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Showing posts from August, 2010

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

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 rate.

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

Labour's Recipe for Happiness

The Labour party is on the verge of bankruptcy - says the old Labour seadog, John Prescott - now Lord Prescott of Hull. Labour is £20 million in the red - but aims to clear all its debts by 2016 - which all seems very admirable. As Mr Micawber once said: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six - result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six - result misery." If the Labour party were a metaphor for the UK economy - you would have to say they are following the same policies laid down by the coalition government. Labour is not trying to spend its way out of trouble - racking up ever more debts for someone else to take care of - at some point in the future. Oh no - Labour is facing up to its problems - by deciding to live within its means. Labour spent £10 million in this year's general election and is now heavily reliant on union bosses to provide the party with cash - never a

Mining a Rich Seam

The Independent newspaper confirms that the financial arrangements surrounding Arthur Scargill are even more ridiculous than they first appeared. Here's what the paper says about the unbelievably generous payments still being made to the former NUM president - who retired eight years ago in 2002. "Since resigning as president of the NUM in 2002, Scargill has continued in the role of honorary president. He still maintains an office at the union's headquarters in Barnsley. He is paid a salary of more than £30,000 and the NUM pays £33,000 a year for his flat in the Barbican area of London. Until recently he was receiving allowances for his fuel and telephone bills. Those were stopped after the NUM conference in June, and the union is now deliberating whether to continue paying for his flat and salary. Mr Kitchen said: "It seems ludicrous that he is drawing more money per year than what the official members are drawing, given that he retired in 2002." Scargill

Speaking the Truth

John Simpson, the respected journalist and broadcaster, speaks the truth in an interview with the Sunday's Times - about fat cat salaries at the BBC. He says: "I'm a public servant, so my salary should be made public." Simply put, well said - and to the point.

Hard Times and Tough Choices

The Labour party always agonises over choosing a new leader. Because unlike other parties Labour has lots of vested interests - for example the trade unions - who try and build support for a candidate they can hope to influence as party leader - and possibly as a future Prime Minister. But the trade unions are not really motivated by who is really the best person for the job. So, in the 1990's the unions tried to persuade their members to vote for 'anybody but Blair'. No matter what people might say about Tony Blair now - he was clearly the best candidate, head and shoulders above his rivals. His main rival at the time, Gordon Brown, didn't even throw his hat into the ring - knowing he would have been outshone by the relaxed charm of Tony Blair - even with the trade unions on his side. The unions didn't like Tony Blair because of what he represented in their eyes. He was not 'one of them' - a bit of a maverick, someone who believed in merit and indivi

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

Bald Men and Combs

During the week, the newspapers reported that Arthur Scargill was effectively being thrown out of his own trade union - the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers). According to those now in charge, Arthur Scragill he can no longer be a full financial member - a move which denies him full union benefits - though he remains honorary president for life. Sounds a bit petty - but the key players do conjure up the image of two bald men fighting over a comb - with the once proud NUM now reduced to a mere 1500 members, i.e. smaller than many local union branches. But it was always going to end in tears - after the bitter miners' strike of 1984/85 - which split the union from head to toe. Jimmy Reid once famously said that if Kamikaze pilots set up their own trade union - Arthir Scargill would have been the ideal choice as leader. The latest spat follows Scargill's recent threaten of legal action over the NUM's refusal to continue subsidising the fuel used at his Barnsley home or

Equal Pay for Women

Refuse workers in West Lothian are apparently going on strike - in a local dispute over equal pay. The details are rather sparse, but the important question to ask is: "Why do the trade unions always get their knickers in a twist about equal pay for bonus earning male workers - when there has never been a single strike in favour of equal pay for women?" Now whether a strike is the right tactic is a moot point - but you get my general drift here, no doubt. As soon as the interests of traditional male workers is threatened - the trade unions are manning the barricades. But for years the trade unions simply ignored the fact - that their women members were being taken for a ride. The trade unions just turned a blind eye to the fact that a Home Carer or a Cook earned only £6.00 an hour - while a street sweeper or refuse worker earned £9.00 or £10.00 an hour. The unions - as a friend said to me recently - are a disgrace when it comes to equal pay.

