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Showing posts from April, 2010

Sisters With Solicitors

Here's an article on equal pay by Zoe Williams from the Guardian newspaper - the sections in bold have been highlighted by me - but you can read the full story on-line at: www.guardian.co.uk "On equal pay, sisters with solicitors must do it for themselves" "The Birmingham case shows just how much Labour and the unions have let women down The news about Birmingham city council is in its way as big a deal, as cataclysmically bankrupting, as Greece. Unlike Greece, it has a massive, Erin Brockovich feelgood factor. I feel sure we'd be talking about it much more if it weren't for bigot-gate. The tribunal's finding is this: women employees have been systematically underpaid and discriminated against by this council, for as long as the Equal Pay Act has been in force. Female staff on the same pay grade as men (cleaners versus bin men, for instance) could expect to earn much less, to start with, and go on to be paid much less in bonuses. The starkest examp

"He's not as nice as he looks"

Gordon Brown's verbal mugging of a Rochdale pensioner yesterday - reminded me of something Winston Churchill once said of another 'honourable member' - many years ago. The target of Churchill's venom was Ian Mikardo, a left-wing Labour MP - whom he put down with the withering comment that: " He's not as nice as he looks". The Prime Minister's careless put down of an ordinary Labour supporter has given the public a rare insight into the real Gordon Brown - without the protection of his party or government spin doctors. What the electorate make of it all remains to be seen. But the whole sorry saga does suggest that our politicians still regard ordinary people as 'voting fodder' - as useful idiots who propel them into power - rather than as citizens whose views and opinions should be treated with respect.

South Lanarkshire Council

The next round of hearings involving South Lanarkshire Council gets underway next week - at the Employment Tribunal in Glasgow - dates are as follows: Tuesday - 4 May 2010 Wednesday - 5 May 2010 Thursday - 6 May 2010 Friday 7 - May 2010 The Glasgow Employment Tribunal is a short 10 minute walk from Central Station and is located at the following address: The Eagle Building 215 Bothwell Street Glasgow G2 7TS The hearing is open to the public, but if you go along make a point of introducing yourself to Carol Fox - who will be there on behalf of the Fox Cross legal team.

"Gee, but it's great to be back home....."

Simon and Garfunkel said it so well - but it is really great to be back home - especially after being stranded in Canada for almost two weeks - as a result of the volcanic ash cloud. While the wonders of modern technology the blog site kept going - things were only prevented from turning into a complete nightmare with the help of family and friends. So hats off to my brother Brian, and sister-in-law Jane, for riding to the rescue in our hour of need - without their help things looked bleak indeed. And this was in stark contrast to the UK government - which had about as much purpose or common sense - as an ashtray on a motorbike. For many people outside Europe - the only source of reliable news was the BBC's World News programme. Yet not one UK government minister appeared on this news channel until Day 6 of the crisis - long after people were in really desperate straits. Politicians normally fond of the limelight were suddenly nowhere to be seen - no one offered practical hel

Birmingham Council Workers Win Equal Pay Claim

Here's the latest equal pay news hot from the BBC - another big breakthrough this time in Birmingham City Council - yet again the campaign was led by Action 4 Equality and Stefan Cross Solicitors. "Up to 5,000 female council staff have won their case for equal pay at an employment tribunal. The women, who include cleaners, cooks and care assistants, were all employed by Birmingham City Council. Solicitors said the council may have to pay a total of £600m to the women, who said they were denied bonuses paid to their male counterparts. Councillor Alan Rudge, cabinet member for equalities and human resources, said the council had removed its "inappropriate bonus schemes" in 2007. He said it had introduced a revised pay and grading structure which was in line with the Equal Opportunity Commission equality guidelines. A spokeperson for Stefan Cross Solicitors said it was a "massive victory" for the women. He said the tribunal announced that the bonus pay

