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Showing posts from September, 2009

Cutting the Cost of Politics

As the party conference season gets into full swing - some people are asking questions that might start raising a few eyebrows - and not before time. Like: "Why is the taxpayer footing the bill for MPs (from all parties) - to swan about at party conferences - when they are clearly not at work or doing their proper day jobs?" First the Lib Dems in Bournemouth last week, followed tomorrow by Labour in Brighton - and then finally by the Tories next week in Manchester. The new speaker of the House of Commons (John Bercow) seems to agree - here's what he's had to say recently on the subject of our MPs' lengthy summer recess: "I am very sympathetic to those who say: Why do MPs need to have a 12-week recess?" "I don't think it is necessary." "People cannot understand, even if MPs are working hard in their constituencies in September, why, when the vast majority of people are back at their place of work, we are not." "I see no

North Lanarkshire

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch with more tales of union skulduggery - this time from Unison. The reader had left Unison and had stopped their union contributions - but out of the blue they received an unsolicited phone call - in an effort to persude the person to think again and remain a member. According to our reader, part of the 'sales' pitch was that Stefan Cross was no longer dealing with the person's equal pay claim - and that all the outstanding cases were being transferred to Unison. Now this isn't just a tall tale - it's complete baloney - made up from start to finish. So, if you're spun a similar story - just take it with a huge pinch of salt - and ask the union rep to put their advice in writing - that way you won't see them for dust. Needless to say, the person who contacted us has kept their claim running with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross.

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

We've had lots of enquiries from readers in Glasgow - about the challenge to the city council's Compromise Agreement that got undeway the other week. What everyone wants to know is: "What was the outcome of the hearing?" Well the answer is that the hearing did not reach a conclusion - there are various witnesses still to be heard - and further dates have been set aside for the case to reconvene in the New Year. We will publish the details on the blog site in due course.

Action 4 Equality Scotland

Just about every day – someone who switched their equal pay claim to one of the unions - comes back to Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross. The union poaching campaign has been a miserable failure – despite their national expensive advertising campaign and nasty attack adverts. Action 4 Equality Scotland may charge a fee – but we provide a quality service to our clients - and we keep our promises. Here’s what one union member from Glasgow had to say the other day: “Dear Sirs, I would like to transfer my equal pay claim back to Action 4 Equality Scotland. I was sensible enough to do that when the whole equal pay business first took off. But I was stupid to believe the GMB when they sent me a convincing letter about how I was entitled to more money if I switched my claim to the union. I apologise for my stupidity, and greed, and request that my case is transferred back to Action 4 Equality Scotland. Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross have always been completely straight

North Lanarkshire - Home Carers

Here’s a model letter to the Chief Executive of North Lanarkshire Council – regarding the position of Grade 1 Home Carers. If you want to find out more about how your job has been graded, just adapt and sign the letter – before sending it on to the council. If you don’t know who to send the letter to at local level, just e-mail or post your letter to Gavin Whitefield, the council's Chief Executive. September 2009 Gavin Whitefield Chief Executive South Lanarkshire Council PO Box 14 Civic Centre Motherwell ML1 1TW By e-mail to mailto:WhitefieldG@northlan.gov.uk Dear Mr Whitefield Freedom of Information Request I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. I am employed as a Home Carer (Grade 1) with North Lanarkshire Council and I would like to ask you for: 1. A copy of my current Job Description 2. Full details of how my Home Carer (Grade 1) post was evaluated and scored under the council’s Job Evaluation Scheme (JES).

Union Fires Official for Taking Side of Low Paid Women

A number of readers have been in touch about the recent post on Unison – see post dated 24 August 2009. Here’s a selection of the comments we've received: Midlothian “I was a union steward for years. In my experience a full-time official would have to murder someone to get the sack - and even then they’d get their job back on appeal. Sounds like a right proper stitch-up.” Edinburgh “Normally a complaint form an employer would be taken as a sign that a union official was doing their job and standing up for the members. How can that be grounds to sack someone?” Glasgow “I’ ve known Ken Seaward for a long time. Had my differences with him for sure, but no one deserves to be sacked like that, not after 28 years service. It’s a disgrace.”

