Tuesday, 31 May 2016

North Lanarkshire Update

I wrote a post the other day about an ongoing pay dispute in Glasgow City Council where the unions are running a campaign under the slogan of 'Justice for Jannies'.

Now I would have thought that there must be lots of other groups in Glasgow (including female dominated groups of staff) with similar complaints to the one now being raised by by the unions on behalf of School Janitors.

But who knows maybe this new found militancy is slowly working its way along the M8 motorway in the general direction on North Lanarkshire.

Curiouser and Curioser (17/05/16)

I've just received an interesting email from a reader in North Lanarkshire who says that not all Council Janitors are on Grade NLC 6 - and that some are on Grade NLC 4 (which is still higher than the NLC Grade 3 awarded to Home Carers).

Now this is very odd because under the previous Manual Worker (MW) Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) the vast majority of Janitors were on Grade MW5 just like the Home Carers. 

And, of course, under the 'rules' of JES, posts that are being assessed are supposed to be evaluated on their content of the job at the time.

So I'd be keen to know how many NLC Janitors were placed on Grade NLC 4 and how they came to be treated so differently from their NLC 6 colleagues, and if anyone has information to pass on, drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

As regular readers will recall, the unions in Glasgow are involved in a 'Justice for Jannies' dispute which I am following with great interest, but in the meantime the JES scores in the example shown below are obviously for NLC Grade 6.

Glasgow City Council Update (12/05/16)

I was walking through George Square the other day and saw a sight I've never seen before in the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow: a union-led protest about the City Council's local job evaluation scheme, which is known as the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

Now as I've said on the blog site before, there must be lots of women workers wondering why the unions don't put they same effort into fighting for their pay and conditions, especially as women jobs are still concentrated at the bottom of the pay ladder. 

So who knows?

Maybe the trade unions will get behind the campaign to persuade Glasgow City Council to face up to is equal pay obligations and the implications of the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision, from which thousands of low paid workers stand to benefit.

Strikingly Different(12/04/16)

I wrote a post the other day about the 'strikingly different' behaviour of the local trade unions in Glasgow City Council, as far as the fight for equal pay is concerned. 

Given the recent victory at the Employment Appeal Tribunal you'd think that the local union 'leaders' would show a bit more resolve, perhaps even some leadership, like the leader of the opposition on the Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, who told The Herald newspaper:   

"The Council should have sought to do the right thing by these women when it emerged that the original claims may not have been adequately settled.
"Instead it may well have opened itself up to increased liability at a time when public finances are already under enormous pressure."

Strikingly Different (18/03/16)

I don't know enough about this janitors strike in Glasgow to say whether the workers involved have a strong case or not, but I'll bet there are lots of women trade union members scratching their heads and asking themselves:

"Where have all the strikes and protests been during the long 10-year fight for equal pay in Scotland's councils?"

Because although I've taken an active interest in this subject since 2005 I cannot recall a major campaign and/or industrial action on behalf of women workers in Scottish local government whose jobs are still, by and large, stuck at the bottom of the pay ladder.

I must take another look at this Working Context and Demands Payment which is part of Glasgow City Council's local job evaluation scheme (JES), of course.

More than 100 Glasgow school janitors begin strike in pay dispute
Image copyright - Dave Moxham Image caption - Janitors on strike held a demonstration outside the City Chambers

More than 100 school janitors in Glasgow have begun a three-day strike in a dispute over pay.

The Unison union said its members wanted additional payments for undertaking tasks which were dirty, unpleasant, involved regularly working outside or heavy lifting.

The staff involved in the action are employed by Cordia - an arms-length body of Glasgow City Council.

All schools were open on Monday but some breakfast clubs were cancelled.

The dispute centres on a claim by janitors for a Working Context and Demands Payment, which can range from £500 to £1,000 annually.

'No option'

The union has accused Cordia of "using spurious arguments to justify not making this payment" to its members.

Unison Glasgow branch officer Sam Macartney said: "Unison is very clear that school janitors meet the criteria to be awarded this payment.

"Our members have been left with no option other than to take this action as both Cordia and the council are wrong and just not listening to our members.

"The council needs to get round the table with Unison and agree a negotiated settlement of our members' legitimate claim."

Image copyright - Dave Moxham

Janitors on strike turned up at the City Chambers on Monday "with buckets, mops and brooms" to stage a demonstration. Another will be held on Tuesday.