Former APT&C Groups

Regular readers will know that there was an important Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) earlier this month - involving Edinburgh City Council. The case has implications for other councils as well because the underlying issue is whether non-manual workers (i.e. those employed on former APT&C grades) can compare themselves against manual worker comparators - for pay purposes. Action 4 Equality Scotland takes the view that they can - and a previous Employment Tribunal agreed with our interpretation - afetr a major ten day hearing in 2009. After all, why should a refuse worker be paid more than a Cook Supervisor, a Social Care Worker or Classroom Assistant - that is the real question the employers don't want to answer? In reaching its decision the previous Employment Tribunal gave a withering judgment against Edinburgh City Council - by saying that it was trying to 'defend the indefensible'. Unfortunately, Edinburgh appealed that decision - in what many regard as yet an

Falkirk Update

As regular readers know, Action 4 Equality Scotland has been involved in settlement discussions with Falkirk Council over recent months. The council has blown hot and cold on a settlement package, but several meetings took place and agreement in principle appeared to have been reached. Sadly, the council now appears to be changing its position - without any further discussion or agreement with Action 4 Equality Scotland - and they propose to calculate settlement offers on the basis of contractual hours only. Our view is that any settlement offers must take into account additional hours our clients have worked during their periods of claim - not just contractual hours as this would exclude all overtime. So we have told the council we cannot agree a settlement which excludes significant extra hours worked by our clients - nor can we accept any other unreasonable and new conditions. The latest setback is very disappointing - because we thought we had reached an agreement in principle

Trade Unions and Equal Pay

Readers may be interested in the attached letter sent by Stefan Cross to the UK Law Gazette - as a contribution to the ongoing debate about how trade unions have handled equal pay cases. The letter follows recent criticisms by the President of the Law Society for England, Wales and Northern Ireland - see previous post dated 20 April 2010. Stefan's letter is spot on about the role of the trade unions and this issue is just as relevant in Scotland - as it is elsewhere in the UK. In Glasgow Action 4 Equality Scotland outnumbers trade union backed claimants by around 7 to 1. The picture is similar in North Lanarkshire and - as regular readers know only too well - South Lanarkshire Council is an 'equal pay free zone' as far as the unions are concerned. Ordinary union members stand to benefit from more choice and competition in legal representation - but that's exactly what union bosses are trying to snuff out. Dear Sir Unions and Equal Pay Unlike my old classmate C

Knowledge is Power

As promised in the previous post, here are the contact details for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland: Postal address EHRC Scotland The Optima Building 58 Robertson Street Glasgow G2 8DU Telephone 0141 228 5910 (non helpline calls only) Fax 0141 228 5912 E-mail scotland@equalityhumanrights.com If you do contact the EHRC, let us know and we'll share the news with other readers via the blog site.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Lots of readers from South Lanarkshire feel frustrated at the council's delaying tactics over equal pay - so they've been asking what they can to to support their claims. Well one thing people could do is to complain about the lack of transparency on pay information - and the body to complain to is the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland (EHRC). The EHRC is responsible for overseeing the legislative framework on all equalities issues - and regularly issues good practice guidance to employers - large and small. Much of this appears to have passed South Lanarkshire Council by - but the EHRC is conducting a formal investigation into Glasgow's pay and grading structures - following complaints by individual employees. So, a similar approach in South Lanarkshire - can only help in the ongoing fight for equal pay - here's a draft letter that readers might wish to use in raising the issue with EHRC Scotland. Dear EHRC South Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay

Ask An Impertinent Question

Here are the original FOI questions that South Lanarkshire Council is refusing to answer - they won't seem particularly difficult or threatening to most people - most sensible people at least. But the council refuses to explain the background to its 'in-house' Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) - when just about every other council in Scotland is happy to share this information. Indeed elsewhere the details would be freely available to the council workforce - and as it's public money the council has been spending why all the secrecy ? So yet another appeal has gone off to the Scottish Information Commissioner. Archie Strang Chief Executive South Lanarkshire Council Almada Street Hamilton ML3 0AA By e-mail Dear Mr 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 Lanarkshire Council’s reasons for not adopting the nationally recommended COSLA (

