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Showing posts from 2008

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas and compliments of the season to all our regular readers. 2008 has proved to be a frustrating year in some ways - the outstanding equal pay claims are all working their way through the Employment Tribunal process behind the scenes - but they are taking longer than anyone originally hoped or expected. The lack of progress is down to the foot dragging antics of the employers - although their reluctance to lock horns on the real issues speaks volumes about the underlying weakness of the employers' arguments - and their willingness to put these to the test. However, there are a number of important and encouraging developments - that we will be able to share with people in the New Year. In the meantime, happy holidays - and all the best for 2009!

Equal Pay Triumph for NHS workers

Great news for NHS workers. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has thrown out the NHS employer claims that historical collective bargaining to blame for unequal pay. The landmark judgment in the EAT paves the way for thousands of low paid women in the NHS including nurses, health care assistants, medical secretaries and many other support staff. The ruling was made in the equal pay test case of North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust v Ms Potter and others (18 December 2008). The critical test case examined whether an NHS trust could defend pay inequality between female and male staff doing comparable work because of the impact of historical differences in collective bargaining. In other words, the employer tried to argue that any pay differences were caused inadvertently - by historical accident - with women being represented by one bargaining unit - and men being represented by another. The NHS case is very similar to the arguments raised by Edinburgh City Council about APT&C work

More Council Compromise Agreements

Since sharing the costs of Compromise Agreements that some councils have racked up – see post dated 16 December 2008 - other regular readers of the blog have been in touch to ask about their own local councils. Here are details from other councils – a few stragglers are still awaited: East Ayrshire £62,834 Aberdeen City £62,537 East Lothian £53,834 Renfrewshire Council £52,850 Falkirk Council £41,125 East Renfrewshire £38,825 South Ayrshire £37,200 Perth & Kinross £13,350 Clackmannanshire £8,225 Sub Total £370, 780 Running Total £1.41 million (includes figures reported on 16 December) - and counting! The cost of Compromise Agreements is only one aspect of council using public money to rack up huge legal fees – because external legal firms are also being paid handsomely for their work at the Employment Tribunals – at the tax payers’ expense, of course. More to follow

Council Compromise Agreements

Councils always say they have no money – it is part of the rough and tumble of political life in local government – but the truth is that council budgets have doubled in the past 10 years. And when push has come to shove councils always have a truly uncanny ability to find the money they need - to suit their own spending priorities. Take the cost of Compromise Agreements – the same councils that had no money to meet their obligations in terms of Single Status or Equal Pay – found they had plenty of money to pay ‘independent’ solicitors to advise council employees on signing away their legal rights. Here’s a list what just a handful of councils have spent – details have come to light only recently in response to recent Freedom of Information requests Glasgow City Council - £347,477 City of Edinburgh - £247,500 North Lanarkshire Council - £140,177 Aberdeenshire Council - £138,732 Fife Council - £89,358 Highland Council - £80,840 Running Total - £1,044,084 And that’s just the

Sunday Herald (2)

Last week's Sunday Herald newspaper featured a letter from Unison's regional secretary, Matt Smith, which purported to be about equal pay, but was really just another feeble attack on Stefan Cross. The Sunday Herald has today printed Stefan's reply which is reproduced below for information: The Editor Sunday Herald Dear Sir Matt Smith's letter of 7 December 2008 (Pay deals unpicked) is riddled with error and distortion. So, let the facts speak for themselves. Glasgow City Council is currently defending 5190 equal pay claims at the Employment Tribunals. Stefan Cross Solicitors is acting for 4,561 of these claimants (i.e. 88%) whereas Unison represents only 322, or 6%. Mr Smith is wrong to boast that his trade union is leading the fight on equal pay - that isn't true. The trade unions in Scotland kept their women members in the dark about equal pay for years, while continuing to strike local deals that favoured traditional male jobs. The local authority empl

Glasgow meetings

The Glasgow 'drop in' meetings held earlier this week were a great success - lots of new enquires, such as: Why are people able to re-start their claims? Because the council has continued to protect the higher earnings of traditional male groups - refuse workers and gardeners, for example - so there is is still a significant pay gap between many male and female jobs. What about the Compromise Agreement I signed in December 2005? Makes no difference - signing a Compromise Agreement doesn't prevent you from pursuing a new claim - because a new claim is about pay arrangements within the council after December 2005. Who can restart their claims? Just about everyone who received a settlement offer from the council in December 2005 - i.e. Cleaners Catering Staff Home Carers Classroom Assistants Child Development Officers School-based Clerical Staff Why did the council make settlement offers to only some APT&C staff? Who knows - the council has done some cra

