Showing posts from June, 2009

Those Behind Cried Foward

Having failed to properly look after the interests of its women members for many years the GMB is running a desperate campaign – aimed at poaching the clients of Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors. Now we’re all in favour of freedom of choice – but this takes the biscuit for barefaced cheek. Because the trade unions have lost all credibility on equal pay – they’re about as convincing as MPs’ discussing their own expenses. So, while most people are smart enough to see through the latest GMB propaganda for what it is – here are some good reasons to give the unions short shrift: • Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors told council workers the truth about equal pay from day one - we explained the big pay differences between male and female jobs • The unions kept their women members in the dark for years • Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors are currently fighting a major test case (GMF hearing) for clients in Glasgow – we’ve engag

Good News for Male Claimants

Good news from the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) – a recent landmark case has upheld the rights of male workers to bring ‘piggyback’ equal pay claims. So the stance taken by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross has been completely vindicated – and significantly the trade unions were not even involved in this hugely important EAT case. In McAvoy v South Tyneside Borough Council the EAT has held that a man may validly pursue a 'piggyback' equal pay claim by comparing himself with a woman - who herself has succeeded in an equal pay claim with a higher paid male comparator. The present claims arose in the context of multiple equal pay claims, brought against councils in the North East of England, mostly by women employed in predominantly female jobs – the position is just the same north of the border, thanks to the work of Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross. The women succeeded in claiming entitlement to 'productivity bonuses' paid to male comparator

Clean Break or Plain Bonkers

The House of Commons has selected a new speaker – John Bercow – who proclaims himself as a ‘clean break’ with the past. If that’s the case, then heaven help us – because Mr Bercow comes with a certain amount of baggage, as they say. He claimed the absolute maximum for his second home allowance in 2007/08 (£23,083) – and did the same in the 3 previous years. Mr Bercow bought and sold properties in both his constituency and in London in 2003. Yet he was unable or unwilling to give a definitive answer as to whether he paid capital gains tax on his property dealings – or what profit he made on his property dealings – which were, of course, heavily subsidised by the public purse. When quizzed on the subject by the BBC – the new speaker admitted ‘flipping’ his second home - but he stuck to the hoary old formula that he acted within the rules ‘at the time’ – and that he had done nothing ‘unlawful’. Well that’s a relief – but it’s also a mealy mouthed lot of old tosh. As a result of his

South Lanarkshire

We are looking for readers in South Lanarkshire to help flush out the details of what happened in 2004 - when the council introduced its new pay and grading structures. The council's new job evaluation scheme (named 555 scheme) was very different to the one recommended jointly by COSLA (the Scottish employers’ organisation) COSLA - and the trade unions. The reasons for South Lanarkshire going its own way have never been properly explained, but the council made up its own in-house 555 scheme – despite being party to the development of a tried and tested national scheme – which cost the public purse £250,000. So, we are keen to get hold of any documents that can shine a light on the way in which different male and female jobs have been treated. Some of the traditional male jobs have had their salaries permanently preserved – but only some - so many male workers who joined the council since 2004 are treated differently as well. We have previously published details in 2008 about t

Specialist in Discrmination

Good news for clients of Stefan Cross Solicitors (SCS) in Scotland. Carol Fox, Head of Litigation for SCS - has just been accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a specialist in Discrimination Law. Discrimination can take many forms: Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Race Discrimination Age Discrimination Discrimination on the grounds of a person's sexuality Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief Disability Discrimination Wider issues of discrimination - affecting part-time workers, pregnancy dismissals, for example Carol currently the only such specialist in Scotland acting solely on behalf of individuals pursuing claims - i.e. Carol does not act for employers or those defending discrimination claims. Welcoming the news, Carol commented: " I' m delighted to receive this recognition from the Law Society and will use my experience and expertise to challenge discrimination at the workplace in all its forms - to the best of my ability and in the best

