Showing posts from February, 2009

A Reader Asks......?

Question How can Glasgow Unison 'go bonkers' when everyone knows they're as mad as hatters already? Answer Good question - the reader must surely be a long-suffering member of the Glasgow Unison branch. So, I can only apologise for the use of such a sloppy Strap Line (see post dated 26 February 2009) - the heading should, of course, have read: 'Glasgow Unison Goes Even More Bonkers' Because - as many people know - the lunatics took over the asylum years ago.

Glasgow Unison Goes Bonkers

The Evening Times reports tonight that Glasgow Unison is threatening to call 10,000 members out on strike over in a row over pay protection. Unison claims that the council has reneged on its promise not to cut individual wages following the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR). Unison says 400 people are affected - the council says 58 - but the real story is what this says about trade union priorities in Glasgow Funny how Unison never threatened to call its 10,000 members out on strike during all the years since 1999 - when thousands of low paid women's jobs were so badly undervalued and underpaid. A new national agreement was signed in 1999 - and promised to sweep away the widespread pay discrimination that existed between male and female jobs - but nothing happened until Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along. Certainly no one in Glasgow Unison was calling for strike action - even though the women workers were losing thousands of pounds every year. So,

Monkey Business in Midlothian

We are reliably informed by well-informed sources in Midlothian Council – that the council is about to offer a secret cash ‘buy out’ of current bonus payments to male workers. The bonus earning men are entitled to 3-years protection of their bonus payments under the 1999 Single Status Agreement. But the council has other ideas as it plans to introduce a new, job evaluation (JE) based pay and grading structure – which the council calls ‘Modernising Midlothian’. The council is deliberately withholding the results of the JE scheme - wonder why? Yet in the meantime it is trying to browbeat its employees into giving up their equal pay claims – and accepting new contracts of employment. The fact is that women workers in Midlothian are entitled to the same treatment as the men - no less favourable is the legal test. So, if male workers get offered pay protection – a higher salary for 3 years – then so should the women. If the men get offered a cash lump sum – instead of pay protection

Task and Finish

Task and Finish is a concept alien to many people – but it's part and parcel of Glasgow’s Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WBPR), the pet name given to Glasgow’s ‘in-house’ job evaluation (JE) scheme. Remember, Glasgow turned its back on the nationally recommended (and tried and tested) JE scheme in favour of its own home grown solution. So, what’s the rumpus? Well, task and finish is a working practice, but one that applies only to traditional male jobs – such as refuse workers, gardeners and suchlike – the kind of jobs that have benefited from bonus payments down the years. Most council workers have jobs with set start and finish times – say between 9am and 5pm, with maybe an hour off for lunch. Many part-time jobs work a straight shift with no formal breaks – say a four hour shift between 9am and 1pm or 5pm and 9pm. The key point is that the hours are fixed – and the work is done between start and finishing times – whether you’re a catering worker, a home carer, a classro

Curioser and Curioser

Readers from Fife have been in touch to say that South Lanarkshire is not the only part of Scotland where Unison seems to be blowing hot and cold over equal pay. Apparently, union members in Fife Council have been left out of the all-Scotland mail shot as well - see post dated 13 February 2009. Now why should this be - because the issues are the same in Fife as everywhere else? In Fife, the higher rate of pay of traditional male jobs is being protected - so everyone in a female dominated jobs has a new claim - even if they accepted an earlier settlement. In Fife, many people were excluded from settlement offers - former APT&C groups - so they all have valid (first) claims. In Fife, the council seems to have used a questionable process in requiring employees to sign to Compromise Agreements - and that whole business may now be revisited as well. But maybe the answer is that they're a bolshy lot in Fife - the workforce rejected management's original Single Status

Bermuda Triangles and Equal Pay

Word from the front line in the fight for equal pay – Johnny Comes Lately (Unison) has lost his way and has failed to report for duty in South Lanarkshire. Seems that Unison’s belated enthusiasm for equal pay has just disappeared – to the south and east of Glasgow - into some kind of nasty Bermuda Triangle. Because according to readers in Hamilton, East Kilbride, Rutherglen, Blantyre, Cambuslang and elsewhere – Unison members in South Lanarkshire have not received a letter from their regional secretary, Matt Smith (see post dated 8 February 2009). Now this is very strange – incredible even! Is Unison really saying that all is rosy in South Lanarkshire when it comes to equal pay? If so, the union will have a great deal of explaining to do to its women members. Is Unison really arguing that it’s fine by them for a Home Carer in South Lanarkshire to be paid between Spinal Column Points 10 to 16 – or £5.71 to £7.27 an hour? Yet male refuse workers, gardeners and gravediggers get paid

