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Showing posts from March, 2010

Strange Priorities

According to media reports, Unite is planning to raise £700,000 in a 'cash call' on its membership to keep the British Airways strike going. Now this is a very odd thing to do - because super-sized unions like Unite are very wealthy organisations indeed - with tens of millions of pounds in their piggy banks. So much money in fact that they're able to give lots of it away - on a regular basis. £11 million has gone into Labour party coffers over the past five years - despite the fact that the great majority of ordinary Unite members are not even Labour supporters. The additional funds are being raised by a levy on Unite’s 3,000 branches - not individual members - but this is the members' money too - who's asking them how it should be spent? If trade unions like Unite got behind their members with all their resources - and stopped diverting huge sums to the Labour party - they'd be able to support their members properly in the event of a strike. By a stra

All in the Family

As widely predicted, the new expenses watchdog for Members of Parliament IPSA (Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) - has diluted earlier proposals to ban MPs from employing members of their family. Sir Ian Kennedy has gone against previous recommendations from Sir Christopher Kelly and the Commitee on Standards in Public Life - by, in future, allowing one family member to be employed per MP. IPSA took its decision after fierce lobbying from MPs - many of whom have their spouses and/or children on the public payroll. This widespread practice came under intense scrutiny only after a Tory MP, Derek Conway, was forced into the spotlight - for having several members of his family on his staff - and was rightly shamed for a gross misuse of public funds. IPSA conducted a public consultation exercise in which 59 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal to outlaw the practice of allowing MPs to employ family members. Yet, this new quango decides to go against the view

Falkirk Council

Settlement discussions with Falkirk Council have been taking place - behind the scenes - for the past few months. But after lots of humming and hawing there are signs of progress at last - because an 'in principle' agreement has been reached - for the council to make new offers of settlement. Falkirk Council now has to approve these proposals formally at a meeting on 28 April 2010. All being well - they will then be recommended to Action 4 Equality Scotland clients for acceptance. If the latest proposals are not approved by the council - for any reason - there will be no point in further settlement talks. The only way forward - in that event - will be to push forward for an early GMF hearing to deal with all the outstanding claims. So, the message for the moment is to sight tight - and await further developments at the end of April.

Loadsamoney in Lanarkshire

The Sunday Times has another interesting article today - highlighting the behaviour of out-going South Lanarkshire MP, Adam Ingram - Member of Parliament for East Kilbride. In a former life, Adam Ingram was a trade union official - but he has had nothing much to say about the fight for equal pay with South Lanarkshire Council - which is a major issue for thousands of his constituents. But he has found the time to earn another £173,000 - on top of his £65,000 MP's salary - by pursuing outside interests such as helping to build a new defence academy for Colonel Gadaffi in Libya. Read the full article on line at: www.timesonline.co.uk - meanwhile here's a summary of what the paper has to say. Two more ministerial ‘cabs for hire’ "Two more former Labour ministers have been secretly recorded offering to exploit their government contacts and experience to help commercial clients for fees of up to £2,500 a day. Adam Ingram, the former armed forces minister, said he co

Glasgow Compromise Agreements

Lots of readers have been in touch asking for an update about the employment tribunal hearing on the Glasgow Compromise Agreements - which was held from 15 to 19 March 2010. Several Fox Cross witnesses gave evidence to the hearing - low paid council employees who accepted the council's original offer of settlement - back in November/December 2005. The tribunal did not come to a decision at the end of the week-long hearing - which is quite normal for cases that involve lots of detailed evidence and legal debate. A written judgment will be issued in due course, but this is may take several weeks - or even a few months - to be released. In any event, as soon as there is something definite to report - we shall let people know via the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site.

