Saturday, 2 September 2017

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

The GMB's Gary Smith has not been in touch to take up my offer of a meeting to discuss Glasgow City Council's Employment Development Commitment (EDC) scheme which, as regular readers know, ensured special and more favourable treatment to the all male, former bonus earning jobs under the Council's WPBR pay scheme.

Now this may be because at least some of the jobs in question were located in parts of the council where many of the workers were GMB members, represented by GMB union reps - Gravediggers and Gardeners and so on.

I'm pretty sure the GMB was the dominant union amongst City Council Gardeners, for example, so it must be well placed to help get to the bottom of what really went on, especially since council officials say they don't keep such 'good' records.

And I think the same may be true of the City Council's Gravediggers who appear to have had a whopping big bonus of £11,000 a year preserved on a permanent basis by the award of a higher grade under the WPBR and EDC.

But maybe readers in Glasgow can also help with this - some folk must know a Gardener or a Gravedigger who would be willing to help women workers in the City Council get what they deserve in the fight for equal pay.

Also can any GMB members tell me if they have received an individual letter from Gary Smith explaining why their equal pay claims were still restricted in Glasgow - two years after the very same problem came to light in North Lanarkshire Council back in 2015.

If you ask me, the GMB ought to agree to compensate these members, since it's the union and/or its advisers who messed up - not individual GMB members.


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (24/08/17)

As I thought Gary Smith has been badly 'stung' by the post I published yesterday which had some critical words to say about the GMB 's handling of its members equal pay claims in Glasgow.

Perfectly fair, I thought, given the circumstances, but perhaps predictably Gary has lashed out instead of accepting the GMB's responsibility for this terrible mess of its own making.

Here is the GMB's response to what I had to say which is probably the longest email letter I've ever read - a curious cross between a ramble and a rant.

Now I wrote to Gary well over a week ago to suggest that we work together in the interests of all the claimants, but I never received an acknowledgment to my letter never mind a positive response.

Hence my decision to call a 'spade a spade' on the blog site the other day.  

So the ball is still in the GMB's court, for example the union could help by explaining exactly how the former bonus earning jobs (Gravediggers, Gardeners etc) received more favourable treatment under the City Council's Employee Development Commitment (EDC) scheme, even though the GMB is not part of the challenge to the Council's JES and WPBR.

At the moment Gary seems unable to 'see the wood for the trees', but maybe that will change and if so, he knows how to get in touch.

In the meantime, here are some facts on the track record of A4ES which is based on getting results, unlike the GMB which has been taking its members' union fees for years while letting them down in the fight for equal pay.

  • A4ES is proud of its track record which bears bears repeating
  • Without A4ES there would not have been any equal pay settlements in 2005 because up until then the employers and unions kept the workforce in the dark about the big pay differences between male and female jobs
  • A4ES clients in Glasgow received much better 1st Wave settlements because A4ES did not agree to a 'cap' of just £9,000 - in a deal with the unions which also excluded lots of groups and compensation over issues such as overtime working
  • Without A4ES there would not have been in any challenge to the Pay Protection arrangements in Glasgow since A4ES started the challenge immediately whereas the GMB didn't even begin a challenge until after pay protection finished
  • A4ES has led the challenge to Glasgow's WPBR from the outset and now all the GMB are doing is trying to 'jump on the bandwagon' after the victory at the Court Session
  • A4ES is not in the least embarrassed by the fact that we charge for services - A4ES is the lowest charging firm in the UK and believes we are worth every penny because of our track record of success.
  • GMB members have a simple choice - do you believe an organisation that's been keeping you in the dark and misleading you for 10 years, or A4ES that has been telling people the truth for the past 12 years?
  • By the way this is the first time that Gary Smith has acknowledged publicly that the GMB has messed up (again) in Glasgow although there is still no sign of the promised 'investigation' into what went wrong previously in North Lanarkshire - more than two years ago


Dear Gary

Glasgow and Equal Pay

I have had lots to say on my blog site recently about the ongoing fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

My comments regarding the GMB have been quite critical, as you know, and although I believe my criticisms are entirely justified I am also mindful of the fact that you were not actually in Glasgow at the time and, therefore, had no direct responsibility for the behaviour of the local trade unions back in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Having read your recent comments on the current situation in Glasgow I think it would be to everyone's advantage, if Action 4 Equality Scotland and the local unions (GMB, Unison and Unite) were to work together with the aim of achieving the best possible outcome for the thousands of equal pay claimants we represent.

