Showing posts from January, 2011

More Equal Than Others

The Scottish government has announced a review of the McCrone Agreement - which gave Scottish teachers guarantees on pay and conditions back in 2001. The deal cost the Scottish government (and taxpayers) over £800 million at the time - and this enormous figure became built into the base budget. So if you want to know why the budget of Scottish councils doubled in the ten years to 1997 - and where this money went - part of the answer lies in the huge cost of things like the McCrone Agreement. Now I'm all in favour of good conditions for council workers - including teachers. But I don't agree that some workers - should be more equal than others - how can that be fair? Some people have already called for Scottish teachers work longer hours - because at the moment they are required to teach for only 64% (22.5 hours) of their working week - the other 36% is reserved for lesson preparation. And of course teachers are not required to be at work during the school holidays - which

Yes Minister

Sir Gus O'Donnell is the latest Whitehall mandarin to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry. The former cabinet secretary in Tony Blair's government - regrets there were not more open discussions amongst senior ministers. He especially regrets the fact that members of the cabinet were not provided with the full text of the Attorney General's advice - on the legality of the invasion - which he ultimately backed. Asked about the failure the failure to provide this information Sir Gus O'Donnell said: "The ministerial code makes it clear that if there is a legal issue, the full text of the attorney general's opinion should be attached (to discussion papers)." But a more important point is that if members of the cabinet wanted the full text of the Attorney General's advice - if they felt it to be of such crucial importance - why didn't they just demand to see the document. After all these were all very senior and experienced Labour politicians -

Safety in Numbers

Several readers from Cordia have been in touch again - see post dated 22 January 2011. Apparently some Cordia workers have already written to their employer - making it clear that they are not agreeing to the changes that are being imposed. But others are scared of the consequences - fearful that they might lose their jobs. Now this is nonsense - of course. Because Cordia and Glasgow City Council would be in big, big trouble - if they were foolish enough to punish people - just for standing up for their rights at work. One way round the problem - if people really are are anxious - is to write to employer as a group - with people all saying the same thing - and signing the same letter. As the saying goes - there's safety in numbers.

Money, Money, Money

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is conducting an inquiry into party funding - with various people being invited along to give evidence and have their say. A recent visitor was Lord Levy - the main Labour party fundraiser while Tony Blair was leader - and very successful he was too by all accounts. But the man who spent so much time trying to maximise Labour's donations now wants them capped for all parties. Levy said said that even if donors genuinely wanted nothing in return for their gifts - political honours would always attract suspicion. Lord Levy also suggested that all union members tick a box - which would determine which - if any - party gets their contribution. What a great idea - because it is fair, democratic and allows freedom of choice. How could anyone possibly object? And any union member who doesn't want to have part of their dues handed over to a political party would save money - because they would pay less in union contributions The

Just Deserts

The sacking of Andy Gray seemed inevitable in the end. If his comments at the weekend weren't bad enough - his fate was sealed with more embarrassing footage of the football pundit. In which he made a fool of himself with a woman colleague - young to be his daughter. Wasn't this all just innocent banter? Didn't look that way to me certainly - not least because the 'blokes' involved were the only ones laughing - at their own ridiculous antics. Remember as well that these 50 plus men were 'big cheeses' at Sky Sports - authority figures who would have been difficult to complain about - if you objected to their behaviour. So they should have known better - they were at work for goodness sake - not at home or in the pub - and they had a responsibility to set a much better example. Maybe they were stitched up by a disgruntled member of staff - who knows? But maybe they were serial offenders - with lots more to come out in the wash - if push ever c

Cults, Politics and Religion

As expected, Tommy Sheridan has been sentenced to a hefty prison sentence of three years - which has effectively ruined any future career as a politician. His wife Gail made a defiant statement outside the court today - declaring that the real reason her husband has been sent to jail - is because of his fight against injustice and inequality. Which is of course - complete nonsense. Because he has gone to prison for telling lies in court - not least against fellow members of the Scottish Socialist Party. Whom he accused of entering into the most unlikely conspiracy - with the News of the World and the Lothian & Borders Police Force. The end result is that the Tommy Sheridan breakaway party from the Scottish Socialists - Solidarity - now resembles a religious cult like the Moonies - where blind faith has replaced logic, evidence and reason. The 'Socialist' vote in Scotland has been dealt a grievous blow - by the antics of these self-appointed, messianic leaders.

