Sunday, 30 August 2009

GMB Gobbledegook

A Glasgow reader has been in touch to ask how the GMB has the brass neck to offer comments about settlement discussions with Glasgow City Council?

Especially when the union is not even involved - in the ongoing test case before the Glasgow employment tribunal.

Well the answer is really simple and lies in the question.

The GMB has a brass neck so shiny you can see your own reflection - and the union has no shame about trying to jump onto any passing bandwagon.

Like so much the unions have to say - the GMB's comments are full of bluster and gobbledegook.

Glasgow City Council knows that only too well - which is why they have been in settlement discussions with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross - and not the unions.

The next set of hearings involving Glasgow City Council gets underway on 10 September 2009 - these are about the challenge to the Council's Compromise Agreements - which many people signed back in 2005.

Needless to say - the unions are not involved in these hearings either.

And that tells you all you need to know - about the unions and their lack of commitment on equal pay.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Pay Freezes and Hell Freezes

Today’s newspapers are full of angry quotes from union leaders about a possible pay freeze for Scotland’s council workers.

COSLA, the Scottish employers’ organisation, has suggested a 5-year pay freeze might be needed because of the recession – and the expected cuts in financial support from central government.

Now this 5 year business will never happen – but nonetheless it’s the opening two-step in a ritual dance – that the employers’ and unions’ engage in from time to time.

The employers’ say ‘white’ and the unions say ‘black’.

The employers’ say: “Oh yes we will!”, and the unions say: “Oh no you won’t!” – and then things trundle forward for a while – everyone talking, but no one listening.

The big guns from the unions get wheeled out to say that a pay freeze for even 1 year is unthinkable – never mind 5!

And anyway how can the nasty employers even dream of harming the interests of low paid cooks, cleaners, care workers and clerical staff?

Now all of this is harmless enough – in many ways – because it’s what people expect – a bit of old fashioned Punch and Judy style industrial relations.

But what is interesting is that the low paid cooks, cleaners, care workers and clerical staff – have all been low paid for the past ten years and more.

In many cases these largely female jobs have lost out – big time – with traditional male jobs routinely being paid 50% more than the women.

For years a low paid cook, cleaner, carer and clerical worker were paid only £6 an hour – while refuse workers, gardeners and road workers were being paid £9 an hour – half as much again.

And when in the past 10 years have you heard union leaders saying - and really meaning - that pay discrimination in Scotland’s councils is completely unacceptable?

That it will not stand – that the unions will confront the issue head on – using all their money, power and resources.

The reality is that the trade unions actually negotiated these more favourable pay arrangements for traditional male groups – the employers’ didn’t do it all by themselves.

So, our advice is to take all the angry rhetoric with a big pinch of salt – hell could well freeze over - before the unions’ finally ride to the rescue of low paid cooks, cleaners, carers and clerical workers.

Friday, 28 August 2009

South Lanarkshire

The recent meetings in South Lanarkshire were a great help with preparations for the forthcoming challenge to the council’s job evaluation scheme (JES).

Remember – the hearing gets underway in Glasgow on 29 and 30 September 2009 – see post dated 2 July.

We also gathered some useful feedback on other issues as well.

Apparently, Unison has circulated thousands of glossy information leaflets locally – the usual propaganda containing lots of brave talk about taking up people’s equal pay claims.

But the union forgot to tell people that this great zeal and appetite for equal pay - doesn’t apply in South Lanarkshire.

Because there’s not a single union backed case underway in South Lanarkshire – up till now it’s been an equal pay free zone - as far as the unions are concerned.

In fact, the council claims that the unions were right behind the new pay and grading structure – and that the unions actively supported management in bringing in the new JES.

Despite the fact that the new ‘single status’ pay system continues to reward traditional male jobs - much more favourably than traditional female jobs.

Ordinary members are at a loss to understand these antics - which is understandable.

Because while the union talks a good fight - no one will explain Unison’s reluctance to get behind the campaign for equal pay in South Lanarkshire.

So, the end result is lots of disillusioned and angry union members – who have paid their contributions loyally for years – but now can’t get a straight answer to a straight question.

Maybe they should ask for their money back?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Glasgow and Equal Pay

Readers may have noticed a piece in The Herald newspaper today - about Glasgow City Council and Equal Pay.

Mark Irvine has responded to the reporter who wrote the article - and here's what he had to say:

Dear Gerry (Braiden),

Glasgow and Equal Pay

I read your piece in The Herald today - but the article contained some glaring inaccuracies and the 'informed comment' element was almost entirely based on anonymous union propaganda.

First of all, Stefan Cross has every right to practice in Scotland - and to suggest otherwise is simply untrue and potentially defamatory.

The fact of the matter is that without Stefan Cross Solicitors and Action for Equality Scotland - equal pay would be dead in the water in Scottish local government.

No one would have received a single penny in compensation - in Glasgow or elsewhere.

The reality is that the trade unions kept their women members in the dark about equal pay for years - and that suited the employers just fine.

The unions may be making a fuss now - but that's because they're at the margins of events - the unions represent a small minority of claimants in Glasgow.

Unison has just one client in the current test case before the Glasgow employment tribunal - and the GMB has none.

How can the unions hold out for more when they represent so few people - and have such a poor track record on equal pay?

And as for Stefan Cross's nationality - what's that got to do with the price of mince?

Surely you're not suggesting that someone like Tony Mowbray should not be the manager of Celtic Football Club - simply because he hails from the north east of England.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Further news about Glasgow will follow in due course - so watch this space

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Top Hats and Boiler Suits

Another great story to appear in the press recently concerns William McIlvanney - one of Scotland's most celebrated and talented writers.

