Monday, 25 February 2019

Dying for Equal Pay

In the past week or so another four Glasgow claimants have passed away while waiting for their equal pay claims to be resolved.

A total of 122 Action 4 Equality Scotland claimants have now passed away since this fight began, many of them young, and once you add in the number from GMB and Unison the final figure must be nearer 200.

I remember well the public furore when Scottish miners were dying while waiting on their health-related compensation claims being processed - angry politicians were queuing up to give outraged TV interviews demanding action.

Sadly, the contrast with the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow over the years could not be greater.

The Claimants are raising funds to have a suitable memorial put in place this year to remember all those who have passed away during Glasgow's long fight for equal pay. 


Dying for Equal Pay (10/02/18)

I was very sorry to hear via Facebook that another equal pay claimant in Glasgow has passed away while waiting for her case to be settled.

I'm so sorry and sad to have lost yet another one of our friends and college that's gained her angel wings waiting on her equal pay how many more before we get settled... R.I.P Isobel Pickles thinking of all the family  xx

What I find surprising is the lack of outrage from Glasgow's politicians - councillors, MSPs and MPs - are well aware that this long-running dispute has been allowed to drag on for the past ten years, but that some people pay a very high price indeed.


Dying for Equal Pay(12/11/17)

I sent yesterday's blog post about "Dying for Equal Pay' to all Glasgow MSPs and MPs along with the following Twitter message:

"No wonder Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has criticised local councils for dragging their feet over equal pay"

I hope equal pay claimants in Glasgow are doing their part as well because there's a way to go yet before a proper settlement process gets underway.

As things stand Glasgow City Council has still to explain how traditional male jobs were 'looked after' under the WPBR pay scheme, but this information is crucial to a settlement of the outstanding equal pay claims.

So why is it taking so long and how the hell can the Council justify taking all these months to explain their own pay arrangements? 


Dying for Equal Pay (10/11/17)

Sadly, another Glasgow equal pay claimant has died while waiting on the long-running dispute with the City Council to be settled.

Now I don't know the deceased person and she may not even be an A4ES client, though that's beside the point.

Because when something similar was happening to Scotland's miners several years ago, MSPs and MPs were queuing up to demand that the settlement process of their health-related claims be 'speeded up' or else. 

Yet the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is 10 years old and counting with little sign of urgency among the political classes or the council's senior officials.

So where are the raised voices of Glasgow's MSPs and MPs on behalf of their local constituents?

Here's an exchange of emails with a friend and work colleague of the claimant concerned - sincere condolences to the family

This whole process is a joke. One of my colleagues who would have beed paid out died this week. So all her years of hard work and fighting was for nothing as she is gone and this atrocious mess continues.


Hi K

I am very sorry to hear that and know of lots of similar sad cases that have occurred down the years both in Glasgow and elsewhere. Have you written to your local MSP and MP to highlight what's going on because these ridiculous delays in moving things forward do have a very real human cost? 

Mark Irvine


Dying for Equal Pay (08/06/17)

I've written about people 'dying for equal pay' many times on the blog site, but this seems like a good time to remind everyone that this foot-dragging behaviour on the part of councils has a very real effect.

Especially when you think that many of the outstanding equal pay claims in Glasgow City Council are more that 10 years old - and date back to 2006/07


Dying for Equal Pay (17/11/16)

I wrote a post the other day which mentioned that a client in Glasgow had passed away while waiting for their equal pay claim to be settled.

Now this is a regular occurrence, not least because many council employers have been dragging their feet in an effort to wear A4ES down, perhaps in the hope that we would run out of the time or resources required to see this fight through to the end.

But they've been proved wrong, of course, time and again but if you ask me, it's still a disgrace that people have had to fight so long also hard just to enforce their rights to equal pay under the law.

Especially when the 'landmark' 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement in Scotland was meant to achieve this no less than 17 years ago.


Dying for Equal Pay (19/05/16)

I've written several times on the blog site about the fact that low paid council workers in Scotland are, quite literally, dying while waiting for their equal pay claims to be settled.

The recent exercise is chasing up 'missing' A4ES clients in Glasgow has brought several more examples to light and it's depressing to see so many people being denied what they are entitled to by the foot-dragging antics of large, well-resourced Scottish councils. 