Sunday Herald

An article on equal pay appeared in the Sunday Herald at the weekend - and it's certainly caused a stir. Here’s a case study written by Tom Gordon - the newspaper's Political Editor - about Helen Brownlie, one of the employees who attended Glasgow's ‘acceptance’ meetings. “The meetings were billed by Glasgow City Council as helpful discussions with an ‘independent legal adviser’, but the reality was very different. In November and December 2005, the authority arranged dozens of roadshows offering ‘compromise deals’ to around 11,000 female staff owed back pay after years of earning less than their male equivalents. Dinner ladies, home carers, cleaners and nursery nurses were offered cheques of up to £9,000. The £40 million package represented just a fraction of what the women were owed, but the council and trade union Unison argued that pursuing the full amounts would lead to job cuts and service cuts. At the time, a council spokesman insisted: “The advice given at the r

Glasgow & Equal Pay

We've had lots of enquiries today from employees of Glasgow City Council - with people wanting to know if they can re-start their equal pay claims. The answer is - YES! Even if you accepted a previous settlement from the council, you have a further significant claim - because the council has continued to protect the higher earnings of traditional male jobs. And while the big pay gap between male and female jobs remains - you continue to have a claim. You may also be able to challenge the terms of the original settlement that many council employees accepted back in November/December 2005 - see post dated 6 November 2008. In addition, there are lots of Glasgow employees who have not been made any offers of settlement - even though the groups have perfectly valid claims. Groups of admin and clerical workers (former APT&C staff) who do highly skilled and reponsible jobs - yet are paid much less than unskilled, traditional male jobs such as refuse workers. So, if you h

South Lanarkshire Loses Challenge

South Lanarkshire Council has just lost a vital hearing at the employment tribunals. The council requested a special Pre-Hearing Review and argued that the claims should not be allowed to proceed - because of the criticism of the council on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site. Now this is a bit rich when you consider that South Lanarkshire Council is the only council in Scotland that stubbornly refuses to admit what traditional male jobs are paid. Every other council in the land has now shared information about rates of pay for refuse workers, gardeners and gravediggers - even if some of them took their time doing so. But the employment tribunals rejected South Lanarkshire's arguments - all of the Stefan Cross claims will now proceed - and the council will be required to explain and justify its local pay and grading structures. Action 4 Equality Scotland will be holding update meetings for South Lanarkshire clients in the New Year - so watch this space for further de

Law Firms Face Equal Pay Challenge

Stefan Cross Solicitors is challenging six of Scotland’s leading law firms over their advice to thousands of Glasgow City Council employees about equal pay. In November/December 2005, Glasgow City Council made settlement offers to over ten thousand employees at a series of ‘acceptance’ meetings. The council refused to explain basis of these cash offers to their employees (i.e. how the payments were assessed and calculated), but in reality the council’s offers were worth less than twenty five per cent of the real value of people’s equal pay claims . The city council selected the following six law firms to attend the acceptance meetings and advise the workforce: 1. Biggart Baillie 2. Brechin Tindal Oats 3. Burness 4. MacLay Murray Spens 5. McGrigor Donald 6. Wright Johnston McKenzie Council employees were required to sign a legal waiver (known as a Compromise Agreement) before the council would release their settlements, but such agreements only exclude tribunal proceedings if the

Glasgow 'drop in' meetings

Action 4 Equality Scotland is organising two 'drop in' meetings in Glasgow next week - on Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th December 2008. The purpose of these meetings is to e xplain the importance of the recent breakthrough for APT&C workers - and the recent Edinburgh employment tribunal decision - which means that 'white collar' groups have just as valid equal pay claims as their manual worker colleagues. For further details - see post dated 9 November 2008 - the decision of the employment tribunal in Edinburgh - is hugely significant to APT&C workers in Glasgow and elsewhere. We will also be taking the opportunity to update existing Glasgow clients in relation to the Compromise Agreement challenge - which is working its way through the employment tribunal process in Glasgow - and other ongoing issues as well. So, why not come along for a chat - whether you want to find out about a new claim - or you just want an update about your existing claim. The

