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Showing posts from July, 2010

Openess and Transparency

The government's culture minister - Jeremy Hunt - is calling on the BBC, no less, to be open and transparent about pay. Good for him - maybe he can be persuaded to intervene in South Lanarkshire as well - where the pay arrangements for certain traditional male jobs remain a closely guarded secret. Because South Lanarkshire is the only council in Scotland - to behave as if it's fine to ignore perfectly legitimate questions - about how the council spends public money. Jeremy Hunt said recently: "I do want the BBC to demonstrate that when it comes to their management pay they are on the same planet as everyone else” "We have learned in government that transparency is the best way to solve a lot of these issues because you are saying to the public - 'look, you're grown up, you make up your own mind'." Exactly - and that's all South Lanarkshire is being asked to do over equal pay. Put the facts on the table - then people can judge for themselves.

Bonfire of the Quangos

In the run up to Labour's landslide general election victory in 1997 - the people were promised a 'bonfire of the quangos' - if Labour were returned to power. George Robertson - who is now safely ensconced in the House of Lords - was the Scottish Labour leader at the time - but his promised 'bonfire' amounted to no more than a damp squib. Because if anything the quango state expanded under Labour - at both the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments - over the next 10 years or so. Far from fewer quangos - the end result was an even bigger unelected state - with ever increasing budgets and burgeoning numbers of staff. So, imagine the surprise at the actions of the new coalition government. For once a government has actually done what it said it was going to do - to abolish quangos wherever possible - and return their functions to ministerial and government control. And to their credit the coalition has been as good as its word - because to date the government has

More Kind Words

More kind words from a regular reader in Falkirk: "Hi Mark, Over the moon with settlement - once again a big thank you! Regards P"

MPs To Lose Final Salary Pensions

According to recent press reports Westminster MPs are set to lose their final salary pension scheme - following the recommendations of a public sector pay body. The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) is recommending that MPs basic pension be changed from "final-salary" - to an amount based on their average career earnings. Broadly speaking this means that what MPs' get back out of their pension scheme - will be directly related to what they actually pay in over their working lives - which seems all very fair and reasonable. Because final salary schemes mean that lower paid workers end up subsidising the enchanced and much more generous pensions of their better off colleagues - see post dated 2 July 2010: 'Robin Hood in Reverse (2)'. What's striking is that real leadership on this issue is finally being shown by a Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government - not the Labour party that was in power for 13 years. Labour talked the talk for years, of

Money's No Object

An enterprising reader recently asked Edinburgh City Council - a very revealing Freedom of Information (FOI) question. The question was: 'Can Edinburgh City Council confirm how much it has spent on external legal fees - in defending equal pay claims brought by former APT&C staff?' The answer is a whopping great - £184,759.25 to date - according to the council's Head of Legal Services. Edinburgh City Council's behaviour in defending these cases has been described previously - by the Employment Tribunal - as 'defending the indefensible'. Yet the council continues to write cheques for huge sums of money - despite having lost the underlying legal arguments - at every turn. Just who is giving this advice - how can it possibly be worth £184,759.25 - and why don't senior councillors and officials question whether they are getting value for money? No doubt Edinburgh's Cook Supervisors, Social Care Workers and Classroom Assistants - will be outraged to

Spotlight on South Lanarkshire

Many thanks to the readers who passed on the copy of the South Lanarkshire Council report on Single Status - see post dated 23 July 2010. The report referred to in the post is actually dated 23 February 2003 - a full year before the council implemented its Single Status pay and grading structures in April 2004. In effect, the report betrays the council's real intentions over Single Status. Because far from delivering on the historic commitment to equal pay - enshrined in the 1999 Single Status Agreement - South Lanarkshire was already planning to protect the old bonus-related pay hierarchy - which favoured the traditional male jobs. Here's what the report said - for anyone who missed Friday's post: “Acceptance and implementation of the Single Status package would be on the basis of trying to avoid employees experiencing a reduction in basis contractual earnings, this would be achieved using the Competence Based Grading Scheme.” “This would include double time pay