Picket lines were organised on Monday morning with a repeat planned for Wednesday.

The union said teachers, support workers, cleaners and catering staff had been advised by their unions not to undertake the duties of janitors in their absence.

A council spokesman said: "Some of the city's janitors took part in industrial action in a number of our primary, Additional Support for Learning schools and nurseries today, with similar action planned for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

"This action unfortunately meant that Breakfast Clubs in affected schools had to be cancelled."

Glasgow City Council Update

Here's one of my favourite posts from the blog site archive which shines a light on the behaviour of the local Unison branch during the long fight for equal pay in Labour-run South Lanarkshire Council.

Makes me laugh my head off every time I read the baloney that desperate people would come up with to try and discredit Action 4 Equality Scotland, while helping senior council managers and local politicians keep the workforce in the dark over equal pay.

So the moral of the story is don't believe for a minute that local trade unions 'leaders' know what they're talking about when it comes to job evaluation and equal pay, because all too often they haven't a clue.


South Lanarkshire Update (12/08/15)

I've had lots of emails from readers in South Lanarkshire about the behaviour of the trade unions and the local Unison branch, in particular, over equal pay. 

Apparently the union branch had said lots of silly things on its Facebook page which doesn't surprise me really because years ago at the height of the equal pay campaign tried to make an issue of the fact that my colleague Stefan Cross is English.

Here's what the local Unison branch had to say in its infamous 'Stewards Briefing':

"Stewards will have seen the press coverage of a firm of English lawyers who are offering to run equal pay claims in Scotland. You may also have seen leaflets from this firm in the name of Action 4 Equality Scotland, promising thousands of pounds in compensation. Mark Irvine, who was formerly a UNISON official, is fronting this firm. 

The situation in South Lanarkshire is different from the other 31 local authorities in Scotland. Here the Council has negotiated and agreed a settlement with UNISON, TGWU and GMB that deals with equal pay and the overall issues of Single Status.

Most, though not all, other Councils have adopted the Job Evaluation Scheme recommended by the Scottish Joint Council (SJC - COSLA and the 3 unions at Scottish level). South Lanarkshire Council has instead used the Competence Initiative to assess and grade jobs within the Council. At the same time they negotiated with the 3 unions to introduce common terms and conditions."

Now I don't know who actually wrote this tosh, perhaps the branch secretary at the time, Stephen Smellie (pronounced Smiley not Smelly), had a hand, but in any event the union's behaviour is shameful and embarrassing, if you ask me. 

I have made fun of this nonsense on the blog site previously and if readers have any other examples of their unions making fools of themselves, on Facebook for example, I would be delighted to share these with a wider audience.

More to follow, I suspect.

I knew that I had written about xenophobia and anti-English sentiment on the blog site previously - see the post dated 26 August 2103: 'Tickety Boo'.

So here's a earlier post from 2009 which pokes fun at small-minded types who would - if they could - make an issue out of other people's nationality.

I think it's hilarious I have to say - not least because the 'dog whistle' tactic backfired so spectacularly - as if anyone cared a jot about the nationality of a lawyer dealing with their equal pay claim. 

I imagine the vast majority of people would just be pleased to be getting some help, support and useful information - about how to stand up for their rights.  

Jings, Crivens and Help Ma Boab! (14 August 2009)

Pssst! Have you heard the news?
Celtic Football Club has appointed a new manager – for the 2009/10 football season.

Someone who’s not Scottish – dare we say it, the chap’s actually from................England!

As far as we know there have been no pickets at Parkhead – and, so far, no public disorder in the streets. 

But Unison (Scotland) has not spoken - yet.

And we know that the union has a bit of a chip on its shoulder about non-Scots coming up north – telling us locals what to do, how to do it and generally throwing their weight around.

So, the west of Scotland is holding its collective breath – since we all know that there must be some Celtic fans amongst the ranks of Unison (Scotchland).

Now most sane people don’t give a fig that Tony Mowbray is from the north east of England. Because what has that got to do with his ability as a football manager?

Although – you have to admit – it’s a strange coincidence that Stefan Cross hails from that part of the country as well.

So, maybe it is a conspiracy after all – for English lawyers and English footballers to subvert the established order - and seize control of the socialist republic of Caledonia.

Maybe that’s why Unison is so paranoid about where people come from - maybe the union has a point?

On the other hand – maybe they’re just all bonkers. 