Sun Sets in the East

The sun has finally set on the political career of Anne Moffat - ex-Unison president - and the Labour Member of Parliament for East Lothian. Anne Moffat was parachuted into Prestonpans with the help of trade union muscle - but her greatest claim to fame lay in racking up the highest travelling expenses of any MP in Westminster in 2003 to 2004 - no mean achievement. Here's what The Herald newspaper said back in 2007 - before the extent of the MPs' expenses scandal became public knowledge: Published on 3 Nov 2007 "Moffat gives up fight to keep details from public" "A Scottish Labour MP who ran up the highest travel bill of any Westminster politician has had a breakdown of her expenses published after a two-year battle for disclosure. Anne Moffat's record bill was made up of thousands of pounds' worth of first-class rail and air fares, as well as trips to Malta and Portugal. She is now being asked further questions about her expensive trips, partic

Some Folks Are Easily Deluded

The Scotsman has a good article on equal pay in today's newspaper - written by David Scott who has long experience of Scottish local government - the feature explains why the fight for equal pay today is as fierce as ever. Action 4 Equality Scotland, Stefan Cross and Fox Cross Solicitors all feature prominently - as our readers would expect - and we also have the best quote of the day - which is reproduced below in its original form: "Action 4 Equality Scotland has forced employers to take equal pay seriously after so many years of councils turning a blind eye to the problem. Some of the biggest councils still have their heads stuck in the sand, but one by one these employers are having to face up to reality and settle their outstanding claims. What is incredible is that people have had to fight so long and so hard to enforce rights - that were first enshrined in law 40 years ago through the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The upside is that council workers are now much better inf

Highland Airways

Following hot on the heels of Globespan - the sad news today is that Highland Airways has also gone into administration. The Inverness based company operates in both Scotland and Wales - and most of its 100 staff will lose their jobs unfortunately. The background is all a bit sketchy - there's not much information about what has going on behind the scenes - but all of a sudden the administrators (PricewaterhouseCoopers) were called in - with little if any prior warning. The position with Highland Airways employees may well be the same as for Globespan staff - see post dated 4 January 2010. If the workforce has been left high and dry - they may have potential claims to the employment tribunals. If you know if anyone in this position - tell them to ring Action 4 Equality Scotland on 0131 652 7366 or drop Mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

Bashing the Budget

Vince Cable is a politician - not a comedian - but the Liberal Democrats treasury spokesperson has a great turn of phrase at times. Vince is responsible for the most effective put down of any politician - during the lifetime of the present parliament. But one of the real highlights came during a PM's question time when Vince invited Gordon Brown to comment on - "the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation Stalin to Mr Bean". The House of Commons was almost in tears - as if such a thing could happen - with MPs falling about laughing at a genuinely good gag. Now Vince is at it again with his damning summary of Labour's last budget before facing a general election on 6 May - he said earlier today: "It's not much of a budget when the highlight is a tax treaty with Belize". Well said Vince - pithy and to the point. The budget is significant only for delaying most of the painful medicine - until after the general election.

Edinburgh City Council - Social Care Workers

A number of Social Care Workers from Edinburgh have been in touch with the office - looking for an update about their equal pay claims. The council is adopting a mind bogglingly stupid position on the Social Care Workers - and other groups as well - here's a post from 11 February 2010 that explains the background. The good news is that a date for the Edinburgh appeal has now been set - and this will take from 13 to 15 April 2010 at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Melville Street, Edinburgh. Individual claimants are entitled to attend - and should try and do so if possible - you don't need to be there for all three days. Leading barrister (Jane McNeil, QC) who dealt with the original tribunal hearing - on behalf of Action 4 Equality Scotland clients - will also be handling the appeal. "Edinburgh City Council" "Edinburgh City Council is still refusing to settle outstanding equal pay claims - for significant groups of staff. The groups include male workers i