GLASGOW LOSES VITAL PRE-HEARING

Glasgow City Council has lost a vital pre-hearing review (PHR) over the council's compromise agreements - that many people signed in November and December 2005. Stefan Cross is challenging the validity of Glasgow's compromise agreements - and is seeking a ruling from the employment tribunal that the agreements did not comply with the Sex Discrimination Act. If that challenge is succcesful, it will have the effect of re-opening the whole issue - for thousands of council staff who accepted settlement offers from the council - that were worth far less than the real value of their claims. Glasgow tried to block this challenge at a specially convened pre-hearing review - the council argued that they were being unfairly treated because of criticism on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site. But the employment tribunal rejected Glasgow's argument - and the challenge from Stefan Cross will now proceed in the New Year. If you need advice about your own situation, contact

STOP PRESS - GMB LOSE ALLEN CASE

The following report has just appeared in the Employment Law Bulletin . "The House of Lords has refused permission to appeal in the important case of Allen v GMB (for the Court of Appeal's decision, see bulletin 16/7/08). The Court of Appeal restored the employment tribunal's finding that the GMB had indirectly discriminated against female union members by recommending acceptance of a 'single status' pay deal which grossly underestimated the compensation which should be due to female equal pay Claimants. Although the objective of securing a fair single status pay deal was legitimate, the means used by the union to secure the deal (including grossly misleading the female back-pay claimants) meant that they had not pursued proportionate means of achieving that pay deal. It is likely that - subject to time limit issues - large numbers of discrimination claims by female workers against their trade unions, complaining of the way in which their rights were treated

Glasgow Compromise Agreements

Stefan Cross has written to clients in Glasgow who signed a city council Compromise Agreement - back in December 2005. Stefan Cross believes that the Compromise Agreement people were required to sign - may not be a valid agreement under s77 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. If the agreement is not valid - then those affected by these Compromise Agreements may be able to revisit the original settlements accepted from Glasgow City Council in 2005. At the moment, these Compromise Agreements are being challenged via the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - and we expect a hearing to take place on this issue in the New Year. If the challenge is successful and the Employment Tribunal agrees that the Glasgow Compromise Agreements are not valid agreements, then people's claims will be able to proceed for the entire period. In other words, these claims will all be re-opened - and can look again the period prior to December 2005 All Glasgow clients have been asked to send a copy of their 2005 C

Edinburgh meetings

The 'drop in' meetings arranged in Edinburgh last week were a great success. Lots of enquiries from people in the former APT&C groups - admin and clerical staff, learning assistants, social care workers and nursery nurses. Many of our existing Edinburgh clients also came along for a chat - and an update about their claims. What most people wanted to know was why haven't they been told anything by the council or their trade unions? Well, the council won't tell you anything about your rights to equal pay - because it will end up costing them money - and that's been their attitude for the past ten years - despite all the empty rhetoric about Edinburgh being an Equal Opportunities employer. The unions are not really any better. It's clear the the unions haven't been explaining to their members that the APT&C groups have perfectly valid equal pay claims - and that equal pay is not something that's restricted to 'Manual Workers'.

NHS Claims - Update

Scotland's NHS claims continue to work their way through the employment tribunal process. The big issues relate to a tribunal hearing that began in October 2008 and will run until the end of November at least - though it now looks likely that this hearing will not be completed until February 2009. The following 5 key points are being contested by Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross solicitors - they relate to the way in which Agenda for Change was developed and introduced by NHS management and the trade unions: 1 Whether the Job evaluation scheme within Agenda for Change complies with the legislation and whether, with particular regard to male dominated jobs, there were grounds for suspecting it was tainted by Sex Discrimination. 2 If the scheme is valid when did it apply to the claimants - and can the effect of the scheme be backdated. 3 Whether AFC continued or introduced sexually discriminatory considerations into NHS pay and grades - and to what extent the trade unions and

Union Wars

Just when you think the council workers strike is finally over - a bitter war of words flares up in the press. Unison - the largest union by far - has already voted to accept the employers' revised offer - but the GMB and Unite trade unions say that their members voted to reject. So - wait for it - GMB and Unite may continue the campaign of industrial action. Now this makes all three unions look like the Keystone Cops - how can they possibly pursue a united pay strategy with the Scottish employers - if they're falling out so badly amongst themselves? Everyone knows there is no stomach amongst ordinary union members for further strike action - after all why throw more good money after bad. Significantly, all three unions have failed to publish the results of their membership ballots - which can only mean that the turnout was embarrassingly low. Unison, as the largest union, has a majority of the votes on the Scottish negotiating body that deals with council workers p

Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT)

Action 4 Equality Scotland has been highly critical of the time wasting tactics of many Scottish employers and their legal advisers. Equal pay claims have been getting bogged down - and taking much longer than they should to work their way through the tribunal system. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is getting its 'tuppence' worth in as well - witness the following quote from a recent hearing involving the Honourable Mr Justice Elias, President of the EAT: "The EAT has been inundated with appeals relating to the operation of the statutory grievance procedures. Rarely can legislation have been so counter-productive. Provisions designed to reduce tribunal disputes have spawned satellite litigation in which arcane and complex points of law have been argued, frequently so remote from reality that they would surprise even the most desiccated Chancery lawyer conjured up by the imagination of a Charles Dickens." Mr Justice Elias hits the nail squarely on its head.