Freedom of Information - South Lanarkshire

Here's the latest piece of FOI nonsense involving South Lanarkshire Council The result is yet another appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner - because the council won't explain the background to its in-house Job Evaluation (JE) scheme - which determines what council employees are paid. You might think this is a ridiculous situation - and you'd be right - why is the council so secretive and unwilling to explain issues that other Scottish councils simply take in their stride. South Lanarkshire Council claims to support opennes and tranparency - but theory and practice are two different things entirely - that's why many people are choosing to complain to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. If the council has nothing to hide - why is it making such a fuss - and going to such lengths to stop this information coming out into the open? Dear Scottish Information Commissioner South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) – FOISA request I enclose an exchange of correspon

Trade Unions and Equal Pay

The trade unions have got their knickers in a terrible twist over some very critical remarks from the Law Society - about their handling of equal pay claims. The president of the Law Society (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) - Robert Heslett - has written to Dominic Grieve MP, Shadow Justice Secretary, and is calling upon him, if elected to government, to repeal new regulations which came into force on 6 April 2010. The Law Society fought to prevent these regulations coming into force - and says it will continue to lobby to have them overturned. The Law Society says it is "extremely concerned that the restriction in the level of damages for consumers with employment matters, that are complex or which are meritorious but uncertain of success, may well be unable to find solicitors able to take on their cases them because the solicitor cannot meet the financial risk of covering their costs." The Law Society president went on to say: "This is a cavalier move by t

No, Prime Minister

Some MPs just don't get it, do they? The latest honourable member to lose his 'moral compass' is none other than the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The PM lost his cool in front of a panel of first time voters yesterday - and tried to portray himself as some kind of innocent victim in the MPs' expenses scandal. Gordon Brown tried to defend spending thousands of pounds in on cleaning bills, saying that his “only crime” was wanting to pay a decent wage. “I’ve got to stay in two places at once, right? I’ve got my wife and I’ve got my children. I wasn’t claiming for a mortgage, I was paying for the expenses of having a house in London,” he told his audience. Adding in a apparent reference to Sir Thomas Legg, the former Whitehall mandarin who investigated MPs’ claims at Mr Brown’s request and who ordered him to pay back more than £12,000, he added: “What the guy basically said was I shouldn’t be paying the cleaner a minimum wage. No, Prime Minister - that is complete

Glasgow Enquiries

Enquiries from Glasgow continue to be take up a great deal of time and resources. Despite the fact that Action 4 Equality Scotland has now processed well over 3,000 settlements on behalf of clients in Glasgow. The ongoing queries relate to offers that are being disputed in various ways - but these queries all need to be checked carefully and resolved with the council on an individual basis. Understandably clients who are caught up in this 'ongoing queries' process are very frustrated. But rest assured that we are doing everything possible to resolve all the outstanding issues - as quickly as possible. Staff in the office have been working late into the evening and over the weekends to address all the outstanding Glasgow cases. The best way to help us to help you is for Glasgow clients caught up in this process - to resist the temptation to ring the office on a daily basis - asking for an update. Contacting the office every day simply diverts staff resources away from the re

East Dunbartonshire Loses EAT Case

East Dunbartonshire Council has lost a vital hearing at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The council used a narrow procedural point to frustrate and deny people's claims - but the EAT has thrown out their case - after hearing the legal arguments put forward by the Fox Cross legal team. Hopefully, the outstanding claims will now proceed to a GMF hearing - or the council will come to its senses and put forward new settlement proposals. East Dunbartonshire is one of the councils that has applied to the Scottish Government for additional 'borrowing consents' - to meet the back pay costs of equal pay.

Feedback from Fife

Several readers from Fife have been in touch to say that the unions are still up to their old tricks - trying to confuse people about their equal pay claims. As explained previously - see post dated 15 April 2010 - the latest settlement offer covers the period up to the implementation of Single Status, i.e. up to 31 March 2007. All Action 4 Equality Scotland clients have an ongoing claim from that date onwards - because the council continued to protect the higher pay of traditional male jobs - for another 3 years. Claims on behalf of Action 4 Equality Scotland clients are already underway - so individual clients do not need to take any action at this stage - everything is in hand. The unions are suggesting that people need to submit fresh claims or they will lose out - but this is complete baloney as far as Action 4 Equality Scotland clients are concerned. So, take what the unions have to say on this issue - as with many others - with a big pinch of salt.

