Saturday, 28 July 2012

Divided We Fall

Trade unions are always banging on about the importance of National Agreements - and for good reason.

Because the employers have much greater resources to call upon - as a general rule - than the trade unions, particularly at a local level.

So it makes sense to stick together - to use the expertise and resources embodied in  National Agreements - instead of strking out on your own where you are likely to get picked off. 

In which case you need to ask yourself why the trade unions in South Lanarkshire gave their support to a local 'in-house' job evaluation scheme (JES) in 2004?

Especially when a bespoke national scheme had been developed for use by Scottish councils - with national trade union support.

Now the local South Lanarkshire scheme has come unstuck which is hardly suprising.

Because it is the opposite of 'open and transparent' which a JES should be - yet no one in South Lanarkshire can tell what anyone else gets paid - when it comes to the council's traditional male jobs. 

But everyone knows of course that certain relatively unskilled jobs such as refuse collectors, gardeners and grave diggers - are paid more than carers, classroom assistants and other school based workers with very responsible, demanding jobs.

Which begs the question: 'Why did the trade unions in South Lanarkshire go down this path in 2004 without seeking detailed advice from their national officials? 

Why did the trade unions not publish a detailed rank order of jobs - to show the 'before and after' effect of the Single Status proposals in South Lanarkshire?

Because anyone with an ounce of common sense and a proper understanding of Scotland's  1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement - would have told them not to proceed.

Not least because the 1999 National Agreement does not contain any provision to permanently preserve - or protect for life - the much higher (bonus related earnings) of traditional male jobs.

Gun Crime

I am a great admirer of America and the American people - in many but not all things.

One issue that divides America is gun control which seems to drive some folks mad - including the former Hollywood actor - Charlton Heston.

Now Charlton played many great roles including Ben Hur and El Cid - though Soylent Green is best skipped over it has to be said.

But Charlton once defiantly announced to a National Rifle Association (NRA) event that the gun control lobby would have to prise his beloved rifle 'from his cold dead hands' - so persuaded was old Charlton the right of every American citizen to bear arms.

The point that escapes me however is with so many American citizens bearing all these arms - why do the crazed shooters who hit the headlines with such terrible regularity never get stopped in their tracks?

Why does someone like Charlton Heston not stand up when the shooting starts - and drop the cowardly assassin with a single shot to the head?

The answer - of course - is that things like this only happen in movies and that the only way in the long run to reduce such terrible crimes - is to prevent ordinary citizens having easy access to powerful guns.

As Anders Breivik showed in Norway this is not an American phenomenon - deranged people with a potentially violent grudge against the world exist everywhere - even in Dunblane in rural Scotland.

But Scotland has never experienced another Dunblane - since the massacre of 16 innocent school children and a school teacher in 1996.

Yet the same kind of crime continues to occur in the the USA - two or three times a year it would seem. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Driven Mad

I read recently that the BBC is spending £130,000 on a redundant chauffeur-driven car - which sounds incredible in these srticken economic times.

The reason for this madness is that the new Chairperson of the BBC - Lord Chris Patten (a former minister in the Thatcher government of course) - has refused to use the chauffeur-driven car because it's a waste of public money.

Apparently Lord Patten declined the offer - explaining that he would use public transport instead.

Good for him - but how embarrassing for the BBC!

Meanwhile the Beeb continues to pour this money down a proverbial drain - because the cost of cancelling the contract is too great - and it's better to wait until the contract comes to its natural end.

So other senior managers at the BBC are being driven around in luxury - instead of following the example of their new leader, Lord Patten.

Not many people know this - but the general secretary of the TUC was always provided with a chauffeur-driven car to get to work - in central London.

Sounds incredible I know - but there you are - although the TUC has just appointed a new female boss - Frances O'Grady.

Let's hope she follows Lord Patten's lead and saves the members' money by saying she'll get the tube into work - just like millions of ordinary Londoners.

Mad, Mad World

A thought occurred to me the other day - about the state of 21st century Scotland.