Democracy and Bananas

The big three public sector unions have spoken - GMB, Unite and Unison - or at least their 'political committees' have made known their recommendations. Ed Miliband is the man they want to be the next Labour leader - in preference to his brother David who is seen as a 'moderniser' - and is therefore regarded with deep suspicion by union bosses Ed was previously one of Gordon Brown's inner circle - and is now seen as the only man who can stop brother David from being crowned king of Labour's castle. Two other candidates - Diane Abbott and Ed Balls - are both much closer to the unions in policy terms. Particularly Diane Abbott who has always been against the war in Iraq - and has always been in favour of scrapping Trident, Britain's 'independent' nuclear deterrent. Diane is also the only candidate who was not a minister in the last disastrous Labour government - and who opposed Gordon Brown's disgraceful decision to abandon the 10p tax ra

Spotlight on South Lanarkshire

Here's a copy of a letter that has been sent today by e-mail to all South Lanarkshire MSPs - a list of South Lanarkshire's Consituency and Regional List MSPs' has been published previously - in the post dated 15 July 2010. Dear Colleague South Lanarkshire Council and Equal Pay I attach a copy of a letter to the Scottish Information Commissioner. The letter focuses on the refusal of South Lanarkshire Council to publish basic pay information about traditional male council jobs. The problem stems from a strategic decision taken by South Lanarkshire in February 2003 - which is summarised in the following extract from an official council report: “Acceptance and implementation of the Single Status package would be on the basis of trying to avoid employees experiencing a reduction in basis contractual earnings, this would be achieved using the Competence Based Grading Scheme.” “This would include double time payments for Sunday overtime where this is part of employees exi

'If You're in a Hole, Stop Digging'

Denis Healey, the old Labour war-horse, had a favourite saying for friend and foe alike - "If you're in a hole, stop digging". Unite could do worse than to reflect on Healey's sage advice as it contemplates the result of an internal union ballot - over a pay offer from British Airways (2.9% this year and 3% next year). The unions says it balloted around 11,000 members over the offer - which sounds a bit casual and vague - was it 11,001 or 11,999? In any event the result was less than impressive - because only 5,105 members bothered to vote - much less than half of the total (whatever it was). Apparently 3,419 members voted to reject the offer - while 1,686 voted to accept. So, on paper the union has a clear 2 to 1 rejection - but on a very poor turnout - which is why union leaders should now pause for thought. Some union activists take the view that - a majority is a majority - and that 50% plus just 1 extra vote - is tantamount to a democratic mandate. But thi

A Bit Weird

The Guardian had a quirky piece in the paper the other day - listing 10 things that people didn't know about the Labour party. Here's one of them: Research in the 1980s concluded Labour party members were "a bit weird". Deborah Mattinson says that she commissioned a study to enable the party to learn more about its membership. The woman who conducted the research spoke to party members all around Britain and made a worrying discovery. This is what she told Mattinson: "Basically, they are all a bit weird. I mean, what they had in common wasn't their political opinions – they covered the whole spectrum, from centre-left to far left – they weren't united by any ideology or political belief. No, it was that they were all slightly strange people ... strange personally, I mean. They were people who really did want to spend their evenings sitting in church halls or community centres agonising over quite arcane points of detail. And they weren't just doin

Ongoing Claims

A reader from North Lanarkshire dropped me a note earlier today regarding her ongoing claim - here's my response which may help to answer similar queries from other readers: "Dear Colleague North Lanarkshire Council - Ongoing Claims Yes, you do indeed have an ongoing claim against North Lanarkshire Council - which Action 4 Equality Scotland is already pursuing on your behalf. The reason for your ongoing claim is that the council was only prepared to settle your claim up until the date that the council introduced new Single Status pay arrangements. In North Lanarkshire's case this took place at the end of December 2006 - so you have a further claim from January 2007 onwards - because the council continued to protect the much higher earnings of the big bonus earning jobs. You do not need to do anything about your ongoing claim at this stage - this is already well in hand. Please ignore any desperate attempts by the trade unions to tell you otherwise - because they