GUMBO

Brace yourselves! Reports from the TUC suggest that yet another new, super-union could be on the cards - proving that size really does matter in the macho world of trade union politics. The talk of the steamie - since there's not much else going on to excite delegates - is that the GMB and Unison are to merge and will create a new organisation - with 1.8 million members. If so, the Labour Party could find itself beholden to a second super-union - along with Unite. Unite is the trade union formerly known as TGWU/Amicus - which is the Big Daddy of the trade union movement - for the moment anyway. Maybe one day soon there will be just one giant monopoly - to reflect the many and diverse views of all union members - north and south of the border and of all political persuasions! Negotiations between GMB/Unison have begun to create a single organisation with a combined annual income of over £260million - which would be Labour’s biggest donor and benefactor. Talks will now b

North Lanarkshire

Lots of readers have been in touch about the strange position of Home Carers in North Lanarkshire. Apparently there are two grades of Home Carer – Grade 1 and Grade 2 - which are paid quite different rates. According to the council the duties and responsibilities of the Grade 1 carers - are less demanding than those of their Grade 2 colleagues. But many carers (of both grades) say this is simply not true – that the two categories of carer often share the same clients and do exactly the same work. In other words, that the two grades of Home Carer are effectively inter-changeable – in many, if not all cases. So how can a big difference in people’s pay be justified? Now we don’t know the answer – but we’re happy to help people find out – because it may be that the council can’t justify this difference in treatment. The starting point – for Grade 1 Home Carers is to ask for a copy of your Job Description – and for details of how your job was evaluated and scored - under the c

TUC News

Regular readers will be interested to learn that the TUC today decided to draw a line in the sand - on the subject of stiletto heels. The BBC reports that union members have voted to take a stand against the risks of wearing high heels in the workplace - in favour of more "sensible shoes". Delegates at the TUC congress in Liverpool backed a motion requiring some employers to carry out risk assessments about workers' footwear. Good for them - women across the UK will sleep more soundly tonight - safe in the knowledge that the TUC has its finger on the nation's pulse! The motion stated that all firms which promote high heels should examine the risks that employees wearing them face and, where they are found to be hazardous, they should be replaced with sensible and comfortable shoes. No sign yet of a serious debate on equal pay - but we live in hope, if not anticipation.

South Lanarkshire

Not for the first time – Unison in South Lanarkshire is talking a load of baloney when it comes to equal pay. The union is telling its members not to worry about the employment tribunal hearings that are getting underway – later in September. If Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross win their case – the union says - that members not involved in this legal action will still benefit – and will get exactly the same in back pay! Not only is this wrong – it is wrong big time – and highly irresponsible into the bargain. Because the union is failing to take action to protect people’s interests – then its urging members to have blind faith in the employers! But no employer in the history of dealing with these equal pay claims - has ever made backdated payments on a completely voluntary basis. To do so would arguably be unlawful and would leave individual councillors open to surcharge. The reality is that the only South Lanarkshire employees who will receive a full backdated paymen

Trade Unions and Party Politics

As the annual TUC conference gets underway in Liverpool - today is a good day to reflect on the role of the trade unions - in modern 21st century Scotland . Here's an article I wrote back in August 2005 for VIEW magazine - the 'in-house' journal of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). I wrote the piece just as equal pay began making the headlines - which was not down to the efforts trade unions, of course. Equal Pay became an issue only because Action 4 Equality Scotland arrived on the scene - and explained the big pay differences between traditional male and female jobs - pay differences that the trade unions had been silent about for years. "Tribal Cultures and Civic Partners" "Trade unions face some interesting times over the next ten years. Having come through the dark days of the 1980’s and 90’s, when they were constantly on the defensive, the outlook today is not just good, but verging on the benign. The economy is stable,

Paid £150,000 To Do Nothing!

While members of the Unite trade union are still fighting for equal pay - their leaders seem to have other things on their minds. Here's a report about more union in-fighting from today's Observer - you can read the full article on-line at: http://www.observer.guardian.co.uk/ "Gordon Brown's former spin doctor under fire over continuing strife at 'super union' A leading official at the strife-torn "super union", Unite, has received a full pay and perks package worth about £150,000 for doing nothing since he was ousted almost two years ago by Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor. The Observer can reveal that Mike Griffiths, the union's former national political officer, has received his full £65,000 salary, kept his union car and been paid expenses since he was given his marching orders by Whelan in autumn 2007. The treatment of Griffiths, a respected official who was a candidate for the job of Labour party general-secretary l

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

The challenge to Glasgow Compromise Agreement continues - for a further three days next week: Monday 14 September Wednesday 16 September Thursday 17 September If you signed a Compromise Agreement in 2005 - and you have a claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors - you are entitled to attend these hearings. The hearings are being held at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - five minutes walk from Central Station - along Bothwell Street towards Finnieston. If you do go along, make yourself know to Carol Fox who will be there with the Stefan Cross legal team.