Another One Bites The Dust

Lord Taylor of Warwick today became the first peer - but the second Westminster politician - to be convicted over false expenses claims. A jury at Southwark crown court found him guilty - of dishonestly claiming £11,277 in allowances. The Tory peer resigned the whip after the allegations were made - but denied six charges of false accounting between 2006 and 2007. Lord Taylor was released on unconditional bail - and will now be sentenced at a later date. Taylor's downfall was that he made false claims - after registering a home in Oxford as his main address. But his only home was in Ealing - in west London - he never lived or stayed at the Oxford address. Taylor claimed that many other noble lords were guilty of dodgy practices over their expenses claims - which might well have been true - yet was ultimately no defence to his own dishonest actions. It's a shame that people's lives are being ruined by their own greed and stupidity. Sadly the truth is they knew wha

South Lanarkshire - Hearing Dates

The Employment Tribunal has vacated the remaining hearing dates in January - which were set aside to consider the South Lanarkshire Council cases. Various preliminary matters need to be resolved before the Employment Tribunal can reconvene. So if you were planning a visit later this week - then think again. The next round of South Lanarkshire hearings is due to resume in March 2011 - and the details will be published nearer the time.

Thought for the Day

Isn't it odd that so may low paid women are still fighting for equal pay. Yet someone like Andy Gray gets paid £1.7 million a year as a football pundit - but feels free all the same - to spout offensive nonsense about a young woman just doing her job as an assistant referee. And doing it rather well at that. Now Andy's £1.7 million works out at about £33,000 per week - which seems terribly overpaid if you ask me - compared to low paid care workers, catering workers and classroom assistants. If he has any sense, he should apologise personally to the young woman involved. And recant publicly and convincingly - his foolish comments from the other night - before events take a turn for the worse.

Strange Behaviour

Tommy Sheridan returns to the high court tomorrow - for sentencing - having been found guilty after his marathon 12 week trial for perjury. No doubt the judge will have something to say about the antics of the female juror - who posted wild comments about the trial on Facebook, the social networking site - which were widely reported in The Herald newspaper. The female juror was not be named for legal reasons - but posted claims that the former MSP was innocent - and that fellow members of the jury were “scum bags” for convicting him. In decidedly dodgy language she described her fellow jurors as “dirty low life b*******” for finding Sheridan guilty - before going on to say that she hoped they “choke in their f****** sleep, scum bags they are”. The Herald went on to report that: "On a public Facebook group linked to Sheridan, the female juror wrote: “Hi tommy i was one off youre jurers.” She revealed how the jurors had voted and commented on whether Sheridan was guilty or

The Mask Slips

I like Andy Gray as a football pundit - I don't know Richard Keys, but he's supposed to be a trained, professional journalist. In any event these two Sky Sports broadcasters have been made to look completely ridiculous - because of their inane comments about women in football. Both spoke in disparaging terms about a woman 'linesman' in a weekend fixture between Wolves and Liverpool - and were insulting about women in general and their ability to understand the laws of the game. Before going on to insult Karren Brady - one of Alan Sugar's key advisers on the BBC's Apprentice programme and - ironically former chief executive of Birmingham City FC and current vice-chair of West Ham United! Gray and Keys have since been forced to apologise for their remarks - and have been relieved of their duties for tonight's televised game between Bolton and Chelsea. Good for Sky Sports - because these two gentlemen were at work when they made their stupid comments

Two Eds - Better Than One?

