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Showing posts from December, 2010

Merry Xmas!

A very Merry Xmas to all of our readers! Like most people I will be taking some time off over the holiday period - but normal service will resume again in the New Year. Until then - compliments of the season - and very best wishes for 2011.

A Funny Old Business

Politics is a funny old business. Who would have thought that Tommy Sheridan - a Scottish socialist firebrand - would have ended up the same way as Jeffrey Archer - one of Margaret Thatcher's loyal Tory lieutenants. But that's what has happened - as the former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) leader faces the prospect of a hefty prison sentence in the New Year - having been found guilty of perjury by a panel of his peers. And the reality is that Tommy Sheridan brough the roof down upon his own head. By foolishly suing the News of the World for libel damages - when the crux of the paper's reports were in fact true - if presented in its usual salacious manner. The only alternative to a guilty verdict was to accept Tommy's incredible defence - that he was a victim in all of this - not the motive force, brought down ultimately by his own actions. For Tommy's defence to succeed the jury would have had to conclude that there was indeed a major conspiracy at work

Glasgow Home Care Workers

A Glasgow reader has been in touch to say that a dispute has broken out in Cordia - the arms length company established by Glasgow City Council - to deliver home care and other services. Now Cordia is still run and controlled by the council - to all intents and purposes. But apparently home care workers are being told that in future - they will not be paid overtime rates - for working beyond 37 hours and for working on public holidays. All sounds very odd to me - because an employer cannot unilaterally change someone's contract of employment - if they do they're just asking for trouble. So if these reports are correct - then the workers involved would be quite within their rights to tell the council - thanks, but no thanks. Why should Cordia workers accept worse conditions - than other council employees? Can you imagine the enormous row there would be if a group of male workers - refuse workers or gardeners, for example - were treated in such a fashion?

WikiWars

Julian Asssange - the WikiLeaks founder - continues to lash out at the people who are asking very reasonable questions about his behaviour - towards two women in Sweden. To his credit, Assange gave his first extended interview the other day to Radio 4's John Humphrys - but his attempts to justify and explain his actions - make him sound decidedly odd and other worldly. Pressed by John Humphrys to answer whether he was a 'sexual predator' - Assange's answer was that he ''just likes women''. Even more strange were his attempts to dismiss the fears of the two separate women with whom he had unprotected sex - within the course of a few days. Assange said that two women probably "found out that they were mutual lovers of mine and they had unprotected sex and they got into a tizzy about whether there was a possibility of sexually transmitted diseases". Now I can understand the fears of someone who might worry about contracting HIV or some ot

Organised Hypocrisy

Politics is often portrayed as organised hypocrisy - because politicians, of all parties, are so adept at saying one thing - then doing another. Vince Cable - the business secretary - has been exposed for doing just that - in a sting operation organised by the Daily Telegraph. The rules of the game are that the personal and private views of politicians - must never come before the interests of party or government. So Vince lost the responsibility for presiding over a big business deal involving the media mogul, Rupert Murdoch - which was inevitable given his role as a supposedly impartial referee. But he kept his position in the cabinet which is probably correct - because Vince seems a fair minded person - as opposed to political zealot. Perhaps the reason Vince Cable was not cast adrift completely - is that the public have become inured to politicians behaving in a completely cynical fashion. For years the Labour party insisted that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were best fr

Union Wars

Yesterday the country's trade union leaders met with the Prime Minister - David Cameron - at Number 10 Downing Street. The scene was set by an article which appeared in the Guardian newspaper that same day - written by Len McCluskey - the new general secretary of Unite. The warlike heading - Unions, get set for battle - was provided by the paper's sub-editor, but accurately reflects the overall tone of the piece - here are a few extracts: "Unions, get set for battle" "Britain's students have certainly put the trade union movement on the spot. Their mass protests against the tuition fees increase have refreshed the political parts a hundred debates, conferences and resolutions could not reach. The response of trade unions will now be critical. While it is easy to dismiss "general strike now" rhetoric from the usual quarters, we have to be preparing for battle. The practical and legal hurdles cannot be dismissed. Thatcher's anti-union l