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

More Kind Words

More kind words from a regular reader in North Lanarkshire Council. Some people have had to wait a bit longer than others to get their settlement offers resolved - but thankfully all's well that ends well. "Hi Mark, Finally got my offer in this morning. Thanks very much for all the hard work your team have done - I'm very pleased. Home Support Worker"

Foot Dragging Councils

A regular reader has written to the newspapers about foot dragging councils - i.e. those allocated additional borrowing funds by the Scottish government - but who have yet to explain how they intend to spend this extra money. Here's an extract of what the reader has to say: "Dear Sir, Equal Pay claims in Scottish Councils Having plenty of time of my hands since being made redundant recently, I decided last weekend to conduct my own research into the “secret world” of equal pay claims in Scotland. I say “secret” because no-one has been able to tell me what happened to the Scottish Government money that several Scottish councils “borrowed” to help them fund equal pay claims. This week, I have been writing to Michael McMahon MSP. Mr McMahon informs me that he is also frustrated that these claims are taking so long to settle but he continues by laying the blame for all of this at the SNP Government. Ironic?! The SNP Government are not to blame for this! They only inher

The Man Who Wasn't There

It has become something of a sport these days to bash the Liberal Democrats. Now that the pantomime of the last Labour government is over - Punch and Judy politics has turned its attention to Nick Clegg and his supporters. Yet the fact is that it's been the Lib Dems - or more particularly Treasury spokesperson Vince Cable - who got it absolutely right about the mess the last government was making of the UK economy. In the House of Commons in 2003, the Lib Dem's Vince Cable asked Gordon Brown (the then Chancellor): "Is it not true...the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level?" Gordon Brown - who was in sole charge of the government's economic policy replied: "The Honourable Gentleman has been writing articles in the newspapers, as reflected in his contribution, that spread

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't

GMB - 'We're Full Up'

Readers in Glasgow have been in touch to say that their trade union - the GMB - is telling them that they're full up. The union is no longer open for business - when it comes to equal pay claims. Apparently, a decree of sorts has been issued and the GMB is telling members that they will not take on any more cases - if claims were not already registered by the end of March 2010. Quite why this should be so is a mystery - why leave people high and dry - why draw artificial lines in the sand when people face enough problems in the fight for equal pay? Maybe it's just too much bother - who knows. Anyway, the good news is that what the GMB is saying is a load of old baloney - so if you think you have a legitimate claim - don't be put off by what the union says.

Brasso and Brass Necks

Ed Miliband has come up with a wizard wheeze in the Labour leadership election - he hes written an open letter to Liberal Democrat supporters - inviting them to 'come home' to Labour. Here's an extract of what Brother Ed had to say: "At some point you have to conclude that this is not a mistake here or there, but part of a pattern. The pattern is of a leadership that has sold out and betrayed your traditions, including that of your recent leadership: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell. I believe that from this leadership contest you can see a party emerge which under my leadership shares your values. To the 1.5 million people who supported Labour in 1997 but have since then switched to support the Lib Dems, and to those who are long-term Lib Dem supporters, I ask you to look again at Labour. If you join Labour you can come together with the emerging majority in the Labour party who want change that is real and lasting. If you join before 8 September you can vot

Rogue Factors

Picking up where I left off on 20 August 2010 - the best way to deal with a rogue factor is to get organised. Educate, Agitate, Organise - as they used to say in the trade union movement. Like most people moving into a new building - initially you will have much more on your mind than factoring charges - so it takes a while before the penny drops - before you can see the wood through the trees. But after some weeks or months - you will start to notice that some jobs you're paying top dollar for aren't actually being done. Or maybe the job is being done - but that it takes a tiny amount of time and effort - compared to the charges being levied by the factor. So, the thing to do is to ask to see the records and receipts - and if that causes 'Haw Maw' or if the records are full of gobbledegook - you should definitely smell a rat. The problem is that rogue factors fight dirty - they don't play by the Marquis of Queensbury's rules - they hide the truth and try