In the past, Labour politicians kicked up a hell of a fuss when Scottish miners were dying in significant numbers while waiting for health compensation claims to be settled, but the same politicians have been silent while essentially the same thing has been happening over the fight for equal pay in Scottish local government.

So let's see how the new breed of SNP MSPs and MPs perform because Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has pledged that her new government will hole dates foot-dragging councils to account.

Dying for Equal Pay (01/08/14)

I had to laugh at this ridiculous article by Kevin Maguire in The Mirror in which he argues for justice for victims of Mesothelioma and blames the present Coalition Government for short changing the workers.

Because the same thing is true about equal pay of course, yet we haven't heard anything from Kevin Maguire or his many contacts within the Labour Party over the years despite the fact that many claimants have died while wiring for their equal pay claims to be settled.

Never mind the behaviour of the council employers (many Labour controlled) and Labour supporting trade unions who did nothing for years about the scandalous pay differences between traditional male and female jobs.

Now I am open to correction here, but I don't seem to recall Kevin Maguire using his platform at The Mirror to write an outraged about Birmingham City Council paying refuse workers £45,000 a year while Home Care Workers were getting paid only £15,000 - for doing a much more responsible job. 

David Cameron has insured one final insult for workers dying because of their jobs


Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire says the latest scandalous stitch-up between the Government and big business is utterly contemptible


Even workers gasping for final breaths are targets to be short-changed by Tory toff David Cameron.

Mesothelioma is unlikely to claim lives of privileged Old Etonians who enjoy a magic carpet ride through life.

The fatal lung disease is the curse of the industrial working class, claiming the lives of 2,500 people a year who endure agonising deaths in face masks attached to oxygen cylinders.

The asbestos killer casts a long, terrifying shadow over those who worked in shipyards, ­petrochemical plants, mines and construction.

Fibres inhaled up to 50 years earlier suddenly trigger a cancer that is a death sentence. There is no cure. Within 18 months another family will be mourning the loss of a loved one.

Which is why Labour MPs are furious the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government held secret talks with insurers over a pact that unions insist reduces compensation by deducting legal costs from financial settlements.

Middlesbrough’s Andy McDonald, a lawyer before he was elected to Parliament for Labour, sits on the Commons Justice Committee.

The committee was inadvertently sent a copy of a ­“Mesothelioma Heads of Agreement” between the Government and the ­Association of British Insurers.

Dated July 13, 2012, the existence of the hitherto private document suggests ministers had reached an understanding with insurers – some of who bankroll the Tory Party – when they were claiming in public that it was open to discussions.

So embarrassing is the release of the five-page agreement that lawyers for the Association of British Insurers asked for it back. The Justice Committee, to its credit, refused.

McDonald told me: “The insurance industry has been caught with its ­trousers down and this stinks to high heaven.

"In public the insurers put on a concerned face and talk about involving everybody in what they call ‘Big Tent’ meetings.

“But in private they try to stitch up a dodgy deal with a Government yet again found to be standing up for powerful vested interest rather than the people who need our support.”

The insurers insist they are good guys, agreeing to fund a scheme covering awards to mesothelioma victims who can’t find which company they should claim against.

I’d bet my last pound that this Government would take a differ-ent, more generous approach if High Court judges were dying from inhaled wig hairs.

In the world of the Tory toffs the lives of working people are cheaper, ­with victims of a horrific illness being treated with poisonous contempt. The establishment trading over the dying isn’t an isolated example.

From the Bedroom Tax to falling wages and lower living standards, working people get a raw deal.

Cameron looks after his own. Mesothelioma victims fighting for air aren’t on his radar.

Dying For Equal Pay (4 September 2013)

I was struck by the comments of the Home Carer from South Lanarkshire - Agnes Mills - which featured in The Herald the other day.

To my mind it is a public disgrace that people like Agnes should have waited so long for their equal pay claims to be properly addressed - and it's quite possible at this rate that some claimants may be around to enjoy the benefit of any future settlement.

Especially, as South Lanarkshire has been deliberately dragging its feet for years - not least by refusing to disclose vital pay information about the treatment of traditional male jobs - until it was finally forced to do so by a unanimous decision of the UK Supreme Court.