South Lanarkshire

A regular reader has been in touch to say that she's going along to the tribunal hearing involving South Lanarkshire Council later this week - and why don't other claimants attend as well? So if you're in Glasgow that day - here are the details: Date - Thursday 23 December 2010 Time - 10am Venue - Glasgow Employment Tribunal, 52 Bothwell Street, Glasgow - (10 minutes walk from Central Station) Further hearings are already scheduled in the New Year - details of which will be posted on the blog site neaerer the time.

Blair's Best Bits

In an earlier post I commented that Tony Blair's memoirs - 'A Journey' - were a good read for anyone with an interest in UK politics. Here are some of his best bits. On the recession Blair pulls no punches - it's not just the banks that caused financial meltdown and let the country down - but the various regulators and politicians who fell asleep on the job - including the last Labour government. On the unions Blair concedes that union bosses thought of him as a Conservative in Labour clothing - whereas he saw them as conservatives wearing labour clothes. In other words, true defenders of the status quo - paid up members of the Labour party, but conservatives with a small 'c' nonetheless. On public services Blair regards the public services as a noble cause - full of hard working and dedicated people - but dominated by vested interests, often those with the loudest voices. Services users and consumers should have much more say in shaping the future - ch

Double Standards

As it happens the Sunday Times had the best take yesterday on the ongoing WikiLeaks saga - see post dated 19 December 2010 - 'Celebrity Justice'. The newspaper reported - without a hit of irony - that lawyers for Julian Assange are angry that incriminating police files have been published - giving graphic details of Assange's alleged sexual assault on two Swedish women. Now I may have got this all wrong - but I understood that raison d'etre of WikiLeaks was that there's no such thing as private information anymore - that just about everything's up for grabs these days. Not so it would appear - because Assange's Swedish lawyer (Bjorn Hurtig) said he would lodge a formal complaint to the relevant authorities and ask them to investigate how such sensitive material - was leaked into the public domain. So it would seem that WikiLeaks is happy to publish any information from any source - but wants the right to complain and cry foul - if someone else decide

What Ballot?

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch - regarding claims made in a Unison Members Briefing - see the previous post 'Compare and Contrast' - which is reproduced below for easy reference. The readers say that this never happened - that a ballot of all members definitely did not take place - whatever union officials might say. Now no documents have been produced by the unions to substantiate this claim - but if you can throw any light on the subject - drop Mark Irvine a note, in confidence, at: markirvine@compuserve.com Compare and Contrast A kind reader from South Lanarkshire has sent in a Unison 'Members Briefing' from December 2005 - which makes the union look completely daft. Here's an extract of what it says; "Councils and unions also had to cooperate to introduce a Job Evaluation system that measured jobs and ensured that jobs of equal value were paid equally - 'equal pay for work of equal value'. Across the country

Celebrity Justice

Catherine Bennett has thought provoking piece in today's Observer newspaper. Instead of swallowing the whole conspiracy theory line - so beloved of Mr Assange and his celebrity supporters - she actually poses some relevant, if rhetorical, questions. Here's an extract of what Catherine Bennett has to say - read the full text in today's Observer: "So, Mr Assange, why won't you go back to Sweden now?" "The WikiLeaks founder's reluctance to face his accusers sits badly with his avowed role as champion of freedom It could be a quality lost on suspicious interviewers, or one he has quite recently acquired, but in all the profiles I have read of the extraordinary Julian Assange, none has begun to convey the man's dazzling effect on his admirers, male as well as female. For the woman who last week flourished the placard: "Julian, I want your babies", his release from Wandsworth must have come as particularly welcome news. But his chie

Useless Union Advice

Good news for male claimants in Stirling Council - settlement offers are being sent out this week. I have a great sense of achievement when Action 4 Equality Scotland clients finally get what they are due - some after a longer fight than others. But Stirling is especially satisfying as these claims involve, amongst others, a group of largely male janitors. The janitors were told absolutely categorically - back in 2006 - by both the council and the trade unions - that they had no case, that they were wasting their time. But instead of swallowing what their managers and unions had to say - they got in touch with me - and instead put their trust in Action 4 Equality Scotland. So I might just toast their health and excellent judgment - over the course of this weekend.