An Abuse of Public Funds

The press reported recently that the House of Commons had been using public funds - to track down the 'mole' who helped expose the MPs' expenses scandal. Apparently, £16,000 was handed over to a private intelligence firm, Deltica Limited - owned by the arms manufacturer BAE - but the investigation proved unsuccessful. The highly paid mole hunters did not find the mole - but no doubt held onto their £16,000 fee - despite failing so miserably in their appointed task. In my view the person who leaked the information deserved a medal - and our grateful thanks - not an investigation by the House of Commons. Because s/he shone a light on the widespread abuse of the expenses system and - in doing so - performed a truly valuable public service. Without that information being leaked and published by the newspapers - we would still be in the dark today - which suited MPs just fine. We would be clueless about the floating duck ponds, phantom mortgages, dog food and whole host of

More Kind Words

More kind words from another reader in North Lanarkshire: "Hi Mark, Just had to write to thank you and all the team for all the hard work on our behalf - the settlement is now in the bank. At times we wondered if it would ever end like this - so once again THANK YOU ALL so much. Would you be so kind and thank the Fox-Cross team for their hard work also. Kind Regards HL"

Falkirk Settlements

The settlement process for Falkirk Council is getting underway - individual letters will start going out this week. As in other areas the settlement goes up to the date that Falkrik Council introduced its new Single Status pay arrangements - which was on 18 December 2006. The council is only prepared to settle cases up until this date - at the moment - so everyone has an ongoing claim from 18 December 2006 onwards - for a period of up to three years. The ongoing claim is because of the protection period that the council applied to the big bonus earning male jobs - which had their earnings protected for a further three years after the new pay arrangements came into play. Action 4 Equality Scotland is already taking this claim up on your behalf - there is no need for you to do anything - just sit tight and this additional part of your claim will be settled in due course. We are continuing to fight for the rest of the money people are owed - and will let you know as soon as there are

More Kind Words

More kind words from another reader in North Lanarkshire - after so many years of being kept in the dark - it's great to see people finally getting their just reward. As ever, glad to have been of service: "Hi Mark, I would just like to say a great big thank-you to you and all your team for doing a great job in getting us our settlement with North Lanarkshire Council. I received my cheque on Saturday, so thanks a million. CA"

25% Cuts

When Unison came into being in 1993 - it was a shotgun marriage, a wedding of convenience - a financially driven merger of three formerly independent unions - COSHE, NALGO and NUPE. One of the first things the new union announced, after an initial spending splurge - was that budgets had to be cut - which would mean 25% fewer staff. Because the new organisation had to tighten its belt to survive. No longer could the new union simply - spend, spend spend - otherwise members' contributions would have to go through the roof - and that solution was completely unacceptable. A new era had arrived which meant tough choices and hard times ahead - relatively speaking at least - compared to the salad days of the past. Now there were trade unions inside Unison, of course - representing the interests of different groups of staff - and the foot soldiers, as ever, were not responsible for creating the financial crisis. Nonetheless the strategy of slashing spending was implemented - forceful

'Privatisation - the answer', says GMB

Desperate times call for desperate measures - so they say. So the GMB must be dire straits indeed - to suggest that some of Glasgow's finest works of art should be auctioned off - to pay for budget shortfalls and bring an end to a long-running industrial dispute. Normally, the big public sector unions are keen to promote the idea of - Private Bad, Public Good. But on this occasion they appear to be making an exception. According to the Sunday Herald, the GMB is calling for works of art to be sold off - presumably to individual private buyers - with the proceeds being used to persuade union members to stop taking strike action in Glasgow's museums and galleries . In recent days strike action has closed Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the People’s Palace and the Gallery Of Modern Art – three of ­Glasgow’s leading visitor attractions. So, there we have it - one of the UK's biggest unions supports the privatisation of public assets - when it suits its own narrow,

More Kind Words

More kind words - this time from one of our male readers in North Lanarkshire. "Hi Mark Just a quick thank you to you and all your team for fighting our cause. Received my revised offer from North Lanarkshire Council yesterday. Very much obliged. N".