McIlvanney revealed that he turned down an OBE in the Queen’s honours list – and went on to compare the honour to "putting a top hat on a man in a boiler suit".

William McIlvanney explained that his decision was private - unlike that of artist and writer John Byrne - the inspiration behind the smash hit series Tutti Frutti - and all the madness involving The Majestics, Eddie Clockerty and Miss Toner.

But John Byrne was making a serious point - when he rejected an MBE for services to art and literature recently - to signify his "absolute disgust" at the Iraq war.

William McIlvanney told the Scotland on Sunday that had written to Downing Street to say he would not be accepting the OBE for "purely personal" reasons.

"It's something that I tried on in my mind, and I found it didn't fit," he explained. "The sleeves were too long, and it just wasn't part of me.”

“It felt like trying to put a top hat on a man in a boiler suit.”

"The idea of rejecting an honour isn't something I've done with any anger, or to demean other people. There are a lot of people who carry out unsung work. I'm only too happy for them to be recognised. "

McIlvanney said: "There have been a lot of honours given for dubious reasons in the past, like providing your wife as the king's bed warmer. The system is riddled with ludicrous elements."

But not everyone takes such a noble stand - there are lots of trade unionists only too glad to accept such honours - as a quick Google search shows:

• Bernard McGill (MBE) – from the north east regional TUC
• Felicity Mendelson (MBE) – from Unison (north east)
• Anne Middleton (MBE) - former deputy regional secretary Unison (Scotland)
• Terri Miller (MBE) – from Unite (south east)
• Matt Smith (OBE) – current regional secretary Unison (Scotland)
• Yvonne Strachan (OBE) - former regional organiser TGWU (Scotland) – now Unite

And that’s the eternal battle within the trade union movement – how to challenge the establishment – while resisting the temptation to become part of the establishment.

Some people do it better than others - you pays your money and takes your choice.

Michael McGahey – a Scottish miner and former leader of the NUM – would never have crossed the road for an MBE or OBE.

So hats off to Mick McGahey, William McIlvanney and John Byrne - so long as it's not Top Hats, of course.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Union Fires Official for Taking Side of Low Paid Women

Another fascinating article appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Herald – here are the key details of the piece - written by Paul Hutcheon.

Union Fires Official for Taking Side of Low Paid Women

A veteran trade union negotiator has been sacked in the middle of a multi-million pound dispute over equal pay.

Ken Seaward, a Unison regional organiser, was dismissed by his union after a fall-out over how to handle the thousands of pay claims made by low paid women.

The 59-year old, who was fired for alleged misconduct, is understood to be a staunch critic of Unison urging its members to settle for a figure that protects councils from having to cut their budgets.

Female workers are currently pursuing equal pay claims. It is estimated that around 35,000 cases have been lodged with employment tribunals.

However, it is understood that tensions exists within Unison on how to approach equal pay claims.

Senior union officials have in the past urged female members to sign “compromise” deals with councils.

Other union figures believe the women should hold out for the full amount to which they are legally entitled.

Seaward, the Unison official in charge of negotiating with Midlothian Council, is said to be in the latter camp.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the official, who has 29 years’ service, has been sacked for alleged misconduct and bringing Unison into disrepute.

Seaward was dismissed after his union upheld complaints made by Midlothian Council – and he is expected to appeal the decision.

Eddy Coulson, a former Unison regional organiser, said: “What Unison have done to Ken is bang out of order. This is all a question of Unison not wanting to upset the established order.”

Another senior trade unionist said: “There is definitely a split within the unions, which are male dominated, on how to deal with equal pay. There are tensions between and within the unions.”

It is also understood that some Unison members believe the union’s hierarchy is too close to the Labour Party and to local authorities.

Unison advised its female members in Glasgow to sign a “compromise” agreement in 2005, an approach opposed by some of the union’s members.

David O’Connor, while a branch secretary at Unison said: “We have approached pragmatically the issue of what can be afforded by councils without job losses and loss of services.”

Since the Glasgow deal was struck, Unison has been the subject of legal action by former members unhappy at the agreement the union advised them to sign.

A Unison spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual disciplinary cases, particularly while they are still in process.”

Seaward declined to comment.

The article speaks for itself and paints a sorry picture of the union - but we'll be happy to publish readers' comments - without attributing any names, of course, given how nasty and vindictive some people can be.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Glasgow Pay Bonanza - For Councillors

Councillors in Glasgow are enjoying an unprecedented pay bonanza - according to a report in today's Sunday Herald. The report by Paul Hutcheon can be read on line at -

Apparently Glasgow councillors are sharing around £400,000 in top-up payments for sitting on bodies funded by the city council - some key extracts from the report are detailed below.

Dozens of politicians on Glasgow City Council are benefiting financially from the policy of setting up or bankrolling "arm's-length" organisations to deliver public services.

Until recently, these arm's length companies were part of the council - and overseeing what went on was just like everything else - part of an elected councillor's day to day responsibilities.

Scotland's councillors all now receive a minimum salary of £16,234 - as well as pension rights. A limited number in each council - carrying out senior roles - are paid more to reflect their additional responsibilities as leaders, spokespeople and committee chairs.

But according to the Sunday Herald - councillors in Glasgow are sharing an additional top-up pot of around £418,385 - which is not part of the 'official' salary scheme.

On the Labour side, Paul Carey receives £6335 for sitting on the board of City Markets, which was set up to manage the council's fruit and flower market, as well as £10,558 for chairing City Parking.