Whiter Than White

When the New Labour Government was elected in 1997 - it came to power on a wave of optimism and hope for the future. After the sleazy years of the Tories - Tony Blair proclaimed that, as Prime Minister, his government and ministers would be different - in fact they would be 'whiter than white'. So, it's all the more shocking to see three former Labour ministers - who were at the heart of the Labour government until relatively recently - all jostling hard to get their noses in the trough. "I'm like a cab for hire", said Stephen Byers - former Transport Secretary - to undercover reporters from the Times newspapers and Channel 4 Dispatches programme - which is being shown at 8pm tonight. And at up to £5,000 a day - would you believe - expenses not included! Former Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, and former Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon - are mired in similar allegations - and they both have extensive 'outside interests' as well. But all thr

Globespan Campaign

Here's a summary of what is being said to the Employment Tribunals in Scotland - on behalf of the former Globespan claimants - who were all so shabbily treated in December 2009. No response has been received as yet - but any further news will be reported on the blog site. Claimant V Globespan Group plc (in administration) & Others The Claimant was employed by the Respondents in an establishment in Scotland. The Respondent were part of a group of companies which were associated employers controlled by the same person. The Respondent’s financial difficulties arose from its relationship with E-Clear. The problems were known about from at least July 2009 – 5 months before it went into administration. The Claimant was dismissed without notice and without any fair procedure being followed and without payment of her/his contractual and statutory entitlements. The Respondents have no recognised union for the Claimants group of staff and no steps were taken by the Respond

Public Finance Magazine

Here's a report by David Scott in Public Finance magazine - the additional borrowing funds have been made available by the Scottish Government. "Councils can borrow £65m to fund equal pay claims Scottish councils have been given the go-ahead to borrow almost £65m to fund the costs of equal pay deals. The funding has been approved following a decision by Holyrood to relax rules preventing councils from using capital borrowing to fund rising equal pay settlements. These are normally paid from revenue expenditure. Details of the consents – awarded to nine of Scotland’s 32 councils for borrowing in 2010/11 – emerged as the Scottish Parliament local government committee was told that more than 44,500 claims had been lodged with employment tribunals. At a meeting on March 17, members of the all-party committee were concerned at the delay in settling claims and in implementing a single-status agreement drawn up more than a decade ago. One committee member, Scottish National Pa

South Lanarkshire

The fight for equal pay continues in South Lanarkshire Council. 11 days have already been spent in a Pre-Hearing Review on the council's job evaluation scheme - and a further 17 days are listed, starting again in May 2010. The council's position is that it delivered equal pay in April 2004 - but the way in which South Lanarkshire implemented the 1999 Single Status Agreement - was unlike any other council in Scotland. Pay information - about the differences in pay between male and female jobs - is freely available in other Scottish councils. But not in South Lanarkshire Council. South Lanarkshire Council used its own 'in-house' job evaluation (JE) scheme - instead of the national scheme recommended by COSLA and the trade unions. But the council refuses to explain where this JE scheme came from, who created the scheme and what credentials - if any - the authors of the scheme possessed. South Lanarkshire Council is also refusing to fully disclose all the relevant pa

More Kind Words

More kind words from one of our readers in North Ayrshire - it's heartening to see that doing the right thing over equal pay - can make a such huge difference to people's lives. "Hi Mark, I would like to thank you and all the staff working for Action 4 Equality Scotland - and Stefan Cross, of course I am a male working for North Ayrshire Council who received my cheque last week - and I must say myself and other staff are over the moon with what Action 4 Equality Scotland has done for us. Without you and Mr Cross we would have been none the wiser - as the unions are totally hopeless when it comes to equality. Once again a heart felt thank you and good luck with all your claiments. I know you wont let them down . Yours sincerely MP"

Labour and the Unions

Daniel Finkelstein has a comment piece in today's Times newspaper - which is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the trade unions. It's rather too long to reproduce here in full - so go out and buy a copy, or it read online at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ Here's a edited (shortened) version of what Mr Finkelstein has to say "Unite workers! You’re in Mr Brown’s pocket" "The story of how, 30 years ago, Labour first lost power and then its marbles has many such moments of farce. There was another sense in which those years in the early 1980s were a remarkable period in Labour history. They were the years, almost alone in the entire century, that the unions turned to the left and away from the party leadership. It is hard — but very important — to remember that these years were the exception rather than the rule. For if this is not understood, then the importance of Unite’s involvement in the Labour Party won’t be understood ei