Ed Miliband's decision to appoint Ed Balls as the new shadow chancellor - means that two former proteges of Gordon Brown are now in charge of Labour's economic policy. Now no one is seriously suggesting that Gordon Brown and his allies created - the economic crisis the country faces today. But he did allow the UK economy to overheat spectacularly - particularly in the housing market - and he did encourage an enormous credit boom - which was then followed by the mother of all busts. So the charge that can be fairly levelled at Brown and Co. - is that they took their eye off the ball - and left the UK economy in a weaker state to weather the storm - than many of our key competitors. And up until just before the general election - Gordon Brown's solution was to spend our way out of trouble - without the need to tackle the enormous public spending deficit built up under his premiership. But the truth is Gordon Brown couldn't even convince his own chancellor - another

The King's Speech

I went to see The King's Speech at the cinema over the weekend - and the good news is that it's every bit as good as it's cracked up to be. Nothing remotely to do with equal pay of course - just an everyday tale of a man (albeit not any old man) with a terrible, debilitating stammer - confronting then controlling his personal demons. Now I'm no royalist or admirer of the monarchy - but the brilliance of The King's Speech is that ultimately it's very human tale - very sad and poignant at times - yet told with great humour and affection. The two hours simply sailed by - with scarcely a special effect in sight - instead the film relies on a rattling good script and good old-fashioned acting - particularly from Colin Firth who plays the lead role of King George VI. A nice touch is that Derek Jacobi - the eponymous stammering hero of the BBC's 'I, Claudius' many years ago - appears as the Archbishop of Canterbury, though without stumbling over his lin

That Shrinking Feeling

British Airways cabin crew have again voted to for strike action - but does anybody remember what this dispute is about? Originally, the workers were protesting about fewer staff being allocated to BA flights - but now it is about travel perks - so people are now planning more strikes in an effort to recover what was taken away - as a result of striking in the first place. Confused? Predictably, Unite - the union representing the cabin crew - have welcomed the strike vote. "For the fourth time in 13 months, BA cabin crew have voted overwhelmingly in support of their union and expressed their dissatisfaction with management behaviour," said Unite's leader Len McCluskey. "Indeed, the turnout and the majority on this occasion are much greater than in the last ballot.Surely BA management must now wake up and listen to the voice of their skilled and dedicated employees", McCluskey went on. But BA say that Unite does not have "majority support" for

Glasgow and Cordia

A number of readers from Glasgow have been in touch to ask what they can do about Cordia - see post dated 20 January 2011. A lot of people are involved - Cordia employs over 10,000 workers and admits that the changes to terms and conditions affect around 20% of the workforce. So around 2,000 low paid workers have seen their pay and conditions cut - with barely a murmur from the trade unions. The picture is still not clear - the unions may not be making much of a noise - but have they actually endorsed the changes? Time will tell. In the meantime, the workers affected should tell Cordia - preferably by letter of e-mail - that they don't accept the changes to their pay and conditions. Because they have been introduced unilaterally - and without agreement. Something along the following lines should suffice: "Dear Cordia I would like to confirm that I do not accept the changes to my pay and conditions because these changes have been introduced unilaterally - with

A Decent Man

Politics is a rough old business sometimes. But whatever your politics it's hard not to feel sorry for Alan Johnson - who has decided to resign his position as Labour's Shadow Chancellor - for personal reasons. Alan Johnson is an avuncular, likeable kind of guy - too self-effacing and nice for his own good probably - but in a former life he was a general secretary for the Post Office workers union. A committed trade unionist all his life - yet fair minded and decent - a Labour loyalist to be true - but not a boring ideologue or completely blinkered and partisan in his views. A decent human being in other words - so let's hope he finds some peace - and is allowed to sort out the problems in his personal life - away from the glare of the media.

British Airways Dispute

The Guardian had a thoughtful piece in yesterday's paper on the long-running British Airways (BA) dispute - written on an anonymous basis apparently - by one of BA's pilot. Unite - the union that represents cabin crew staff - is due to announce the result of yet another strike ballot today - and here are a couple of extracts of what the BA pilot had to say: "If the ballot result is against further strikes, we should see a calm acceptance from the airline, with a magnanimous offer to implement their last or most generous position during the dispute accompanied by an offer to start work on improving relations with Unite. This would signal that their priority now was to return to high service standards and a normalised relationship with their employees. If the vote is in favour, but without a real majority of the membership in a small turnout, it is Unite's response which will be more instructive. Would it argue that a mandate had been provided by that minority of lo

Who Gets What And Why?

