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Showing posts from August, 2008

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

West Dunbartonshire Council

We are receiving reports of strange goings on in West Dunbartonshire. Apparently, the council is telling employees that they are not going to receive the back pay they are due - in connection with their equal pay claims. Instead, the council is going to offer people what they believe to be a fair lump sum - and that's the end of the matter as far as the council is concerned. None of this has been confirmed in writing - so far at least - but the council will have to set out its position in writing and explain what it is planning to do in the days and weeks ahead. As far as Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross are concerned - the council cannot abandon or withdraw any employee's equal pay claim - so as long as you do not accept a revised offer on a voluntary basis - then your claim will continue. The point is that the council cannot make up the rules to suit itself - so all people have to do at the moment is to sit tight - do nothing - we will issue further advice as soon as

Council Workers Strike

Next Wednesday (20 August) Scotland's council workers are being called out on a day's strike - following two days of strike action in July by council workers in the rest of the UK. The reasons for the strike are perfectly understandable - the employers have offered only a 2.5% pay increase with inflation running at 4.4% - and likely to reach 5% later this year. But the reality is that the economy is in an awful mess - double digit price hikes in food, fuel and utility bills means that everyone's feeling the pain - in some sectors unemployment is rising fast and people are losing their jobs. So, the government - which holds the purse strings - is not going to cave in and award council workers a 5% pay increase - because everyone else would demand the same. Gordon Brown was happy to claim great credit for his management of the UK economy in the good times - yet now he tries to shift the blame onto world events which, he says, are beyond government control. But the reas

Midlothian Council (2)

As predicted earlier this week (see post dated 6 August), Midlothian Council has written to all employees about its plans to implement a new pay and grading structure. The letter is really just a long-winded admission of failure - because the council has failed to persuade the trade unions to sign up to its (very) belated Single Status scheme - the original agreement dating back to 1999 Why? Well on this occasion the council has only itself to blame - it has stubbornly refused to publish details of its job evaluation ( JE ) scheme - so no one (apart from a few senior managers) knows how their jobs have been scored. In turn, no one can tell how other council jobs have been scored - so instead of being open and transparent - the whole process is secretive and furtive which is not how things are supposed to work. If the council has nothing to hide, why doesn't it just publish the details of the JE scheme - as many others across Scotland have done, without batting even an eye

Court of Appeal (3)

The recent decision from the Court of Appeal - see posts dated 2 and 4 August - continues to arouse a huge amount of interest. We've had lots of enquiries this week - seeking clarification about that part of the judgment dealing with 'blue' and 'white' collar claims. Essentially, some employers have been trying to argue that equal pay claims are only valid if they restrict themselves to jobs within the same bargaining group - e.g. manual worker to manual worker. This would be great news for the employer - if it were true - because female dominated jobs such as classroom assistants or clerical workers - would be prevented from comparing their earnings to those of traditional male jobs that are much better paid - e.g refuse workers, gravediggers and gardeners. So, despite the fact that these female jobs require more skill and carry greater responsibility - the employers were trying to get away with arguing that the difference in pay is not caused by blatant

Midlothian Council

Midlothian is rife with rumours that the council is planning to impose a new pay and grading structure - from January 2009. If true, this would be a big mistake - the council will just be digging a bigger and deeper hole for itself - because it is trying to introduce new pay arrangements without explaining how everyone's jobs have been scored and graded. Bad behaviour like this is what you would expect from the worst kind of rogue employer - not a Labour led council with strong trade union links - a sign of the times, perhaps. Even the unions are up in arms - complaining about the council's bully boy tactics - wondering how their erstwhile friends and comrades can conduct themselves in this way. In any event, there's no need to panic - if the council serves 90 days notice on the workforce, we will issue Action 4 Equality clients with detailed advice on how best to respond. Midlothian will not be the first council to go down this route - but if it's silly enough to

Fife Council

At long last, things are finally coming to a head in Fife Council - following a productive CMD hearing last week. Fife has two types of equal pay claims underway: 'rated as equivalent' claims and 'equal value' claims. The first category involves a straightforward comparison of two manual worker jobs - the second compares a non-manual job (i.e. an APT&C or a 'white collar' post) to a manual job - or vice versa. Fife has moved some former manual worker jobs onto monthly pay - then re-classified them as APT&C posts - this has happened in a number of other councils as well - and often the employers don't explain the potential significance of what's going on - and neither do the unions. But the underlying equal pay issues are the just same - how do the employers justify paying traditional male jobs (e.g. refuse workers and gardeners) so much more than carers, catering staff and classroom assistants? The Employment Tribunals have now agreed t

Falkirk - STOP PRESS

Just a quick note to let our clients in Falkirk know that we won the Employment Tribunal hearing that was held in March 2008 - by a unanimous decision. The judgment is hot off the press having been released earlier today - Falkirk council failed in its argument that the jobs of home carers were not graded under the Green Book - in accordance with the manual worker job evaluation scheme. So, while it's been a long wait - the result is exactly the one we were hoping for - more news to follow soon.

Court of Appeal (2)

We have been inundated with enquiries following the recent Court of Appeal decision - see post dated 2 August 2008 - from people asking for more information about 'protected earnings'. Let's take a practical example to illustrate the significance of the court's judgment - and why so many people now have a further claim. In Council A, a refuse worker was being paid £9.00 an hour (including bonus) - prior to the introduction of a new pay and grading system. In that same council, a carer was being paid £6.00 an hour - so she had an equal pay claim based on the difference between the two jobs - i.e. £3.00 per hour, backdated for 5 years etc. The introduction of a new pay and grading system (in Glasgow it was given the grand title of a 'Pay and Benefits Review') means that the carer's job received an small increase in pay - let's assume to £7.00 per hour. But what the council employers have done is to protect the pay of the refuse worker - at £9.00

Women Win Landmark Equal Pay Case

The Court of Appeal delivered another landmark judgment last week - of huge significance to the thousands of outstanding equal pay claims currently before the Employment Tribunals in Scotland. In a lengthy and detailed judgment, the court decided firmly in favour of women claimants in two crucial areas. Firstly, the court agreed that employers continue to discriminate against their women workers, if local pay protection is given to male bonus earners - but not their female colleagues. What has happened in most councils is that - despite the introduction of new and supposedly fairer pay structures - the much higher pay of traditional male jobs has been protected - they continue to earn the same as before - so the big pay gap between male and female jobs for years into the future. The Court of Appeal has ruled that such schemes are unlawful - because they continue the pay discrimination of the past - opening the door to many more claims from thousands of employees - even if they hav