Debating the Issues

Another reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch - this time about the what her local MSP has had to say about equal pay. Apparently, the MSP says this is a personal matter - so it's not appropriate to get involved - and anyway the trade unions are in talks with the council - so hopefully this will sort things out. What a load of old baloney! Equal pay is about the law of the land - it’s not a personal matter. It’s a public policy issue - about pay differences between groups of men and women workers - which the council and the trade unions did nothing about for years. It's also true that the unions kept their women members deliberately in the dark about equal pay –keeping secret the big differences in pay between different male and female jobs So why would anyone go to the unions now - for help and advice? The motto of the story is don’t just accept at face value what an MSP - or MP for that matter - has to say. Use your knowledge, experience and common sense - a

MPs and Double Standards

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch - to say that she's very disappointed at the response of her local MP over equal pay. Apparently, the MP said that equal pay was not a matter for the Westminster Parliament - and that the enquiry should be referred instead to the local MSP. Well it just goes to show you that some people have very short - and selective - memories. Maybe - with a little encouragement - MPs will recall that Dr John Reid, MP publicly opposing the closure of Monklands Hospital Accident & Emergency Department. Despite the fact that the NHS is and was the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament at the time -and not Westminster! Double standards or what? The truth is that MPs are perfectly free to speak out on equal pay. The Equal Pay 1970 and subsequent regulations are part of UK wide employment legislation – which MPs know full well So, MPs have every right to stand up for their constituents on equal pay - hiding behind non-existent, bureau

Labour and the Unions

Unite is all over the news today - with reports that the country's largest trade union has given away £11 million to the Labour party over the past four years. Money, of course, that's been raised from ordinary union members - the great majority of whom don't even vote Labour at election time. If any of these vast sums have gone towards promoting the cause of equal pay - then the members should be asking for their money back - because it's not been well spent. Labour run councils up and down the country - have said one thing then done another when it comes to equal pay. Some of them are still trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. The council employers have been dragged 'kicking and screaming' - into implementing the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement. Not because of the trade unions - but because Action 4 Equality Scotland took up the challenge of equal pay. All this money being shovelled into the coffers of just one political part

Fife Council

A slight delay has occurred in the process of sending out new settlement offers to claimants in Fife Council. The reason being that Fife Council has to observe certain procedural issues - which will not now be concluded until 18 March 2010. So the original timetable has slipped a little - because of the council's need to seek final approval from senior politicians. But as soon as this happens next week - further information will be issued to all Action 4 Equality Scotland claimants. This will explain the next steps - and the dates by which various documents require to be issued - and returned. So, for the moment - sit tight and await further information - which will follow soon.

Cash-Strapped Councils?

Council employees still fighting for equal pay will be amazed to learn that council bosses can still find plenty of money to burn - on their own pet projects. City Building is part of Glasgow City Council - Scotland's largest council - yet it has been allowed to spend taxpayers money in an alarming fashion. The whole thing stinks to high heaven - and would give Tammany Hall politics a bad name. Here's an edited (shortened) version of a report in today's Scotland on Sunday - by David Leask. "Call for inquiry into company where salaries ballooned and thousands spent on hospitality." "A CONSTRUCTION quango created by troubled former Glasgow council leader Steven Purcell more than doubled its wage bill for executives in just two years, Scotland on Sunday can reveal. City Building – previously a department of the local authority – allowed salaries for senior managers, some closely associated with the Labour Party, to balloon after it became a much-feted &q