Dead Parrots and Fighting Cats

Having been kept well away from Chequers for the past two years - see previous post dated 17 July 2009 - Gordon Brown finally invited the country's union bosses to lunch yesterday. Who'd have guessed that the annual TUC conference gets underway in Liverpool - next week? The purpose of the meeting was to pour oil on troubled waters - because some unions have been threatening to turn off the taps - and stop pouring their members' money into Labour party coffers. But despite the warm words and reassurance - the PM's guests were less than gracious afterwards - fighting like cats in a proverbial sack about the future of the Labour party. Unite boss Derek Simpson issued the Prime Minister with a stark ultimatum, calling on him to abandon the New Labour platform or “stand aside”. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said: “This is no time for mincing words. The party is at best eight months away from a general election. If you want to go down the New Labour route

Edinburgh Update

Edinburgh City Council has finally run out of road – the council is being required to attend a GMF hearing to consider its outstanding equal pay claims. For months now Stefan Cross has been pressing for the employment tribunal to set a firm date for GMF hearing – because that puts the council firmly on the spot. In plain language - a defence hearing finally forces the employer justify its discriminatory actions – the big pay differences between male and female jobs. The good news is that the tribunal has now decided that an Edinburgh GMF hearing must be held within the next six months – between October 2009 and February 2010. Longer than we would have wished – it has to be said. But just remember that Unison has been lining up alongside the council on this subject – with the union’s lawyers asking for a delay in the GMF hearing - until late 2010! Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross Solicitors - on the other hand -are ready to go anytime. We want the GMF hearing to proceed as s
Here's another Freedom of Information (FOI) request to South Lanarkshire Council. Most other council workers in Scotland are covered by a nationally approved and recommended job evaluation scheme (JES) - but not South Lanarkshire's. The national (Gauge) scheme that was developed over several years and - even if you disagree with its decisions - the national scheme is easy to follow and understand. But South Lanarkshire's 'in-house' 555 scheme just the opposite - no one seems to know who created the scheme, what their background and credentials were - and what they were paid for their efforts. Hence the reason for the FOI request - to shine some daylight on a subject that is still shrouded in secrecy. Dear South Lanarkshire Council - by e-mail to the Chief Executive (Archie Strang) Freedom of Information Request I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. I would like to know: 1. What were South Lanark

General Update - All Councils

Readers are regularly in touch asking for an update of what's happening in their own local area. Generally speaking, all the news there is to report is already up on the blog site - and there's little more to relate in a separate e-mail. People are understandably frustrated that some employers have dragged their feet for so long. And there is genuine anger that some employers have engaged in deliberate delaying tactics - registering pointless appeals, using public money - to slow down the tribunal process. The current position across all councils is that we are pressing for GMF (Genuine Material Factor) or ‘defence’ hearings - to be held as soon as possible. A GMF hearing requires the council to explain and try to justify the big differences in pay - between traditional male and female jobs. Councils are no longer trying that these differences exist – the pay gap is now accepted as a matter of fact. Over recent months GMF hearings have got underway with Glasgow, Fife and

Shadow Leader Sent to Prisons!

Okay, so the strap line is a bit hyped up. But the good news is that David Cameron has sacked his Shadow Leader of the House - Alan Duncan - and sent him off to be prisons minister - the political equivalent of the salt mines at Westminster. Readers may recall that Alan Duncan said that MPs' lived on "rations" and were being treated like "shit" - see post previous dated 13 August 2009. Mr Duncan was no doubt expressing privately held views - shared by many MPs' across all political parties. But he put his foot in his mouth while he was a Tory front bench spokesperson - and one of the key people charged with reforming the discredited MPs' expenses system. For his stupidity, he has now been banished to the political wilderness - and rightly so - though there's plenty more who should follow him. Seems like there is a little justice in the world, after all.