Model of Democracy

Henry Ford, with typical American chutzpah, is said to have sold his revolutionary Model T Ford with a firm pledge to potential customers: "You can have any colour you like - so long as it's black." Well, the trade unions could teach the arch-American capitalist a thing or two - about the hard sell of politics - a hundred years later. Union members can support anyone they like when it comes to party politics - but union bosses will continue to act as if their members all vote Labour. Take Unison's political fund, for example - unlike other Labour affiliated trade unions - Unison has two political funds. One is called the Afffiliated Political Fund and channels all its money into the Labour party - the other is the General Political Fund and is used for more general political campaigning. The two political funds came about becaue Unison merged from three former unions - COHSE, NALGO and NUPE - in 1993 but before then NALGO did not affiliate to the Labour party - w

South Lanarkshire and MPs' Expenses

South Lanarkshire Council is becoming an embarassment over its hypocritical behaviour on Freedom of Information - even the council's staunchest supporters are beginning to question its conduct. Here's what the council says about its attitude towards Freedom of information on its web site: "Freedom of Information legislation is designed to ensure openness and accountability. This means that wherever possible, we will make the information you request available to you." And here's my latest appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner - the 64,000 dollar question remains the same: If South Lanarkshire Council has nothing to hide, why is it so desperate to keep these details from public scrutiny? "Dear Scottish Information Commissioner South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) – FOISA request (LSO 3 – SCP 25 etc) I enclose an exchange of correspondence with South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) regarding a FOISA enquiry, which I initiated with the council on 10 May 20

Mad, Bad and Dangerous

The press is having a field day over the publication of (Lord) Peter Mandelson's memoirs - which provide proof positive, as if proof were needed - that politics is a poisonous old business. Gordon Brown was apparently 'mad, bad and dangerous' according to Tony Blair - or so says Peter Mandelson. And who are we to disbelieve such a 'noble' politician - who was elevated to the House of Lords and then brought back into government - by none other than Gordon Brown himself. So, the New Labour project has finally ended with its three principal architects - Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson - all stabbing each other in the back. But the fun of having these giant egos laid bare and open to such public ridiclue should not obscure a much bigger truth - the complete mess that Labour ended up making of the economy. What Peter Mandelson exposes is not just the enmity between the big beasts of the jungle - he also confirms the serial mismanagement of the UK econo

Equal Opportunities Employer?

Readers in Edinburgh continue to keep up the pressure on the city council - over its ridiculous refusal to make settlement offers to all groups of staff. Up until now, the council has stubbornly refused to recognise the perfectly valid claims of male workers in predominantly female posts - Home Carers and Cooks, for example. Yet women workers doing these jobs were made settlement offers long ago. Edinburgh City Council is the only council in Scotland to make this distinction - which any fool can see is blatantly discriminatory. How can a male Home Carer or Cook doing exactly the same job as a woman - be treated so differently? The council is on a hiding to nothing over this issue - yet the council has been dragging things out and refusing to face up to reality. But readers in Edinburgh have been fighting back - they've been making their views known to the council leader and other local politicians such as MPs. Goood for them, because Edinburgh City Council is making a

More Kind Words

More kind words words from a reader in North Lanarkshire - whose settlement offer was held up for some reason, but thankfully the problem has now been resolved. "Hey Mark, Just writing to thank you guys for sorting the problem out with North Lanarkshire Council. I hadnt received any offer and was getting into a bit of a panic. Anyway offer has now arrived and accepted. And just want to say thanks a million to you and your team for all the hard work you guys have put in. I am more than happy with my offer. SM"