Lording It Up

The Sunday Times has an excellent editorial today - on the abuse of expenses in the House of Lords. It really does beggar belief that these people still have anything to do with running the country - instead of recovering the tax payers money and showing these 'nobles' the door - the political establishment effectively covers their tracks. And because their Lordships are not elected - voters have no say in the matter either. "A shameful day for the House of Lords" "When the history of the parliamentary expenses scandal is told, several names will feature prominently, including David Chaytor, Jim Devine, Elliot Morley and Lord Hanningfield, three MPs and a peer who sat in the dock on Friday charged with theft. One name that should also be on the roll of dishonour is Michael Pownall, clerk of the parliaments. By his actions he has allowed peers who abused expenses to escape legal action. For months this newspaper has investigated peers who abused the expe

E-mails to Mark Irvine

Normal service seems to have been restored by by Compuserve. So please send all e-mails for Mark Irvine's attention to: markirvine@compuserve.com Many thanks

Money For Old Rope

The Daily Mail - in the following report - provides an apt demonstration of why the law is sometimes such an ass. The good news is that while Baroness Uddin may have escaped charges in the courts - the House of Lords is apparently launching its own inquiry into her mind-boggling expenses. Let's hope they throw the book at her - because all that public money down the drain for no good reason - is a complete disgrace. "Labour peer Baroness Uddin ESCAPES charges over £100,000 expenses thanks to loophole in Lords' rules" "A Labour peer who pocketed around £100,000 in overnight allowances despite living just four miles from Parliament will not face criminal charges, it was announced today. Baroness Uddin allegedly said her main home was an empty flat in Maidstone, Kent, so that she could claim the £174-a-night allowance offered to peers who have to stay in London. The set-up meant she could claim nearly £30,000 a year towards the cost of staying at her othe

West Dunbartonshire Council

Here's a copy of a letter from Action 4 Equality Scotland to the Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council - Councillor Iain Robertson. West Dunbartonshire Council is in turmoil at present - after a damning report from the Accounts Commission - led to newspaper headlines describing West Dunbartonshire as the most inept council in Scotland. But that's no excuse for the council having its head stuck in the sand over equal pay. So, the priority is to get West Dunbartonshire to a GMF hearing - where the council will have to explain and justify its discriminatory pay practices. Contact details for Councillor Robertson and local MPs/MSPs will follow. Action 4 Equality Scotland 44 York Place Edinburgh EH1 3HU Councillor Iain Robertson Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council By e-mail Dear Councillor Robertson West Dunbartonshire Council and Equal Pay As you may know, Action 4 Equality Scotland is currently pursuing 91 equal pay claims, in the Employment Tribunals, against West

Watchdog With No Teeth

A House of Commons committee has ordered Labour MPs Alan and Ann Keen to repay £1,500 in expenses claimed from their second home allowance. The committee (comprised of other MPs) said the couple claimed money for a second home to which they were not entitled - because their main home was empty and uninhabitable. Incredibly the committee concluded that not all the money should be repaid because the Commons authorities told them twice that their arrangements were acceptable. But the truth is that the Commons authorities approved lots of claims that were patently ridiculous - and that should have been as obvious to MPs then - as it is now to the general public. Alan Keen, MP for Feltham and Heston, and his wife Ann, a health minister and MP for Brentford and Isleworth, own a house in Brentford - which is less than 10 miles from the House of Commons. In 2002 they bought a flat near parliament - which they funded using the second home allowance - quite why this was necessary is not e

Pay News

Spot the difference. An Independent Pay Review body recommends a 2.25% pay increase for senior managers in the National Health Service. Quite rightly - the government refuses to implement the proposal - because the economy has gone to hell in a handcart - and those at the top need to lead by example. But along comes another Independent Pay Review body that recommends a £1,000 increase for MPs - whose collective performance in this parliament has been the worst in living memory. What does the government do? Nothing.