MPs, Hotels and Expenses

A recent enquiry to the House of Commons Information Office confirms that the Westminster Parliament sat for only 165 days last year. Parliament is normally in formal session on only 3 days a week – Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday – and many MPs can easily travel down to London on the Tuesday morning and come back on Thursday evening. The truth is that MPs don’t need to be in London for 165 nights during a normal business year – lots of MPs and ministers are also away from London on official business or foreign trips – racking up extra accommodation and other costs into the bargain. Maybe they need to stay in London 125 nights - at best - as an average across all 646 MPs. At the moment the maximum second home (Additional Costs Allowance) that MPs can claims is £23,083 every year – if they all claim up to the limit the cost runs to almost £15 million per year. So, why not do away with all this scandal and introduce a new rule requiring MPs to stay in a hotel when they’re in Lo

Time For Change

A recent article in the Guardian newspaper confirmed that the big four unions – GMB, Unite, Unison and Usdaw - donated more than £8 million of the £9.2 million donated last year to the Labour party. And that’s not even an election year - when spending shoots up dramatically. Do ordinary union members get value for their money? Well on equal pay, for example – the long running union link with Labour has failed to make much of an impact - not much has improved over the past 12 years. Over the past decade – the affiliated unions must have donated around £100 million to the Labour party – money raised from members’ paying their weekly or monthly subscriptions. But maybe that money would have been better spent campaigning hard on the real priorities of ordinary union members – instead of filling the coffers of just one political party. In Scotland union members vote the same way as everyone else – they support the SNP, Lib Dems, Green Party, Conservatives, the different Socialist par

Advertising Standards Authority

Stefan Cross Solicitors has registered a complaint about Unison's recent ‘attack’ advert – to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Here’s a quick summary: 1. The advert sets out to denigrate the activities of a competitor, i.e. Stefan Cross Solicitors. 2. The advert makes a deliberate issue about the origin and nationality of Stefan Cross Solicitors – using inappropriate language to describe Stefan Cross Solicitors as an ‘English’ firm 3. This is in stark contrast to the union’s description of itself as Unison Scotland - not as Scottish Unison or a Scottish trade union. 4. Stefan Cross Solicitors is, in fact, a UK organisation operating in both Scotland and England - ironically as Unison does itself. 5. The race, nationality and origins of Stefan Cross Solicitors are – or at least should be - irrelevant when it comes to equal pay. 6. The advert use of the word ‘English’, in the first paragraph of the text, is designed to convey a negative, anti-English sentiment to a S

Retired Workers

Thousands of council workers in Scotland retire every year – around 5% of the workforce or so. This means that between 1999 and 2005 - around 30,000 council employees who should have benefited from the 1999 Single Status Agreement – were been allowed to retire without being paid a single penny in compensation. What should have happened is that all employees retiring or leaving their jobs during that period - should have been advised to protect their rights to equal pay - by registering a ‘protective’ claim before they left or within 6 months of their employment ending. Not a difficult thing to do - by any means. But no one took the issue of equal pay sufficiently seriously to protect the interest of these employees - whose jobs had been undervalued and underpaid for years. The sad news is that the workers who retired and made no claim within 6 months are now out of time because of the time limits in the Employment Tribunals. And that outcome is extremely unfair on thousands of f

Freedom Come All Ye - South Lanarkshire

Here’s a copy of a recent FOI request to South Lanarkshire Council – regarding its local pay and grading structures. The male jobs in question (Refuse Drivers) are on higher Spinal Column Points (SCPs) than many female jobs. Yet the female jobs appear to have at least the same, if not higher, levels of skill and responsibility. Jobs such as carers, cooks/catering managers, classroom assistants and clerical workers. And our information is that many of the male jobs are permanently preserved on even higher SCP rates – well above the normal ceiling of SCP 28 – ever since the council introduced its new ‘single status’ pay arrangements in 2004. Up until now, the council has refused to disclose the true position – we are using Freedom of Information to bring these details out into the open – where they belong. More to follow – watch this space. Chief Executive South Lanarkshire Council BY E-MAIL Dear Mr Strang FOI Request I would like to make the following requ