Isn't it crazy that people are entitled to know the salary of Scotland's soon to be appointed 'top cop' - yet South Lanarkshire Council tells the world that we are not entitled to know what a council refuse worker or gravedigger gets paid?

The newspapers reported yesterday that the chief constable of Scotland's new single police force will be paid a salary of £208,000 - although it's not clear whether this figures includes pension contributions.

I suspect not - but it's still an eye-watering amount of money in anyone's language - though I can't say I'm entirely convinced that a figure of £208,000 is justified - given what other senior public officials in Scotland are paid.

Anyway put that aside for another day.

For the moment just reflect on the fact that a major Scottish council - a Labour-led council - is refusing to abide by a decision of the independent Scottish Information Commissioner and three senior judges in the Court of Session - Scotland's highest civil court.

The decision being that South Lanarkshire Council should come clean - and release information which explains how traditional male jobs within the council are paid. 

Now where is the outrage from local members of the Scottish Parliament - what do local South Lanarkshire councillors have to say about this extraordinary state of affairs?

Which is wasting huge sums of taxpayers money and - making a complete mockery of Scotland's commitment to freedom of information.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

'Jobs for the Boys' Row

I read the following ' Jobs for the boys' article in The Scotsman newspaper - the other day.

What the piece doesn't refer to is that Tom McCabe was the leader of South Lanarkshire Council back in 1999 - the same year that he was elected to the Scottish Parliament.

1999 was also the year in which South Lanarkshire Council made key decisions about how to progress the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement locally - though it took the council another five years to finally put these arrangements into place.

I first met Tom McCabe when we were both members of the Scottish TUC's Youth Committee - at the time I represented NUPE (now part of Unison) while Tom represented the AUEW, if I remember correctly, the engineers' union - which is now part of Unite, of course. 

So it seems that Tom has landed a new job in Glasgow - which doesn't surprise me in the least.

What I do find interesting though is that Glasgow seems relaxed about releasing or confirming the details of what some of its employees get paid - whereas South Lanarkshire treats this kind of information as a closely guarded secret.

‘Jobs for the boys’ row after Labour stalwart Tom McCabe gets £50,000 job

By Scott MacNab

A former Labour government minister is at the centre of a cronyism row after landing a lucrative policy role with Glasgow City Council.

Opposition parties have complained to the Labour-run council’s legal officials after Tom McCabe, a finance minister in the last Labour/Liberal Democrat administration at Holyrood, landed a role as a policy manager with a salary of almost £50,000.

Council leaders insist he was appointed after an open and transparent process and there was no input from any Labour councillors.

Mr McCabe lost his Holyrood seat in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse last year when the SNP swept to its landslide election victory.

But he played a key role in Labour’s successful local election campaign in Glasgow earlier this year, which saw the party return to power, despite years of internal turmoil.

The opposition SNP group on the council have condemned the appointment in the authority’s land and services department and have asked the council’s chief solicitor if there is any way to challenge it.

Graeme Hendry, leader of the Glasgow SNP Group, said: “Glasgow Labour’s murky history is clearly not in the past after appointing a failed Labour politician to a post that is supposed to be politically neutral.

“Not only is he a former Labour minister, he also ran the council campaign in Glasgow and has aligned himself to ensure he gets a top spot.

“Earning a reported salary of just under £50,000 a year is yet another slap in the face to the people of Glasgow. The list of incompetence and jobs for the boys goes on. I’ve raised my concerns with the chief solicitor at the council.

“This post is supposed to be non-political – what assurances can he make to the people of Glasgow that he will not be putting his allegiances to Labour first?”

Choc Ice

I said to myself just the other day - in the wake of the John Terry affair - that the words 'get your choc ice here' will no longer have such an innocent ring.

John Terry, of course, is the captain of Chelsea Football Club and was accused of racially abusing another player during a game - Anton Ferdinand, who plays for Queens Park Rangers.

The case ended up in court but John Terry was sensationally acquitted - after a convoluted defence which saw a fellow Chelsea play (a black player) - Ashley Cole - give evidence on Terry's behalf. 