Edinburgh meetings

Action 4 Equality Scotland is organising two 'drop in' meetings next week to explain the significance of the recent Edinburgh employment tribunal decision. See the recent post dated 23 October 2008 on Edinburgh Council 'Defending the Indefensible'. The judgment has huge implications for Edinburgh's admin and clerical (former APT&C) workers - because it means that they have similar claims for equal pay - just like other groups of council employees. Both meetings are being held in the Royal British Hotel on Princes Street - right across the road from the Waverly Steps - on the following two afternoons: 1) Tuesday 18 November - between 1pm and 6pm 2) Thursday 20 November - between 1pm and 6pm Come along and have a chat over a cup of tea or coffee- and find out whether or not you have an equal pay claim.

Council Workers Strike

As expected, the long running council workers strike has finally collapsed - following a series of trade union ballots - see post dated 3 October 2008. Ordinary union members have ignored the 'advice' of their leaders to continue taking strike action - and voted to accept the employers final offer of a two-year pay deal. As usual, the settlement does nothing whatsoever for the low paid - despite this being one of the stated aims of the trade unions' claim. And, as usual, the trade unions are sticking their heads in the sand - instead of learning from yet another pay debacle. Unison says the vote for more strike action was a close-run thing - but conveniently fails to publish the result of their membership ballot - so denying people the ability to see for themselves. Unite says its members actually voted in favour of more strike action - they're clearly having a laugh, but yet again their ballot result remains a closely guarded secret. GMB Scotland is stil

Admin & Clerical (APT&C) Workers

Edinburgh City Council has lost a vital test case on equal pay – which has huge implications for admin and clerical (or former APT&C) workers across Scotland. Edinburgh tried to block former ‘white collar’ or APT&C employees from making equal pay claims, i.e. learning and teaching assistants, admin and clerical workers of all kinds, different categories of care worker and nursery nurses. But Edinburgh lost the case – with the employment tribunal describing the council as trying to ‘defend the indefensible’. More significantly, the Edinburgh decision opens the door for other former APT&C employees doing such jobs – to make a claim - it’s not too late even now. Why do I have a claim? Because many unskilled male (former manual) jobs are paid much more than skilled female employees working in other parts of the council How much more? Many male gardeners and refuse workers are paid between £8.50 and £10.00 per hour (at 2007 rates) – while their female colleagues (often doi

'Protection Period' claims

In the past couple of weeks there’s been a surge of enquiries about ‘protection period claims – especially from Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Fife and Renfrewshire Councils. Word seems to be spreading that people have new and substantial claims – because the councils are protecting the much higher (bonus–related) pay of their traditional male jobs - such as gardeners, refuse workers and road workers. When the employers’ introduce a new pay and grading system – they always agree to protect the existing and higher rates of traditional male jobs enjoy for at least 3 years – although the exact length of the protection period varies from council to council. But because of the recent landmark decision in the Court of Appeal – see post dated 2 August 2008 – women are now entitled to the same rate of pay as the men - for the entire length of that protection period. For lots of people this will be a highly significant claim - which will be based on all hours worked x the difference

Edinburgh and Equal Pay

Edinburgh council is making a mess of equal pay - we’ve been saying that for a long time – but the recent Employment Tribunal decision (Wilkinson v Edinburgh City Council - see post dated 23 October 2008) suggest the game is up, or at least is coming to an end. So, we’re turning the heat up on the council officials responsible by writing directly to all Edinburgh councillors, MSPs and MPs – a copy of our letter is reproduced below. We say it’s high time the council addressed the real issues at stake - instead of wasting public money on procedural hearings – which only increase the cost to the council taxpayer. Council officials hoped that equal pay would fizzle out and go away – but it hasn’t and the best way to force their hand now - is for everyone as many people as possible to register a claim – that’s the fastest way to bring the council to its senses and resolve the outstanding cases. If the number of claims keeps going up, the council will have to face reality – by either def

