Saturday, 26 August 2017

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

Here's a letter from Stefan Cross QC to ex-GMB members who have lost confidence in the union's ability to handle their equal pay claims against Glasgow City Council.

Now the letter speaks for itself, but you have to say the GMB could see this coming years ago, but nonetheless the union failed to change change its tune or take the action required to protect its members' interests.

Which is an odd way for a trade union to behave, of course, because having played no part in the recent Court of Session challenge to Glasgow's JES and WPBR pay arrangements, the GMB is trying to claim credit for the work done by the other claimant organisations.

Little wonder the GMB is losing members locally.



Thank you for your instructions to Action 4 Equality Scotland (Limited). We are arranging to start a new claim for you in the Employment Tribunals  in the next week.

However, I understand that you were a GMB member and that they started a claim for you in 2009. I do not know what the union and their solicitors, first Digby Brown and then Thompsons, have told you about the GMB claims but much misinformation has been put out by the union in recent months. It would be very helpful if you were able to send us everything that you received from the union and the solicitors.

In the meantime, you need to know what we understand to be the position and how this affects you. It is not good. I attach for your information a copy of the original GMB grievance and also an extract from a tribunal decision in 2012 – in particular paragraphs 7 and 8, which sets out the major differences between the GMB claims and the claims we have been pursuing since 2007.

Put simply the GMB on your behalf limited the claim only to the period 2006 to 2009 and only for pay protection. They did not challenge any of the gradings, nor any part of WPBR, nor any of the other pay and terms and conditions, not even for the period 2007 to 2009. Nor are they part of the Employee Development Commitment (EDC) challenge to the post 2009 protection arrangements take for the men.

This means that it is highly likely that not only will claims be limited to a 2 year period but also that the council will argue that the value of those claims is lower for GMB members because they accepted all the gradings. We don’t agree with that but it is one of the arguments the council are still making.

We are submitting a new claim but because of the limitation period in Scotland claims will only go back to August 2012. This means that because of the actions of GMB you will have no claim for the period April 2009 to August 2012. Despite what GMB are now saying there is no way of bridging this gap in the current tribunal claims.

We are frankly appalled by the actions of the unions and their lawyers. We raised this issue with the GMB several years ago in North Lanarkshire and they refused to change their position there and failed to reconsider the matter in Glasgow. We think that the solicitors should have advised you of the position too as you were their clients. This is why we need to see everything they sent you so we can consider what remedies you might have against them.

If you have any questions or need further clarification please do not hesitate to contact me or Karl.

Stefan Cross QC

Glasgow - Stop Digging! (19/08/17)

Stefan Cross tells it straight in this agenda piece for The Herald about the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

In effect, Glasgow 'bet the house' but lost hands down, even though the City Council had the opportunity to settle these issues amicably, by negotiation, a long time ago.

Yet for some strange reason a succession of Labour-led councils relied on very poor advice from senior officials and legal advisers, instead of facing up to their obligations over equal pay. 

Many of those responsible have now left the council, through retirement or other generous terms, but the big challenge for the new SNP led administration is to accept that the Council is in a big hole of its own making - and 'stop digging'.

So maybe it's time that some of the City Council's senior officials and legal advisers were shown the door?

Will Glasgow drop fight against equal pay?

By Stefan Cross QC - The Herald

Stefan Cross QC

Every political party and every politician will tell you that they believe in the principle of equal pay for men and women.

But when you challenge that principle in practice it becomes a different story. Protecting the mens’ wages comes first, saving money comes second and the rights of the women come a distant last.

We are about to find out if that charge still sticks as today’s Court of Session ruling means that GCC faces a bill that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds purely because they have for over a decade set their face against resolving these issues with us on an amicable basis.

To understand how we got into this mess you have to go back over 30 years. In the 1980s all local councils agreed a new job evaluation scheme (JES) for manual workers covering all jobs done mainly by men such as refuse, gardening and road workers and all mainly female jobs such as catering, cleaning and caring.

This meant a home carer was graded the same as the driver of a refuse lorry. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with this scoring, what matters is that all the employers and the unions did so.

This meant that legally these two jobs should have been paid the same. By 2005 the nationally agreed rate for the job was about £11,000 and that what the women were paid, but because of automatic bonuses the men were getting paid anything up to £21,000.

The council now agrees that this was wrong and the women were therefore entitled to be paid the same £21,000. Did they? Err no.

Instead the council terminated the old pay arrangement and imposed a new pay structure.

Now this in itself was not unusual, indeed there was a nationally agreed scheme agreed with the unions to enable this to be put in place. But Glasgow City Council refused to follow the national agreement.

It decided to go it alone and create its own JES scheme. On top of that the council promised the men that they would protect their old earnings but refused to give the same protection to the women.

What did this mean in practice? It meant that instead of being paid the same as a man doing a job which has been of equal value for 20 years the council downgraded the women and gave them new salary still much less than the men.

Net result was that women had an effective pay cut of over £5,000. To rub salt into the wounds they also took away the womens’ right to overtime pay and other enhancements. Guess who kept those rights? Yes the former bonus earning men. This is supposed to be an equal opportunities employer!

We have challenged all these decisions. At the same time we urged the council to resolve these cases by agreement. They refused instead gambling that their lawyers advice was better than ours. They have now lost that bet.

The Court of Session in two decisions this year held, first, that the women were entitled to the same protection as the men but even more importantly that the council had failed to prove that its JES scheme was valid under the Equal Pay Act, the now nearly half century old legislation designed to make sure men and women’s labour is valued equally, and not tainted with discrimination. 

The council will either have to go back to the drawing board or let the tribunal do it for them. In the meantime the women have been paid anything up to £6000 a year less than men doing jobs which were of equal value. So will the council now agree to pay these women equally or will they find another excuse? We’ll wait and see.