For his trouble Ashley Cole was then described on Twitter as a 'choc ice' - i.e. black on the outside but white on the inside.

By none other than Rio Ferdinand - the Manchester United defender who was dropped from the recent England Euro 2012 squad - and Anton Ferdinand's brother, of course.

Now all of this just goes to show - to my mind anyway - that the brains of most footballers still lie mainly in their feet.

Because the the use of the phrase 'choc ice' to describe Ashley Cole is a racially offensive term - the fact that it was used by another black player is neither here nor there - since the term 'choc ice' is deliberate, provocative and refers in a derogatory way to the colour of another person's skin.

But I'm glad the police did not launch another investigation into the whole affair - which would have been an overreaction and a huge waste of public money. 

No, the main responsibility for dealing with the bad behaviour of these overpaid football players lies with the footballing authorities - in this case the English FA. 

The English FA didn't prosecute John Terry at the time of the original incident involving Anton Ferdinand - but instead deferred to the courts.

Which was a big mistake and a terrible abdication of its responsibilities - so let's hope the English FA gets a grip and starts to clean up the game.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Spill the Beans

A kind reader has sent me a copy of the latest members' briefing - from the local Unison branch in South Lanarkshire Council.

Now this document tries to gloss over the trade union's behaviour in relation to equal pay, but the following extract is very interesting:

"However we undetook a review of the scheme, using outside experts, who indicated issues with its transparency....".

Now this raises a number of important questions which union members might wish to raise with Unison such as:

1 When exactly was this Unison review carried out?

2 Who conducted the review and what were the key conclusions?

3 Will Unison now publish the review and share this infrormation with ordinary union members?

Now the reason for asking these questions is that the fundamental problem with the Council's 'in-house' job evaluation scheme (JES) - i.e. its complete lack of openness and transparency - was completely obvious from day one.

In other words how can anyone tell if a JES is really fair and non-discriminatory - if they don't understand how it works - and they can't compare how well or badly other jobs are paid?  

Now I'm also told that Unison is holding a series of members meetings in August - several years too late arguably - where the union will provide an update on equal pay.

But given that the contributions of ordinary union members paid for this review - I think the best thing Unison can now do is to share the details - and start giving people some straight answers to straight questions. 

Escaping Justice

The acquittal of Simon Harwood - the police officer accused of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson (a Big Issue seller) at the G20 protests in London in 2009 - aroused lots of comment in the press over the weekend.

Many people were rightly astonished that Simon Harwood was a serving police officer - in the first place.

Because the man has an extensive disciplinary record which included taking early medical retirement in 2001 - after being accused of a 'road rage' assault on another driver with whom he he had a minor traffic collision while off duty.

Simon Harwood picked up a job as a police civilian almost immediately after his retirement on medical grounds - before returning to front line duty a few years later with the Surrey Police.

Now all of this is a crazy as it sounds - but the rules which govern police discipline are as old as the hills and completely discredited - by any modern standards at least.

For example, Simon Harwood will have been suspended on full pay since 2009 - and no internal disciplinary action will have been taken against the police officer - until the recent criminal proceedings were concluded.

Now we will find more months, perhaps even years of internal disciplinary action - with the officer still suspended on full pay - before justice, of a kind, is finally done.  

But these internal rules are the result of cosy relations between the Police Federation (the police trade union) and the police employers - which deserve to be well and truly shaken up and brought into the modern era. 

A court has decided that Simon Harwood was not guilty of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson - a decision which is likely to have turned on the higher standard of proof required to convict someone in a criminal court - i.e. 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

But the sight of a police officer violently attacking an elderly man - who was walking away from police lines at the time of the assault - is a clear sign that Simon Harwood should never have been recruited to the force in the first place.

Arguably Simon Harwood escaped justice earlier in his career in 2001 - but having made fools of us all once he certainly should never have been allowed to return to attack Ian Tomlinson - who was completely innocent of any crime, of course.

I wonder what the Police Federation will have to say - but I doubt it will have the courage or leadership required to do the right thing.