South Lanarkshire MSPs

Here's a list of Holyrood MSPs covering the South Lanarkshire Council area. Constituency MSPs The following constituency MSPs all cover specific geographical areas of the council - and will normally only deal with constituents living in their local constituency - are five all Labour party MSPs. Karen.Gillon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk - Clydesdale James.Kelly.msp@scottish.parliament.uk - Rutherglen Andy.Kerr.msp@scottish.parliament.uk - East Kilbride Tom.McCabe.msp@scottish.parliament.uk - Hamilton South Michael.McMahon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk - Hamilton North Central Scotland - List MSPs The Central Scotland group of List MSPs covers the bulk of the South Lanarkshire Council area - and can raise issues on behalf of constituents living in area. The idea of a list MSP is to achieve political balance across the country - to provide local people with a choice of whom to contact for advice and support - in case one single party dominates the constituency MSP section

Self-Help in South Lanarkshire

Readers in South Lanarkshire are in touch regularly to ask: "Why is equal pay taking so long to resolve in our council - when so many other councils have already reached settlements, or partial settlements at least?" Well the answer is that South Lanarkshire is doing everything in its power - to frustrate and delay people's claims. The council refuses to provide proper pay information about traditional male jobs - then uses public money to slow the process down - at every turn. The council says it has nothing to hide - then behaves as if its life depends on preventing local pay arrangements from coming under proper scrutiny. So, what can people do to help themselves? 1 Get angry at the council's behaviour South Lanarkshire's behaviour is disgraceful - no other council in Scotland has behaved this way over equal pay - its refusal to operate openly and transparently is a serious public issue. 2 Get organised - raise the issue with your local MSP At this rate

More Kind Words

More kind words from another reader in North Lanarkshire: "Hi Mark, Many thanks to you, Action 4 Equality Scotland and Stefan Cross Solicitors. My settlement (gained by you) from North Lanarkshire Council was considerably more than first offered. Thanks again. A grateful Home Support Worker"

Dutch Courage

Once upon a time, Johan Cruyff was the best football player in the world - but there's some real steel as well as talent about him - as he spoke out about his team's tactics during the World Cup Final. While some of the Dutch team sought comfort in blaming the 'English' referee - Cruyff spoke up and spoke the truth - denouncing the Holland players over their attempts to physically intimidate and bully the opposition. Who knows how this went down in Holland - but it's a safe bet that Cruyff's comments were not universally popular - as he described his own team's play as 'dirty', 'ugly' and 'anti-football'. Cruyff deserves a medal for standing up and being counted - for being unafraid to call a spade a spade - for refusing to make mealy mouthed excuses for his own side. The same is true in all walks of life - whether over football or equal pay - doing the right thing is never easy - sometimes you need to take your courage in bot

Elephant in the Room

Trust the GMB to miss the elephant in the room - and to go off on a tangent about something of no real importance to their members. The GMB is banging on about some head teacher in London - who earned over £200,000 last year - which the GMB has uncovered using the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation. Now one person - even a high flying head teacher - should not be earning two full-time salaries from two separate full-time jobs - out of the public purse. Even though MPs and other politicians have been getting away with doing just that for years - two wrongs don't make a right. So, the GMB makes a fair point - but just where has the union been all these years? Where was the union in exposing the big pay differences between male and female council jobs - which directly affected the interests of its own members? Instead of dealing with the real issue - the elephant in the room - the GMB takes the easy option and has a pop at some head teacher in London. Well that won

Spanish Practices and Party Funding

The old regime that is still in control of the Labour party is beginning to feel the heat - as the issue of party funding comes under scrutiny. Labour now raises most of its money from the unions that affiliate to the party - via a 'Spanish practice' known as the political fund. The political fund allows the unions to divert part of a member's contributions - normally around one week's contributions out of every 13 - into the fund which is then used for a range of activities to support the Labour party. The political fund is a scam - because it top slices relatively small amounts of money which grow into significant sums - as they are gathered from millions of unwitting union members. Few members understand how the political fund operates - members can only opt out - they are not asked to make a conscious decision to opt in - or to support a specific political party. Which is how Scotland - where multi-party politics has been the norm for years - it transpires tha