To my mind the local unions are well placed to help get to the bottom of the City Council's pay protection arrangements which, as you know, treated women workers very differently to their male colleagues, and went way beyond the nationally agreed 3-year protection period as a consequence of the City Council's Employee Development Commitment (EDC).

As the EDC scheme benefited traditional male, former bonus earning jobs I am sure the local unions in Glasgow are in a position to explain exactly what happened in respect of the City Council's Gravediggers, Gardeners and Refuse Workers etc - in other words we don't need to rely on what senior council managers or advisors have to say.

I am confident that this information will come out into the open one way or another, eventually, but the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned and the information will obviously be a great help to all the female claimants.

My suggestion is that we should pool our efforts and increase the pressure on the City Council in the weeks ahead by highlighting how the former bonus earning jobs were given special treatment under the EDC and the council's pay protection arrangements. 

If you would like to discuss my proposal in more detail I would be happy to come along to the GMB office at Fountain House or anywhere else you might like to meet. I would attend any meeting on my own though I have no problem with you being accompanied by one of more of your GMB colleagues.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Dear GMB Member
    GMB Scotland Update – Glasgow City Council Equal Pay & Action 4 Equality
      I have said previously that I will not be giving a running commentary on the spin of private law firms with interests in equal pay. However, I won’t sit back and let any individual or organisation outside of GMB Scotland peddle misinformation about the actions of our trade union to our members or the general public. 
        Action 4 Equality (A4E) is a no-win / no-fee claims company and has a significant stake in the Glasgow City Council equal pay issue. Make no mistake about it, equal pay is big business for A4E and future equal pay settlements will see them take cuts from their claimants that will be worth significant sums for them.

        That’s why they are currently touting for more GMB members to transfer their claims to A4E.  In the blog post of Tuesday 22 August they make two spurious claims which have circulated social media:

          • GMB members have had their equal pay claims restricted to only 3 years and this presents a particular problem. 
          • Any GMB members transferring claims to A4ES will have their claims re-registered and will have a new claim started as well, but they may have to consider separate action against the GMB (and/or its lawyers) if they suffer a financial loss because of the GMB's handling of their original claim.   The suggestion that A4E can somehow get something for our members which we cannot is simply wrong.   We are now taking action to ensure that our members can pursue claims for the maximum amount possible in light of the recent decision in relation to the claims in Glasgow.

            However, it is the rank hypocrisy of A4E on this issue that demands immediate redress.

            I recently received a personal communication from them requesting discussions with me on the future of equal pay claims in Glasgow City Council. The letter from Mark Irvine on behalf of A4E said: “I think it would be to everyone's advantage, if Action 4 Equality Scotland and the local unions (GMB, Unison and Unite) were to work together with the aim of achieving the best possible outcome for the thousands of equal pay claimants we represent.”
              They also acknowledged that under my leadership, GMB Scotland “had no direct responsibility for the behaviour of local trade unions back in 2005, 2006 and 2007.” 

