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Showing posts from December, 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