Second Class Citzens

I read an interesting story over the weekend - about the forthcoming Olympic Games in London.  

Apparently, Japan's World Cup-winning women's football team flew to London in bog standard economy seats - while the much less distinguished male team went business class.

Now the women have a good chance of winning gold - so they say - but the Japanese men aren't even expected to get a medal - according to the pundits.

Mari Miura, Professor of Political Science at Sophia University in Tokyo, said:

“It was symbolic of general discrimination against women.”

Now I don't know whether the women's treatment comes down to the 'conspiracy or cock-up theory' of history - but in my view it makes no difference at all - because the outcome as far as the women are concerned is exactly the same.

So I agree with Professor Miura from Sophia University - the Japanese authorities should be ashamed of themselves.

Power Politics

Peter Brookes cartoon

I enjoyed this cartoon by Peter Brookes which appeared in The Times newspaper the other day.

Power is slowly slipping away from Syria's current president - Bashar al Assad - but I suspect this ghastly tyrant will still escape justice - most likely courtesy of Russia

Russia is one of the few countries which is intent on propping up the current Syrian regime for as long as it can - President Putin and power politics are at work here - not values and principles.

So the big question is whether or not the outcome of Syria's civil war - can avoid replacing one tyranny with another.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Council Hieroglyphics

This week's Hamilton Advertiser carries an excellent article by Carol Fox - from Fox Cross Solicitors.

As well as putting the local trade unions firmly in their place - Carol gives a flavour of why the Employment Tribunal decided that the council's job 'in-house' evaluation scheme (JES) does not comply with the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Equality Act 2010.

Now this is a devastating decision for the council - because job evaluation schemes  and the pay arrangements which flow from implementing a JES - should be completely transparent and easy to understand.

Which is certainly not the case in South Lanarkshire - where the council refuses to publish the pay rates of traditional male jobs - despite the fact that such information is freely available in every other council in Scotland.

Lawyer for South Lanarkshire equal pay claimants hits back at UNISON criticism

‘Unison has continued to deduct monthly subscriptions from the very same women who they have failed to help’

THE ongoing battle for equal pay against the Council in South Lanarkshire has recently generated more heat than light from the local union representatives, not least Stephen Smellie, UNISON representative and local branch secretary, writes Carol Fox .

He has made public and critical comments of professional solicitors which could land him in even hotter water should we have the time or energy to pursue his misinformation through the courts.

We have received many angry calls from our South Lanarkshire clients and numerous copies of recent press articles. We have called for an apology for our claimants from the union, which is not yet forthcoming.

This at least is our right to reply on behalf of thousands of low-paid workers who are the backbone of public services in South Lanarkshire.

Since this equal pay battle started, with the first legal case lodged in November 2005, our sole focus has been on achieving justice and equality for thousands of low paid, predominantly female, public sector workers.

It is a great pity that the union locally has not shared the same principled aim.

We presently have no interest in wasting our time or resources on union representatives who remain wilfully ignorant of the facts but we will take a short time to set the record straight.

The truth is that, firstly, Stefan Cross Solicitors in Newcastle and then Fox Cross Solicitors Limited have represented thousands of Unison members and non-union members alike, in their determined battle for equal pay during the past seven years. Unison, meanwhile, failed to raise one single claim.

Even if they had believed the protestations of the council that, unlike any other place on earth, South Lanarkshire had no inequality in pay, to protect the legal position of the women the union should have lodged claims while they investigated matters further.

This happened in other councils so why not in South Lanarkshire?

If you want to negotiate from a position of strength surely you take basic steps to protect your members’ interests?

When an equal pay complaint is lodged with the Tribunal potential compensation is calculated from five years before the date of the claim.

This means that for those women who made early claims in 2005 their back-pay may be calculated back to 2000 and is then ongoing until the case is resolved.

So, for some women the council may face a bill of 12 years’ compensation or more. We expect that, as our cases continue to grow since our success at the Employment Tribunal, we will soon represent 3000 claimants or more.