Union Stands Accused of Hypocrisy

Unison – the public services union and sometime supporter of equal pay (but not in South Lanarkshire) – stands accused of hypocrisy over plans to cut its own employees’ pension scheme. According to the Time newspaper today – the union which has campaigned fiercely against government cutbacks to pensions in the public sector - is to cut back on the pension scheme for its own staff. Unison, says it can no longer afford its final-salary scheme for employees - and has set out initial proposals to cut costs. Unison officials have accused their own bosses of “sheer hypocrisy” – because the union has been so aggressive in opposing similar cuts in public sector pensions. “Only a year ago the union launched a massive campaign and staged two days’ strike action to protect local government pensions. Now they are preparing to sacrifice their own staff benefits,” one official told the Times. Unison has launched a series of campaigns to protect public sector pay and pensions and in the past

South Lanarkshire and Clapmadug

Readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch to say that the prankster poking fun at council bureaucrats has struck again on You Tube - twice this time. The creator of these You Tube videos goes by the name of Clapmadug - see previous post dated 6 August 2009. He/she has posted two new 'public information' videos - about councillors' expenses and a rather extravagant sounding council car leasing scheme. The videos can been viewed via the following link: http://www.youtube.com/user/clapmadug#play/all/favorites-all/2/pfIamqJcUIA

Gissa Job!

Not all of our hard working MPs have enjoyed a relaxing summer holiday - it seems. Some have have found the time to keep up with their outside jobs - for which they get handsomely paid - in addition to their their £65,000 MP's salary. According to a report in today's Telegraph newspaper - some MPs are making up to £5,000 an hour - in outside earnings during the summer recess. Now that's one helluva good hourly rate! Here's a summary of the article which can be read on-line at - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ "Figures from the Parliamentary authorities show that a number of MPs have made thousands from private earnings since the Commons broke on July 21 2009. John Gummer , the Conservative former Environment Secretary- who claimed more than £9,000 a year for gardening on MPs' expenses - was paid £1,666 for 20 minutes work - the equivalent of £5,000 an hour - on behalf of Sovereign Reversions Ltd, an equity release firm. Oliver Letwin , the Tory police chie

Misrepresenting the Members

Members of the Unite union – will be interested to learn that union leaders handed over more than £1 million - to the Labour Party over the past three months, according to press reports. If they keep going at that rate – Unite members will be supporting the Labour Party to the tune of £4 million in a single year – making the union easily Labour’s biggest donor. Just think what all those millions could do - in support of members’ fighting for equal pay. Where has the money been going all these years – what does it get spent on – who decides – and how do ordinary unions members get their say? Well the answer is they don’t. Away from public glare – and far from ordinary members – union committees decide what to do with all this cash. But Unite members are just like everyone else. In Scotland, they support the Labour Party – around 25% of them according to the opinion polls. But Unite members support other political parties in even greater numbers – the big majority (around 75%) s

Dirty Tricks

Some readers from Midlothian have received unsolicited letters from the council - about their equal pay claims - see previous post dated 3 September 2009. The council is up to its old tricks - trying to get people to give up their claims on the cheap - and without explaining the basis of their 'new' offer. The council is also making false statements about contact with Stefan Cross - here's an extract of a letter that's on its way to all clients in Midlothian - to set the record straight. "If you have received such a letter, you will no doubt have noted that the Council are claiming to have made contact with us six months ago regarding your offer. This is simply not true. We have not at any stage during the last six months been contacted by the Council regarding settlement of any Equal Pay claims against them in which we are instructed." Just shows you the desperate lengths the council will go to - to pull the wool over people's eyes. We are happy

Beggars Belief

It beggars belief – to be sure But the reality is that it’s easier to access details about the Lockerbie bomber – and his release from Greenock prison - than it is to get basic pay information out of South Lanarkshire Council. Both the Scottish and UK governments have released highly sensitive and previously confidential papers - about high affairs of state - into the public domain. In the newspapers, you can read all about prisoner transfer agreements – minutes of meetings with high ranking government officials – and these documents are also readily available on-line. But in South Lanarkshire Council - the council won't explain what a council refuse driver, or a gardener or a gravedigger - gets paid. How bonkers is that? What is the big secret about what a refuse driver (LSO 3) gets paid - compared to a Home Carer or Catering Manager? As far as South Lanarkshire is concerned the workforce has no right to understand - what other council jobs and occupations are paid -