Consulting the Workforce

In the spring of 1999 the Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was put to a ballot of all union members in Scotland. The result was overwhelming with a majority of over 90% voting to support the new arrangements - which included a non-discriminatory and nationally recommended job evaluation scheme (JES). The intention of the new JE scheme was to give a better deal for thousands of female dominated jobs – which had been undervalued and underpaid for years. Then not much happened, with different deadlines coming and then going - until Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along in August 2005 - and began explaining the big pay gap between traditional male and female jobs. As council workers began submitting hundreds and then thousands of equal pay claims - the employers and trade unions panicked - and hastily drew up another agreement under the guise of Scottish Council Circular SJC/22 in November 2005. SJC Circular/22 recognised that many low paid council workers had val

Freedom Come All Ye - Glasgow

Here’s a copy of a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Glasgow City Council – regarding its new pay and grading structures (WPBR). The point of the enquiry is to establish how the new system has affected different groups of men and women within the council. Do the traditional male groups fare better than the female groups – as we suspect? The killer facts will be contained in the breakdown of men and women within the various payments bands – which are worth thousands of pounds a year, in many cases. We will share the information with readers – when the council responds. Chief Executive Glasgow City Council City Chambers George Square Glasgow G2 1DU BY E-MAIL Dear Mr Black Freedom of Information Request – Council Workforce Pay and Benefits Review I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. The information I am requesting relates to the Council’s 2006 Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) and, specifically, the

Jacqueline Quinn - An Apology

On 22nd December 2008 and again on 2nd February 2009 we published an article under the headings “Storms and Teacups” and “Storms and Teacups (2)” on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site – In this article, we referred to an action which had been raised by Mrs Jacqueline Quinn against Stefan Cross in the Court of Session. We now accept that Mrs Quinn was fully within her rights to challenge the Contingency Fee Agreement with Stefan Cross and acknowledge that on 16th December 2008 the Court granted an Order which declared that “the pretended contract for the provision of legal services entered into between the Defenders and Pursuer for the provision of legal services ...... is void and of no force or effect, ........” and that in the same Order the Court prohibited Stefan Cross from raising an action for payment against Mrs Quinn “for sums due under (the) pretended contract”. Although Stefan Cross Solicitors chose not to defend the c

"But We Are the Stable"

In all the column inches that have been written about the MPs’ expenses scandal – the following (anonymous) quote stands out for its candour and honesty: “We talk of cleaning the stable,” said one minister, “but we are the stable.” At times of great crisis – someone always seems to sum up the courage to say what needs to be said - without fear or favour - without seeking party advantage – and without making pathetic excuses. So, I take my hat off to the minister concerned – whoever s/he may be. The truth may hurt our honourable members – but the truth still needs to be heard.

Female Window Dressing

Caroline Flint, the former Europe Minister, resigned from the government yesterday - and went on to accuse the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, of treating his women colleagues as 'Female Window Dressing'. The force of her attack was blunted by the fact that she spoke out - yet only after not getting the big cabinet promotion she felt her performance and party loyalty deserved. But that should not obscure the fact that she's right - we live in a sexist world where people in positions of great power and responsibility - say one thing, then do another. If you ask any employer: "Do you believe in equal pay and equal treatment?" - they would say "Yes", unequivocally and without hesitation. And they would have given the same answer at any point over the past 10 years. So too would the trade unions - very vehemently, no doubt. How is it then that the women's work has been so badly undervalued and underpaid for all these years - right in the heart

Pensions and Equal Pay

As regular readers know, female dominated council jobs experience a real 'double whammy' when it comes to equal pay. Not only have they been paid less for many years – and many female workers continue to be paid less than men - but this discrimination continues when people reach retirement age. Take two typical jobs - a Home Carer and Refuse Driver, for example. Assume both jobs are full-time and that the female carer is paid £15,000 a year - while the refuse worker gets £21,000 a year. This results in a typical pay gap of around £6,000 per annum (@r £3.00 per hour) based on our experience around the UK. So, the carer’s equal pay claim is to close the gap of £3.00 per hour and to recover the £6,000 a year – which can be backdated for up to 5 years. But people's retirement benefits are based on their final salary - so again the women lose out – even under some of the new pay and grading structures. The maximum benefits under the pension scheme are - half of your final