Edinburgh Male Claimants

Good news for Edinburgh's male claimants. Edinburgh is the only council, so far at least - to have excluded male claimants in predominantly female (former manual worker) jobs - from settlement offers. The kind of jobs involved are male Home Carers and Catering Workers. The council deliberately excluded this group from settlement offers being made to women workers - doing exactly the same jobs as their male colleagues. But the good news is that the employment tribunals have now agreed to put these cases to a GMF hearing in March 2011 - which means that Edinburgh City Council has finally run out of road. The council essentially has no case to argue, but will be in the position of having to defend the indefensible - if these claims proceed to a full hearing. Because how can the council argue that a man and a women - doing exactly the same job - are not entitled to equal treatment under the law? Now it doesn't take a genius to work out the answer to that question - bu

Blood From A Stone

A number of readers have been in touch - regular visitors to the blog site - who for one reason or another have taken an equal pay claim up with their trade union. Trouble is they can't get any information out of their union when they ring up or send an e-mail - they say 'it's like getting blood from a stone'. Now it has to be perfectly reasonable for a union member to ask their trade union - from time to time - for a proper progress report on their case. To be fair, the union can't be expected to drop everything - and respond immediately to every minor point. But they should be willing to provide proper feedback on what's happening - and to treat members with courtesy and respect. If a member's case is being handled by a union lawyer - then the lawyer is also obliged to provide regular updates to clients - under rules laid down by the Law Society of Scotland. So either way the point is if you have a sensible question - don't allow yourself to

More Questions Than Answers

Here are the two recent posts about the local press coverage on equal pay in South Lanarkshire - which appeared recently in the Hamilton Advertiser. Lots of members have been asking for an explanation from their union - but as yet no one has received a straight answer. Cosying Up With Employers The Hamilton Advertiser published Alex Neil's press statement about South Lanarkshire Council behaving like a Victorian employer - see previous post dated 29 November 2010. Predictably, South Lanarkshire rushed to its own defence - but hot on its heels came the local Unison branch - cosying up to the council like some kind of lovestruck teenager. Here's an extract of the article from the local newspaper - which also reported Alex Neil's comments in full. Hamilton Advertiser "A council spokesman said this week: “The ongoing legal process around equal pay claims, which Alex Neil MSP is aware of, makes it difficult for us to comment as fully as we would like." “However,

More Moonlighting MPs

David Miliband is the latest MP to join the lucrative international speaking circuit - according to records published by the House of Commons. The newspapers report that the defeated Labour leadership candidate was paid £25,000 for delivering a speech on relations between the West and the Muslim world - at a luxurious resort in the Middle East. Apparently, the government of the United Arab Emirates helped to pick up the tab for his travel and five star accommodation. Now £25,000 is not a king's ransom - but it is more than most council workers earn in a whole year - for doing something useful and socially productive. No doubt Miliband senior was also being paid for his day job as an MP - while he was swanning about halfway across the world. If so, someone should tell him that it's simply not right for MPs to be drawing a handsome public salary - when they're not even in the country to carry out their duties. If he was a benefits claimant - he would be classed as

Job Evaluation

A reader from Clackmannanshire has been in touch - with a query about job evaluation. Apparently, the council has upheld a job evaluation appeal made on behalf of council road sweepers - which means that their jobs move on to a new and higher rate of pay. Previously the road sweepers (a predominantly male job) were on the same grade and rate of pay as council cleaners (a predominantly female job) - who work in local schools and other council buildings. So the query is: "Do the cleaners have a claim to be put on the same grade and rate of pay as their male colleagues who working as road sweepers?" Well they are certainly entitled to ask for a proper explanations of why the road sweepers had their grade changed - and rate of pay improved. Presumably the trade unions supported the road sweepers appeal - so they must know the answer to that question as well as council management. The key point is to understand the reasons for upholding the appeal - which factor scores