UNISON now protests that they have lodged 100 claims in 2012. But this is much too little, much too late.

These cases can only go back five years until 2007, so what about the seven years’ potential compensation lost to these employees? Will the union make up the difference?

Perhaps that is the real reason for UNISON’s anger, the growing realisation of the potential cost of their very expensive mistake in failing to act for their female members in South Lanarkshire.

Comments by Mr Smellie in the Advertiser’s issue of June 28 – in which he was quoted as saying: “Not every one of these cases is going to win and I don’t want people to buy a new three-piece suite thinking they are going to get a big payout” – were grossly insulting to low-paid workers, many of whom work in several part-time jobs and are the main breadwinner of the family.

These comments betray the sexist assumptions of male trade union officials who still believe that women work for “pin money”.

We have much greater respect for the hard work of our claimants.

Rather than address their own failings, UNISON has instead been quick to criticise “no win, no fee” agreements, which have afforded access to justice for thousands of low-paid women, without union support, who would otherwise have had no ability to pursue any claim.

We act for cleaners, dinner ladies and home helps. The fact that we now have in the region of 2700 cases (and growing) is testament to the integrity of this no win, no fee agreement.

Further, the fact is that, during the past seven years, none of our claimants in South Lanarkshire has paid a penny in legal fees for their equal pay case against the Council.

Yet Stefan Cross personally has fronted all costs and expenses for seven years, which has included engaging advocates, barristers, solicitors, trainees, equal pay experts, QCs, paralegals, admin staff, secretaries and receptionists so that we can provide the best possible legal service to our claimants.

Our principled stance and our track record demonstrate that we would have no truck with any agreement that is not in the interests of our claimants.

Meanwhile, the brazen cheek of Unison resulted in them joining the case very late last year and then taking advantage of all the hard work undertaken and paid for by those that they now seek to criticise – yet they fully adopted all the legal arguments and submissions made by our legal team.

Our claimants ask where is the integrity in that approach? Answer that if you will, Mr Smellie.

Meantime, Unison has continued to deduct monthly subscriptions from the very same women who they have failed to help.

Mr Smellie and the local branch should hang their heads in shame at their hypocritical misinformation. They will now only make any progress with their 100 cases on the back of work already undertaken by us.

Frequent references are also made to “private lawyers”. We are not aware of any other “public” lawyers involved in this case. If the distinction is between ourselves and so-called trade union lawyers, then once again our approach as a professional law firm is open and transparent. The same cannot be said for others.

People in glass houses really should understand the very real danger of throwing stones.

Despite all of this we know that good people work in UNISON. We know because we have worked with them in the past. Before my incarnation as a solicitor I was a full-time official with Unison in London and previously worked for seven years for their trade union lawyers.

We know full well what is going on behind the scenes. We also believe that those at the top of Unison did not set out to create the difficulties they are now in, and that nationally at least they appear to be willing to reappraise the situation.

What is being said behind closed doors cannot yet be published in the local papers because of local and national union politics.

Most disappointingly, our clients advise us that even local politicians, MSPs and councillors don’t appear to have the courage to speak out and grasp the truth. Our claimants have lobbied councillors and politicians to no avail.

The people of South Lanarkshire, who will continue to foot the ever-rising legal bills of the council, need to be made aware of the true facts so that they can also raise questions locally and nationally with elected politicians.

It appears to us that good people are content to do nothing; for our claimants this is hugely disappointing.

We fully expect that the council will appeal the recent decision of the Employment Tribunal.

This will only result in more cases and greater costs because we say that this is a problem the council cannot solve with a strategy of appeal after appeal. The hole they are in is already enormous and they should just stop digging.

During the tribunal one of our claimants was giving evidence about her job in a school kitchen when she explained that her job had become much harder since the council reverted to healthy eating – moving away from serving up turkey twizzlers.

The solicitor acting for the council cross-examined her, challenging her evidence saying that the council had never served turkey twizzlers. Quick as a flash, she replied, “Oh yes they did!” – and the tribunal believed our claimant.