I watched a very uplifting programme on Channel 4 the other night. 'The Nurture Room' - a two hour documentary by Matt Pinder - told the story of three young children with special education needs - whose lives get turned around by staff at three Glasgow Primary Schools. The hard work and dedication of the teaching and teaching support staff - made me proud to be a Glaswegian - because it showed the very best of the people who live and work in this big sprawling city. The idea of The Nurture Room - no doubt controversial with some people - is to avoid the easy option of excluding children from mainstream classes - because of their behaviour. But to give them intensive support in smaller groups - The Nurture Room - where they can develop the confidence and skills they lack. The results were truly remarkable - and the people behind the project deserve every bit of praise they get - though I imagine they're not looking for praise or rewards - because it's why they

More Hearing Dates

Here are some more hearing dates for the tribunal cases involving South Lanarkshire Council: Tuesday 25 January 2011 Wednesday 26 January 2011 Thursday 27 January 2011 Friday 28 January 2011 Monday 31 January 2011 The hearings are open to individual claimants and members of the public - and are normally held between 10.00 and and 4.00pm - at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal. The Glasgow Employment Tribunal is at 215 Bothwell Street Glasgow, G2 7TS - a short ten minute walk from Central Station. If you do go along, make a point of introducing yourself to Carol Fox - who will be there with the Fox Cross solicitors legal team.

Cutting the Cost of Politics

All this week the unelected House of Lords has been trying to defy the will - of the elected House of Commons. One of the key issues at stake is the government's proposal to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 - and to equalise the size of MP constituencies. Sounds fair enough. Because the demand for MPs' constituencies to be of equal size has been around for many a year - and at last a government is doing something to put everyone on the same footing. But more to the point - cutting the number of MPs by 50 is a modest reform - which will save the public purse a tidy sum - especially at a time when public finances are so badly stretched. So why is the Labour party in the House of Lords fighting against such a sensible measure - surely it makes sense to reduce the number of MPs in this world of modern communications. How can 650 MPs be needed to do the job - when so many of them find additional paid work in addition to their day jobs? The 650 figure was set decad

More Moonlighting MPs

The Daily Telegraph continues to perform a great public service - by exposing the strange behaviour of some Westminster MPs. The latest example is Sir Paul Beresford - a high profile Tory MP this time - who works three days a week as a dentist would you believe - whilst being paid a public salary of £64,766 a year to represent the good citizens of Mole Valley in Surrey. Here's an extract of what The Telegraph had to say about the antics of this particular MP: "Sir Paul Beresford, a Conservative MP who works up to three days a week as a dentist, designated his west London property, which includes his surgery, as his second home on his parliamentary allowances. Sir Paul, who was named last year as the 34th most “influential” dentist in the country, worked out a deal with the House of Commons fees office whereby he put three quarters of the running costs of the property on the taxpayer. The MP for Mole Valley in Surrey, who served as an environment minister under John Majo

Glasgow and Cordia

A number of readers employed by Cordia and Glasgow City Council have been in touch - in recent days. Cordia is an arms length body set up by Glasgow City Council - to deliver much of the council's front-line social care and education services. Cordia - via Glasgow City Council - employs over 10,000 people covering a wide range of services including: Home Carers, Catering Workers, Cleaners and Janitors. As part of Glasgow's drive to reduce spending - Cordia has been discussing a package of possible 'cuts' with the trade unions which include: 1 a self-financing pay rise of 0.65% 2 the removal of premium rates for overtime working - beyond 37 hours per week 3 the removal of premium rates for bank holiday working. What readers are asking is: "Can Glasgow City Council and Cordia get away with this?" Well the answer is - No - they can't introduce new pay arrangements unilaterally - the employer has to seek agreement from the trade unions and/or the ag

Cheap Booze and Low Politics

Scotland's First Minister - Alex Salmond - has criticised opposition parties at Holyrood for voting down a proposal that would have introduced a minimum price for alcohol - purchased in supermarkets and off-sales. The First Minister's comments come on the back of similar plans announced by the Westminster government for England and Wales - also designed to tackle the cheap booze culture. Admittedly the Westminster scheme is less ambitious than the one put forward originally by the Scottish government - but it is a start, a recognition of the scale of the problem - and the need to tackle it with deeds and not just words. So the First Minister is asking - metaphorically speaking of course - how come the 'faintheart' parties at Holyrood turn into such 'bravehearts' at Westminster? Seems like a very reasonable question to me.