Aileen Colleran, another Labour councillor, pockets £6335 for being a board member of City Building - the limited liability partnership which repairs the city's social housing - and the same amount for sitting on Glasgow Cultural Enterprises Ltd.

Gerry Leonard, a senior Labour councillor, is listed as being given £15,836 for chairing City Building, while his colleagues Euan McLeod and James Todd pocket £6355 for sitting on the same organisation.

Stephen Dornan, who receives a salary of £22,063, is given another £6335 for sitting on the new Surplus Land and Property body set up by the council, as is his colleague Hanzala Malik.

Ruth Simpson, another senior Labour councillor, is listed as receiving £10,558 as chair of City Markets, and £15,836 for her role on Cordia LLP, set up to provide care services across the city.

Ruth Black, who defected from Solidarity to Labour in 2007, is also entitled to £6335 from her service on Cordia.

The financial declarations also confirm the payments councillors receive for sitting on bodies in which Glasgow City Council has a funding or ownership stake.

Labour's Philip Braat receives £15,836 as non-executive director of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), while James Coleman walks away with £12,062 for sitting on one of the city's health partnerships.

Elizabeth Cameron, the former Lord Provost, is paid £14,781 as vice-chair of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, while Labour's Patricia Chalmers is listed as making £3167 for her role on Glasgow Clyde Regeneration Ltd.

Big ticket earners include Paul Rooney, who makes £20,294 for his work on the joint police board, and Alistair Watson, who receives £20,294 for his work chairing the transport body SPT. Both organisations receive funding from sources other than Glasgow City Council.

Five Labour councillors also share a £60,310 pot for sitting on the city's community health partnerships.

James Dornan, the SNP group leader, makes £17,046 for sitting on the board of the SECC, which is majority-owned by the council.

Kenny McLean, the SNP councillor for Partick West, lands £6335 for board membership of the surplus land LLP, while Grant Thoms receives £6335 for his role on City Parking.

Another Nationalist councillor, David McDonald, is paid £6335 for sitting on another of the local authority's arm's- length bodies, Access, while Iris Gibson is entitled to the same top-up for sitting on City Markets.

Councillors from the Greens and the Lib Dems, as well as the sole Tory member in Glasgow, are not believed to receive any extra payments.

Fifty two of Glasgow's 79 councillors make more than their £16,234 salary - and the top 10 earners are all Labour representatives - according to the Sunday Herald.

A Glasgow spokesman defends the payments - arguing that councillors should be properly paid for improving council services over recent years.

But in that case why have so many council employees had to fight so hard for their right to equal pay - and why have so many of Glasgow's councillors had so little to say about the rights of their own employees?

Friday, 21 August 2009

North Lanarkshire Caves In

Good news for clients in North Lanarkshire – the council has caved in and abandoned the appeal hearing scheduled for 4 September 2009.

The council’s decision clears the way for a GMF or ‘defence’ hearing - where North Lanarkshire has to try to explain and justify - the big differences between male and female jobs.

The appeal hearing affected all the Home Carers – with the council arguing that they had been reorganised and re-graded several years ago.

So, the council argued that the carers should not be treated in the same way as other ‘former manual workers’ - for equal pay purposes.

But the council finally faced up to the inevitable - that it would lose this argument at the forthcoming appeal hearing – and has walked away from its own case at the eleventh hour.

The frustrating thing in all of this is that the council has been wasting time and public money with these deliberate stalling and time wasting tactics.

It’s a public disgrace that so many council employees have been messed about in this way – serious questions should be asked of senior managers and politicians.

Because the people at the top have allowed this pantomime to develop – then run and run for months - with local council tax payers picking up the bill.

A Freedom of Information request about North Lanarkshire Council’s external legal costs – sounds like a very good idea at this point in time.

Local voters and council tax payers should know what is being done in their name.

Meanwhile Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross will be pushing for a full GMF hearing as soon as possible.

The council may decide to walk away from that date with destiny as well – but if they do, they will have to settle all the outstanding claims – including those of the Home Carers.

Needless to say – the unions have not performed well during this debacle – they were compromised by their involvement in the original reorganisation of the Home Care service – so they've really just sat on the sidelines.

All the hard work and heavy lifting – as usual - has been done by Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

South Lanarkshire Meetings

Preparations are well underway for a series of vital equal pay hearings involving South Lanarkshire Council.

A Pre-Hearing Review (PHR) gets underway on 29 September to test the validity of the council’s job evaluation scheme (JES).

Two meetings are being held next week to identify possible witnesses - who might be called upon to give evidence about their experience of the council’s JES.

We are asking a selection of clients from South Lanarkshire to help with this task. We don’t need to see or speak to all 2,000 claimants, but anyone who would like to come along is welcome.

You can choose a time (between 2pm – 5pm) and venue to suit yourself and the meetings are being held in East Kilbride and Rutherglen:

Monday 24 August 2009 - between 2pm and 5pm
Torrance Hotel

135 Main Street
The Village
East Kilbride
G74 4LN

Wednesday 26 August 2009 - between 2pm and 5pm
Kings Park Hotel
Mill Street
G73 2LX

We are interested in learning more about how traditional male jobs– refuse workers, road workers, gardeners and so on - were treated by the council during Single Status.

If you know of anyone – a friend, relative or neighbour - who works in one of these jobs, or who retired from such a job in the past few years - this information could be very useful.

North Lanarkshire - Union Claimants

A number of readers from North Lanarkshire have been in touch - to say that further settlement offers are being made to union claimants.