Unions in South Lanarkshire

Here are a few other posts about the behaviour of the trade unions in South Lanarkshire Council. If you've got something to say or share about what's been going on - drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com Having A Laugh The 'Members Briefing' from Unison in South Lanarkshire is proving to be a big hit with readers - though for all the wrong reasons as far as the local union branch is concerned. Here's another little gem from from December 2005 - setting out Unison's 'advice' to members on - Single Status, Equal Pay and South Lanarkshire: "In brief, other councils are now rushing to catch up with the position arrived at in South Lanarkshire some time ago." Now whoever wrote this must have been having a laugh - because no other council in Scotland has done what South Lanarkshire Council has done. Seems to me that Unison was just acting as a mouthpiece for South Lanarkshire Council. Instead of standing up for the interests of their

Moonlighting MPs

I watched 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' last night - the hit satirical programme from America. Gordon Brown was one of the guests - he was truly awful - and kept breaking out in manic laughter at inappropriate times - more often than not at one of his own 'bon mots'. The former Prime Minister was promoting his new book about the collapse of the banks - Beyond the Crash - which he manages to squeeze in on top of his day job as a Westminster MP. Speaking with conviction and passion at times - Gordon sounded as if he knew what he was talking about - as most true policy wonks do. But he failed to explain how a government in which he was such a senior figure for 13 years - managed to preside over a near collapse of the UK economy - and then have the gall to try and pin the blame for what happened on everyone else . For some reason the interview cut short suddenly - and the programme ended with the bizarre sight and sound of Vladimir Putin singing the Fats Domino tra

Conspiracy Theories

Sweden is an unlikely country to put at the centre of an international conspiracy - one where dark forces are able to manipulate the internal workings of the Swedish courts and judicial system . Two Swedish women have made complaints about the behaviour of the WikiLeaks founder - Julian Assange But instead of taking the complaints seriously - and agreeing they should be properly investigated - the WikiLeaks campaigners immediately conclude that their man is being fitted up - by the CIA presumably. Now women do make false accusations about sexual assault and rape - but it's very rare. And it's even more rare for two separate women to be involved - in bringing forward a complaint about the same person. The two women involved both knew Julian Assange in Sweden - and both supported the work of WikiLeaks at the time - as volunteer campaigners of some kind. Assange apparently had sexual encounters with both women within the space of a few days - and w hile such tom-cattin

Rules and Religions

Sky news today shows a woman in Sudan being publicly whipped - for the 'crime' of wearing trousers under her Islamic dress. Apparently this is an offence under strict Sharia law - and the poor woman was flogged in the street - as a largely male crowd looked on - some of whom were clearly enjoying the spectacle. But it just goes to show what can happen if countries let people with strong religious views - determine the laws that everyone else lives under. Elsewhere in the UK - an elderly couple who run a Bed and Breakfast business in Cornwall - are in court in Bristol for refusing a booking from a gay couple. The B&B owners are devout Christians and believe they should be entitled to refuse any guests - who are not heterosexual and not married. Makes you wonder why they went into business in the first place - but more importantly what business is it of theirs - whether people are gay or married? None whatsoever, of course. Just as it's no business of mine w

Multiple Choice

Question: Why does a 'peaceful' protester take a snooker ball to a student demonstration ? Is the correct answer: a) To have a game of snooker or billiards b) To share the simple beauty of completely spherical object with fellow protesters c) To throw the snooker ball at a police officer or police horse The right answer is of course c) - and top marks to everyone who saw through a) and b) - which of course were not remotely believable - to anyone whose head doesn't button up the back. At last week's latest student protest outside Westminster - it was a poor old police horse that got whacked in the head with the said snooker ball. Causing the terrified animal to throw and injure its rider - before trying to bolt into the crowd - where even more people could have been hurt by the protester's stupid and criminal behaviour. The scene of the latest mini-riot and widespread vandalism was Westminster Square - and student leaders had agreed to avoid that are