Trade Union Grievances

Earlier this year we reported that the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) had dealt a severe blow to lots of trade union backed equal pay claims in Scotland - see posts dated 1 and 24 July 2008. The EAT's decision meant that where the trade unions had submitted 'collective' grievances with the council employers - instead of registering individual grievances (as required by the equal pay regulations) - then these claims might not be allowed to proceed through the employment tribunal process. Worse still, as the cases had not been taken up properly to begin with - people may well now be out of time – and, if so, the individuals involved could lose their entire claim - worth thousands of pounds in many cases. Well it seems these chickens are now coming home to roost - with a vengeance. An employee of North Lanarkshire Council has been in touch to ask for advice - because her trade union is saying her claim is now being dropped – like a stone. Just like that – without a word

Glenrothes By-Election

The Glenrothes by-election is being held on Thursday 4 November – and it looks like a two horse race between the SNP and Labour Party. As usual, there will be public hustings and lots of other activities leading up to election-day. So why not use any opportunity that comes your way to question the leading candidates on their views about equal pay. The Labour candidate is Lindsay Roy, a local head teacher. Interesting thing is that all teachers in Scotland benefited from a generous pay deal back in 2001 – as a result of the McCrone Agreement. Now this cost substantial sums of public money at the time – adding £800 million pounds to the pay bill - to fund a 23.5% pay increase for all teachers - which they’re still benefiting from to this day. So, a good question for Lindsay Roy would be: “If you believe in fair pay for teachers, do you also support equal pay for low paid council staff - carers, cleaners, catering staff, clerical workers and classroom assistants?” In 2001, the counc

South Lanarkshire Update

South Lanarkshire’s equal pay claims face a major 10 day hearing early in the New Year – from 12 to 23 January 2009. Clients are very welcome to attend the hearing, but in reality few people, if any, will be able to give up that much of their own free time. So, we’re planning to use this opportunity to prepare for the hearing and report back to clients over the next couple of months. South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) continues to refuse to explain how its job evaluation (JE) scheme works – there is an ongoing battle to gain even basic information about scores and grades – details that other councils in Scotland have made freely available. South Lanarkshire claimed previously that its JE scheme “has been externally verified” - but this claim turns out to be completely untrue. Because the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) never gave its approval to the South Lanarkshire scheme (as claimed by the council at the time) and - according to the council now - discussions with the EOC bare

Edinburgh Council: 'Defending the Indefensible'

Edinburgh City Council has been slated by an Employment Tribunal in an important equal pay test case. The hearing ran for 10 days over June and August 2008, but the written judgment is quite devastating in its criticism of the council and main witness, John Allan, an Employee Relations Manager. The council’s case was that hundreds of equal pay claims from women (admin & clerical) employees should not be allowed to proceed because they are employed on different conditions of service to their male colleagues. The Employment Tribunal’s decision has given the council’s argument short shrift, clears the way for existing cases to proceed. The decision also opens the door for many more claims from women workers in former APT&C or ‘white collar’ jobs – i.e. clerical workers, social care workers, classroom assistants catering managers and nursery nurses. Key extracts from the tribunal’s written judgment are reproduced below: Para 459 : “Put simply, where the respondent (Edinburg

Glasgow Betrays Carers, Cleaners and Catering Staff

Glasgow City Council has just announced that it plans to transfer its home carers, cleaners and catering staff to a new arms length company. The council claims that this is to protect essential services - but the truth is that the move is really designed to avoid the council having to meet its obligations on equal pay. The existing pay and conditions of the largely female workforce will be maintained because of the TUPE regulations - but the transfer will isolate the women from the better paid men - with only the men remaining directly employed by the city council. If that happens, the women workers may no longer be able to compare their lower earnings with the higher earnings of male jobs such as gardeners and refuse workers - because the council will have placed an artificial wall between the two groups. The council is then likely to argue that the women workers have no entitlement to back pay, worth over £10,000 per person for a full time worker. Neither the council nor the unio

Glasgow City Council: "Let's Get Serious"

An employment tribunal (pre-hearing review) is being held next week (Wednesday 22 October) – involving some of the outstanding Glasgow city council cases. The underlying issues are about pay discrimination against female employees, but the council is, yet again, seeking to avoid serious legal argument. Instead it’s trying to block people’s claims because of the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site. Six months ago, in April 2008, the blog site posted an article highlighting the fact that thousands of women employees in Glasgow signed Compromise Agreements back in 2005. But Stefan Cross Solicitors has raised serious concerns about the nature of these arrangements – and whether people were properly advised by the council or the ‘independent’ lawyers involved. Yet, the council’s response is to concentrate on comments from a blog site that are six months old. The tribunal has listed a two day hearing to address arguments from Glasgow that the council cannot get a fair hearing due to com