Where Has All The Money Gone?

The papers were full of headlines about spending cuts in Glasgow - earlier this week. Local politicians traded insults about who should take the blame - Holyrood v Westminster - the last Labour government or the new coalition government. The trade unions got involved as well - with their usual one-sided pro-Labour stance - while issuing the same old dire warnings about possible strike action. So far, so predictable - but the real question people should be asking is: "Where has all the money gone?" Because in the decade from 1997 to 2007 - council budgets, including Glasgow's, actually doubled in size - as did the budget of the Holyrood Parliament. So where have all these extra funds gone - and what have they achieved? I can't say myself that I've seen any major improvements in the more visible public services - like refuse collection or roads maintenance - for example. The talk in Glasgow is about cutting back on the pay and conditions of of front-l

Spending the Public Pound

Here's a recent FOI appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner - involving South Lanarkshire Council. The council is reluctant to explain its reasons for offering such generous and unusual retirement terms to a former senior official - even though it seems a perfectly reasonable question for a member of the public to ask. Particularly when equivalent retirement packages are not made available to much lower paid council workers - carers, classroom assistants and catering workers - for example . As usual, the unions have little to say on such matters - despite their spending power and political links to many of the Labour-led councils in Scotland. Now why would that be? Kevin Dunion Scottish Information Commissioner Dear Mr Dunion South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) – FOISA request I enclose an exchange of correspondence with South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) regarding a FOISA enquiry which I initiated on 11 November 2010. I asked South Lanarkshire Council to review its

What's New Pussycat?

George Galloway (GG) announced earlier this week that he intends to stand for a Glasgow list seat - in the forthcoming May elections to the Scottish Parliament. George was predictably rude about the present intake of MSPs at his press conference - calling them 'Stumblebums' amongst other things - with his typically lurid language and fondness for purple prose. Now I'm all for a bit more colour in the Scottish Parliament - and presumably GG and his Respect party think are up to the task - as do the Scottish Socialists, Solidarity, etc etc. But electing a candidate from the Monster Raving Loony Party - would also inject some extra spice into parliamentary proceedings - though to what purpose is another thing. George's greatest claim to fame comes down to his crazy pussycat antics with Rula Lenska on Celebrity Big Brother - which completely ruined his credibility in many people's eyes. So what it comes down to - as I said in my previous post dated 2 December

Catching Up

The thing about taking a few days off - in this ever busy, modern world - is that you always come back to a huge pile of e-mails. So, for all the readers who have been in touch over the past week - it will take a day or two to deal with the backlog of queries. Meantime, if you're ever thinking of taking a short break to Seville in Southern Spain - it's definitely worth the trip. The fourth largest city in Spain has a lovely climate - lots of interesting buildings and architecture - and more cafes and bars than you could ever visit - even if you stayed for a whole year. The best way of getting around is to stroll along the maze of narrow streets - particularly in the old town - but there is also a very impressive network of cycle routes - conveniently and safely located on the pavements. Something else you can't help but notice is that the city is completely covered with orange trees - with the fruit just left to fall to the ground - which seems like a terr

What's In A Word?

Does it matter what kind of language people use - when they engage in a bout of verbal fisticuffs? Certainly Bob Crow - leader of the RMT union - doesn't hold back with his comments. Here's a recent example of Bob's hyperbole: “If David Cameron thinks he can batter working people into the dirt through his undiluted brand of fiscal fascism, then he’s got another think coming.” Now I'm all in favour of freedom of speech - but it seems to me that Bob has lost the plot - taken leave of his senses even. Because to describe government policy as 'facist' is an insult to the brave men and women - who fought against facism during the Second World War - at such a terrible cost.