The offers apparently cover the 3 year protection period for the male workers' bonus earnings - following the introduction of the council's job evaluation scheme (JES).

What people want to know is:

What is the real value of my claim for this period?

Does the offer include a payment for overtime working?

Is the offer reasonable - taking all the circumstances into account?

What is the union's advice - should I accept or reject the council's offer?

Now none of this is rocket science - people can and should be given straight answers to the questions by their trade unions.

If the union is reluctant to explain and answer these points - something is plainly wrong - and it may be that people are having the wool pulled over their eyes.

If you've been made such an offer - and want to check that you're not being led up the garden path - send a copy of your offer letter to Mark Irvine at:

We'll be happy to advise - and won't give you lots of union double-talk or gobbledegook.

Action 4 Equality Scotland - and the unions

Here’s another catch up post from July

Actions speak louder than words
Action 4 Equality Scotland has led the fight for equal pay for the past 4 years – when the unions were in the driving seat equal pay was dead in the water. It’s clear some employers are hoping the unions will make a comeback – because they regard the unions as a soft touch – just look at their antics in Edinburgh (see post dated 18 August) where Unison is lining up alongside the employer.

We have a track record of achieving much better settlements than the unions – and we’ve told people the truth about equal pay from Day 1. We are currently in settlement discussions with various councils including Glasgow, Falkirk and Edinburgh.

Can I switch my equal pay claim to Stefan Cross?
Yes, of course you can – all you need to do is to give written authority to transfer your case – if you need any help ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine a note at:

The unions say they won’t charge a fee?
Yes, but it’s not the whole story. The unions have sold their members short on many occasions – so you need to think about the overall outcome not just our success fee. Our charges are reasonable – 10% + VAT = 11.5% in total – and we’ve delivered the goods unlike the trade unions. It’s a false economy to save 10% in fees – but lose 40% or 50% of your potential settlement – penny wise and pound foolish, as they say.

Will I lose out if I transfer my claim to the unions?
Very possibly – the unions have a poor track record on settling claims - they are seen as a soft touch by the employers compared to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross. The unions are not fighting any cases at all in South Lanarkshire – they’re not challenging council Compromise Agreements (in Glasgow and elsewhere) – and they’re not fighting for the non-bonus earning male workers – whereas we’re working for all these groups.

Will I get a bill from Stefan Cross if I transfer my case to the union?
Yes, of course you will.

Well, the union said I won’t have to pay anything?
The unions say a lot of things – more than their prayers often. Members are told the grass is greener on their side of the street – but that’s a lot of baloney. If Stefan Cross has protected your right to equal pay and pursued your claim with the employment tribunals – then he’s entitled to get paid for the work that’s been done.

Can I change my mind, if I’ve swallowed the union’s propaganda?
Yes, but we can’t have people going back and forward like a ping pong ball. We think that Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross will achieve a better result than the unions – that’s our experience right around the country. If you’ve been misled by scare stories and nonsense, you can switch back without any fuss or bother.

Just ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine a note at:

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Angry Union Members

Here’s another repeat post from 23 July – for any readers who were on holiday at the time.

The calls and e-mails keep coming in from angry readers - who say they were told a lot of nonsense about transferring their equal pay claim to the unions.

Some people were panicked by false reports about hidden charges - others by daft stories about Stefan Cross going out of business.

One person was rightly outraged that a union claimed to be acting on her behalf – even though she had never been a member of that union.

But in any event, the good news is that none of this union propaganda is true – and that any problems can be put right very quickly.

You can switch your claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross very easily – and given how the unions often treat their members - that’s exactly what people are now doing.

Here’s what one reader has to say:

“As a union member for over six years I have had a few dealings with them, but I never get anywhere. You pay your money and get the same answer every time - nothing they can do to help.”

“Their favourite answer is put it in writing. I pay them every week, so why should I put it in writing?”

So, if you want Action 4 Equality Scotland to take up your claim – ring us on 0845 300 3 800, or contact Mark Irvine at:

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Big Stink in Auld Reekie

Here’s some information that was originally posted on 25 July – it explains how the unions talk a good fight on equal pay, but all too often end up letting their members down – by siding with the employers.

Edinburgh City Council has been dragging its feet over equal pay for many long months – but they’ve now found a strange ally in the shape of Unison.

Come to think of it – maybe it’s not so odd – because the employers and unions are often scratching each other’s backs.

Anyway, the point is this – Stefan Cross has been pressing the council and the Employment Tribunal to set a date for a full GMF or ‘defence’ hearing.

A GMF hearing is where the council has to explain and try to justify the big pay differences between male and female jobs.

Yes – the very same pay differences that the employers and the unions kept hidden from the female workers for years.

The council knows fine well it has no credible defence at such a hearing – and it has been playing for time - trying to delay the inevitable.

Now – out of the blue – Unison is trying to ride to the council’s rescue – because the union is also asking for a delay of up to 18 months for a GMF hearing to be held!

Unison, through its lawyers, is asking for the GMF hearing to be delayed until late 2010 – because they’re too busy with other things!

How crazy is that?

Well our view is that the whole thing is completely ridiculous – how can Unison be lining up alongside the employer – when ordinary claimants are being messed about in this way?

If the union and its lawyers are too busy to fight these cases – the obvious question is: “Why did they take them on in the first place?”

In any event the people who should not pay the price of any further delay – are the individual claimants – who have already waited far too long to have their cases heard.

So, if you’re a Unison member – our advice would be to kick up merry hell with the union - and make it clear that any further delay is completely unacceptable.