Top Scottish Lawyer Joins Stefan Cross

Carol Fox is the latest recruit to the equal pay team at Stefan Cross Solicitors (SCS), which along with Action for Equality is leading the fight for equal pay in Scotland. Carol Fox joins Stefan Cross from her previous position as the Head of Equality at Thompsons Solicitors - the law firm that acts as the external legal adviser to Unison, Scotland’s largest local government trade union. Carol will be assuming responsibility as the lead SCS solicitor for all ongoing employment tribunal cases in Scotland - with immediate effect. Carol lives in Edinburgh where she has stood previously as a candidate for the Scottish parliamentary seat of Edinburgh West in 1999 and again in 2003, and for the Lothian list seat in 2007. Carol has wide experience of dealing with employment and discrimination issues at the workplace from her previous role with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and as a full-time union official with Nupe, Unison and subsequently NASUWT - the teachers’ union. Caro

Blame the Members

Surprise, surprise! Scotland’s local government trade unions are going to recommend rejection of the latest ‘improved’ pay offer from the council employers. In trade union circles, this is a discredited and cynical strategy – but a well worn one as well - that always comes into play when union leaders have painted themselves into a very tight corner. So, the new offer of a 3% pay increase for 2008 followed by a 2.5% pay increase in 2009 – will be put to a ballot of union members. Union leaders will now be calling for the offer to be summarily thrown out and for strike action to be escalated – but with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. Not only is this completely bonkers – it is completely dishonest into the bargain. Why? Because union leaders are now hoping and praying that ordinary union members do exactly the opposite of what they recommending them to do – by voting to accept the offer and abandon any further strikes. Seems crazy, right? But at that point union

Too Late To Make A Claim?

An employee of North Lanarkshire Councils has been in touch to ask: "Is it too late to make an equal pay claim?" The answer is a resounding - NO! Lots of people have ongoing claims - but the employers are not going to explain this to their employees - as it will cost the councils money. So, why do so many people still have claims? Because the councils are still protecting the higher pay of the traditional male groups - and while that pay gap continues, employees in female dominated jobs can submit a claim for equal pay - which covers the entire protection period of 3 years or more. What about claims that challenge council Compromise Agreements? Large numbers of people - in certain councils - are now challenging the validity of their Compromise Agreements. On the basis that employees did not receive proper advice - and that lawyers selected, instructed and paid for by the council - could not sensibly claim to be 'independent', as was claimed by many emplo

Glasgow meetings

Glasgow’s outstanding equal pay claims could well be coming to a head over the next 3 to 6 months. Important hearings with the employment tribunals are in the pipeline - preparations for these hearings are well underway - and we plan to use this opportunity to report back to clients. To help with this task Action 4 Equality Scotland is planning to hold a series of local meetings across Glasgow - in October and November 2008. If you want to organise one in your own local area – all you need to do is identify: • a possible date or dates • a good time of day • a suitable local venue Lots of similar meetings have been held in Glasgow in the past – in a wide variety of different venues - and our experience is that local people know best in terms of where and when to meet. So, if you want to join in then contact Mark Irvine at: markrivine@compuserve.com

Council Workers Strike (4)

Looks like the council workers strike is coming to a long overdue and predictable end. The employers have made a slightly improved offer - but ,of course, one that comes nowhere near the unions' original demand for a 5% or £1,000 across the board pay increase - whichever is the greater of the two. The employers are now offering 3% in Year 1 (compared to 2.5% previously) and 2.5% in Year 2 (exactly the same as before). So, the 'gain' is worth an extra 0.5% - although this has been 'bought' at the expense of two days worth of strike action. The reality is that the employers are improving the original offer - with the money they've saved - by not paying wages and pension payments to striking employees. In other words the strikers are funding the settlement themselves. Hardly a great achievement - and one that does nothing whatsoever for the lower paid To put things in perspective - for every £10,000 a year a council employee earns, the new deal is worth a

'Independent' Lawyers

A client from Glasgow has been in touch to ask if she can complain about the 'independent' lawyer who countersigned her Compromise Agreement - back in December 2005. The answer is, potentially: YES. Why? Because these 'independent' lawyers were actually selected and paid for by Glasgow City Council (i.e. they were handpicked by the employer) - although at the time the council claimed their function was to give advice to the council's employees. But according to many Glasgow City Council employees - these 'independent' lawyers offered little, if any, practical advice and - crucially - they could not even explain how the council's offers of settlement were calculated. The essential point is that all lawyers - even 'independent' ones - owe their clients a duty of care and if that duty is not properly observed - then the client can complain to the Law Society of Scotland, which is the regulatory body for the legal profession in Scotland. In