Monkey Business in Midlothian

A number of readers from Midlothian have been in touch – to say they have received ‘new’ settlement offers from the council. But the catch is that these offers are not new offers at all. They are just the same old ‘recycled’ offers that the council has made previously – and which people have rejected out of hand. Midlothian Council is just up to its old tricks – hoping to wear people down. Trying to confuse claimants by recycling old discredited offers – in the hope people will give up their claims for much less that they are really worth. So, our advice is simple. If you receive such an ‘offer’ from the council – take what it has to say with a big pinch of salt. Employers’ have been known to try to confuse and demoralise claimants before. Send a copy of the council’s letter to Stefan Cross Solicitors in Newcastle. Don’t sign or agree to anything – sit tight and wait for proper advice.

South Lanarkshire - FOI (2)

Here's our review request to South Lanarkshire Council - following their refusal to release general pay information about a group of male dominated LSO 3 jobs. The post of LSO 3 covered a range of the old Manual Worker jobs - e.g refuse drivers, gardeners, gravediggers and road workers. Prior to Single Status - none of these male jobs were graded above Manual Worker Grade 4 - while many predominantly female jobs - such as Cooks-in Charge and Home Carers - were on a higher Grade of Manual Worker 5. But after South Lanarkshire's own 'in house' job evaluation scheme ( JES ) - all the male jobs all ended up much better paid than their female colleagues - the previous grades and pecking order was turned completely on its head. How does that work - who knows? That's why South Lanarkshire has a lot of explaining to do - starting at the Glasgow employment tribunal on 29 September 2009. Dear South Lanarkshire Council FOI Review Request I refer to the le

South Lanarkshire - Freedom of Information

An article appeared on the blog site on 1 July - regarding South Lanarkshire Council and Freedom of Information - the article is reproduced below for easy reference. Having initially denied the existence of an LSO 3 post - the council has since changed its mind - the post does in fact exist - as we said all along - and as many readers have confirmed The council has gone on to say - in answer to the first question - that the total number of LSO 3 posts in South Lanarkshire is 578 individuals. But the council has refused to answer questions 2 to 7 - on the basis that this is private, personal information - and to release it would be a breach of confidentiality. Incredible - laughable - ridiculous? Yes, all three - so we have asked for a review of the council's decision - and in all likelihood we will have to appeal this, in due course, to the Scottish Information Commissioner Wednesday, 1 July 2009 South Lanarkshire Council - Nothing to Hide? South Lanarkshire Co

Football and Equal Pay

Readers in West Lothian will be interested to learn that the council is planning to write off around £280,000 of debt - racked up by Livingston Football Club. Now this may be a perfectly sensible move in the scheme of things - maybe the consequences of letting the club go to the wall are too dire to contemplate. But the council's sense of priorities seems a bit odd - don't you think? Especially when the council has so many outstanding equal pay claims to settle. As so often happens, the politicians can always find the money for their own priorities - yet other people's often take a back seat. But equal pay is not some luxury or added extra - it's a basic employment right - albeit one that councils across Scotland paid lip service to for years - despite their claims to the contrary. So, if politicians in West Lothian say they are struggling to meet the costs of equal pay - just ask them how they can find plenty of money when it comes to rescuing the local footb

North Lanarkshire

Here's a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that's been sent today to North Lanarkshire Council - see previous post dated 21 August 2009. Some councils are reluctant to release information that ought to be freely available to the public - which is odd in this new age of supposed transparency and openess. But as we've seen with the MPs' expenses scandal - people have very different views about spending public money - and many MPs' fought tooth and nail to prevent their actions from being brought under proper public scrutiny. So let's hope that North Lanarkshire explains its position soon - we'll publish what it has to say here. 1 September 2009 Gavin Whitefield Chief Executive South Lanarkshire Council PO Box 14 Civic Centre Motherwell ML1 1TW By e-mail to: whitefieldg@northlanarkshire.gov.uk Dear Mr Whitefield Freedom of Information Request I would like to make the following enquiry under the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002. Reques