Moreover, the senior personnel worker from the council described their job evaluation scheme as “hieroglyphics”.

Arguments about turkey twizzlers and hieroglyphics have, we are told, now cost the council at least £500,000 in external legal fees.

Does anyone reading this article think any of this makes sense?

The council might hope that they can emerge victorious from this fight but we say that the councillors and politicians should be listening to their low-paid employees who know the reality of the situation.

The job evaluation scheme, known as the 555 Scheme in South Lanarkshire Council, has been ruled not to comply with the provisions of the Equal Pay Act 1970 or the Equality Act 2010. The council should now face this fact.

Our battle is focused against the council and we will fight on until the workers of South Lanarkshire can rely upon a lawful job evaluation scheme which is valid and transparent and delivers equal pay for both male and female workers in South Lanarkshire.

We have called upon the council and the unions to get around the table with us now to reach a settlement in the interests of the claimants, the council and the council tax-payers of South Lanarkshire.

Will they now see sense or will they appeal, spending more money on unnecessary legal costs arguing about turkey twizzlers?

Mutton Chops

I was watching a bit of the Tour de France cycle race the other day when I noticed that the race leader - the UK's very own Bradley Wiggins - was sporting a handsome set of 'sideburns'.

Now sideburns have been out of fashion for years - perhaps since the 1970s.

Yet this has not always been so which reminded me of the following piece of very interesting - if useless - information.

Because the word sideburns is actually an anagram of Burnside - named after a famous major general in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865) - whose impressive 'mutton chops' became known more commonly as 'sideburns'.

Now Bradley Wiggins has a long way to go before he gets anyway near Major General Burnside.

But I wonder if Bradley knows that he's following in the footsteps of such history - as he powers towards a well deserved victory in Paris on Sunday.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Who Cares Wins

The following article appears in today's Daily Record newspaper.

Mary Caldwell was one of the first carer's in Glasgow to take an equal pay claim up with Action 4 Equality Scotland - which was successful of course.

Mary's unfair dismissal case against Glasgow City Council was pursued by Brian McLaughlin at Fox Cross solicitors - after Mary's trade union refused to get involved.

So I'm really pleased that Mary's claim has been upheld by the Employment Tribunals.

Because just like all the carers I've ever met in Glasgow - Mary is a thoroughly decent person - the salt of the earth in fact.

Home carer wins £11k for unfair dismissal after helping sick boy

By Ashlie McAnally

A CARER who defied bosses to give the best care to a disabled child has won almost £11,000 at a tribunal after being sacked for fiddling timesheets.

Home support worker Mary Caldwell, 59, who worked 37 hours a week with Glasgow City Council, started work at 7.15am to look after a seven-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.

She left work at 3.45pm to start her 4pm job with Cordia.

But because she noted the allocated hours of 8am to 4.30pm on her timesheets, bosses believed she was defrauding the council.

The twice-nominated carer of the year admitted the sheets didn’t coincide with the hours worked but gave an explanation saying she came in early because “the kids come first”.

The 30-minute overlap came to light when Mary lodged an equal pay claim with employers and the timesheets were checked.

After being sacked for defrauding the council in 2010, she took her former employers to a tribunal and judge Shona MacLean awarded her £10,998 for unfair dismissal. The hearing was told Mary’s hours were agreed but that she worked on a flexi-time scheme.

Mary said she spoke to one manager who didn’t authorise her to work different hours but carried them out anyway to look after the child. She claimed a second manager did give her permission.

Yesterday, Mary – who has now taken an elderly aunt into her Dalmarnock home, Glasgow, to care for her – said: “You get penalised for caring for people.

“It was never down to money, it was down to caring for people. That’s my job. I’ve done it for years.”

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Kettle of Fish

I posted a letter from a Unison member in South Lanarkshire last week - who is very  unhappy at the behaviour of the union in the ongoing fight for equal pay - see post dated 10 July 2012: 'Bold, Free and Truthful'.