It's Not Just The Tories

The history of politics in the UK has long been distorted by big donors - larger than life figures (both individuals and organisations) - who wield great, many would say undue, influence withi n the parties they support. For readers of a certain age - just think back to the 'good' old days of Robert Maxwell for Labour and Jeffrey Archer for the Tories - from the 1970s and 80s. More recently the Tories have been under fire for accepting massive sums of money from Lord Ashcroft - but as the following article from the Times points out - it's not just the Tories who work the system in a cynical way. The trade unions have been pouring millions of pounds into Labour coffers for years - despite the fact that only a minority of members actually vote Labour at election time. Here's a summary of what Rachel Sylvester had to say the other day in the Times - the full article can be read on-line at: http://www.times-online.co.uk/ "It’s not just the Tories." "Fo

News from Newarthill

Action 4 Equality Scotland held an excellent meeting in Newarthill last night - in the heart of North Lanarkshire. A big crowd turned up - 60 to 70 people - to hear all the news about the forthcoming GMF hearing in April - and to share their experiences about lobbying their local MPs and MSPs. No one had a good word to say about North Lanarkshire Council, by the way. Not surprisingly many people were angry at the way the council has dragged things out - and tried to treat the Home Carers, for example, differently to other groups of manual workers. Apparently, lots of council workers have already contacted their MPs and MSPs - though some have been much more helpful than others. But the key message has hit home - don't be fobbed off with nonsense that tries to tell you that local politicians can't get involved. Of course they can - all they have to do is to weigh up the arguments about equal pay - and then speak up for one side or the other. It's not rocket sci

Getting Your Message Across

North Lanarkshire has lots of politicians - four Labour MPs, five Labour constituency MSPs and seven regional list MSPs - drawn from a variety of political parties. The purpose of the regional list is to bring political balance to an area - where one party dominates in the 'first-past the post' elections. But regional list MSPs have exactly the same standing - as their constituency colleagues - the only difference is that they cover a wider area - not just North Lanarkshire Council, or part of the council area. So, here are the contact details for regional list MSP's covering the North Lanarkshrie Council area. If your local MP or constituency MSP is not supportive over equal pay - or any other issue for that matter - you may wish to take things up with one of the regional list MSPs. Let us know how you get on. Alex Neil MSP - Central Scotland Region (SNP) Tel: 0131 348 5703 E-mail: Alex.Neil.msp@scottish.parliament.uk Margaret Mitchell MSP - Central Scotland Region

Glasgow - Compromise Agreement Challenge

The hearing on Glasgow City Council's Compromise Agreement resumes next week - Glasgow claimants are welcome to attend - so long as you're not one of the test claimants. The case is now known as Connor & Others v Glasgow City Council and the hearing is scheduled to last for 5 days - from Monday 15 to Friday 19 March 2010 The venue is the Glasgow Employment Tribunal Office (details below) which is 10 minutes walk from Central Station – west along Bothwell Street towards Finnieston. Glasgow Employment Tribunal Office Eagle Building 215 Bothwell Street Glasgow G2 7TS Phone: 0141 204 0730 Fax: 0141 204 0732 Email: glasgowet@ets.gsi.gov.uk Tribunal hearings normally run from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4.30pm – but if you want to sit in on the hearing - you don’t need to stay for the whole day’s session. Anyone attending should make themselves known to Carol Fox - who will be there on behalf of Fox Cross Solicitors.

North Lanarkshire and Equal Pay

A lot of readers have been in touch over the article on North Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay - which appeared in last week's Wishaw Press. Many people have commented on the strong stance taken by Alex Neil, MSP - who has apparently written to the council supporting the cause of employees - Home Carers and others - who are still waiting for their equal pay claims to be properly addressed. The comments made by Alex Neil just go to show that MSPs and MPs are not barred from speaking out on sensitive issues - when push comes to shove that's what their jobs are all about. Alex Neil is a regional list MSP - and there are several others covering the North Lanarkshire Council area - so we'll publish their contact details for information as well.

Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament's Local Government Committee conducted a detailed inquiry into equal pay last year. Action 4 Equality Scotland gave both written and oral evidence to the Committee - which we put up on the blog site at the time - copies can still be sent to readers by e-mail. The Committee subsequently published a detailed report which can be read on-line at the Scottish Parliament web site: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/ Here are a few of its observations - which might come in handy if you are discussing equal pay with local councillors, MPs and MSPs. "The Committee shares the concerns expressed by other parliamentary committees that it has taken so long to implement Single Status and believes it is not surprising that a number of legal rulings and case law have developed in the intervening period which have impacted on the number and complexity of equal pay cases. The Committee is also concerned that these delays may have led to low-paid women workers los

Ten Years Too Late

Unison has written to all of its members in North Lanarkshire Council - about 'action' that the union plans to take in connection with equal pay. The letter states: "You will be sent a form so that we can gather relevant information from you and, if appropriate, start process of taking legal action." The point is that Unison has known about the equal pay problem for years - for a decade and more. Yet the unions kept their women members in the dark - about the huge pay gap between male and female jobs - but are now looking to re-write history. Because the trade unions negotiated the higher (bonus-related) pay for the male groups - the employers certainly never did this on their own. So, when it comes to equal pay - take what the unions have to say - with an extra large pinch of salt.

E-mails to Mark Irvine

Dear Readers Until further notice - please send any e-mails to Mark Irvine to the following e-mail address: markirvine@witsltd.co.uk Many thanks Mark Irvine

Edinburgh - Settlement Offers

A number of claimants have been in touch about their settlement offers from Edinburgh City Council. Please note that the Edinburgh office has to check - and double check - every individual offer on an individual basis. Each offer also has to be accompanied by an individual letter of advice - so there is a lot of work to be done in the office before the offers of settlement can be released. The aim is to complete this process by the end of next week - so please be patient and rest assured that every effort is being made to get the job done as quickly as possible - without cutting any corners. In the meantime, please resist the temptation to ring the office for an update on the Edinburgh settlements - as it just diverts staff resources away from the main task in hand.

Wishaw Press

Here's a article on North Lanarkshire and Equal Pay - that appears in this week's local paper - the Wishaw Press. "Financially stricken North Lanarkshire Council is facing the nightmare scenario of being forced to stump up a whopping £15million in equal pay claims to hundreds of disgruntled employees – according to Action 4 Equality Scotland, an equal pay campaign. The organisation has accused the local authority of “dragging its heels” over settling the claims – some of which stretch back many years – from 1808 dissatisfied workers. Already, a significant number of Scottish councils – including Glasgow and Edinburgh – have settled their outstanding claims and Action 4 Equality Scotland has played an instrumental role in negotiating these resolutions. However, the equal pay group claim no such settlement has been agreed by NLC and because of this, an employment tribunal will be held in April to hear the North Lanarkshire cases and a top QC has been instructed by the

MPs' Pay

The BBC reports today that MPs are to get a pay rise of nearly £1,000 a year - taking the basic salary of a backbench MP (from 1 April) to £65,737 a year. The BBC report says - with typical understatement - that the 1.5% increase follows uproar over the MPs' expenses scandal. The government says that ministers will turn down the rise - but what does this matter since the increase will flow through to staffing and other allowances - and crucially into MPs' 'gold plated' pensions. So, at a time when many workers in the private sector - have had to accept cuts in hours and pay to keep their businesses afloat - MPs are to benefit from a 1.5% pay rise. Similarly, workers in the public sector face a difficult period ahead - with employers arguing there there should be a pay freeze for the next two years - for all but the lowest paid workers. MPs have failed to set and example - yet again. So why doesn't the government should step in - and refuse to implement the i

Council Budgets

A number of readers from North Lanarkshire have been in touch - to say that senior managers are trying to blame equal pay - for the budget cuts the council is planning next year. Now this is nonsense, of course - from start to finish - because council budgets in Scotland actually doubled in the ten years from 1997 to 2007. So, having the money to meet the costs of equal pay was never the issue - and councils knew about their obligations as far back as 1999 - when the Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement in Scotland was signed. Funny how women standing up for their rights - seems to infuriate some people. Yet the same people have had nothing to say about the fact that so many women's jobs - were so badly undervalued and underpaid - for so many years.