Union Advice on Equal Pay

Here's a recent enquiry from a visitor to the blog site - about the advice provided by her trade union - in connection with a potential equal pay claim. Hi Mark I thought i would contact you because I've been asking questions of my employer and union for the best part of 18 months and still have got no answers! I work for XXXXX Council and am also a senior union rep. My job title is marketing assistant and I'm on a grade C which was the old scale 3. I believed I had an equal pay claim , but when I raised this with the union they didn't support me. My question is Mark, do I have a valid claim because i've been led to believe from the union and the council that I haven't? I will quote one officer of the council "If we start paying out for admin staff now then we might as well close the council down now". Any answers you've got for me will be much appreciated because I'm not sure of where to turn now. Kind regards SM Dear SM Acti

Leave Them Kids Alone?

The latest student protester to be charged with 'disorderly conduct' is 21 year old Charlie Gilmour - son of the legendary Pink Floyd guitarist - David Gilmour. Charlie was privately educated at the £9,000 a term Lancing College in West Sussex - so making a bigger contribution to his higher education - should be like a stroll in the park. Now Charlie's dad could probably buy a whole university - never mind afford an extra few thousand pounds to help pay for his son's higher education - from the fortune he's made as a rock star. And of course his parents were perfectly happy to do just that - while young Charles was going to his private fee paying 'secondary' school. So, the whole business of charges and fees is full of hypocrisy - the point is that those in a position to make a greater contribution should do so. Otherwise the rest of us are subsidising Charlie and his famous dad - through the public purse - which is plainly bonkers.

Which Side Are They On?

Here are two recent posts about Unison in South Lanarkshire - where for years the union has been supporting the council and its senior managers - in the ongoing dispute over equal pay. Unison now appears to be singing a different tune - presumably because the union is rightly worried - about the quality of advice issued previously to members. But as everyone knows - you can't face in two opposite directions at the same time. The union can't be standing up for its members in South Lanarkshire - while Unison officials continue to support the actions of the council and senior council managers. Don't Get Mad - Get Even As regular readers know - after years of being in denial - Unison has suddenly decided that some of its members in South Lanarkshire - might have an equal pay claim after all. See previous post dated 16 November 2010 - Unison in Turmoil. Sounds a little odd to me - especially as South Lanarkshire Council claims that Unison has been at the heart o

Unison Members in South Lanarkshire

Have you delayed or avoided submitting an equal pay claim against the council - because of the advice issued by Unison? If so, you may well have lost out financially - to the tune of thousands of pounds. Is it too late to submit an equal pay claim now? No, it's not - but you are starting years after most other people and the five years or so that you've lost - cannot be recovered from South Lanarkshire Council. What should I do now? Take up an equal pay claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland - well over 2,000 South Lanarkshire Council employees have done so already - you will be in good company. What about the poor advice I've received from the union? We can help you with that as well - but the sooner you take action to protect your interests the better. How do I go about making a claim with Action 4 Equality Scotland? E-mail your contact details to: markirvine@compuserve.com or ring the Action 4 Equality Scotland office in Edinburgh on 0131 652 7366. What if

Unison and Equal Pay

A number of readers from South Lanarkshire have been in touch - to say that they've received an unsolicited letter from Unison on equal pay. "Do I need to do anything about this letter?", readers wish to know. If you are an existing client of Action 4 Equality Scotland. The answer is NO - because your equal pay claim is already underway and has been for several years - for most people. If you are not an existing client of Action 4 Equality Scotland. The answer is YES - if you have not registered an equal pay claim because of Unison's previous poor advice - then you should definitely be asking the union what it's playing at. Because for years Unison has been telling members in South Lanarkshire that they do not have an equal pay claim. In fact the local Unison branch has been speaking up in support of the council over single status and equal pay - on a regular basis. So how can the union be facing both ways at the same time - actively supporting th