Labour and the Unions

According to the latest opinion polls support for the Labour party is at an all time low. Only 20% or so (1 in 5) of the general public are now fans of the Labour party, apparently – and things have been heading that way for some considerable time. Yet trade union bosses have continued to act as loyal cheerleaders for Labour – filling the party coffers on a regular basis - in the full knowledge that their political views are not shared by ordinary union members. People inside and outside the Labour party believe the present situation cannot continue – witness what the Work and Pensions Minister, James Purnell, had to say recently in the Guardian newspaper (before he resigned from the government): “The block grants that trade unions contribute towards my party represent a collective donation on behalf of millions of working people, but that contribution has to be more directly made.” And he’s not alone – here’s what another regular Guardian commentator, Polly Toynbee had to say

Dog Whistles and Attack Adverts

We’ve been looking into the cost of the recent Unison ‘attack’ advert against Stefan Cross Solicitors - see previous post dated 15 May 2009. The rates quoted to us for a full-page, full colour advert in a national daily newspaper – come to over £20,000 including VAT. That’s a lot of members’ money to spend – and for what? Such lavish spending might have made sense years ago – in pursuit of a something positive for the grassroots members. Such as advising low paid council workers about their rights to equal pay - from 1999 onwards. Back in 1999 national newspaper adverts at around £20,000 a throw - would have come in very handy - in getting a across an effective public message - to both union and non-union members. A big, well resourced public campaign would have helped to protect the interests of thousands of low paid council workers – who left or retired during that period – without receiving a penny piece in compensation over equal pay. But sadly that’s not what happened – and

Freedom Come All Ye

Freedom of Information (FOI) is what finally brought the MPs' expenses scandal out onto the open. Even the Prime Minister is now a big fan of Freedom of Information – and says that FOI should go much further - by shining a light into other dark corners of public life. We agree – because that’s exactly what we’ve been saying for years! But until the floodgates opened up – largely thanks to the press, it has to be said – ordinary members of the public were completely in the dark about what their MPs were up to with their expenses. But persistence paid off in the end – people inside and outside Westminster became increasingly disgusted at the attempts to keep things secret – hidden from public scrutiny. Documents were leaked to the press and - to their credit - even some MPs were prepared to stand up and be counted. And the same is true when it comes to equal pay. Some employers still make it very difficult for employees (and others) to understand how different council jobs are

Glasgow and Equal Pay

Glasgow is right in the front line when it comes to equal pay. Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross solicitors are currently pursuing over 5,000 equal pay claims in Glasgow – the cases fall into various categories with some people having a claim in more than one category: Work Rated as Equivalent (WRE) Claims WRE claims are straightforward because the claims are based on any two jobs that have already been rated (or valued) under a common job evaluation (JE) scheme, e.g. the 1987/88 Manual Workers Scheme. Many female dominated jobs such as Home Carers were previously on grade MW 5 but earned much less than a male job such as a Refuse Driver on a lower grade MW 4 – because the male job was on a big bonus - which was kept hidden from the women workers. Equal Value (EV) Claims In EV cases, jobs have not been rated under a common JE scheme, but that’s no bar to bringing an equal pay claim. Employment Tribunals can appoint an independent expert to assess the content of different

Jacqueline Quinn - An Apology

On 22nd December 2008 and again on 2nd February 2009 we published an article under the headings “Storms and Teacups” and “Storms and Teacups (2)” on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site – In this article, we referred to an action which had been raised by Mrs Jacqueline Quinn against Stefan Cross in the Court of Session. We now accept that Mrs Quinn was fully within her rights to challenge the Contingency Fee Agreement with Stefan Cross and acknowledge that on 16th December 2008 the Court granted an Order which declared that “the pretended contract for the provision of legal services entered into between the Defenders and Pursuer for the provision of legal services ...... is void and of no force or effect, ........” and that in the same Order the Court prohibited Stefan Cross from raising an action for payment against Mrs Quinn “for sums due under (the) pretended contract”. Although Stefan Cross Solicitors chose not to defend the

West Lothian

Readers from West Lothian have been in touch to say that some employees have received unsolicited letters from the council - in the past day or so. The letters invite people to accept settlement offers that have previously been rejected - and significantly they have not been copied to Stefan Cross Solicitors. Apparently, the council is simply re-stating its original settlement offer - but again without explaining how the figures have been calculated. If that is the case, then there's a very big risk that people are having the wool pulled over their eyes. Our advice is not to give in to these tactics - and to hold out for a fair settlement of your claim. If the council has nothing to hide, they should be dealing direct with Stefan Cross Solicitors - as people's named representative. So, it's highly suspicious and unprofessional for the council to be behaving in this way.