Follow the Money

In the heady days of the Watergate scandal that led to the forced resignation of President Richard Millhouse Nixon - the advice of 'Deepthroat' (the mysterious Whitehouse mole) was: 'Follow the money'. Sounds like good advice when it comes to Labour's leadership contest - with David Miliband outstripping all of his rivals - including brother Ed. The press reports that David Miliband has money pouring into his campaign coffers to the tune of £185,000 - which has been raised since the general election. An amount that puts the shadow foreign secretary way ahead of his four rivals - Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott. In fact, David Miliband has been so successful - he has easily exceeded Labour's campaign cap of £150,000. So, this is all shaping up as a rather ill-matched contest. Because while Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have raised £28,419 and £15,000 respectively - poor old Andy Burnham and left-winger Diane Abbott, have raised nothing, app

South Lanarkshire - hearing dates

The next hearing dates involving South Lanarkshire Council are at the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the following dates Thursday 29 July 2010 Friday 30 July 2010 The venue on both days is the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Edinburgh - at 52 Melville Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7HF - a short walk from Haymarket Station. Individual claimants are able to attend if they wish - the hearings are likely to start at 10am. If you do go along make yourself known to Carol Fox who will be there on behalf of the Fox Cross legal team. The hearing is required because South Lanarkshire Council has appealed an earlier order from the Employment Tribunals - to release information about the pay of traditional male jobs. Unlike other councils in Scotland - South Lanarkshire has refused to release this information voluntarily.

Attack Dogs

It's a true saying in politics - that people's deadliest political enemies are often to be found within their own ranks - not from rival parties. Take the recent exchanges between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown supporters - inside the Labour party. Lord Mandleson - who has a book coming out this week - speaks the truth and admits the worst kept secret of the past 15 years. That Gordon Brown and his loyal lieutenants wasted valuable time and effort - over many years - trying to undermine their own party leader and Prime Minister, Tony Blair. So what? But then Mandelson ramps up the debate - no doubt with his book sales in mind - by the deliberate use of inflammatory language - describing the Prime Minister as dealing with an 'insurgency next door', i.e. from the Chancellor's office at No 11 Downing Street. Next thing you know, Gordon Brown's most loyal attack dog and former spin-doctor - Charlie Whelan - is unleashed. Whelan savages Mandelson for his

People in Glass Houses

Dave Prentis has been elected to a third term as Unison's general secretary - apparently. The good news was reported recently in the press - with little fanfare and sparse details about the ballot result. Even a vist to the Unison web site throws little light on the subject - beyond the number of votes cast for each candidate - which are reported as follows: 1 Dave Prentis 145,351 (67.2%) 2 Roger Bannister 42,651 (19.7%) 3 Paul Holmes 28,114 (13%) What's not available is information about the national turnout - or a breakdown of how votes were cast region by region, for example. Elsewhere on the Unison web site - the union proudly boasts to have in excess of 1.3 million members - how much in excess is not explained. So, what does this mean in terms of turnout for the general secretary's election? Well, 1.3 million divided by 216,116 (the total number of votes cast for all 3 candidates) - equals a turnout of 16.6% of the entire union membership - at the very best (s

More Kind Words

More kind words from two regular readers of the blog site. "Dear Mark "We appreciate greatly what you have done for us in reaching this settlement from our employers and understand the amount of work that has been put into all our cases. Well done and thanks J" And again - this time from a retired reader. "Dear Colleagues I am writing to thank you for all the good work, time and effort you put into dealing with my equal pay claim against Glasgow City Council. I have receive my settlement from Glasgow City Council which would not have been possible it it hadn't been for your help. Once again thank you Yours sincerely HW"

Stop (One Third of) the Cuts!