The same person has sent me a further exchange of e-mails with Unison which I also thought I'd share with readers as well - not just in the interests of encouraging an open and healthy debate - but also because I think the union sounds terribly weak and unconvincing.

Now Unison appears to concede (finally) that pay discrimination may exist in South Lanarkshire - which we have been saying all along of course - and that the way to determine this is to compare the actual jobs and pay of traditional male and female jobs within South Lanarkshire Council.

Which is exactly what Action 4 Equality Scotland has been campaigning for - for years - from 2005 in fact.

For most of this period the trade unions have acted largely as bystanders - it has to be said - or worse still cheerleaders for the council. 

Action 4 Equality Scotland - on the other hand - has been calling on the council to release this pay information - so that local people can see for themselves what traditional male jobs within the council are actually paid.

The irony is that the unions already know these details - because they negotiated new pay arrangements with South Lanarkshire Council in 2004 - using an in-house job evaluation scheme (JES) which has now effectively been struck down by the Employment Tribunals.

The in-house JES has been declared 'not fit to be relied upon' - yet this JES is what was used by the council and the trade unions locally all those years ago - to determine the pay and grades of all council employees.

A local JES was used in South Lanarkshire against the advice of the Scottish employers (COSLA) and national trade unions - who urged all councils to use a tried and tested scheme which had been specifically developed for use by councils in Scotland - with national trade union support.       

Now this is a fine kettle of fish, if you ask me - because if you listen to the public statements of the unions, you would be forgiven for thinking - that a great breakthrough had not recently been achieved at the Employment Tribunals. 

But this is the first time in Scotland that a major JES has been declared unsafe or 'not fit to be relied upon' - and that opens the door for the succesful prosecution of people's equal pay claims.

The reality is that this breakthrough has been achieved by Action 4 Equality Scotland - because had things been left up to the unions - there would be no equal pay campaign in South Lanarkshire and no equal pay claims against South Lanarkshire Council. 

Dear Stephen,

Thanks for your reply I appreciate you taking time to give me your comments.

Unfortunately I see you are still saying the same negative comments regarding the pay dispute.

I do understand the findings of the employment tribunal hearing and it seems that both SLC and UNISON seem to be saying almost the same thing but in a slightly different way?

If UNISON were really representing the women (and men) in their fight for equal pay, against South Lanarkshire council, why would you not give your support to Fox Cross, who do have the faith of the women?

Surely if you both are fighting the same cause it would be more successful if you worked together instead of you trying to speak against Fox Cross.

As I said in my letter, the 2400 women have made their own decision to employ the services of Fox Cross solicitors, because unlike UNISON, they talk positively about the chances of success, in the battle against discrimination, as they know it exists. But UNISON seem on keep saying that your not wanting to give anyone any false hope or guarantee that the case will win.

Fox Cross solicitors are not giving any guarantee either, but they are at least talking positively and giving the women the hope and respect they deserve.

We all know the truth in this dispute, it's just a matter of time before it's confrmed?

So hopefully you will see that you should be trying as hard as the team at Fox Cross solicitors, especially Mark Irvine, who has kept us all updated on all the ongoings in this case.

I've copied Mark on this mail as I think our comments are as much his concern as they are ours?

I hope that you could give a positive reply?


A Member

Dear Colleague

I thank you for your letter. I am disappointed that you do not give a name since there is no question what so ever of UNISON discriminating against you.

To clarify a couple of issues. The statement that the Council’s scheme does not discriminate on a gender basis is taken from the ET judgement. This is important to understand. This however does not mean that no-one was discriminated against, That can only be judged once full hearings are held and a woman’s job and pay is compared to a man’s job and pay. Discrimination could still have taken place (for example through mis-application, or by protecting other earnings in a way that discriminates) but the ET ruled that the job Evaluation Scheme they used does not itself discriminate.

Both UNISON and Fox Cross are representing men as well as women. This is because if a female in a female dominated job wins a case of discrimination using a comparison of a male worker in a male dominated job then a man doing the same job as the woman can claim to also have been discriminated against. I can’t give you numbers but they are far fewer than the women who are being represented.