Man the Lifeboats

The Guardian newspaper is a great source of information – about politics generally, but also on ebb and flow of events at Westminster and inside the Labour party. Last week the paper reported that 52 Labour MPs are getting ready to ‘man the lifeboats’ – by asking the Prime Minister to be elevated to the House of Lords after the next general election. No doubt many of these MPs conclude that their political careers are about to be derailed by angry voters in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal. “We are doomed”, one senior Labour figure is reported as saying. “We’re all doing our bit for the elections, but it’s over for Labour”, the report goes on. Now some people say that the ‘Spanish’ working practices in the House of Lord are even more ludicrous than the House of Commons – hard to believe. But apparently our peers of the realm receive generous tax free allowances – which they are entitled to claim just for turning up and ‘clocking in’. What they do after that is nobody’s b

Falkirk and MPs' Expenses

Readers in Falkirk fighting for equal pay will no doubt be as interested as everyone else - in the ongoing scandal about MPs’ expenses. Eric Joyce, Labour MP for Falkirk, has been in the news recently. On 31 May, the Mail on Sunday newspaper (not the Telegraph for a change) reported that in 2001 Eric Joyce bought a property, a family house, in London for a purchase price of £250,000. In 2008 Eric Joyce sold the house for the sum of £383,000 - making a handsome profit of £133,000. During that period the newspaper reports that Eric Joyce claimed a total of £120,334 in expenses to run the house – to cover the mortgage and maintenance costs. So, it cost the MP little or nothing to live there – for all those years – because the tax payer picked up the tab via his MP’s expenses. But the House of Commons rules also allow the MP to hold onto the profit made on the house – despite the fact that this ‘profit’ was made by using public funds. No wonder so many people think the rules are cra

Unsolicited Letters

A number of readers have been in touch to say that they have received unsolicited letters from trade unions - trying to poach clients from Stefan Cross Solicitors. Anyone thinking about taking up this offer of assistance should be very wary - because they could be encouraged to accept the original settlement offer put forward by the employers - i.e. the same one that Stefan Cross has previously advised clients to reject. The reason for advising people to reject is that people's equal pay claims are worth much more than the employers offer of settlement - and without knowing how the offers are calculated - people are obviously having the wool pulled over their eyes. In addition, many people have ongoing claims against their employers - and this crucial detail needs to be carefully explained. If you receive one of these letters - or have any information to pass on about what the unions and the employers are up to - drop Mark Irvine a note or contact Carol Fox on 0191 226 328

Change of Contract

A number of readers have been in touch recently about changes that are being made to their jobs - for one reason or another. What they want to know is - "How do these changes affect my equal pay claim?" So, here's an exchange of e-mails with one reader that helps to explain the situation - the general rule is - if in doubt, always register a new claim. Dear Colleague The council may treat your change to a new job as a change of contract - in which case all you need to do is to take out a new claim in your new post. Your existing claim will continue, but it may freeze at the point your new contract kicks in - so the safe and sensible thing to do is to register a new claim at that point - then both jobs are covered. Kind regards Mark

Presbyterian Consciences

Tony Blair, famously, didn't 'do God' - allegedly on the advice of his press spokesman, Alistair Campbell. Gordon Brown, apparently, has no such qualms - invoking his Presbyterian conscience on the BBC to show how offended he is about the ongoing scandal of MPs' expenses. Before going on to say that he didn't come into politics to allow a situation to develop where MPs can run away with money - that they don't deserve. Well the best that can said about that - after 12 years in government - is: About time too! Because many MPs are making small personal fortunes they don't deserve - by investing in the property market using public funds - then holding on to the profit element that is released when their property is finally sold. So, the best way for the Prime Minister to show some leadership on this issue would be to say that this nonsense should stop - and stop now. And that any 'profits' generated by MPs investing in the property market -