And if you’re fed up with this nonsense altogether – why not transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland?

To do so ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at:

Monday, 17 August 2009

Glasgow and the GMB

As regular readers know, the GMB has been running a concerted poaching claim in Glasgow for the past few months.

Clients of Stefan Cross/Action 4 Equality Scotland have been told all kinds of nonsense - in an effort to scare people into transferring their claims to the GMB.

Yes, the same union that’s done so little to promote equal pay for its women members all these – for all these years – that’s why the union poaching campaign has failed to make much impact.

But the good news is that the GMB’s poaching campaign has actually rebounded.

Clients are returning to Action 4 Equality Scotland by the day – as people realise that pursuing a claim with the union is a really bad idea.


Because the GMB is not even involved in the big GMF or ‘defence’ hearing with Glasgow City Council – which has been underway since June .

The hearing is due to resume later this month - at the end of August.

Glasgow is keen to reach a further settlement – but the council is talking to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – not the unions.

So why would anyone in their right mind take up a claim with the GMB?

The union’s not fighting for members who signed a Compromise Agreement in 2005 – these people have effectively been abandoned.

No high profile campaigns or threats of industrial action – where the women workers are concerned.

Oh no – that kind of muscle is reserved for the traditional big bonus earning jobs.

Nor did the GMB take up the cause of non-bonus earning male workers – again this was left to Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross.

So our message to Glasgow city council workers is - you’ll be better off pursuing your claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland.

You’ll get a better result, more quickly, with us - than you’ll get by relying on the unions.

If you want to transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland – it’s easily done.

Just ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine an e-mail at:

Friday, 14 August 2009

Jings, Crivvens and Help Ma Boab!

Pssst! Have you heard the news?

Celtic Football Club has appointed a new manager – for the 2009/10 football season.

Someone who’s not Scottish – dare we say it, the chap’s actually from................England!

As far as we know there have been no pickets at Parkhead – and, so far, no public disorder in the streets.

But Unison (Scotland) has not spoken - yet.

And we know that the union has a bit of a chip on its shoulder about non-Scots coming up north – telling us locals what to do, how to do it and generally throwing their weight around.

So, the west of Scotland is holding its collective breath – since we all know that there must be some Celtic fans amongst the ranks of Unison (Scotchland).

Now most sane people don’t give a fig that Tony Mowbray is from the north east of England. Because what has that got to do with his ability as a football manager?

Although – you have to admit – it’s a strange coincidence that Stefan Cross hails from that part of the country as well.

So, maybe it is a conspiracy after all – for English lawyers and English footballers to subvert the established order - and seize control of the socialist republic of Caledonia.

Maybe that’s why Unison is so paranoid about where people come from - maybe the union has a point?

On the other hand – maybe they’re just all bonkers.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Obama and the unions

Barack Obama – the new American President – is all over the airwaves and news programmes at present - fighting for the future of his ambitious package of health care reforms.

The new president is aiming to improve the lot of 50 million or so Americans - who are effectively excluded from health care under the present system.

And he’s taking a stick to his political opponents.

Castigating them for being on the side of the status quo – for being conservative and stuck in their ways – unable or unwilling to challenge the vested interests - that stymie and prevent progress at every turn.

The same vested interests who benefit from keeping things the way they are now – yet who also proclaim themselves as champions of excellence and fair play.

In doing so, the President Obama points out – perceptively - that defenders of the status quo always:

• gang up with their political allies
• spread fear and alarm with wild rumours and scare stories
• place expensive attack adverts to discredit their opponents
• concentrate on spin and empty rhetoric - while desperately ignoring the real issues

In football parlance – they set out to play the man, or woman – not the ball.

So, Barack Obama is naming and shaming those who defend the indefensible – those who lack the courage to stand up and be counted - and when necessary to 'Say What They Mean and Mean What They Say'.

Doesn’t that describe how the trade unions have behaved over equal pay – down to a T?

MPs' Expenses - The Mask Slips

Alan Duncan - the Tory shadow leader of the house - has let the cat out the bag with some ill-judged and unguarded comments about MPs' expenses.

During a recent interview - but without realising his remarks were being recorded - Mr Duncan said that MPs were being forced to live on "rations" and that MPs had been treated like "shit".

Mr Duncan's private remarks contrast with his public statements - about understanding public anger over MPs' expenses and the need for Westminster to be seen to rebuild public trust and confidence.

But there's the rub - as soon as MPs think the heat is off - they bring in new 'rules' that allow honourable members to claims thousands of pounds in expenses - but without having to produce a single receipt.

And that's the real scandal, many MPs - across all political parties - really do believe that £25 a day is just so much loose change. Why should they have to account for what they spend?

Until MPs are subject to the same kind of rules and regulations as everyone else - the scandal will continue and public resentment will get stronger.

Meantime - if there's any justice in the world - Mr Duncan will soon be toast.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Many Hands Make Light Work

Just a quick note to thank all the readers from Glasgow who responded so quickly to the call for assistance - regarding the council's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

See post dated 7 August 2009 - Calling Glasgow.

We now have all the information we needed about current payment levels for Non Standard Working Patterns and Working Context and Demands.

We will have some interesting things to say about these payments in the days ahead - so watch this space!

Windy Rhetoric and Hidden Agendas

The trouble with the unions is that they’re not open, transparent organisations – they’re full of windy rhetoric, spin and hidden agendas.

Instead of doing what’s in the best for ordinary union members – the unions are far too often influenced by party politics.

What you see and what you get – are two different things.