If you ask me, South Lanarkshire has been cynically abusing the FOI process and has been using large sums of public money in a desperate attempt to keep these pay arrangements secret - but the real losers are committed, long-serving employees like Agnes Mills who has given the Council and her local community - a lifetime of service.  

So, it's no exaggeration to say that some equal pay claimants have, literally, died while waiting for their equal pay claims to be settled which may be a fact of life - since people die all the time and for all kinds of reasons 

Yet I can clearly remember a similar situation not that long ago when retired Scottish miners were fighting for proper compensation - over the terrible damage caused to their health (pneumoconiosis) by the effects of coal dust and working underground for years.

And I can remember the trade unions and lawyers involved condemning the behaviour of the foot dragging behaviour of those responsible for dealing with the miners' claims - instead of getting down to business and putting the real issues before the courts, if a negotiated settlement could not be reached.

Now if my memory serves me correctly, I can also recall that Scottish MSPs and MPs joined in these calls - particularly Labour parliamentarians given their historic links with the mining trade unions and mining communities.

South Lanarkshire Council is now in a similar position - having had its in-house job evaluation scheme declared 'unfit for purpose' for failing to comply with Equal Pay legislation - and been told by the UK Supreme Court  that its pay arrangements are a matter of legitimate public interest.

I look forward to what South Lanarkshire MSPs and MPs have to say in the weeks ahead. 

Council facing £100m bill as it agrees to talks in equal pay row
A Council is facing a record equal-pay bill of more than £100 million, after agreeing to final settlement talks following years of resisting claims from 3000 female staff.
DELIGHTED: Home carer Agnes Mills has been waiting since 2005 for an answer to her claim. Picture: Colin Mearns
Labour-run South Lanarkshire, which lost a related case at the UK Supreme Court, has caved in to growing pressure and agreed to three months of discussions, rather than resume Employment Tribunal hearings in Glasgow next month.

Similar cases cost Glasgow City Council more than £50m several years ago and although South Lanarkshire is a smaller authority it is believed its refusal to settle going back many more years, and more serious breaches of equal pay, could see the council pay a heavier price.

The lawyer representing the women, Stefan Cross, QC, of Action 4 Equality (Scotland), said: "This is a very significant development. It is, however, only the first step with no guarantees of success."

The council's U-turn follows its recent loss of a crucial appeal case at the UK Supreme Court.

In the first case of its kind involving a Scottish public body, the council had asked the court to overturn an order by the Scottish Information Commissioner to release pay data under the Freedom Of Information Act.

The Court Of Session, ­Scotland's highest court, had already ruled the information should be released to equal pay campaigner Mark Irvine, but the council refused, ultimately landing it with a £200,000 legal bill.

When the data was released, it suggested male manual workers had been systematically paid more than female staff with the same skill levels, despite the two groups in theory being paid the same hourly wages.

Council leader Eddie McAvoy, who has been in office since 1999, throughout the time of the unfair pay, faces calls to resign.

The council is already being taken to a tribunal by 3000 female workers claiming more than £10m in back pay, with a hearing due in October.

Mr McAvoy said: "I am pleased there have been positive moves on this issue and I look forward to further progress being made."

Carol Fox, of Fox and Partners, who is also representing some of the women, said: "We are always focussed on the needs of our claimants and hope we can agree favourable terms in the near future."

Mr Irvine said: "Goodness knows what the trade unions will make of this development, after siding with the council all these years and actively discouraging their lowest paid members from submitting equal pay claims.

"In my view, the trade unions in South Lanarkshire should hang their heads in shame, as they have no credibility with their members after their craven behaviour."

Agnes Mills, 66, a home carer, from Halfway, Cambuslang, is one worker who stands to receive a pay-out when the cases are settled.

She said: "I put in my claim when we heard about it in 2005 and I have been waiting all that time for an answer.

"I was a home help for 30 years. I remember a letter from the council saying I should speak to my union, but the union rep took the letter away as if I shouldn't have had it.
"Then I heard about men getting money and I joined the application. I remember at one point I had to sign a will form in case I died before winning. I thought I would die before I got anything, but from today I think I might win."