David Aaronovich is a political journalist - a commentator who writes a regular column for the Times newspaper. Like others of his trade, you can take or leave what Aaronovich has to say - depending on your views or your mood - on any given day. But as a long-time Labour supporter - Aaronovitch deserves a hearing for speaking honestly as a critical friend - for telling it as it is, or as he sees it at least - without serving up the usual stale diet of slogans and party propaganda. Here's a slightly abridged version of what he had to say yesterday - on the looming battle over cuts in public spending. "But here's the problem. There is more than just a hint of the the old red elastic in the way Labour figures are now discussing politics. They are being pulled back into the comfortable Thatcher-era Labour politics of "stop the cuts" and "support the fightback" activism. Yet, by its own estimate, some two thirds of the cuts being made by the coalition

Openess and Transparency

The Taxpayers Alliance has been having some fun at the expense of union leaders - by publishing a 'rich list' showing that some of them enjoy very healthy salary packages. For example, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, is reportedly paid a salary and benefits package worth £127,436 a year. Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union receives £115,804 - while Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union earns £111,112 - apparently. Unison in responding to the Taxpayers Alliance said that Mr Prentis 'is worth every penny that he is paid - and it is not taxpayers' money'. A spokesman said: 'He has 1,500 staff, a turnover of around £160 million and has a lot of meetings with chief executives who are paid in the gazillions.' Now, I've met more chief executives in the public sector than I care to remember - but I have yet to meet one who is paid in the 'gazillions'. In any event, the comparison is not very apt - what's the p

Macho Men

The Guardian has an interesting piece today about the quality of leadership in one of the main civil service trade unions - PCS. The article written by a former PCS member, David Calder, criticises the union's general secretary - Mark Serwotka - for refusing to face up to reality and negotiate sensiblly on behalf of ordinary PCS members. Here a summary of the key points. " Mark Serwotka should go" "The PCS's swaggering failure to negotiate has left its members exposed to terrible, and preventable, redundancy cuts." And so that Ozymandias of the trade union movement, Mark Serwotka, has his "victory". Look on his works, ye mighty host of unfortunate civil servants, and despair. Civil servants are now, thanks in no small part to the tactical clod-footedness of Serwotka's Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), facing a 67% cut to their redundancy entitlements under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS). As yet, the finer deta

North Lanarkshire - Settlement Process

Lots of calls and e-mails are still coming in from readers in North Lanarkshire - about the settlement process which is well underway. Yet again a significant number of claimants have not been made revised offers - for reasons that are not fully understood - because the council has still to explain its position. But there is no need to panic or worry. Because as far as Action 4 Equality Scotland is concerned all valid claims - i.e. for people in predominantly female former manual worker jobs - are covered by the recent agreement reached with North Lanarkshire Council. At this stage the council is not willing to settle the claims of former APT&C employees - nor those of male workers in predominantly male posts, e.g. school janitors - so these cases will continue through the Employment Tribunals until a settlement is achieved. . As things stand every individual settlement query has already been recorded - and has already been raised with North Lanarkshire Council. The ball is o

Union Blues?

Here's an e-mail from a frustrated reader in North Lanarkshire - who's fed up at the lack of feedback and information from her trade union, Unison. My normal advice to people in this situation would be: "Don't give up - make the union do its job properly". But if you're at the end of your tether - then why not consider transferring your case to Action 4 Equality Scotland. For further information about how to do this - contact Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com "Hi Mark I have been reading your website with great interest over the past few weeks and have been glad to see that your organisation has successfully won equal pay cases for home carers up and down the country. I have an equal pay claim currently lodged with Unisons' solicitors Thompsons and I am frustrated at the lack of information from Unison. I have accessed their website but there is nothing current re our equal pay fight and was advised by two different members of staff at

Cutting the Cost of Politics

The coalition government has announced plans to cut the number of Westminster MPs - from 650 to a mere 600 honourable members. Good for them - at last an outbreak of common sense - if a bit too modest - when you consider that this involves a cut of less than 8% on the current number of MPs. Apparently this will save the country £12 million a year - to spend on more important and useful things - which is not to be sniffed at in the present financial climate. But in Scotland it smacks of political leaders waking up to reality - at long last. Why? Because a Scottish Parliament was created in 1999 along with an additional 129 MSPs - who then assumed responsibility for 'devolved' areas of work - previously overseen by Westminster MPs. The Scottish Parliament is now responsible for health services, local government - including education and social work, police and fire services, agriculture and so on. Around half of what Westminster MPs did previously - was handed over to the