Take their campaign to poach ongoing clients from Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – they tell people a lot of baloney and spread scare stories which are simply not true.

But what they fail to point out is that:

1. The unions allowed the employers to get away with murder – and looked on from the sidelines (i.e. no strikes or big campaings) while thousands of low paid union members accepted poor offers of settlement from their employers

2. The GMB union is not even involved in the important Glasgow GMF ‘defence’ hearing – where the council has to try and justify the big differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs

3. In many areas the unions are not fighting for equal pay on behalf of former APT&C groups – admin and clerical workers and other school based employees, for example.

4. The unions are not challenging the Compromise Agreements signed by their members - in Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Fife Councils, for example.

5. The unions have not led the fight on behalf of their non-bonus earning male workers – this has been left to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

6. The unions have a terrible track record on Job Evaluation – sometimes helping management to introduce a scheme – at others conveniently looking the other way when people need practical advice and support.

7. In South Lanarkshire the unions have nothing useful to say about equal pay – they are not fighting a single case – even though the pay gap there (between male and female jobs) is broadly the same as in other Scottish councils.

The reality is that the unions were too cosy for far too long with the employers – that’s why virtually nothing happened after the historic Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was signed in 1999.

The unions chose not to rock the boat – even though council budgets doubled in the 10 years up to 2007 – that was down to a potent mix of bad politics and poor leadership.

The unions are now seen as a soft touch by the employers.

Some employers would no doubt like to deal with their old union chums – instead of having to do business with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

As regular readers know - Stefan Cross Solicitors is challenging Glasgow City Council’s Compromise Agreement.

In November and December 2005 council employees were required to sign a Compromise Agreement – before the council would release a compensatory payment in return for people ‘giving up’ their equal pay claims.

Glasgow workers who took up their claim via Stefan Cross achieved a much better outcome – than those who accepted the council’s original offer of settlement.

But Stefan Cross believes the Compromise Agreement can be challenged – as council employees did not receive proper advice about the nature or size of their equal pay claims – or their prospects of pursuing a successful claim to the Employment Tribunals.

In addition, council employees were unaware (at the time) that Glasgow City Council were paying the fees of the legal firms attending the ‘acceptance’ meetings – and also that the council required these legal firms to restrict the scope of their advice to city council employees.

The good news is that the following five dates have been set for a Pre-Hearing Review at the Glasgow employment tribunal – to consider the challenge on behalf of clients of Stefan Cross Solicitors:

The five days are - 10, 11, 14, 16 and 17 September 2009

If you’re an existing client - put these dates in your diary – because as a claimant you’re entitled to attend.

If you signed a Compromise Agreement back in 2005 – the only people fighting your corner are Stefan Cross Solicitors and Action 4 Equality Scotland.

The unions are not involved in these cases – so don’t look there for help.

If you want to transfer your claim to Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross ring 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at:

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Freedom of Information

Here's the latest Freedom of Information (FOI) request to South Lanarkshire Council.

The request revolves around a claim made by the council - that key building blocks of its job evaluation scheme (JES) were externally verified by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) - but the truth is that this independent scrutiny never took place.

So, South Lanarkshire's job evaluation scheme has never been given a clean bill of health - by the EOC or anyone else.

The other claim made in the newsletter was that the council's internal JES would be compared to the nationally approved JES - in an effort to reassure council staff (via the trade unions) that the workforce was not being sold a 'pig in a poke'.

Since then precious little information has been made available to explain the workings of the South Lanarkshire JES - and how one group of jobs has been graded and paid - compared to another.

Hence the reason for this latest FOI request - we will keep readers posted on the council's response - but in the meantime ask yourself this:

"Why do the unions have so little to say - on an issue of such vital importance to their members?

Dear South Lanarkshire Council

Freedom of Information Request

I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. The background to my request is explained in the following extract from a South Lanarkshire Council staff magazine on Single Status:

Single Status in South Lanarkshire Council

“The Competence Initiative Framework has been verified in terms of equality factors and our commitment to the Trade Unions was that we would additionally benchmark the results against the national job evaluation scheme.”

I am requesting details of the following information:

1. All data input to the Gauge software which was used assist in benchmarking the internal 555 JES results against the national (COSLA) job evaluation scheme

2. All data output from the Gauge software which was used to assist in benchmarking the internal 555 JES results against the national (COSLA) job evaluation scheme

I understand, from a previous enquiry, that South Lanarkshire Council does hold this information and look forward to receiving the relevant details from you in due course.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Monday, 10 August 2009

Male Workers' Claims

The recent breakthrough case male claimants at the Employment Appeal Tribunal – see post dated 25 June 2008 - has understandably generated a great deal of interest.

Lots of readers have been in touch to say “Well done” to Action 4 Equality Scotland - and Stefan Cross Solicitors.

Because when male members raised the issue with their trade unions – they were told to get lost - that they had no chance of success.

But now the worm has turned – and the stance taken by Stefan Cross has been completely vindicated - by the recent landmark case of McAvoy v South Tyneside Borough Council at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The underlying issue was always about common sense and the right equal treatment under the law – about treating both men and women fairly – even though the majority of equal pay claimants in Scotland are female.

The key point is that the groups of male workers - who never received bonus payments – always had an argument – so long as female council workers were successful in establishing their own claims.

Once a settlement for the women had been achieved – the employers were in the difficult position of having to justify why the non-bonus earning male group – should be treated any differently to the non-bonus earning female group.

The court was invited to agree that to do so - without good cause - amounted to sex discrimination against the men.

