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Showing posts from April, 2009

Equalities Bill

Government Ministers have taken to their airwaves today to announce the arrival of a new Equalities Bill - which will encourage employers to conduct equal pay audits on a voluntary basis. In plain language, this means that employers will be asked to highlight any differences in pay between male and female jobs. Pay differences that have been around for almost 40 years now - despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970. Much too little, much too late - you might be tempted to say - after all the government has been in power for 12 long years - since 1997, in fact, the same year that the UK Single Status Agreement was introduced. Yet only now is the government getting round to thinking about 'asking' employers, very politely - if they wouldn't mind sharing such information with their employees and the general public. "Just where have they been for the past 12 years?" - is the obvious question. Much of the comment focuses on the private sector -

Politics and Equal Pay

Image of the week must surely be that of Alex Salmond – being greeted warmly and to loud applause by delegates to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) – Scotland’s annual gathering of the trade union movement. In times gone by, the attendance of the SNP leader at the STUC has been hugely controversial – because the brothers are virtually all Labour supporters; extremely tribal, and often sectarian, in their political outlook. But you can’t argue with people power – Alex Salmond was there as Scotland’s First Minister – so the trade unions had no choice other than to be friendly and welcoming to someone they regard privately as a deadly political foe. Now this is odd – because ordinary union members are just the same as everyone else – they support political parties of all hues and colours – the SNP, Lib Dems, Conservatives, Greens, Socialist Party/Solidarity and even the occasional Independent. Yet union bosses can’t see past the Labour Party – and they use vast sums of their m

South Lanarkshire

Action 4 Equality Scotland held a successful series of meetings in South Lanarkshire earlier this year – several hundred people came along – some for the first time, others to hear about how their equal pay claims were progressing. The current position is that we are seeking dates for a Pre-Hearing Review (PHR) which will challenge the council’s pay and grading structure and, effectively, the way South Lanarkshire has implemented the 1999 Single Status Agreement, particularly its ‘in-house’ job evaluation (JE) scheme. So, we are planning to repeat the series of meetings we held in January – but this time we’re going to invite local politicians to come along and hear first-hand what council employees have to say. Why? Because many local politicians were not around when the 1999 Single Status Agreement was introduced and few have a detailed knowledge of what has been going on in South Lanarkshire over recent years. South Lanarkshire is unique amongst Scottish councils. We believe the

Aberdeen City Council

News reports this morning suggest that Aberdeen's lump sum payment proposals have run into problems - apparently the unions have come out against the idea. Here's what we had to say on the matter back in January - so it's good to see others now agree with us, even if it's a bit late in the day. Post from 14 January 2009 Aberdeen City Council is issuing new contracts of employment to all staff – having failed to reach a collective agreement with the trade unions over Single Status and Equal Pay. The council says that it can’t achieve a collective agreement because of recent case law – i.e. the Allen V GMB case where low paid GMB members successfully sued their own union. But the council is wrong – the Allen v GMB case does not stop trade unions negotiating collective agreements – all it does is prevent them from negotiating deals that discriminate against their own women members. So, Aberdeen is now pursuing a voluntary sign up campaign - staff are being asked to

Six Month Rule

A reader from Midlothian has been in touch on behalf of her daughter - who stopped working for the council in 2008. Having heard about equal pay - the young woman wrote to the council to enquire about any back pay she was due - only to be told that she would be getting nothing - as she had to register a claim within six months of ending her employment. Now technically this is true - because the employment tribunals won't accept any claims that are outside of the six month time limit. But the council is hiding behind the law - because there's nothing to stop the council from acting as a good employer and making an offer to staff who have retired or moved to another job. It's called doing the right thing. In fact, the employer and the trade unions had a responsibility to advise people of their rights to equal pay - and their failure to give proper advice has cost many ex-council workers very dear. So, if you are retiring, leaving for another job outside the council

Job Evaluation Appeals

A reader from Fife has been in touch regarding job evaluation appeals - apparently Fife Council's procedures allow for only two very narrow grounds of appeal which are: That a job has been been: - matched to the wrong job family and/or - matched to the wrong level within the job family What people need to undertsand is that the employers are making up these rules as they go along - sometimes with the tacit support or acquiesence of the trade unions. Which is why so many people are taking the cases up via an equal pay claim - because that takes the issue outside of the council - and the employers are no longer judge and jury in their own cause. In Glasgow, for example, the council's new pay and grading structure awards extra points (and pay) simply for working full-time or for doing a 'task and finish' job. In our view, these conditions discriminate against female dominated jobs - where task and finish is not an option and where many people work part-time, not full