Bermuda Triangles v Freedom of Information

As regular readers know, South Lanarkshire Council is Scotland's Bermuda Triangle - when it comes to freedom of information. Mysterious things happen - people claim to lose all memory of important events - logic gets turned upside down - in fact it's like an episode of 'LOST'. So, here's a copy of an e-mail that was sent yesterday to all South Lanarkshire MSPs. Some have already responded and asked for further information - or indicated that they will be taking the issue up with the council. The more readers who ask their MSPs to get involved - the sooner we'll get to the bottom of things. Watch this space for further news and developments. "Dear MSP Freedom of Information v South Lanarkshire Council Please find enclosed a copy of a FOISA review request to South Lanarkshire Council. Every other council in Scotland is quite happy to explain the background and origins of their job evaluation schemes - which are, of course, instrumental in dete

South Lanarkshire MSPs

South Lanarkshire MSPs are beginning to get stuck into the issues surrounding South Lanarkshire Council and freedom of information. In one way or another I've heard from the following MSPs - James Kelly, Karen Gillon, Margaret Mitchell, Alex Neil and John Wilson. Not all MSPs responded which could be for a variety of reasons including: 1 Some MSPs are just not interested - despite what they say 2 Some MSPs may have been on holiday 3 Some MSPs want to consult colleagues - before deciding what to do or say 4 Some MSPs are allowing another colleague to take the lead In any event, the proof will be in the pudding - what MSPs actually do to stand up for their constituents - and hold South Lanarkshire Council to account. The more people who contact their MSPs, the better - so once again 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

Voting With Their Feet

Special Needs Assistants continue to vote with their feet - see the exchange of e-mails below with a reader from North Lanarkshire. Similar enquiries are now coming in from Fife - because of the debacle over 'lost' paperwork and internal grading appeals. If you feel the same way, drop mark Irvine a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com "Dear B Do you actually have a claim underway with Unison? If so, you can simply transfer this to Action 4 Equality Scotland instead of starting up the whole process all over again. All I need at this stage is your address and post code - to get things moving Kind regards Mark Original Message - Subject: equal pay Hi Mark, My name is BC and I was given your e-mail by one of my school colleagues. I have worked as a Special Needs Assistant since 2001. I'm sure at the time of the equal pay dispute I filled in a claims form through the union Unison, but their response hasn't been great and they don't give much info

Fife Council

A number of readers have been in touch to ask if their equal pay claim is affected by this Fife debacle over 'lost' grading appeals. If you've got a claim running with Action 4 Equality Scotland - the straight answer is NO. Because your claim for the 'protection period' is already underway - and unlike council the management and trade unions - Action 4 Equality Scotland hasn't managed to 'lose' vital pieces of information. In fact, if any readers want to transfer their claims to Action 4 Equality Scotland - that can normally be done quite easily. Just send your full name, address and post code to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

LOST!

No, it's not that barmy American science fiction programme I'm on about - but something just as unbelievable, it has to be said. Fife Council has apparently 'lost' all the paperwork concerning the grading appeals of Pupil Support Assistants - which is a bit like losing your passport, birth certificate or winning lottery ticket. Now most people put these things in a safe place. In fact in this day and age important documents are all backed up on computer disks - so they are virtually impossible to lose! But not Fife Council - so how could this happen? No one knows - or at least no one is saying - and Fife's Pupil Support Assistants are all understandably up in arms. As usual the trade unions are running about like headless chickens - predictably blaming the council for the mess. Why didn't the unions have copies of their members appeals - if the unions were handling their cases? Readers are keeping me informed of developments as they occur. Let&

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 in July - 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 wou