Sporting Cheats

Cheating at sport has been around for as long as anyone can remember - but in an age of modern technology - football cheats are being allowed to disfigure the game. Last night's football clash between Manchester United and Liverpool brought together two giants of Scottish football - Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish. But the game was marred by the deliberate cheating of United's Dimitar Berbatov - who conned the World Cup Final referee (Howard Webb) into giving a ridiculous penalty. Now there was some contact between Berbatov and the Liverpool defender. But football is a contact sport - and the contact involved was of the slightest kind - the United striker was not even knocked off his stride. Yet he went down as if he'd been shot by a sniper - in preference to staying on his feet and playing the ball - which he was perfectly able to do. A live action replay would have allowed the referee to make the correct decision in a matter of seconds - no penalty and a book

Lost For Words

Here's an interesting article from the Hamilton Advertiser - it's not often that you see an MP completely lost for words - normally they're hungry for all the publicty they can get. But maybe Mr McCann was just too busy to comment on these revelations before the Hamilton Advertiser went to press - let's hope he speaks out and explains his position sometime soon. "MP McCann in council payments row" "MICHAEL McCann has pocketed allowances of over £5500 from South Lanarkshire Council since his election as an MP on May 6. The former South Lanarkshire councillor and MP for Strathaven and Lesmahagow is entitled to an MP’s salary of £65,738 plus expenses linked to his Parliamentary work. However, he received payments from the council for five months following his election to Westminster in May. He claimed from the council remuneration for “about 85 hours of work” a month for May, June, July, August, and September. Following his election as MP, 47-year-

Hard To Believe

Hard to believe - but jailed fraudster and former Labour MP David Chaytor - is in line for a £54,000 pay out from the public purse. In common with other MPs who leave the House of Commons - Chaytor is entitled to a 'golden goodbye' payment - to help him 're-adjust' back into public life. Quite why Chaytor needs an extra public handout worth £54,000 - when he is able to draw on his MP's pension - will be a mystery to most people. Another mystery is why Chaytor was allowed legal aid - which cost the public £21,000 to argue his non existent 'case for the defence'. Especially when David Chaytor owns a portfolio of no less than five private properties - which Parliament's generous housing allowances no doubt helped to build up - again at public expense. Let's hope the authorities wake up and recover these costs - otherwise people will be entitled to draw the conclusion - that crime really does pay.

Daylight Is The Best Disinfectant

Seeing someone go to jail is not a great cause for celebration - expecially if their crime is not on a grand scale and does not involve violence. But in the case of former Labour MP, David Chaytor - a jail sentence is most definitely deserved - because his theft of public money was deliberate and carefully planned. In fact, you could argue that he got off rather lightly. For someone who denied any wrongdoing until very late in the day - and who ultimately had no defence against the charges he faced. MPs are not above the law - as David Chaytor now knows to his cost. But the truth is that Chaytor would never had been caught - were it not for the Daily Telegraph newspaper - and the the Freedom of Information campaigners who helped expose the terrible scandal over MPs' expenses.

NHS Cleaners Subsidise NHS Consultants

The Independent newspaper published some interesting figures the other day - showing that the salaries of NHS consultants have soared in recent times - by a whopping 68 per cent. Over the last nine years - even after allowing for inflation - the average consultant is £28,000 better off than they were in 2000 - with an annual salary of £120,900. And that figure doesn't take into account other generous payments consultants receive - such as merit awards - which can boost their earnings by tens of thousands of pounds a year. So the question is this: "Why should a low paid hospital cleaner (on £10,000 a year) contribute to the cost of an NHS consultant's medical degree - when the medical profession ends up being so generously rewarded?" Because that's what's happening just now - low paid workers who never go near a university are subsidising those that do - and who end up in these highly paid jobs. Now NHS consultants are entitled to be well paid for what th

Raffles For Leader

Another 'story' which broke over the festive period is that the new Labour leader - Ed Miliband - apparently plans to sever his party's 'big money' ties with the trade unions. Now call me cynical if you want. But if someone is serious about such an important and long overdue reform - do they really leak it on an unattributed basis - while everyone's getting stuck in to their turkey and mince pies? I think not. Yet Miliband junior - or at least his friends says he will distance Labour from its union paymasters by diluting the party's financial dependence on them - and reducing their role in electing the party leader. Well let's see what happens. Ed Miliband also wants to change the way the Labour party chooses its leader - by making things more not less complicated - would you believe. Instead of just going for One Member One Vote - Miliband apparently plans to give 25 per cent of the votes to non-party members who register as Labour supporters. S

