to 'impose' a payment for the protection period which the claimants' representatives have warned the council against - a piecemeal settlement is simply not acceptable after all this time. 
   
Turning to your view that the WPBR requires to be replaced with the Red Book Scheme, I can advise you that the meeting of officers and claimant representatives, last week, agreed to set up a separate work stream to review the current scheme and take whatever action is necessary, based on that review. The working group is composed of council officers but also representatives of the trade unions whose members would be affected by any new or substantially revised pay and grading scheme, together with a representative of A4E (Action for Equality).


4) GCC officials insisted on removing the words 'replace the WPBR' from the Terms of Reference of the Working Group. 

5) In reality the senior council officials who have been defending the WPBR for years are trying desperately to retain the scheme or elements of the scheme - despite the WPBR being condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland.  

I believe that we must give the working group the space to do their work and then consider their recommendations when these are presented. 


6) Significantly, no clear timescale is given for the working group to complete its task or present its recommendations.

In terms of your request that the council should offer an apology, that implies that senior officers and the council at the time consciously set out to discriminate against female workers. I simply do not accept that. Instead I believe that acting in good faith, officers and the council sought to put in place arrangements which they believed removed discrimination from the council’s pay arrangements. If through the ongoing discussion and analysis that benefit is found to be erroneous the council is fully prepared to take steps to rectify this. 


7) The WPBR has been deliberately designed to favour traditional male jobs - hence the blatantly discriminatory 37 hour 'rule' which treats women workers as second class citizens and punishes the council's largely female workforce. 

8) The cockamamy 'rules' of the WPBR were drawn up by an external consultant working in association with and under the direction of senior council officials who now say they cannot find the WPBR's original Terms of Reference. 

9) How could any knowledgeable person (never mind the highest paid council official in Scotland) believe that the introduction of a 37 hour 'rule' under the WPBR was intended to 'remove discrimination from the council's pay arrangements' in 2007?

10) The Court of Session's 'unfit for purpose' decision speaks volumes about the poor judgment of the senior officials in Glasgow who introduced the WPBR pay scheme and who fought tooth and nail to defend its operation for 10 long years. 


Yours sincerely, 

ANNEMARIE O’DONNELL CHIEF EXECUTIVE 

cc Robert Anderson, Executive HR Manager