Openness 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 pri

Midlothian Council

Midlothian is another council where one of the local MSPs is getting involved - and is asking questions about equal pay. Jeremy Purvis - a Liberal Democract MSP - has been contacted by some of the school meals workers - who are understandably fed up with Midlothian's shenanigans. Again Midlothian Council asked the Scottish government to borrow extra funds to meet the back pay costs of equal pay - and was allocated £9.1 million by Scottish ministers. But ever since the council has been dragging its feet - blowing hot and cold in settlement discussions - then trying to move the goal posts at the last minute. In fact, Midlothian Council have behaved like this consistently - for years they refused to engage with Action 4 Equality Scotland to try and settle these matters on a fair basis. In both 2008 and 2009 they made offers direct to clients - but refused to discuss the details - and tried to bounce people into accepting low offers of settlement. Serious settlement discussions f

East Dunbartonshire

Readers in East Dunbartonshire are up in arms over the foot dragging behaviour their council. East Dunbartonshire is one of the councils which asked the Scottish government for extra borrowing funds to meet the back pay costs of equal pay - and has been allocated £2.8 million for this purpose . See post dated 4 August 2010 - for details. Apparently, the local Liberal Democrat MP - Jo Swinson - has started asking questions about what the council is actually doing with the money. But the answers that have come back are not very convincing - no one seems to be able to explain what plans the council has to use these additional funds. Readers in East Dunbartonshire find this quite shocking - and no wonder. So they are going to contact their local paper and highlight what's going on - which is always a good way to encourage senior officials and council leaders - to get their fingers out.

Early Years Workers

A reader from North Lanarkshire has been in touch and wants to know: "Do Early Years Workers come under the category of former APT&C staff?" The answer is a definite - YES - see post dated 21 August for more details. So this group - along with many others - are still able to pursue an equal pay claim.

Cynical Council Buy-Outs

A regular reader of the blog site has been doing her own FOI research - and has uncovered this little 'gem' from South Tyneside Council. The quote is an extract from a council report - explaining how to buy-out people's equal pay claims on the cheap. In fact the very same approach used by many councils in Scotland - and was often endorsed by the trade unions, tacitly or otherwise. Just goes to show how cynical some people are - no doubt many of them would regard themselves as 'good socialists' - but how they can sleep at night is beyond me. "Mrs. X. has been employed by South Tyneside Council since 1997 and works as a both a Cleaner and School Kitchen Assistant. Whilst her combined weekly hours of work (based upon contractual hours) totals 33 hours per week, a separate calculation would be undertaken for each job that she holds and the combined compensatory payment would not exceed a maximum stated payment of £8,000. In addition to the compensatory

A Short History of Equal Pay

Here are two previous posts from July - for the benefit of readers who may have been on holiday at the time. 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 Equality

North Lanarkshire

New enquiries from North Lanarkshire Council keep rolling in - from people who are in one of the former APT&C groups. APT&C stands for - Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical - in other words monthly paid, formerly 'white collar' staff who are now employed in a wide variety of jobs. Because North Lanarkshire Council has not made settlement offers to these groups - it is still possible to register an equal pay claim. Hence the new wave of interest from a wide range of clerical workers, school support staff - and so on. The trade unions, of course, have never encouraged former APT&C staff to pursue equal pay claims - even though many people were paid much less than traditional, male dominated 'manual worker' jobs. The fact that a refuse worker, a gravedigger or a gardener was earning so much more - than a classroom assistant or a skilled clerical worker - never bothered the unions, even after they signed up to the 1999 Single Status Ag

South Lanarkshire - Hearing Dates

The next hearing dates involving South Lanarkshire Council are as follows: 20 - 22 September 2010 28 and 29 September 2010 The hearings will all take place at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal - 215 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7TS - a short walk from Central Station. If any readers do go along, make a point of introducing yourself to Carol Fox - who will be there on behalf of the Fox Cross Solicitors legal team.