Facing the Flak

Rafael Behr had a thoughtful piece in The Guardian the other day in which he argued that the Labour will never find its way back into government until the party faces up to its obvious problems in terms of public perception.

Some of the more glaring problems suggest that Labour is regarded as:
  • the party of benefits
  • the party of uncontrolled immigration
  • the party of left-liberal tastes
  • the party of sectional interests, irrelevant to the majority
A harsh message to take on board for sure, but no business or service industry in the world can afford to turn a deaf ear to its 'customers' - and its customers are not just the relatively small band of Labour activists and supporters.  

Which is something that Jeremy Corbyn and the new Labour leadership seem unwilling to concede. 


Labour’s answers lie in its losses, not its victories

By Rafael Behr - The Guardian

For years the party has been stuck in a torpid Edzone. It must break out and listen to those who feel it’s abandoned them
‘Naushabah Khan, Labour’s unsuccessful candidate in Rochester, writes eloquently about the party’s loss of relevance to many of its former voters there.’ Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

Abraham Wald, a mathematician by trade, knew nothing about aviation or the British Labour party when he fled Austria in 1938. But he did know about numbers and his insights there can posthumously help Her Majesty’s opposition in 2016 – via a problem solved for the US Air Force in the 1940s.

The problem involved defensive armour. Planes needed it, but too much weighed them down. So officers surveyed battle-scarred aircraft returning from European sorties and tallied the bullet holes on different sections. They saw that the fuselage was taking the most flak, more than the engine, and were poised to stick the armour on accordingly – and erroneously.

Howling at the Moon

Image result for howling with wolves

John McTernan has some fun with this column in The Telegraph in which he delivers a positive assessment of Tony Blair's legacy.

But however rational McTernan's analysis may be, he knows that any praise for the former Labour leader draws the Blair-haters out in force who then begin to howl at the moon, politically speaking, instead of having anything forward looking or intelligent to say.

Hate is a very powerful emotion, but ultimately a destructive one if taken too far as the Labour Party is finding out to its cost.


Labour's deluded Corbynite Twitterati are sealing it off from the electorate

By JOHN MCTERNAN - The Telegraph


"Si monumentum requiris, circumspice," Tony Blair told Bronwen Maddox, editor of Prospect magazine, during a fascinating and wide-ranging interview.

Not literally. What he actually said when he was asked whether his time in government had been a success was:

"Just look at London. It’s successful because it’s a multicultural city."

Summing up achievements, he said:

"You can be great by respecting the past but not living in it."

And he’s right. London is Tony Blair’s legacy. The Olympics. The jobs. The boom. The excitement. Hipsters. Silicon roundabout. Diversity. Equality. Marriage (as Obama pointed out, it’s just "marriage" now, marriage for all). The greatest city in the world in the greatest country in the world.

I should stop now and just post this blog as it is. I’ve said enough. Not enough to make the case for Tony Blair as the most important post-war Prime Minister, or as Labour’s most successful leader in its 110 year history. But definitely enough to get the anti-Blairites out on Twitter in force.

Politics and Narcissists

Ken Clarke, the veteran Tory MP, hit back at those in his own ranks who are using the EU referendum to mount a Conservative leadership election.

The former chancellor told the BBC's Today programme:

“I think Boris and Donald Trump should go away for a bit and enjoy themselves and not get in the way of serious issues which modern countries in the 21st century face.

“He’s a much nicer version of Donald Trump but the campaign is remarkably similar in my opinion, and about as relevant to the real problems the public face.”

Mr Clarke added that the comments from Ms Dorries and other Conservative backbenchers who have been publicly debating Mr Cameron's future were a "diversion" from the referendum.

“It’s completely unhelpful – not least because it diverts attention from what we ought to be talking about. We ought to be talking about the benefit this country gets, and always has, from being in the EU.”

Now Boris may have the same narcissistic relationship with his hair and, as Clarke says, he may be wittier and more engaging than Donald, but as a politician Boris is the equivalent of an unguided missile.  

Mad Nad and Bonkers Boris (30/05/16)

The ridiculous Nadine Dorries is one of a number of Conservative MPs who have been calling for the Prime Minister's head over the weekend for allegedly telling 'porkies' and 'operating being the limits' of fair campaigning in the great EU referendum campaign.

"You cannot be serious", I said to myself on hearing these dumb claims especially when the 'start striker' of the Leave side made such a fool of himself the other day with his ill-informed advice on buying bananas.