Falkirk Council

The recent CMD hearing involving Falkirk Council did not produce the timetable we were seeking - for these cases to be resolved. Instead, the hearing on 18 September 2008 dealt mainly with an ongoing argument about Falkirk Council's job evaluation scheme - and concerns about its fairness or otherwise - but there is likely to be a further CMD hearing before the end of the year. At that stage we will again be pressing for a firm timetable to be set - to deal with all outstanding claims.

Council Workers Strike (3)

Yesterday's strike action appears set to rumble on for a while yet - with the focus shifting to 'selective' strikes amongst small groups within individual councils. If so, this is the first big sign of weakness from the union side - because it confirms that ordinary union members don't have the stomach for more days of 'all out' action - and the loss of earnings that will inevitably result. But moving to 'selective' action is not a good sign (for the unions at least) - because the issue will now disappear off the radar screen and support for any kind of strike action will slowly run out of steam. So, not much of a strategy there from the trade unions - who just keep repeating their demands for a 5% or £1,000 pay rise (whichever is greater) - knowing full well that the council employers are never going to meet these terms. Meanwhile, the council employers feel confident enough to declare that the trade unions need a reality check - if the dispute

No Mean City

Glasgow is home to Scotland's largest council. So, not surprisingly perhaps, Glasgow was the first council in Scotland to come up with a strategy for dealing with its employees equal pay claims. At first, the council said there was no problem - but that position quickly changed as Action 4 Equality Scotland set about explaining the huge pay gap that existed - between traditional male and female jobs. All hell broke loose - to coin a phrase - as claims flooded in from angry women workers - who had been kept in the dark for years about their rights to equal pay. Soon afterwards, Glasgow came up with a plan to 'buy out' their employees claims - with one-off cash offers of settlement - in the run up to Christmas 2005. A series of 'acceptance' meetings was hastily organised across the city - their purpose being to encourage low paid staff to accept the council's offer of settlement - and to sign a Compromise Agreement waiving their legal rights. However, th

Falkirk Council

A Case Management Discussion (CMD) on the Falkirk cases is taking place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal next Thursday - 18 September 2008. The council lost an earlier Pre-Hearing Review - the tribunal agreeing with our view that all home care workers had been graded under the old Green Book and the former manual workers job evaluation scheme. The council's argument that a previous reorganisation of the service had muddied the waters over people's grades - was firmly rejected by the tribunal. So, the road is now clear for these cases to proceed to a GMF hearing - and that's what we'll be pushing for next week. Anyone who is a party to the Falkirk claims is entitled to attend the hearing in Glasgow - which is scheduled to get underway around 10am.

West Dunbartonshire

West Dunbartonshire continues to be a hotbed of activity - with many people understandably up in arms about the council going back on its word to backdate the outcome of the Job Evaluation (JE) exercise. The council is making a big play of its 'generous' proposal to pay £1500 - to employees who agree to accept the new pay and grading arrangements on a voluntary basis - but this offer is really a wolf in sheep's clothing. Why? Because this payment - a 'realignment' payment, so-called by the council - is essentially trying to persuade people to agree to a change of contract - and aims to discourage employees from pursuing an equal pay claim to the Employment Tribunals. Many former APT&C employees - groups like clerical workers and possibly classroom assistants - have just as valid equal pay claims as former manual workers - see post dated 2 September 2008 for a more detailed explanation. But the council is making offers of settlement only to the former man

Going Nowhere - Fast

Surprise, surprise - the trade unions have called another one day strike on Wednesday 24 September. Apparently, at a 'negotiating' meeting during the week, the trade unions simply re-stated their original pay demand - i.e. for an annual 5% or £1,000 across the board pay increase, whichever figure is the higher. And in response the employers simply repeated their offer of a 2.5% increase, but dropped their earlier proposal for a 3 year pay deal. Now negotiations are not rocket science, but to be successful they must be : a) realistic b) based on some sort of sensible compromise - on give and take Simply re-hashing what's been said before is not negotiating seriously with the employers - it's the industrial relations equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall. Except it's the ordinary union members who are paying the price - through lost wages and no longer-term return. The employers are never going to agree an across the board 5% or £1,000 pa