South Lanarkshire Update

Just back from an excellent meeting in South Lanarkshire - a good turnout with lots of questions and comments. One thing people often want to know is how can they help - what can they do to knock some sense into the council? Well they can certainly raise South Lanarkshire's ridiculous FOI behaviour with local councillors and MSPs - and there's plenty of information already on the blog site explaining how to go about that. Another area where people may be able to help - is in relation to the treatment of traditional male jobs - roadsweepers, refuse workers, gravediggers, gardeners and suchlike - jobs that attracted big bonus payments. The men doing these jobs have potentially very useful information - because they know what happened with the council's pay structures when South Lanarkshire introduced Single Status - in April 2004. So, if you know anyone doing such a job - they might be a relative or friend - then get in touch with Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuser

Spotlight on South Lanarkshire

South Lanarkshire Council's response to my latest FOI request has met with the usual answer - obfuscation and delay. So, here's a copy of my request for a review of the council's initial response - which is part of the FOI process in Scotland. No other council in Scotland behaves this way - the council's is trying to argue that how public money is spent is covered by data protection - which in my view is plainly ridiculous. But read my review request letter and decide for yourself - if you would like a copy of South Lanarkshire's full response - I can send this by e-mail on request. "Dear South Lanarkshire Council South Lanarkshire Council – FOISA Review Request I refer to the letter from South Lanarkshire Council dated 3 August 2010 regarding my FOISA request. I am asking for a review of the council’s decision for specific reasons, which I will turn to shortly, but let me say, first of all, that I regard South Lanarkshire’s behaviour as a complete

Rogue Factors

Normally the pages of the blog site are reserved for issues which have a link of sorts - to the fight for equal pay. But as an exception to this general rule I'm going to share with people a personal experience - of getting rid of a rogue factor. Moving back to Glasgow and into a new home all went very smoothly - but as time went by it became clear that our new factor regarded the job as a licence to print money. Not only were the charges beyond belief - but the factor refused to let people inspect receipts or to explain how people's money was being spent. So, something had to be done - otherwise people were just being taken for a ride - which was simply not on. More details to follow.

West Lothian Council

Readers in West Lothian are gearing up to give the local council a hard time. The reason being that people are fed up with the council's foot dragging behaviour - West Lothian is one of the few remaining councils not to have made settlement offers in respect of its outstanding claims. Why is West Lothian so different from everyone else? Who knows - they have blown hot and cold about settlement discussions for years. Why has another SNP led council - such as West Dunbartonshire - managed to get its finger out by acquiring extra borrowing funds from the Scottish government? While West Lothian sits on its hands. Good question and that's what people have every right to ask - their local councillors and MSPs.

Striking the Balance

A new play - Striking the Balance - is being performed in Glasgow and Edinburgh next month to celebrate 40 years of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. The play from the Mikron Theatre Group tells the story of women who fought for equal pay in the 1960's, 70's and 80's - and is being held on the following dates in September: Glasgow : Tuesday 21 September, Scottish Youth Theatre Edinburgh : Wednesday 22 September,Voodoo Rooms Places are limited but can be reserved by up to 10 September - by contacting Shona Roberts at sroberts@stuc.org.uk or phone 0141 337 8131. Quite how much there is to celebrate is a moot point and - of course - the trade unions' role has proved highly controversial. Why did the trade unions keep their women members in the dark over equal pay - why did the unions turn a blind eye to the big bonuses paid to traditional male jobs? Why are the trade unions not fighting for equal pay in South Lanarkshire Council - where they have yet to register a single

Trade Unions and Home Truths

Jimmy Reid has been paid many tributes since he died last week - many recalling the events from the 'work in' at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders - Jimmy's high point as a union leader. Shrewd as well as tough - fiercely political but not sectarian - Jimmy was a wonderful speaker with a common touch and sense of humour. Here's an extract of what Martin Kettle from the Guardian newspaper had to say: "Reid had the background, the brains, the ability, the vision, the charisma to have been one of the great leftwing political leaders of modern Britain.. In some ways, this is what he actually was, especially in the early 1970s". Yet for all his impeccable credentials - if Jimmy Reid had managed to jump into a time machine and arrive in the Year 2010 - he would not find a job in the trade union movement we have today. Why not? Because he would not be a member of the Labour party - unlike just about every trade union leader in Scotland. How crazy is that when Scotland