Everybody and Their Uncle

Everybody and their uncle now appears to believe that substantial savings can be found - by tackling some of the more glaring inefficiencies in the way that Scotland's some of public services are delivered. The latest example being trumpeted is in relation to Scotland's current eight police forces - which are reportedly to become a single, unified national police force. More complex maybe - but consider the fact that a unified Metrpolitan Police Force in London covers 32 London boroughs - and serves over 11 million citizens of the UK's capital city - plus oodles of tourists and visitors. So the argument goers that a leaner Scotland wide police force would free up all the time, energy and resources that are wasted - by having parallel management and other structures in place - in eight different parts of Scotland. Another example - a favourite of mine - is the lovely county of Ayrshire - birthplace of Rabbie Burns and home to no less that 3 Scottish councils: North, Sout

Two Tier Service

The Scottish ambulance driver from Tomintoul who insisted on having his 30 minute break - instead of responding to an emergency call only 800 yards from his depot - should hang his head in shame. So should the managers of the Scottish Ambulance Service and trade unions - who negotiated an agreement that effectively puts people's lives at risk. Because the Tomintoul ambulance person insisted on having his break - another crew from Granton on Spey was dispatched - which took 21 minutes to reach a 33 year woman - who was dying from a suspected heart attack. Apparently, a management/union agreement states that ambulance crews are entitled - absolutely - to an undisturbed 30 minute break. But staff can choose to opt out of the arrangement - in return for an annual payment of £250 plus a payment of around £5 - for every time they have to respond to an emergency - during one of their scheduled breaks. Now this seems completely crazy to me - what has money got to do with an emergency

It's An Ill Wind......

'It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good' - as the saying goes. When I was at school I used to find it hard to get my head around what the saying actually meant - but here's a perfect illustration. A man who jumped from a 9th floor window in New York - survived the fall after landing in one of the large heaps of rubbish - lying uncollected on the pavements. No, not because of strike action by the NYC bin men - but because of the blizzards which hit the Big Apple right after Xmas. The unfortunate jumper - Vangelis Kapatos - has now been released from a psychiatric hospital after making a full recovery. His aunt - Katarina Capatos - said: "Everyone's complaining that the trash hasn't been picked up - but me, I'm just thankful it wasn't".

Birmingham Bin Men

Birmingham's bin men are set to go on strike next week - again. Needless to say the unions are making a big song and dance - pulling out all the stops. The planned industrial action has support from the very top - national publicity and resources - and all because the interests of their male union members are threatened. But contrast the unions' behaviour in Birmingham - with their track record over the past decade. For 10 years and more the unions they failed to strike a blow in anger over equal pay - for the most part they just looked the other way - with not a single national protest or strike in sight. As many people inside the trade unions know - for years women members were kept in the dark - as they were routinely paid only £6.00 an hour or so for their labours. While their male colleagues - doing less skilled and responsible jobs - were getting £9.00 and £10.00 an hour. So whatever the dispute in Birmingham is about - it's not about fairness and equal pay.

Don't Make Me Laugh

According to newspaper reports today - the Royal Mail paid out £800,000 in compensation to more than 30,000 Scots in 2010 - for failing to deliver the post properly. Yesterday Royal Mail apologised after it emerged that customers in Scotland made 84,169 complaints - over lost, mis-delivered and damaged mail - between January 2009 and January 2010. In more than half the complaints (42,731) - the Royal Mail ended up paying compensation to more than 30,000 individual people. Now I was one of those 30,000 people - and let me tell you, from my own personal experience - the Royal Mail complaints service absolutely stinks. I asked what happened to the gifts I had bought and chosen so carefully - before wrapping them up and sending them abroad - as a special birthday present for my daughter. What explanation did I get? None - the Royal Mail was not remotely interested - and told me that they didn't even bother to investigate or report back on individual complaints. Sure I got