Rumpled But Affable

The Guardian has a remarkable editorial today - praising the Home Secretary - the slightly rumpled but ever affable, Ken Clarke. A policy U-turn most definitely - completely at odds with the Conservative manifesto in the general election - but not a protestor or howling mob in sight. As they say - politics is a funny old business. "In praise of … Ken Clarke The justice secretary has a hinterland that makes him certain of who he is - and certain that he has nothing to prove It wasn't the first time he'd provided radio listeners with a breath of fresh air: thanks to a BBC strike in 2005, clock radios set for the Today programme did not wake their owners to John Humphrys' grumbling, but to the altogether more agreeable sound of Ken Clarke chortling about Dizzy Gillespie. When the justice secretary took to the airwaves yesterday, his purpose was more serious – to blow a gale through a generation of failed thinking on prisons, a failure that started the moment C

Punch and Judy Politics

The current furore over tuition fees is a fine example of Punch and Judy politics - at its worst. The Conservatives have of course been in favour of tuition fees for years - as firm believers in people generally - and students in particular - taking more personal responsibility for services they consume. Labour were against tuition fees, of course, when they were in opposition (just like the Lib Dems) - but that policy quickly went out the window - as Labour faced up to the realities of government. Labour were first to introduce tuition and followed this up with the ability to charge top-up fees - as the number of young people going into higher education continued to expand. 'Who should pay?', asked Labour? 'The students who stand to gain most from going on to study at colleges and universities', came the answer. Labour also set up the latest independent review of tuition fees - with Lord Browne providing the analysis and arguments in his recent report - to justif

Buying A Dog and Barking Yourself

A regular reader has been in touch - she already has an equal pay claim underway with Action 4 Equality Scotland. But her enquiry is on behalf of two work colleagues - who have taken the issue up with their trade union. Problem is that the union has asked the women to identify a 'comparator' - for the union to use in pursuing their claim. Which is a bit like buying a dog - then doing all the barking yourself! Because a 'comparator' is simply a higher earning male dominated job which - as the term implies - is used for comparative purposes - by women workers pursuing equal pay claims. As the trade unions have negotiated the rates of pay for all jobs - it follows that the unions know who earns what - and why. Putting the onus on union members to find their own comparator is completely crazy - it's turning equal pay into to some form of Do It Yourself adventure game - which begs the question: 'What are union members paying their dues for?" So the

Glasgow Unison

A group of Unison members from Glasgow have been in touch - apparently these women all submitted equal pay claims three years or so ago. But for some reason - which has still to be explained - their claims were never processed - and now the women have been told that their claims are out of time. Even though they've all asked Unison - politely and very reasonably it would appear - for a proper explanation about what happened - the members have not been given a straight answer. So, they all want to know whether Unison should be responsible - for any financial loss they've suffered? And the answer is - of course Unison should take responsibility for its actions. Whoever's dropped the ball, the low paid members involved should not be asked to pay the price - they've already done what they were asked to do - and kept their end of the bargain. Now is must be Unison's turn to step up to the plate - by promising to make good any financial loss the women have suf

All Change At Unison

Today is a big day for my old Unison colleague, Mike Kirby - who's been a big cheese in the Glasgow Unison branch for the past 17 years - as well as being the union's 'regional convener' in Scotland for all that time. Mike has apparently been given the job of Unison's regional secretary in Scotland - replacing the previous incumbent - Matt Smith - who also held the post of regional secretary continuously - since it was first created in 1993. Spooky or what? The difference between the regional secretary and regional convener - is that the regional secretary is employed by Unison and manages all the other full-time staff in Scotland - on behalf of the London-based general secretary and executive council. Whereas the regional convener is an 'ordinary' lay member - in Mike's case employed by Glasgow City Council for the past 17 years - and elected by other Unison lay members in Scotland. No doubt Mike's appointment will have caused a bit of a stir -