Beats 'Tattie Howking'

The Guardian newspaper reports today that former Prime Minister and Fife MP - Gordon Brown - has signed a lucrative deal with a London agency - to attend speaking events at $100,000 (£64,000) a time. Apparently, Gordon Brown has not spoken in the House of Commons since he stood down as Labour leader - despite remaining MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. He has been seen in the chamber only on a handful of occasions. Because the one time 'Iron Chancellor' has been writing a book it appears - entitled "The Financial Crisis" - explaining how Britain dealt with the economic downturn. No doubt while still drawing his £64,000 MP's salary - and his generous pension as former Prime Minister - which is worth around £70,000 a year for the rest of his life, i.e. half the PM's salary - even though he was in the job only a few years. Beats 'tattie howking' any day of the week. On leaving office, Gordon Brown's supporters contrasted his intentions wit

North Lanarkshire - New Claims

Enquiries from North Lanarkshire continue to pour in - with people asking: "Is it too late to register an equal pay claim?" Well, generally speaking the answer is - "No, it's not too late!" Especially if you're in one of the former APT&C (i.e. former white collar/monthly paid) jobs - because the council has still to make any offers of settlement to these groups of staff. So, school support workers - and admin workers in council offices all have perfectly valid claims - because for years they were paid less than unskilled gardeners, gravediggers and refuse workers. Anyone who falls into one of these job categories - can get things moving simply by contacting Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

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 th

Midlothian Council

Settlement discussions with Midlothian Council have been taking place over the summer. Midlothian is one of the councils who have been granted additional borrowing consents by the Scottish government - to help meet the back pay costs of equal pay. The Scottish government has allocated Midlothian Council - £9.1 million for this purpose. Discussions with the council appeared to be progressing well until the last minute - when they attached strings to the offers - which had the effect of diluting their value. Essentially the Council has tried to pull a fast one - by trying to settle claims for a longer period than that covered by the money on offer. So the talks have stalled - until the council comes to its senses. After all, why should workers in Midlothian accept less than those in other councils - when the basis of their claims is exactly the same. The ball is currently in the council's court - with a bit of common sense the settlement process can proceed and conclude very q

Common Sense Prevails

So the BAA strike is over - even before it began - and a good thing too! The company made a 1% offer plus a further 0.5% with a few strings attached - about changes to the sick pay scheme. The union had a ballot in which less than half the members voted - but produced a 3 to 1 majority in favour of industrial action. No one really wanted a strike in these circumstances - and common sense finally prevailed - after a bit of ritual huffing and puffing. The company increased the offer from 1.5% to 2% - and dropped the strings. BAA employees will also receive a performance related bonus of between £500 to £900 - so long as the company meets its performance targets in 2010 - the workforce having narrowly lost out on a similar profit sharing exercise in 2009. Honour being satisfied all round - no one is charging the barricades - which is just as well.

An Abuse of Public Money

The newspapers were awash yesterday with details of the crazy £285,000 tax-free golden handshake - paid to the former chief executive of the Shetlands Islands Council. The Accounts Commission reported on the council's “haphazard” approach to governance and on “significant” tensions between councillors and officers - don't hold back then. The former chief executive - David Clark – left the council with a shed load of public money - after only nine months in post. While criticising the council for its behaviour the Accounts Commission - like most quangos lacks authority and real teeth - so that would appear to be the end of the matter. In reality, both the council and the Accounts Commission are keen to pour oil on troubled waters - preferring to look forwards and not back. But throwing away £285,000 in such ridiculous circumstances - is a complete abuse of public money. The council, senior officials and councillors involved should answer for directly for their actions - si

Additional Support Needs Assistants

An Additional Support Needs Assistant from North Lanarkshire Council asks: "Do I have an equal pay claim?" The answer is: "Yes". Why? Because North Lanarkshire Council has still to make settlement offers to former APT&C staff - which includes all grades of classroom support workers. How do I get things moving? Just send you full name, address and post code to Mark Irvine at: markirvine@compuserve.com

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 payments