Cutting the Cost of Politics

In the wake of the MPs' expenses scandal - there has been lots of talk about cutting the cost of politics As everyone knows, talk is cheap - so why not just abolish the House of Lords - and throw all of its ermine-clad nobles on to the scrapheap. What use are they anyway? The major talent of their noble lordships seems to lie in racking up tax free expenses - while pouring money into the Labour and Tory parties - in return for their peerages. The House of Lords has not added anything to the government of the UK in the past decade - lots of countries around the world get by quite happliy - without a second 'revising' chamber. Their lordships have had no influence over the state of the economy, over the war in Iraq - or on important social policies such as care of the elderly. So, what purpose does the House of Lords serve? None is the honest answer - and getting rid of it would make a dent in the national debt - and free up large sums of public money - that cou

Get Involved - Ask Your MP Difficult Questions

Action 4 Equality Scotland is not the only organisation encouraging its readers to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into an issue. Here's an article from the Guardian newspaper inviting readers to quiz their local MPs about the funding of the Tory party - a good story for a Labour-leaning paper, to be sure. But the principle is just the same when it comes to North Lanarkshire - and other councils - that are dragging their feet on equal pay. What do the local MPs and MSPs have to say - they have strong views on everything else under the sun? So, let's hear their views on equal pay - on North Lanarkshire's treatment of Home Care workers. North Lanarkshire Council may be Labour-controlled, but - as the Guardian article implies - that's all the more reason for Labour MPs and MSPs to speak out. "Get Involved: ask your MP difficult questions The Guardian has been trying for three days to get William Hague to spell out what he knew about Lord Ashcroft

Speaking Up For Local Constituents

Scotland's Deputy First Minister - Nicola Sturgeon - made a personal statement in parliament last week - about the importance of politicians speaking up on behalf of their local constituents. The statement was warmly received across the floor of the chamber and outside - for a welcome change tribal party differences were put to one side. Nicola Sturgeon apologised for mishandling aspects of a specific case - but she won the day by making it clear where her loyalties stood - in terms of her day job as an MSP. Here are a few extracts from what the Deputy First Minister had to say: "Let me therefore be clear about my understanding of the duties of an MSP when asked for help by a constituent. I believe that, when a constituent asks for my help, it is my duty to make such representations as I am asked to make, so long as those representations are reasonable, legitimate and appropriate. There is no doubt that being health secretary is a job that, with the permission of the Par

West Lothian Council

Some of our readers from West Lothian have been in touch - following the post about the council dragging its feet over equal pay. Here's what they had to say: "Thanks for the update on our ongoing saga with West Lothian Council - Council of the year 2006. A council that throws cash away willy nilly - for instance on new lamposts all over the county - in the same holes they took the old ones out of! Yet they refuse to honour their home carers - with their rightful rates of pay. We look forward to your next update. West Lothian Carers"

North Lanarkshire Council

Came across this previous post on North Lanarkshire while looking through the blog site archive - thought it might remind readers just how badly they've been treated - by both the council and the trade unions. "North Lanarkshire Council All of Scotland's 32 local councils have behaved appallingly over equal pay, but undoubtedly the Dunce's Cap should be awarded jointly to the management and trade unions in North Lanarkshire Council. First of all, the council agreed a Job Evaluation scheme with the trade unions, but then they both refused to share the details with the workforce. So, exactly how were staff expected to have any confidence in the outcome, especially if they could not see or understand the scores and how the new grading structure rewarded different groups of workers? Maybe they were supposed to to take it on trust from the same people who had kept them in the dark for all those years. Then the council put the scheme to the workforce in a democratic