Court of Appeal - General Update

The Court of Appeal has now resolved the dispute over comparators that had prevented real progress with many of the Scottish claims - see post dated 7 April 2009. In light of the Court of Appeal's judgment, Stefan Cross Solicitors will be writing written to the tribunals making application to dismiss these arguments where they have been relied upon by individual Scottish councils. The Court of Appeal makes it overwhelmingly clear that frustrating progress in these claims is no longer to be tolerated. So, Stefan Cross Solicitors is now requesting that all claims affected by these comparator points - should now be allowed to proceed and determine the substantive issues. Specifically, the aim is to arrange a Case Management Discussion at the earliest opportunity to discuss the listing of these claims for a Pre-Hearing Review - to consider the Respondent’s Genuine Material Factor (GMF) defences. A GMF hearing is where the employers' have to explain and justify the big diffe

General Update

Some of the equal pay claims currently working their way through the Employment Tribunal process have stalled recently - because of a dispute over comparators. Female claimants compare their earnings against the higher (bonus-related) earnings of male employees in predominantly-male comparator posts. Unfortunately some employers have tried to delay the tribunal process by arguing that people should not be able to rely on comparators in their claims which are not mentioned in their original grievances. In our view - a view that's shared by the trade unions - this is a trivial point which does not detract in any way from the strength of people's claims. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has already ruled on this point – by firmly rejecting the employers' arguments. See the following quote 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 legislatio

Glasgow Cries Foul

Glasgow City Council has cried foul over the investigation instigated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – see post dated 26 March 2009. The council has accused the equalities watchdog of ‘showing bias’ because the Commission in launching its investigation said that it had significant concerns about the council’s Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR). The Commission has since apologised for using the words – ‘significant concerns’ and has since made it clear there is no intention to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation into Glasgow’s pay and grading structures. Now – to any sane person - this would seem to be a row about nothing. Because how can an investigation get underway - unless the ‘watchdog’ has concerns about the very pay and related issues that the Commission has been set up to police - on behalf of the general public? For once, the GMB is on the right side of the argument – a spokesperson said that the council was getting involved in technical

Falkirk Claims

A reader from Falkirk – a former union rep - has been in touch to say that the equal pay fight is taking some odd twists and turns locally. Apparently the GMB is back in the ring – stressing the union’s unwavering support for the equal pay cases that are underway – and calling for these to be settled without further delay. The GMB is now saying these claims are straightforward, uncomplicated and completely justified! Now, this is odd – because our reader says the GMB is the same union that told her and her colleagues that they were on their own. The GMB wanted nothing to do with them - nor did it want to get involved in taking further action against Falkirk Council over equal pay. So, they came to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross for help – and we have been working ever since to bring these claims to a successful conclusion. Now – when it comes to equal pay – the unions have a poor track record. Can they really be trusted to do the right thing – when they have let peo

Scottish Parliament - Evidence (5)

Ongoing Issues and Concerns (continued) Job Evaluation – Local Implementation 30) South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) has introduced a JE scheme that prevents council employees from understanding and comparing the relative worth of their jobs. Up until now, SLC has been unable or unwilling to explain how all the different jobs have been valued under its ‘in-house’ scheme. SLC is the only council in Scotland in this position and it has still to explain clearly how employees moved across from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ pay structures. 31) Glasgow City Council has introduced a new concept of Core and Non-Core pay. In our view the non-core pay element is discriminatory and unlawful because it awards additional grading points (and extra pay) to predominantly male jobs, e.g. full-time workers get 7 extra points (£800 pa) - which penalises part-time workers, the vast majority of whom are women. 32) North Lanarkshire Council has introduced new incremental scales for jobs which previously had no in

Scottish Parliament - Evidence (4)

Ongoing Issues and Concerns Obfuscation and Delay 21) Many of the claims currently before the Employment Tribunals have been underway for well over three years. The delay is largely down to deliberate delaying tactics on the part of the employers. When their issues are put to the test they have been dismissed by the tribunals. Yet, they persist in using public funds to delay and frustrate the claims of low paid employees who are simply exercising their right to equal pay under the law. 22) Pre-hearing reviews (PHRs) have been requested by the following councils in the recent past, but all have been rejected: North Ayrshire Council (Job Changes – costs awarded against the council); Falkirk Council (Job Changes); Edinburgh City Council (APT&C claims – costs awarded against the council); Glasgow City Council (Strike Out application); South Lanarkshire Council (Strike Out application). Council tax payers are footing these bills. Work Rated as Equivalent (WRE) Clai ms 23) WRE claims