Mad Nad and Bonkers Boris - a match made in heaven, if you ask me. 

Bananarama (20/05/16)

Here's a bunch of five bananas I bought in my local supermarket in Glasgow the other day, one or two of which were especially 'curvy'.

So I think I'll send a copy of this post to Boris Johnson courtesy of his Westminster email address and ask the leader of the 'Leave' campaign if he is now prepared to eat his words.

Boris Goes Bananas (18/05/16)

Image result for bananas + bunches

I'm off to my local supermarket later today to test Boris Johnson's latest intervention in the great EU debate to destruction.

As regular readers know, I've been saying for some time that Bojo's lost his mojo, but it appears even worse than that because his thoughts on bananas suggest that the former London Mayor really lost his marbles.

Speaking in support of his view as to why Britain should leave the EU, Boris said:

"If we take back control on 23 June, we can also get rid of so much of the pointless rules and regulations that are holding back this country.

"This gentleman here mentions bananas. It is absurd that we are told you cannot sell bananas of bunches of more than two or three bananas.

"You cannot sell bananas with abnormal curvature of the fingers. Why should they tell us?"

Now I've bought bananas in all kinds of places - Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, local markets - and I've done so both at home and abroad (in Europe) without the slightest problem.

I've never been restricted to just two or three bananas or had extra curvy ones snatched form my hands at the till.

But it's great PR for the Remain side while making Bojo look like a complete laughing stock - Boris may be good for a laugh, but his hopes of ever becoming Prime Minister are receding by the day.   

Moonlighting MPs (10/12/12)

I'm pleased to announce that my campaign to hold the country's moonlighting MPs to account - for pretending that they can do two jobs at the same time - is starting to take off . 

Gordon Brown - the sometime Labour MP and former Prime Minister - was put under the spotlight in yesterday's Sunday Times and rightly so.

Because Gordon is one of the worst offenders - in terms of the amount of time he  spends abroad away from his day job - as an MP in the House of Commons.

I also heard Nadine Dorries being interviewed on the Sunday Politics programme yesterday - in which she suggested, quite brazenly, that local constituents in Mid-Bedfordshire are fully behind recent appearance on 'I'm a Celebrity' - in the Australian jungle.

Now there's no way of testing that theory at the moment - short of a general election - because there is no power of recall over Westminster MPs.

Even if people believe they are behaving badly, MPs can just hang on in there and stay in post - until they have to face the electorate again - which may be years away, of course.

The only sensible point that Nadine Dorries made in her interview was that double standards appear to be at work in Westminster - that women MPs seems to be given  harsher treatment for stepping out of line compared to their male colleagues.

Now I agree with that because the political establishment at Westminster has taken no action against Gordon Brown for being away so regularly from his post - yet 'Mad Nad' has the Whip withdrawn for what is her first offence.

I hope the Sunday Times article encourages others to raise the issue - because this is not about party politics - it's about the use of public money and the accountability of our elected representatives at Westminster.

The reality is that this kind of behaviour would not be tolerated at any other level of government - because there would be a huge public outcry. 

"Globe-trotting Gordon Brown loses his voice"

by Dipesh Gadher

"From dispatch box bruiser to Westminster’s silent man. Gordon Brown has not spoken in parliament for more than a year while crisscrossing the globe to maintain an international profile.

The former Labour prime minister has declared 28 overseas trips on the MPs’ register of interests since he last spoke in the Commons on November 30, 2011. They include six visits to New York, where he holds an academic post, six trips to the Middle East and stop-offs in Seoul, Lagos and Mexico City.

Much of the jet-setting is linked to Brown’s humanitarian work, but his hosts have included Arab rulers, Russian banks and the Chinese government.

Now the Conservatives have accused Brown of having a “casual disregard” for his constituents in Scotland and have written to Ed Miliband, calling on the Labour leader to remove the party whip from the former prime minister.

There is even disquiet among Labour ranks that Brown continues to draw an MP’s salary of £65,738 while making only rare appearances in parliament. “He’s very much the forgotten man; it’s as if he wasn’t here,” said one senior Labour figure. “There must be concern among his constituents that he’s drawing a salary and allowances while not being at Westminster.”

The criticism may put pressure on Brown to relinquish his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat ahead of the 2015 general election.

An audit by The Sunday Times has discovered that only three MPs have been less vocal in parliament than Brown. However, two of them are government whips and, by convention, do not take part in debates.