More Kind Words

Understandably, many readers get frustrated and angry - at the foot dragging antics of the council employers over equal pay. But here are some kind words from a reader in the west of Scotland which should provide some encouragement - to the many council employees still fighting for a fair settlement of their equal pay claims. "Hi Mark, You and Stefan Cross deserve the highest accolade for all you have done for normal working women in Scotland's local authorities. I know it has taken five years in my case, but you have achieved more than two and half times the settlement sum which the Council originally offered me. Congratulations and good hunting against those Local Authorities still reluctant to comply with what is right. Most Councils' wages and finance chiefs should be ashamed. They must have known, at the outset, that the original offers recommended for settlement, were far far too low. No doubt they thought that trusting home carers would accept, in the belief

Action 4 Equality Scotland

Several readers have been in touch recently to ask for the contact details of the Action 4 Equality Scotland office in Edinburgh - this information has been posted on the blog site previously, but here it is again for easy reference. Tuesday, 2 February 2010 Action 4 Equality Scotland Action 4 Equality Scotland has opened a major new office in Edinburgh - our friends and readers will be delighted to hear. The office contact details are as follows: Postal Address Action 4 Equality Scotland 44 York Place Edinburgh EH1 3HU Phone Number 0131 652 7366 Fax Number 0131 652 7369 Over recent weeks, Action 4 Equality Scotland has been recruiting staff, installing new equipment and so on – but finally all the pieces of the jigsaw are in place. The Edinburgh office is now fully operational and becomes - with immediate effect - the new point of contact for all existing clients in Scotland – and for new ones as well. The office will provide a platform for Action 4 Equality to grow and e

North Lanarkshire Council - Stop Press

Last minute discussions with North Lanarkshire Council (late on Friday) - mean that tomorrow's GMF hearing will not now be going ahead. The council has agreed to make revised offers of settlement - which will include previously excluded groups such as Home Carers - but the claims of former APT&C employees still have to be resolved. Instead, the GMF hearing will be converted into a CMD (Case Management Discussion). If any Action 4 Equality Scotland clients attend, they should make themselves known to Paul Clark - who will be attending for the Fox Cross legal team. Letters will be sent out to all Action 4 Equality Scotland clients by the end of the week - explaining the next steps and details of the proposed settlement. As our clients know, the behaviour of the trade unions in North Lanarkshire was truly awful. The unions abandoned their members and lined up with management from the outset - which is why so many people came to Action 4 Equality Scotland for advice and su

Edinburgh - Employment Appeal Tribunal

A number of readers have been in touch - about the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing involving Edinburgh City Council No decision was reached at the end of this hearing - which is quite normal. The Employment Appeal Tribunal will issue a written judgement in due course - and this process normally takes weeks rather than days. But as soon as there is any news to report - the details will appear on the Action 4 Equality Scotland blog site

Gissa Job - Michael McCann

Readers in South Lanarkshire will be interested to learn about the Labour party's new candidate to fight the East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow seat. Step forward Michael McCann - heir apparent to Adam Ingram MP who is stepping down to spend more time on his outside interests (including building a defence academy in Libya) - which have apparently been earning our former defence minister £173,000 a year. Interestingly, Michael McCann is currently the deputy leader of South Lanarkshire Council. And as our readers know, South Lanarkshire is the council equivalent of a 'black hole' - when it comes to basic pay information - about the differences in pay between traditional male and female jobs. Michael is also a former civil servant and trade union official - and a former parliamentary aide to Adam Ingram (i.e. he worked in the MP's constituency office in addition to his day job). So, during the general election campaign be sure to ask Michael McCann a topica

"Union Lied at Jobs Hearing"

The Herald ran an interesting story during the week - about the performance of the Unite trade union at the Employment Tribunals. Here's what the paper had to say - just another example of a big trade union letting its members down - which explains why they try and ride on the coat tails of Action 4 Equality Scotland. "Union lied at jobs hearing " "Raymond Williamson: one of the union’s witnesses gave evidence that was ‘almost totally incredible’. Union chiefs have been accused of lying at an employment tribunal about the transfer of thousands of council jobs and now face six-figure legal costs . Raymond Williamson, the tribunal judge, said Unite provided evidence that was “almost totally incredible”, and deliberately misconstrued the position of Glasgow City Council on staff rights. He also rejected Unite’s tribunal bid and ordered the union, the largest in the UK, to pick up the legal costs for the dispute. The damning findings followed a six-day hearing int