Across the Pond

What does Wal-Mart - the giant American supermarket chain - have in common with employers in Scotland? Well the answer is that American employers - just like employers over here - are quite prepared to use any tactics to frustrate and, if possible, prevent a proper hearing of workers' equal pay claims. Here's an extract of a recent article from the New York Times which explains the background. New York Times "The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal in the biggest employment discrimination case in the nation’s history, one claiming that Wal-Mart discriminated against hundreds of thousands of women in pay and promotion. The lawsuit seeks back pay that could amount to billions of dollars. The question before the court is not whether there was discrimination but rather whether the claims by the individual employees may be combined as a class action. The court’s decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of class-action suits, in

An Irresponsible Strike?

According to the new general secretary of the Unite trade union - Len McCluskey - there's no such thing as an irresponsible strike. Well most people living in Spain - and everyone travelling to and from Spain last weekend - would completely disagree - because they're giving the country's air traffic controllers absolute pelters. Why? The reeason is that the strikers took wildcat action last Friday and Saturday - which was deliberately timed to coincide with one of the biggest Spanish holiday weekends of the year. The air traffic controllers had little, if any, public sympathy - not just because of the disruption to so many people and their families. But because many of those involved are actually very well paid - earning up to 320,000 Euros a year - not to mention the damage done to the Spanish economy and the tourism industry. The strikers actually turned up for work - yet refused to carry out their normal duties - and though the action was organised and co-ordinated

Labour Union Links

Readers in South Lanarkshire continue to raise the extraordinary behaviour of the local Unison branch - which seems to have become some kind of cheerleader for the council. As well as taking things up with the union directly - readers might wish to contact two local MSPs who have long standing links with Unison - Karen Gillon and Andy Kerr. Both Karen and Andy are former members of Unison - and may well have regular contact with the local union branch - as well as the Unison hierarchy in Glasgow. Here are their e-mail addresses: Karen.Gillon.msp@scottish.parliament.uk Andy.Kerr.msp@scottish.parliament.uk The e-mail addresses of other South Lanarkshire MSPs are detailed in a previous post - dated 1 December 2010.

Cosying Up With Employers

The Hamilton Advertiser published Alex Neil's press statement about South Lanarkshire Council behaving like a Victorian employer - see previous post dated 29 November 2010. Predictably, South Lanarkshire rushed to its own defence - but hot on its heels came the local Unison branch - cosying up to the council like some kind of lovestruck teenager. Here's an extract of the article from the local newspaper - which also reported Alex Neil's comments in full. Hamilton Advertiser "A council spokesman said this week: “The ongoing legal process around equal pay claims, which Alex Neil MSP is aware of, makes it difficult for us to comment as fully as we would like." “However, South Lanarkshire Council was the first local authority in Scotland to achieve single status, including job evaluation." “The council is confident in the integrity of the job evaluation scheme and we take our equality duties very seriously. Employees are involved, either directly or via thei

Haw Maw

The knives are out for Ed Miliband apparently - which seems a tad unfair as he's only few months into the job - as opposition leader and top banana in the Labour party. I didn't have a vote in Labour's leadership election - though many people had two, three and even four - as a result of party's crazy electoral college system. If I did have a vote, I would probably have voted for Ed's brother David - as the majority of individual party members did - and the majority of MPs as well. But no matter what's done is done - even if the new leader has been foisted on the Labour party by a handful of boring trade union bosses - who 'united' to put their man in the hot seat. The problem for leaders of any political party is that you've got to hit the ground running - lead from the front, not the back - and brook no nonsense from your team. Ed Miliband made a good start the other week - when he announced that he was going to reform Labour's electo

Snowstorms and Equal Pay

COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) is the voice of local councils in Scotland - on everything from the weather to equal pay. But it is also an incredibly old-fashioned, inward looking body - which takes itself far too seriously - and is hyper-sensitive to criticism. Take the latest example whereby the Scottish Education Minister - Mike Russell - issues a mild rebuke to councils that operated a blanket policy of closing all schools - during the recent bad weather. Instead of taking the side of the people - with a measured, considered response - COSLA effectively tells him to clear off and mind his own business - which is an odd thing to say to an Education Minister. The point Mike Russell was making is rather simple - how come the council in Glasgow decided to close all of its schools - when they remained open in neighbouring East Renfrewshire? Now East Renfrewshire council had the same kind of snow falling from the heavens and the terrain - if anything - is even

Who's Kidding Who?