Midlothian Council - Update

Midlothian Council is up to its old tricks again – trying to encourage people to give up their equal pay claims - but this time as management prepare to introduce a new pay and grading structure – with the catchy title of: “Modernising Midlothian”. Our advice is not to touch their settlement offer with a bargepole – here are 10 good reasons why. 1 The offer is not properly explained 2 Peoples’ claims are based on the pay difference with their male comparator – i.e. another predominantly male job within Midlothian such as a refuse worker or gardener. 3 The council knows what the difference in pay is – but is not telling people. 4 Why? Because it doesn’t want people to know how big the pay gap really is. 5 So, people are being offered a sum which is worth much less than the real value of their equal pay claims. 6 If the council dispute this – why don’t they just explain their calculations? 7 The offer covers the period from 1 April 2001 to the implementation date of the ne

Johnny Comes Lately (2)

On Sunday (see post dated 8 February 2009) we asked if Unison's belated conversion to pursuing equal pay claims was: a) Too Little Too Late b) Better Late Than Never c) Just Another Recruitment Drive The answer has come even quicker than we expected because today a number of claimants have been in touch to say that union reps are approaching local workplaces - in an effort to sign people up as new recruits - even though they already have an equal pay claim underway. Our advice now is that Unison is just trying to frighten people - and is using their recent letter as part of a cynical recruitment campaign. So, there's no need to worry and no need to do anything - if local union reps come to your workplace with these scare stories. Best thing to do is: 1 Ask them where they've been for the past 10 years? 2 Give them short shrift 3 Chase them off the premises - with a flea in their ear

Direct and Care (Cordia)

Lots of calls this week from staff in Glasgow's Direct and Care - see post dated 2 February 2009. Everyone's asking the same question - does this apply to cleaning and catering staff as well as carers? The answer is YES, definitely. If the transfer to Cordia goes ahead as planned - all Direct and Care employees (including cleaning and catering staff) will have up to 6 months to protect their interests - but why wait? After 6 months, any claims sent to the Employment Tribunals will be out of time. So, better to be safe than sorry - and anyone who's likely to transfer would be mad not to protect their interests at this stage. If you need further advice call Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 - or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at:

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast - the way Scottish councils treat their chief officials - against the fight that women workers face to achieve equal pay. Here's a letter - from yours truly - that was published yesterday in The Herald newspaper. Dear Sir Local Government Pay The present chief executive of Glasgow City Council is a fine public servant, as was his predecessor, but the annual salary paid to his post (£158,000 excluding pension benefits) masks a worrying trend within Scottish local government. A formula is used to determine the pay of council chief executives (and effectively the pay of other chief officers) which is based on various factors including council size, council population, council budget and the number of council employees. Hardly rocket science, but the fact is that this old formula is no longer fit for purpose and needs to be reviewed to reflect today’s very different circumstances. For example, since the current arrangements were introduced many years ago, Gla

Points Mean Prizes

The basic rule of Glasgow City Council’s job evaluation scheme (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review - WPBR) is that points mean prizes. So, if you are a full-time worker – you get an extra 7 points and extra pay worth over £800 a year – just for being a full-time worker, not because of the skills and responsibilities of your job. But if - and only if - you work full-time. Now that sounds completely crazy, it has to be said. Not to mention unlawful and discriminatory – since part-time workers are supposed to be treated equally and have the same basic employment rights as their full-time colleagues. Why should someone (i.e. a woman) who works 30 or 25 hours a week be treated so very differently - from another person (i.e. a man) working 37 hours a week? Could it be because the vast majority of part-time workers are women? Because that’s certainly how it appears – that Glasgow City Council has introduced this bizarre practice simply to reduce the cost of the council’s pay bill. But