West Dunbartonshire - Latest

West Dunbartonshire's equal pay antics are not for the faint hearted. The various twists and turns of recent weeks make it extremely difficult for anyone to follow what's going on - but perhaps that's exactly what council intends. In May 2008 West Dunbartonshire set aside £21 million to cover its equal pay obligations - but then the council decided that additional and un-costed trade union proposals added another £6 million to the bill - which couldn't be met from existing budgets, so the deal was off. In August 2008 the council considered a special report on equal pay - which criticised the trade unions for pushing a negotiating agenda that favoured traditional male groups - at the expense of their female members. The council went on to agree that instead of spending £21 million (as originally proposed) - that only £14 million would be committed to sorting out equal pay. £7 million has been set aside to meet the costs of the protection period - i.e. a second buy-

New Equal Pay Claims

We are still receiving lots of enquiries about new equal pay claims. North Lanarkshire is a hot spot for some reason - but requests continue to pour in from right across the country - so perhaps word is just spreading as things get back to normal after the summer holidays. In any event, there have been hugely important equal pay developments in the Court of Appeal - the details of which were reported on this site in July and August - to catch up on all the latest news see posts dated 17th July and 2nd, 4th and 8th August 2008. The upshot is that the Court of Appeal has opened the door for many new equal pay claims: for those who accepted a previous offer of settlement - who now have a new claim for the protection period for former APT&C employees - who can now compare their earnings to the much higher rates of pay enjoyed by many traditional male jobs The employers won't explain the significance of these developments to their staff - and the unions are just keeping the

More Trade Union Shenanigans

West Dunbartonshire is under attack by many of its own staff - for going back on an earlier understanding with the trade unions to backdate the outcome of its Job Evaluation Scheme (JES). So, those employees whose jobs have done comparatively well out of the JES - are now not going to receive the back pay (to 1 April 2006) that they had been led to expect - by both the council and the trade unions. The whole business is still very confused - rather than explaining clearly what is going on and why - stories are appearing in the press that obscure as much as they reveal. But it's not just the council that's been up to no good. A recent council report is scathing in its criticism of the trades unions for pursuing a negotiating strategy that favoured traditional male jobs - witness the following extract: "The Trade Union proposal in relation to Terms and Conditions may appear to support the reduction of inequalities for female staff but that is not necessarily the ca

Midlothian Council

Midlothian Council is holding a series of staff consultation meetings this week - the purpose of which is to invite views on its proposed new pay and grading structure. Now for consultation to be meaningful and genuine -the people doing the consulting have to listen and respond to what is said to them - in this case the council and its senior managers. So, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage employees to attend one of these consultation meetings - and demand that everyone is provided with the scores that underpin the council's Job Evaluation Scheme (JES). Up until now Midlothian Council has stubbornly refused to provide this information - even though it should be freely available. As far as we know, Midlothian is the only council in the whole of Scotland that seems determined to keep employees firmly in the dark - when it comes to details of its JES. Without the scores of all the different council posts - no one can have any confidence that the job evalua

Once Bitten, Twice Shy - WDC

West Dunbartonshire Council has got itself into a terrible mess on how to implement single status and resolve all of its outstanding equal pay claims. Like other councils in Scotland, West Dunbartonshire was absolutely adamant that it had no equal pay problems - that is until Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along. Then things quickly changed - the council began to make offers of settlement to some (manual) groups - these offers were worth much less than the likely value of people's claims - the council refused to explain how they were calculated - and so many people felt pressurised into accepting them - without fully understanding the consequences. According to Action 4 Equality clients, the unions were worse than useless - they failed to support their members properly at crucial times - as happened in many other areas. And now these chickens are coming home to roost. The council has had to admit that every employee that signed a Compromise Agreement up

Council Workers Strike (2)

Yesterday's council workers strike resulted in the usual pantomime of claim and counter claim - as employers and trade unions accused each other of refusing to meet to thrash out a negotiated settlement to their pay dispute. "Oh, yes we did" was met by "Oh, no you didn't" - while thousands of members lost a day's pay and small groups of pickets stood outside council premises - in torrential rain. The employers tactics are to sound very reasonable and wait for an unpopular strike to run out of steam - after all two thirds of members didn't even bother to vote in their union strike ballots. So, for the moment, the windy rhetoric of trade union leaders will continue - but what is clear is that the employers are not going to run up the white flag and award a pay increase of 5%. What the employers will do is to offer a re-packaged settlement - at the moment the offer is 2.5% for the next 3 years - i.e. 2.5% for 2008, 2.5% for 2009 and 2.5% for 201