South Lanarkshire Council

A reader from Hamilton has been in touch. Apparently a bizarre rumour is doing the rounds - suggesting that Action 4 Equality Scotland is no longer pursuing equal pay cases against South Lanarkshire Council. The good news is that this is completely untrue. Maybe it's the result of wishful thinking by the council and/or the trade unions - but whatever the source it's absolute nonsense from start to finish. More news to follow about South Lanarkshire soon - a further round of tribunal hearings is due to get underway in May 2010.

Fife Council

Action 4 Equality Scotland has written to all clients in Fife Council with details of new settlement proposals. The prospect of a GMF hearing in February 2010 finally brought the council to its senses - but this is an 'interim' settlement only - a further period is still in dispute and is the subject of ongoing legal action . The proposed new settlement covers only the period up to the implementation of Singe Status in Fife Council - i.e. up to 31 March 2007. From 1 April 2007, all Action 4 Equality Scotland clients in Fife Council have an ongoing claim - which we are continuing to pursue on your behalf. However, existing clients do not need to take any further action. Your claim is already underway - and you can simply ignore any unsolicited letters you might receive from the trade unions.

Holding MPs to Account

Less than 200 people may have decided who will become the next MP in East Lothian Because by 130 to 59 votes the local Labour party finally decided to ditch Anne Moffat as their candidate - after years of controversy and party in-fighting. So, if the new person goes on to win the East Lothian seat - just 189 people will have set the whole process in motion - for good or ill. Yes, but the wider electorate still has to have their say - I hear you say - that provides an important democratic safeguard, does it not? Yes, up to a point - but what the Anne Moffat debacle highlights is just how difficult it is to hold our MPs to account - once they have been elected into office. In reality, there's no effective mechanism for getting rid of the buggers - if you find out they're no good - or that they've been up to no good. What happens is that they hide behind their original election victory - pretending to have a mandate from the voting public. Since the last general electio

More Kind Words

More kind words from Action 4 Equality Scotland readers about the settlement of their equal pay claims: "Thank you so much for getting me the compensation I was entitled to - but would never have received without Action 4 Equality Scotland's help. AM" "Just a wee note to say 'Thank You' for all your work in getting me my equal pay claim - it was well worth the wait. Thanking you. MB"

Meeting the Costs of Equal Pay

Several Scottish councils have asked the Scottish Government for permission to borrow extra funds - to help them meet the back pay costs of their outstanding equal pay claims. Here's what they've been allocated by way of additional 'borrowing consents' from the Scottish Government Clackmannanshire Council £1,513,000 East Dunbartonshire Council £2,786,000 Falkirk Council £5,633,000 Midlothian Council £9,091,000 West Dunbartonshire Council £4,413,000 It seems fair to assume that having asked to borrow these additional funds - the councils involved should now get their fingers out and put firm proposals on the table. And given that large sums of public money are involved - Action 4 Equality Scotland will ensure that there is a fair and just settlement of people's claims.

West Lothian

Here's an e-mail from one of our regular readers in West Lothian - if you have a story to tell, get in touch. "Hi Mark Thought you would be interested in the story on the front page of our local paper. Headlined GERMAN WEASELS about how our SNP led West Lothian Council - who have to save 45 million and will likely have to shed 1000 jobs - are taking themselves on a jolly paid by guess who over to their friends in Germany. So there we go they have not any funds to settle their moral right with the low paid hard working people who are about to get the chop - while they go swanning off with what seems not a care. People who were considering , like myself, voting SNP will no doubt have second thoughts after seeing how these jokers perform. I hope it wont be long till you and your team bring them to book on the equal pay - for all the home helps, carers, dinner ladies etc." The SNP-led council has been a big disappointment on equal pay - they've blow hot and cold ab