Union City Blues

Bumped into Mike Kirby in Glasgow the other day – had the look of a worried man, but then he’s got a lot to be worried about these days. Mike is the Scottish Convener (senior elected lay member) of Unison – a position Mike has held continuously since 1993 - when the new union was formed by a merger of its three predecessors - COHSE, NALGO and NUPE. For all of these 16 long years, Unison (Scotland) has failed to elect a woman as its Convener – despite the fact that women make up the great majority (over two thirds) of its membership. How odd, but maybe that helps to explain why the union can’t see the wood for the trees when it comes to equal pay. Mike is also a big cheese (and permanent fixture) in the Glasgow City Council Unison branch – the largest branch in the country. But ordinary members in Glasgow are increasingly perplexed at their union’s craven attitude towards the council’s in-house job evaluation scheme – or Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), as it’s known local

Johnny Comes Lately

Unison has issued a letter on equal pay to all Scottish members – nothing unusual in that you might say – but this one’s not from local Unison branches it’s from regional secretary, Matt Smith. The letter says: “I am writing to let you know about legal action that your union plans to take against your employer, (insert name of council) to try to ensure equal pay.” “We believe that there may be many potential cases for back pay where women are able to compare themselves with men who are graded on the same level but are not receiving the same payment.” Where has Unison been all this time – what planet has it been on? Because we’ve been advising people about their rights to equal pay for years (albeit in better English) – while the unions failed to support their own low paid women members. The letter goes on to highlight the strict time limits that apply in equal pay cases – the 6 month rule – which means that people have only 6 months from leaving their employment, or working to a ne

West Dunbartonshire - Settlement Offers

West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) has issued revised offer of settlement – but only to some of its employees with a valid equal pay claim. As usual groups of employees with a perfectly good claim are being deliberately excluded - for reasons the council can’t justify and won’t explain. In many cases, the revised offers are worth less than 50% of the full value of people’s claims. In other words, West Dunbartonshire’s employees are being asked to hand back over half of the value of their claim – to the same council (and management) that has presided over years of pay discrimination against its largely female workforce. Stefan Cross is writing to all WDC claimants individually – but the general advice is to reject the Council’s offer and hold out for a better and fairer settlement. What’s on offer in West Dunbartonshire represents a good deal for the council – but a poor deal for council workers.

CMD (Case Management Discussion) Update

Several individual claimants went along to the CMD hearing involving Glasgow City Council - which was held on Monday 2 February 2009. By all accounts the claimants found it to be a worthwhile and interesting experience. Not only did they get to meet Carol Fox, the claimants also had time for a discussion with Daphne Romney before proceedings got underway. Daphne Romney is the leading equal pay barrister who has been engaged by Stefan Cross to present the Glasgow cases - at the forthcoming GMF hearing which has been listed for March 2009. So, it was a useful exercise all round - the message is clear that these cases are about real people - who are simply seeking justice and the right to equal pay under the law. And that's a powerful very message - because many claimants have a lifetime of service to their local councils - and the communities they serve. By attending the CMD, claimants also got to see first-hand the important work that's taking place behind the scenes - to

Nursery Nurses

Nursery Nurses are a good example of how male and female groups tend to be treated very differently when it comes to new pay and grading structures. Take the situation in South Lanarkshire Council. The council says it has introduced a fair and non-discriminatory job evaluation (JE) scheme – yet most employees haven’t a clue how the JE scheme works or how it rewards different council jobs – male or female, skilled or unskilled. Instead of being transparent and understandable – pay and grading arrangements in South Lanarkshire are a mysterious and deeply guarded secret. Now Nursery Nurses do a very demanding job (like many other people) – they help young children get the most out of their education and interact with other key individuals during this process - including parents and teachers. Nursery Nurses are also highly qualified – they must hold the recognised diploma in nursery nursing before they can even be considered for a job – in South Lanarkshire or anywhere else. Yet, acc

Calling Glasgow Carers

Glasgow city council is planning to transfer all their care staff into a new arm’s length trust – which will be named Cordia – from 1 April 2009. Many people believe the reason the council is doing this is to prevent its largely female workforce from bringing future equal pay claims. Because by hiving their care staff off to a new employer – the council will try to argue that care staff can no longer compare their pay – to the much higher rates of pay enjoyed by traditional male jobs, such as refuse workers and gardeners - who will remain directly employed by the council. Time will tell whether this ploy will be successful – because the council will still control the new body (Cordia) – and may find it harder than they think to escape their obligations on equal pay - by the simple expedient off hiving off Direct and Care. Thousands of Glasgow care workers already pursuing equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – but many Home Carers and Home Care Coordina