              I assume here that they are referring to the actions of trade unions in GCC taken on the advice of their legal affiliates at that particular period of time.
                Therefore, it is quite something for A4E to extend the hand of friendship on one hand while peddling lies about GMB members and their equal pay claims on the other. I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt when I received his initial communication but the recent blogpost reveals their true colours.  
                  As I also pointed out before, the last big equal pay claim is this one in Glasgow and A4E want to drum up as much business as possible because this is their last big pay day.
                    I started as Scottish Secretary of GMB a bit under 2 years ago. What is true is that one of the first things I did was sack our existing lawyers then Digby Brown. I did that because I didn't think they were providing our members with the best legal support including in relation to Equal Pay. I have instigated legal action against Digby Brown for the work they did on Equal Pay in places like North Lanarkshire.
                      But let’s be clear, our members in North Lanarkshire who had on going cases, because of the action we instigated, are now subject to settlement terms which entitles them to the monies they are due. 
                        In Glasgow, a number of years ago, our then lawyers Digby Brown did not pursue a claim over job evaluation. The union and private lawyers who did actually pursue the claim over job evaluation lost their case twice at Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Last week the Court of Session did find in favour of the other union and private lawyers. In fact, what the Court of Session found was that Glasgow City Council could not successfully defend the job evaluation scheme they used. 
                          The judgement has huge implications for Glasgow City Council and all the Arms Length Organisations (ALEOS) it runs like Glasgow Life and Cordia. Every job in the ALEOS and in Glasgow City Council may have to be re-evaluated using a new system. What last Friday’s judgement does not do is immediately entitle anyone to more money. Glasgow City Council may yet appeal the judgement and there would be big hurdles to get over to secure money for workers across the council and ALEOS.
                            In terms of GMB Scotland our current lawyers Thompsons along with the other unions and private solicitors have successfully pursued a claim over Pay Protection.
                              There is now no dispute that our members we originally pursued claims for are entitled to money because the pay protection process used by Glasgow City Council discriminated against women.
                                The amounts due to individuals for the pay protection claim will vary depending on individual circumstances but whether people have claims with private lawyers or another union the same principles apply.
                                  The only difference for those who have claims with the private lawyers is that they are going to take a significant chunk of cash from their client’s winnings in a way that does not make it clear what is being deducted. It is therefore not clear to individuals how much they are actually paying to the private lawyers.
                                    Therefore, I would urge every individual who is with Action for Equality and the private firms to demand to know exactly how much they are pocketing from the individual settlements.
                                      In terms of our members with longstanding claims relating to pay protection, we have instructed our current lawyers, Thompsons, to take any action required to ensure that our members get the maximum amount possible.
                                        There has been a lot of speculation and spin from A4E and the private lawyers over the number of years that is being claimed for by them and GMB Scotland.
                                          Let me be as clear as I can possibly be on this issue, for those with existing claims the limits on backdating of claims cannot be altered whether you are with GMB another union or the private lawyers. 

                                            Any suggestion from the no win / no fee lawyers to the contrary is just marketing spin. Glasgow is the last big potential pay day for the no win / no fee lawyers in Scotland and they want to make as much money as possible for themselves.
                                              I wish our old legal firm Digby Brown had pursued the case against job evaluation scheme but they did not. If the advice given by Digby Brown to our members and us as a union turns out to have been flawed and it ends up disadvantaging our members, I will look at pursuing a claim against Digby Brown the same as we are in North Lanarkshire. I give an absolute commitment to all our members with existing claims that I will be doing everything in my power to get you a fair and equitable settlement and whatever money you are due.
                                                The truth is in light of last Friday’s judgement at the Court of Session over Job Evaluation the most sensible course of action is for Glasgow City council to stop squandering tax payers’ money on legal fees and appeals and to sit down and negotiate will all parties to get a resolution to the Equal Pay mess that they as an employer are presiding over.
                                                  So to conclude, for those with existing claims with GMB Scotland nobody, whatever the private lawyers suggest, will be able to take claims for more years than you are currently due. The only thing the private lawyers will do different for those who are with GMB is take a load of money off individuals as and when money is paid out by Glasgow City Council.
                                                    Individuals need to make up their mind who can best represent them now but the no win no / fee lawyers are not going to get anyone who moves to them a better deal. What the no win / no fee lawyers are going to do is make themselves a lot money off those who take claims with them.
                                                      Ultimately we are calling for Glasgow City Council to get round the table with all parties to get a negotiated solution to the mess around Equal Pay.  
                                                        The one thing last Friday’s judgement at the Court of Session does allow us to do is start taking claims for those who are in jobs, predominantly done by women, who did not previously have a claim. We are starting the process of registering claims now. Again the so called Action 4 Equality and their no win/ no fee lawyer friends cannot do anymore for new claimants than us. The only point of difference is between the lawyers promoted by Action 4 Equality and the GMB legal service for new claimants is we won’t take any money off individuals when we are successful with cases, the no win / no fee lawyers definitely will. 
                                                          I know this is very concerning and confusing. All I can say is that since I came back to Scotland to take up my current job I have a proven track record in fighting for the rights of our women members around Equal Pay. 
                                                            I intend to get the very best deal we can for all of you. You will be kept advised of developments.

                                                                Yours sincerely 

                                                                Gary Smith 
                                                                GMB Scotland Secretary