Golden Goodbyes

At a time when most people are having to tighten their belts - Scotland's MSPs are preparing to award themselves 'golden goodbyes' worth up to £57,520 - from the public purse. The payments are desinged to help politicians return to life outside of Holyrood - and mean that the maximum payment of a year's salary (£57,520) is made after 12 years - rather than 15 years service. Also the minmum payment of £28,760 is now due to be paid after 6 years - rather than 10 years service. At first glance, the notion that MSPs should be entitled to a 'resettlement grant' - sounds quite reasonable - because it's meant to help them adjust to a new life - following a period of public service. But what if the MSP is stepping down because they are retiring altogether - why do they need another £57,520 from the public purse - if they are also entitled to their MSP pension? What if they're stepping down voluntarily to pursue some other career - why do they need a big cas

Festive TV

What was your TV turkey over the festive season? Mine was undoubtedly 'Alexander' - a film from Holywood top gun director Oliver Stone which told the epic tale of one of history's most intriguing warrior kings - Alexander the Great. But far from telling a great tale - this was laughable nonsense from start to finish - full of poster boys saying portentous things - most of them in Irish accents for some peculiar reason. It felt as if the cast from Father Ted had managed to elbow their way on to the set - and taken over proceedings somehow - minus the six packs and scantily clad women, of course. No wonder this little gem has passed me by up until now - must have gone straight to DVD from its cinema release - and ever since has been mugging unsuspecting souls on TV freeview channels. Yet I only have myself to blame - so I am even more determined that ever to live up to my New Year resolution for 2011 - which is to read more books.

Sunday Herald - Letters

Here's an interesting letter that appeared in the Sunday Herald at the weekend. The author clearly believes that trade union hierarchies do not accurately reflect or represent the views of ordinary members - because of their obvious bias towards the Labour party. Speaking as someone who does not carry a torch for any political party - I think it's fair to say that Mr Falconer from Galashiels - makes a valid point. Trade unions should transcend party politics - but in reality the new 'super unions' reflect the tired old politics of the union establishment - not the politics of ordinary grassroots members. "Right unions are all wrong" "It should have been a bizarre experience reading Dave Watson of Unison’s opinion piece in the Sunday Herald’s Business Comment arguing in favour of the Tory council tax and against its replacement by a local income tax – a form of taxation universally regarded as the fairest and most progressive method of raisin

What's The Big Secret?

Readers in South Lanarkshire have been puzzling over a simple question for a very long time: How come people are entitled to know what salary is paid to South Lanarkshire Council's chief executive? Yet people are not entitled to know - according to the council anyway - what a gardener or refuse worker in South Lanarkshire gets paid? For those who don't already know - South Lanarkshire Council pays its chief executive £146,502 a year. The chief executive's salary details are published regularly in the Scottish press - and are freely available - as any right minded person would expect. But incredibly South Lanarkshire refuses to explain what traditional male jobs are paid - in an age of freedom of information. South Lanarkshire's pay arrangements do not operate in an open and transparent way - as they should - and that issue will be put to the test as 2011 gets into full swing.

South Lanarkshire - Hearing Dates

The next round of hearings involving South Lanarkshire Council - has been arranged as follows: Dates - 17, 19, 20 and 21 January 2011 Time - 10 am onwards Venue - Glasgow Employment Tribunal, Eagle Building, 215 Bothwell St, Glasgow G2 7TS The Glasgow Employment Tribunal is a short ten minute walk from Central Station - and individual claimants from South Lanarkshire Council are entitled to attend. If any readers do go along - make yourself known to one of the legal team from Fox Cross Solicitors.

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year to all readers - hope you all had a great time over Hogmanay and into the very first days of 2011. This year promises to be yet another big year in the ongoing fight for equal pay - with lots of important cases coming down the track including: The challenge to Glasgow's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) The Equal Value claims still outstanding in many councils - on behalf of former APT&C workers The former Manual Worker claims still to be settled by some councils - including Midlothian, West Lothian, Argyll& Bute, Highland and Clackmannanshire Councils The Male Worker claims in Edinburgh City Council - dates for a GMF hearing have now been set The appeal over the Compromise Agreements used by Glasgow City Council in 2005 The ongoing fight for transparency, openness and equal pay in South Lanarkshire Council - with more hearings due in January 2011 So there's a great deal going on - and an awful lot still to fight for. Watch this space f