You are entitled to your opinion and we are happy to discuss these with you. A series of meetings are being arranged to give a full report to any interested member and you should receive a letter with details of these soon. Please come along. We will hope to clarify some issues as well as listen to your views.

In regard to 10% or 0% it is still possible for you to ask UNISON to take on your case, at no cost. We cannot guarantee that your case will win. To do so would be irresponsible, but our Legal Team will take it forward for assessment.

Stephen Smellie

Shameless Hypocrisy (2)

Here's a post from the blog site archive which captures the shameless behaviour of South Lanarkshire Council over Scotland's Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.

So far as I know the Scottish Labour party has yet to say anything critical about the behaviour of this Labour-led council - yet it has plenty to say about FOI when it comes to other people and other organisations.

Maybe South Lanarkshire's MSPs will have something to say on the matter - let's see what happens in the weeks ahead.   

Actions and Words (7 May 2012)

The Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) contacted me last Thursday to say that South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) intends to lodge an appeal - over the recent Freedom of Information (FOI) case at the Court of Session.

The one in which three senior Scottish judges decided - unanimously - that South Lanarkshire Council should be required to publish pay information regarding the pay of male dominated council jobs.

Now in my opinion this is a scandalous state of affairs, a cynical abuse of the FOI process - and a terrible waste of public money into the bargain.

But the news is very interesting as well - because last Thursday the council was operating without political oversight or control - given that the local elections were taking place that same day and resulted in no single party having a majority.

So how could such an important decision be taken by council officials acting on their own - without proper debate and public scrutiny - which is what local democracy and local government is all about?

For the past five years South Lanarkshire has been a Labour-run council courtesy of Tory support - what will happen in future has yet to be decided and certainly wasn't decided by Thursday 3 May 2102.

So what's going on - you might be entitled to ask yourself?

Within the past 12 months two Scottish Labour leaders - Iain Gray and Johann Lamont - have been quick to criticise the Scottish Government over its failure to abide by an adjudicated decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC).

Yet here we have a completely out of control Labour council going even further - much further.

By thumbing its nose at not just the independent Scottish Information Commissioner, but the highest civil court in Scotland - the Court of Session.

Now if I might remind readers briefly what Lords Marnoch, Mackay and Brailsford had to say in their detailed written judgement from the Court of Session:

"We say that because, having regard to the Commissioner's findings looked at as a whole, we are satisfied that even applying the stricter test the Commissioner could only have concluded that necessity (of publishing the information) was made out. In particular, he held that the Requester's own interest coincided with a widespread public interest in the matter of gender equality and that it was important to achieve transparency on the subject of Equal Pay. No better means existed to achieve that goal than be releasing the information in question."

So while politicians bang on about their values - about the importance of openness, transparency and accountability - their actions speak much louder than their words.

Let's see what MSPs have to say on the matter - once the Scottish Parliament gets back down to business after the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Shameless Hypocrisy

I read another example of Labour party hypocrisy on Freedom of Information (FOI) - just the other day.

I never ceased to be amazed at the way the Labour party shamelessly demands everyone else to observe high standards - when it comes to FOI legislation.

Yet turns a blind eye and has nothing to say when - for example- the Labour led Council in South Lanarkshire not only refuses to abide by a decision of the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) - but also three senior judges in the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

Here's what a Labour MEP - Catherine Stihler - had to say recently about a row involving the Scottish Government: 

"This shameless cover-up will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and may not even be settled before the referendum takes place."

Ms Stihler accused the Nationalists of using taxpayers' money to keep anything to do with independence secret.

Before going on to add:

"Either it is bad news for their assertions, or they don't have any legal advice on EU membership. By arguing that people are not entitled to know such a basic point, the Scottish Government are effectively applying for a Salmond superinjunction against the people of Scotland."

Strong words - strong words indeed.

But why don't the same standards of behaviour apply to the Labour leadership of South Lanarkshire Council?

Which is using taxpayers' money to keep its pay arrangements secret - and prevent people from understanding how different male and female jobs are paid.