Thankfully the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed - with the arguments advanced by Stefan Cross.

So, if you’ve been let down by poor union advice – and you want to pursue an equal pay claim via Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross – then get in touch.

You can either drop Mark Irvine a note at:
or ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800

Labour Peer's Expenses

The latest figure to get caught up in the Westminster expenses debacle is Labour peer and former Treasury minister – Robert Sheldon.

According to the Sunday Times, Lord Sheldon claimed more than £130,000 in expenses from the House of Lords by designating a house in Manchester as his “main home”.

A house he gave to his son six years ago - in 2003.

Peers who live outside the capital can collect £174 a night tax-free as reimbursement for the cost of a hotel or maintaining a second home while attending parliament, according to the newspaper report.

Lord Sheldon lives with his wife in London - but said his main residence was his former family home in Manchester - where he was previously an MP.

The House of Lords expenses regime allowed Lord Sheldon to claim between £12,000 and £22,000 a year - even though he already had a mortgage-free home in London.

The noble lord continued to claim the allowance after he gave the house to his son in April 2003 - and has since received payments totalling more than £130,000.

The Sunday Times is at pains to make clear that Lord Sheldon did not break any rules in making these claims.

Because the current rules allow their lordships to designate any property as their main home – and to claim expenses of £174 a night - even when no direct costs are actually incurred.

And that’s why the current ‘rules’ are an insult to people’s intelligence - and common sense.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Laughing Matters and Laughing Stocks

Union members across the country will be interested to learn about developments at the TUC (Trades Union Congress).

While thousands of women are still fighting for their rights to equal pay - the TUC is preparing to debate - whether high heels should be banned from work.

Oh to be part of that debate!

To point out that the Equal Pay Act has been in force since 1970 - almost 40 years!

To remind delegates that a landmark Single Status Agreement - promising equal pay and a new deal for women council workers in Scotland - was signed a decade ago in 1999.

To ask an impertinent question or two:

"Why has equal pay been such a low priority for the unions for so many years - especially after 12 years of a Labour government?"

"Why do the trade unions prop up a system that pays refuse workers and gardeners - so much more than care workers and classroom assistants?

After debating the real issues facing women at the workplace - and coming up with some honest answers about their appalling track record - the unions should certainly find the time to discuss the merits of high heels versus sensible shoes.

Health & Safety at work is no laughing matter - but if they don't get their act together, the unions are in real danger of becoming a laughing stock with their women members.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Happy Holidays

Lots of people will have been off on their holidays last month - a period that will go down in history for the amount of rain that fell in the west of Scotland .

So, we'll be re-visiting and re-running some of the posts that were put up on the blog site in July - during the month of August as well.

If any of these issues affect you or your friends - contact Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0845 300 3 800 or drop Mark Irvine a note at:

Calling Glasgow

We are seeking information about Glasgow's WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review) - which introduced new pay and grading arrangements for all council workers.

Readers in Glasgow may be able to help us - by avoiding the need to submit time consuming FOI (Freedom of Information) requests.

Under Glasgow's WPBR - council employees receive additional payments for Working Context and Demands - but the current rates in use are not published or easily accessed - even though there's no good reason for this lack of openess and transparency.

The old rates introduced in 2006 were

Level 0 - No payment (pound to a penny most people in this category are women!)
Level 1 - £ 480 a year
Level 3 - £ 600 a year
Level 4 - £ 756 a year
Level 5 - £ 960 a year
Level 5 - £1200 a year

The information is available on the council intranet (which is not accessible to the general public) - but council employees are able to get hold of the details, so long as they have access to the council's internal computer network.

We believe the basis of these payments is discriminatory - that traditional male jobs benefit disproportionately from the scheme - and that it was in fact designed for that purpose.

So, if you can assist in speeding things up - by finding out the current details and passing them on - you will be performing a public service and helping the cause of equal pay.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

South Lanarkshire

A reader from South Lanarkshire has been in touch to say that a prankster is poking fun at the council - with a video on YouTube.

The video highlights the handsome salaries paid to the council's most senior officials - and the story has even made Page 3 in a local newspaper, The Hamilton Advertiser.

The irony is that chief officials enjoy high salaries of up to £148,802 a year - plus a final salary pension scheme - while so many council workers are still fighting for equal pay.

The video can be viewed at the following web site address:

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

More Equal Than Others

Edinburgh City Council has issued an briefing document to a bemused public - in an effort to explain the background to its long-running refuse collection dispute.

The council helpfully explains that a basic refuse collector currently earns a basic salary of around £12,000 with an attendance 'bonus' of nearly £7,000. A refuse driver earns even more.

The key word in that sentence is 'attendance' - because the extra £7,000 is what these traditional male jobs were paid - simply for turning up for work.

The extra money had nothing to do with productivity or performance - as the employers used to argue.

And, of course, all of the female dominated jobs (and some men) - were excluded from bonus payments altogether.

But at least we should be grateful for small mercies.

At least Edinburgh is no longer trying to maintain the fiction that its bonuses were justified - that the men earning bonuses were somehow working harder or more productively than women.

As we all know that is baloney - from start to finish - even if some Scottish councils are still trying to defend the indefensible.

Meanwhile the unions have some explaining to do to their women members - how come some council workers were deemed eligible for extra payments of £7,000 a year - but not others?

How come - when it comes to equal pay - some workers are more equal than others?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Say What You Mean!

New 'rules' enabling MPs to claim £25 a day in tax free expenses - without providing any receipts - were slipped out as honourable members left Parliament - for their mammoth 82 day summer recess (see post dated 28 July 2009).