More interesting revelations over the Unison 'Members Briefing' from December 2005 - here's a further extract: "Whilst South Lanarkshire ended bonus payments as part of the local single status negotiations, thus ending this discrimination, other councils continue this practise (sic). The payments being offered in Glasgow are in recognition of this historical and continuing discrimination and to avoid the need for workers to take equal pay claims. Discussions are ongoing at Scottish level to see if a framework can be arrived at for all other councils. South Lanarkshire have not made these payments since they ended the bonus payments as part of the local agreement." Now here comes the strange bit. Because a reader from South Lanarkshire has passed on a copy of a letter signed by the local Unison Branch Secretary - Stephen Smellie (pronounced Smiley not Smelly) - dated 13 November 2007. And in the penultimate paragraph of his letter Stephen Smellie says on be

Sunday Post

A regular reader from South Lanarkshire has sent me a copy of her e-mail letter to the Sunday Post. Last week the paper ran an article about Scottish councils wasting millions of pounds on expensive lawyers - most of it in defending equal pay claims from low paid council workers. Here's what the letter says: "Dear Sir Congratulations on last week's paper which exposed local councils in Scotland for wasting millions of pounds on fancy lawyers. I have an ongoing equal pay with South Lanarkshire Council which has been spending public money like it's going out of fashion - yet refuses to explain what male jobs within the council are paid. The fact is that women's jobs in South Lanarkshire Council are all concentrated at the bottom end of the pay ladder which is a complete disgrace. Let's hope the council gets what it deserves when these case comes to court because they can only hide behind their lawyers for so long. Yours sincerely MJ Rutherglen" The re

Labour's Dirty Double

Two former Labour MPs finally met their Waterloo today - albeit in the courts, not on the field of battle. Former Labour minister, former GMB official and former NUS president - Phil Woolas - lost his appeal in the High Court over a dirty general election campaign - last May. Phil Woolas had previously been found guilty of telling blatant and deliberate lies about his Lib Dem opponent during that campaign - and a special election court declared the result null and void. Woolas refused to accept the result - hence his appeal to the High Court which upheld the original decision, as widely expected. Woolas may now face disciplinary action by the Labour party - as he remains an individual member even though he is no longer an MP. Elsewhere in another court, David Chaytor - another former Labour MP - pleaded guilty to three charges of false accounting. Chaytor falsely claimed £18,350 in rent for properties in London and Bury - by producing bogus tenancy agreements which he prese

How They Voted

Here is a list of how Holyrood MSPs voted on Margo MacDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill - interesting that only one Labour member supported the proposal. THOSE IN FAVOUR: Christine Grahame, SNP, South of Scotland Robin, Harper, Green, Lothians Patrick Harvie, Green, Glasgow Jamie Hepburn, SNP, Central Scotland Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat, South of Scotland Bill Kidd, SNP, Glasgow Richard Lochhead, SNP, Moray Margo MacDonald, Independent, Lothians Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat, Orkney Ian McKee, SNP, Lothians Anne McLaughlin, SNP, Glasgow John Park, Labour, Mid Scotland and Fife Jeremy Purvis, Liberal Democrat, Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale Iain Smith, Liberal Democrat, North East Fife Sandra White, SNP, Glasgow Bill Wilson, SNP, West of Scotland THOSE OPPOSED: Brian Adam, SNP, Aberdeen North Bill Aitken, Conservative, Glasgow Wendy Alexander, Labour, Paisley North Alasdair Allan, SNP, Western Isles Jackie Baillie, Labour, Dumbarton Richard Baker, La