A Short History of Equal Pay

Here's the companion piece to the letter published in yesterday's post - on Local Government and Equal Pay. A Short History of Equal Pay "Action 4 Equality began its activities on equal pay in Scotland in August 2005 - but before we arrived on the scene equal pay was dead a dead issue. The landmark 1999 Single Status Agreement had still not been implemented in Scotland and had missed two implementation deadlines in 2002 - and again 2004.No significant activity was taking place in the employment tribunals over equal pay. The trade unions had always said that legal action against the employers would follow - if collective bargaining failed to deliver change - but nothing happened as the original agreement was allowed to slowly wither and die. In reality, both the trade unions and the council employers lacked the political will to end the widespread pay discrimination in Scottish local government – which they had both promised to sweep away in 1999. In 2005 Action 4 Equ

Local Government and Equal Pay

Last year, the Scottish Parliament produced a report on equal pay - following a lengthy enquiry by the Local Government and Communities Committee (LGCC). More recently the committee invited further views - here's a summary of what I had to say. "Dear Convener Local Government and Equal Pay I refer to your letter dated 15 April 2010. Action 4 Equality Scotland, in conjunction with Fox Cross Solicitors, has negotiated settlements with several councils over the past six months and our experience is that employers are becoming much more willing to settle cases when faced with a GMF (Genuine Material Factor) hearing. A GMF hearing is where the employers have to explain, but also be able to justify their discriminatory pay practices. Because by the time a GMF hearing is held the pay gap between traditional male and female job groups has already been established as a matter of fact. Faced with this situation at a GMF hearing, the employers, to be perfectly candid, have to eithe

Road to Nowhere

Scotland on Sunday ran a rather strange article yesterday - with blood curdling threats from trade union leaders which were all made on an anonymous basis - h ere are a few extracts from the piece written by Hamish Macdonell. "Scotland is facing a 21st-century "winter of discontent" with strikes, demonstrations and industrial unrest on a scale not seen for a generation, union leaders have warned. One senior Scottish union leader claimed yesterday that a massive wave of public sector strikes was now "inevitable" following the UK government's decision to impose massive cuts on the public sector. Unions are waiting until October before deciding exactly how best to fight the cuts, but they have started putting private plans in place now for the strike ballots, demonstrations and protests they believe are inevitable. One Scottish union leader said: "I do think strike action is inevitable. That will not be the first port of call. We don't want to go

More Kind Words

More kind words from a long-standing reader in North Lanarkshire Council - glad to have been of service. "Dear Action 4 Equality Scotland I would just like to let you know that on checking today I find the council has processed the agreed amount for my equal pay claim - bringing this first part of my claim to a successful conclusion. Can I take this opportunity to say a huge thanks to Mark for taking the time to meet Home Support Workers in my area - so they could hear first hand what they should consider - when we were offered our Compromise Agreements from the council. I would like to thank everyone involved with the Action 4 Equality Scotland team without exception - there were times when the workforce doubted just how this would turn out - but hard work and dedication has paid off. Thanks so much. ML"

Robin Hood in Reverse (2)

An interested reader has been in touch about the 'Robin Hood in Reverse' post - dated 22 June 2010. While agreeing with the contents of the article - the reader goes on to ask about the many council officials who are allowed to leave the service - with a generous added years boost to their pension packages. How come this only ever seems to apply to middle ranking and senior council officials - why do the lower paid groups never seem to get the benefit of added years? - the reader asks. Good question. I bet if you asked a Freedom of Information (FOI) question or three of Scotland's councils - along the following lines - you'd get a very interesting reply: 1 How many council staff have been allowed to leave in the 'interests of the efficiency of the service' in the past five years? 2 How much did this actually cost - in terms of added years and boosting people's pension benefits? 3 Of those who received enhanced pension benefits, how many earned more than