But up until very recently MPs seemed to understand that a 'double standard' over the need to produce receipts - was no longer acceptable - no more one law for us and another law for them.

Here's what the main party spokespeople said at the height of the MPs' expenses scandal - when the issue was under fierce scrutiny:

Harriet Harman - Labour's deputy leader said in the spring:
“There would need to be receipts for all claims. I really do think that that is something sensible which we could decide for ourselves now.”

Alan Duncan - the Tories spokesperson previously said:
“The second home allowance was often just paid once a month without receipts, which is an unacceptable system in the modern age.”

Nick Harvey - spoke for the Lib Dems:
"Confidence and trust have to be re-built from rock bottom. We're going to have to make fundamental changes to be seen to put our house in order."

Now the challenge for the politicians is to live up to their fine words - when they return to the House of Commons in October. To coin an old slogan:

Say What You Mean - Mean What You Say.

Awkward Questions

A reader has sent in a press cutting about equal pay in West Dunbartonshire Council.

Apparently a recent council report revealed a huge pay gap in the pay for young apprentices undertaking different roles.

A first year administration apprentice (i.e. a mainly female role) is paid only £6,533 a year – while construction apprentices (largely male) earns almost double at £11,385.

At a full council meeting Councillor Gail Casey is reported as asking: “How do you justify the difference in wages between an admin apprentice and a construction apprentice?”

Good question – though, so far, no one appears to have come up with an answer!

Because this is what has been going on for years – blatant pay discrimination – across a wide range of council jobs.

And right under the noses of the trade unions.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Feedback from Falkirk

A reader from Falkirk has been in touch to say that it wasn't just the men who were told to 'get lost' by their trade unions over equal pay - see post dated 2 August 2009.

According to our reader when women workers in Falkirk were made their first offer of compensation - the unions told them:

'You're on your own - and that the union lawyers want nothing to do with it'.

'It's a good offer accept it' - was their advice

Only after Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross came along - did the unions come back on the scene - with their tails between their legs, apparently.

Now this all rings very true - because the unions always kept the size of the pay gap hidden from their women members.

And they're hardly pulling out all the stops for their women members now.

Just look at their antics in Edinburgh - where Unison is seeking to delay members cases until late 2010.

And in doing so - of course - they're lining up alongside the employers.

Pay Gap Widens

The Government has been accused of a lack of action over equal pay – by its own Women and Work Commission.

The commission was set up in 2004 by Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.

In its latest report, the group says that the pay gap between men and women is widening – not narrowing.

‘Things Can Only Get Better’ – was Labour’s catchy jingle in the 1997 general election campaign

But when it comes to equal pay – things have actually got worse.

The commission puts the gender pay gap at 22.6% in 2008 - which it said was worse than in 2007 when women were paid 21.9% less per hour than men.

The commission, whose members are drawn from employers and unions, said job segregation was still the norm.

Women continue to dominate in caring, cashiering, clerical, cleaning and catering jobs – where pay rates are much lower.

Now as a statement of the bleedin’ obvious – that takes the biscuit.

Because that was also the case 10 years ago - when the employers and the unions promised a better deal for many thousands of underpaid and undervalued female dominated jobs.

Of course, the employers and the unions all say they’re in favour of equal pay – that’s what Single Status was supposed to be about.

But all these years later they are still bogged down in endless talking shops – rather than getting to grips with the size and scale of the problem.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

All Spin - No Substance

Here’s the text of a GMB notice sent in by one of our regular readers:

Equal Pay – Male Workers

A recent employment tribunal decision means that men in predominantly male worker groups, who the council did not include in the scope of Equal Pay awards .........have the same right to equal pay as women.

If you believe you may have a claim contact GMB........

What’s remarkable about this notice – apart from being badly written and good for a laugh – is that:

1. Stefan Cross Solicitors fought and won the tribunal case referred to in the notice – the GMB was not even involved

2. Previously the unions told non-bonus earning men to ‘get lost’ - that they had no claims for equal pay

3. Now they’re trying to jump on the bandwagon – but as usual they’re at the coo’s tail – following not leading the fight

The lesson to be learned is that the unions have no shame – they will say just about anything rather than admit the truth – which is that they failed to stand up for equal pay when it really counted.

No amount of spin and disinformation can hide that fact.

So, if you want someone to look after your interests properly – contact Action 4 Equality Scotland – because the unions have lost all credibility when it comes to equal pay.

Ring us on 0845 300 3 800 or contact Mark Irvine at:

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Compare and Contrast

If you've ever wondered about double standards inside trade unions - just compare and contrast what's going on in the refuse collection service.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are facing industrial action - with rubbish piling up on the street - to defend the earnings of traditional male jobs.

Jobs which for years have been paid 50% or 60% more than many women's jobs - despite being on lower grades.

So, a refuse worker has for the last 10 years been earning £9 to £10 an hour - while most women's jobs have been stuck on £6.00 or less.

But have the unions haven't been kicking up a stink about what the women get paid?

Of course not - because they've been far too busy keeping women members in the dark about the size of the pay gap - when, in fact, the unions have negotiated the hidden bonuses and better rates of pay for these traditional male jobs.

The end result is that Home Carers, Classroom Assistants, Catering and Clerical workers - all doing highly responsible jobs - have been getting paid much less than refuse workers.

And if the unions get their way - things will stay that way - because the present industrial action does nothing for the interests of women workers.

So, the next time a union says: "We'll take up your equal pay claim for you" - just reflect for a minute on what a treacherous lot they've been - for the past 10 years.