The third, Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP in Birmingham, has not spoken since May 2011 but has been suffering from kidney failure and is awaiting a transplant.

Brown has taken part in only three Commons debates since losing the election in May 2010. The last time he spoke, he raised concerns about radioactive waste dumped in his constituency in the 1950s by the Ministry of Defence.

By contrast, John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, spoke in seven debates in the year before he stood down as an MP in 2001.

Hansard records show that Brown last tabled a written parliamentary question on February 9 this year. He has taken part in 14% of votes since losing office, according to the Public Whip website.

Brown declared 28 foreign trips between November 30, 2011, and July 3 this year. He has yet to register at least four further visits, including trips to South Sudan and Pakistan.

Since leaving No 10, Brown has received more than £2m in fees and expenses — although this has all been ploughed back into his public and charitable activities. He has held roles as “distinguished global leader in residence” at New York University and chairman of the World Economic Forum policy co-ordination group.

Brown has also been a visiting fellow at Harvard and was appointed special envoy for global education by the United Nations in July.

Since he last spoke in the Commons, Brown’s declared fees from international speech-making alone have topped £800,000. In May he received £60,679.90 for one hour’s work at an event organised by the Abu Dhabi education council. This equates to more than £1,000 a minute — although it was not for personal gain.

The MPs’ register shows that each payment goes to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown “for the employment of staff to support my ongoing involvement in public life”.

John Glen, Tory MP for Salisbury, recently wrote to Miliband, claiming that Brown’s prolonged silence showed “a casual disregard” for his constituents. Glen also said many would see Brown’s ability to receive an MP’s salary and thousands of pounds in parliamentary expenses as an “abuse of taxpayers’ money”.

However, a Labour source accused the Tories of hypocrisy, pointing to Nadine Dorries’s recent outing on I’m a Celebrity . . . Get me out of Here!. “David Cameron is such a weak leader that he couldn’t stop his MP abandoning her constituents and appearing in a reality TV show on the other side of the world,” he said.

Yesterday, Brown’s record provoked a mixed response among constituents in Kirkcaldy.

Carol Martin, 59, a charity shop worker, said: “He needs to be regularly voicing the concerns of the town to parliament. Are the amount of foreign trips [he takes] really necessary?”

Neil Campbell, 31, a bricklayer, said: “I really think he is doing all he can for the area and he has my support.”

Rampant Sexism (12 November 2012)
The Conservative MP for Mid-Befordshire - Nadine Dorries - swans off from the House of Commons for up to 30 days to take part in a celebrity TV programme - which is made in some remote part of Australia.

Result - she gets 'pelters' from all quarters and deservedly so - including from the Deputy Labour Leader - Harriet Harman - while standing in at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).

Ms Harman famous for her support of equalities issues even made a lame joke at Nadine's expense - something about the Tory MP having to deal with all kinds of snakes and toads - before she even arrived in the jungle.

So why is the row in the House of Commons so sexist?

Because lots of other MPs swan off when it suits them - including Harriet's Labour colleague and former Prime Minister - Gordon Brown.

Except Gordon is away from his day job for much more time than Nadine Dorries - 70 days a year (every year) in one job alone - at the New York University in Abu Dhabi, for example.

Yet no one says a word - or makes jokes at Prime Minister's Questions.

Maybe they'll start doing so now.

I certainly hope so because it would be a breath of fresh air - and thoroughly deserved.

Gissa Job (16 July 2012)

I read the other day that Gordon Brown - the sometime Labour MP for Cowdenbeath and Kircaldy - has added yet another string to his bow.

Apparently the former Prime Minister is to become a global envoy for the United Nations.

A position which will, of course, compete for Gordon's time along with his paid role as a 'Distinguished Global Leader in Residence' - at the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University - where he is required to spend 70 days a year.

And his time spent on other charitable works on behalf of 'The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown' - which I have commented upon previously.

Now I have no problem with Gordon Brown spending lots of time out of the country.

But what I don't understand is why he doesn't just resign his seat as an MP - and give someone else the chance of doing a proper full-time day job? Particularly at a time of such high unemployment.

According to press reports Gordon's heart is just not into being a Westminster MP - and since losing the 2010 general election he has apparently taken part in just two parliamentary debates - and only 15 per cent of the votes.

So surely it's time for Gordon to do the right thing - and step aside.