Saturday, 31 March 2018

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

I met up with my two local SNP councillors the other day to discuss the situation in Glasgow regarding the fight for equal pay.

I hadn't had any dealings Jennifer or Greg before, in person at least, so it was good to get a feel as to where people were coming from - vice versa as well, in all likelihood.

So I think it is fair to say that both councillors are clearly committed to the notion of 'equal pay for work of equal value' and they are fully behind the decision to achieve a negotiated settlement to the City Council's outstanding equal pay claims. 

Which is good news, as far as it goes.

On the downside I would say that 'backbench' councillors, if Greg and Jennifer are typical, don't see themselves as having much of an oversight role in the settlement process which has, of course, been proceeding at a snail's pace up until now. 

I find that surprising, I have to say, because one of the main reasons that the City Council is in such a mess in 2018 is that back in 2005, 2006 and 2007 senior officials wee given a completely free rein to do what they liked over Glasgow's pay arrangements - which landed the workforce with the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR.

Whatever checks and balances were put in place, if any, these safeguards patently did not work which explains why the WPBR ended up with its ludicrous 37 hour 'rule'  for example.

The reality is that no one stood up and spoke up against this completely invented 'rule' which was deliberately designed (whatever anyone says) to disadvantage Glasgow City Council's largely female workforce. 

So if you ask me it's vital that all councillors, including backbench councillors, are up to speed with what's going on as the situation unfolds and that is surely what the council workforce is entitled to as well.  

To be fair Jennifer and Greg seemed keen that the claimant organisations (A4ES, GMB and Unison) should be having a ongoing dialogue with the council's political leaders and in the case of the SNP the leading figures are Susan Aitken and Feargal Dalton.

I've never met Feargal Dalton, but apparently he holds the position of 'Workforce Convener' so who knows, maybe an early meeting with A4ES, GMB and Unison might be a useful exercise.

In any event, the next round of settlement discussions on 17 April 2018 is likely to prove crucial one way or the other - because up until now it's been 'all talk and no action' and most of the talk has just being going round in circles.

Let's hope things take a turn for the better after the Easter break.

Jennifer Layden (SNP)
Picture Not Available

Greg Hepburn (SNP)
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Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (26/03/18)

I met with one of my local councillors the other day - Cllr Robert Connelly who is one of four local councillors in my ward of Glasgow Calton.

Now Cllr Connelly was much younger than I expected (or more likely I'm just getting older), but he was perfectly friendly and keen to listen to what I had to say about the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Most of Glasgow's Conservative councillors (including Robert) were elected for the first time in 2017 and are not 'steeped in' the history of equal pay, so we discussed:
  • The 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement 
  • The 2000 McCrone Agreement which set aside £800 million a year for teachers' pay
  • The arrival of Action 4 Equality Scotland in 2005
  • The behaviour of Glasgow City Council 
  • The £9,000 'buy-outs' of claims - GCC having denied GCC its equal pay problems 
  • The much better settlements achieved by A4ES
  • The introduction of Glasgow's WPBR - instead of using the recommend JE Scheme
  • The long legal battle and Court of Session's 'unfit for purpose' judgment
  • The ongoing settlement discussions and the role being played by senior officials
  • The importance GGC agreeing to replace the WPBR
I encouraged Robert and his councillor colleagues to focus on the role of Glasgow's senior officials and the 'governance issues' surrounding the introduction of the WPBR.

In my view this is a really big story, a scandal no less, which is still waiting to be told over the procurement of the WPBR, the costs of the scheme and the 'design' instructions from  Glasgow's senior officials.

Senior council officials in Glasgow are desperate to keep the truth of what happened under wraps whereas elected councillors should be demanding answers for the good name of the city and in the interests of council taxpayers.

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Cllr Robert Connelly


Standing Up, Speaking Out

Image result for anti-semitism

Writer and comedian David Baddiel took to Twitter to have his say on the ugly, anti-semitism row engulfing the Labour Party.

David is Jewish, by the way, although that really shouldn't matter - it's what he has to say that counts although significant numbers of Labour supporters these days seem to disagree, sadly.

Before Christine Shawcroft wrote that email, 30 members of the Peterborough Labour Party complained about Alan Bull's suspension. 30. I'm not sure you'd get that much support for a Holocaust Denier in the fucking BNP.

Well there we are.

Failure of Leadership (29/03/18)

The BBC reports on the latest anti-Semitism row to engulf Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

The depths to which the Labour Party has fallen under Corbyn's leadership really are incredible, even though some of his hard core supporters revere Jezza as the 'Messiah'.

'Deeply sorry' Christine Shawcroft quits as Labour disputes chief

Image caption - Christine Shawcroft became head of the disputes committee in January

The head of the Labour Party's disputes panel has quit after it emerged she opposed the suspension of a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial.

Christine Shawcroft sent an email calling for the reinstatement of Alan Bull, who had been due to stand in local elections in Peterborough in May.

In a statement she said she had not been aware of the "abhorrent" Facebook post that led to his suspension.

Mr Bull said he reposted an article on Facebook for the purpose of debate.

He told the BBC that he shared the article, which claimed the Holocaust was a "hoax", with friends without comment - but said he did not agree with its content.

Ms Shawcroft - a director of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group - only became the head of the disputes committee, which investigates allegations of sexual harassment, anti-Semitism and disciplinary breaches, in January.

She said she was "deeply sorry" for her "wrong and misguided questions on this case".
How the Labour anti-Semitism saga unfolded
Corbyn and Labour's anti-Semitism issue
Momentum chief Shawcroft to lead disputes panel

In her original email, Ms Shawcroft said she was "concerned" to hear about the suspension of Mr Bull for "a Facebook post taken completely out of context and alleged to show anti-Semitism".

Some people in Peterborough's Labour Party had "political reasons" for not wanting him to stand, she wrote, adding: "I am concerned that party disciplinary procedures are being used in the pursuit of partisan disputes in local parties, wasting a great deal of staff time in the process."

She ended her email by saying the party had "sat on" the complaint for months, adding: "I think we should reinstate his membership and allow him to contest the ward for which he has been selected."

But in a statement announcing her resignation on Wednesday night, she said: "I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so."

In a reference to Monday's demonstration by Jewish groups against the Labour leadership, she added: 

"This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others.
'Profoundly concerned'

"In light of this, I have decided to stand down as chair of the disputes panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes."

The shadow chancellor said measures should have been put in place "ages ago" to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and that any incidences would be dealt with "firmly and severely".

John McDonnell told BBC Radio 4's Today: "You've got to have an independent system which looks at all the evidence.

"You do not leap to judgement in advance and when that judgment is made we implement it and we implement it ruthlessly because we do not tolerate any form of racism in our party."Image captionJewish groups protested outside Parliament earlier this week

Ms Shawcroft's resignation broke as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used an interview with Jewish News to describe anti-Semitism as a "cancer in our society".

Mr Corbyn, who has faced criticism for questioning the removal of a mural that was branded anti-Semitic in 2012, said: "I'm not an anti-Semite in any way, never have been, never will be."

Asked about criticism by some of his supporters of MPs who joined the demonstration, he said: "Any abuse makes me profoundly concerned and any abuse that is done is certainly not done in my name.

"People have a right to speak out and a right to demonstrate and that surely is something that is intrinsic in any democratic society. I will not tolerate abuse of people for their beliefs."

He said none of the "terrible" abuse aimed at Labour MP Luciana Berger - who raised the issue of the mural on Twitter - "can be done in our name or in my name".

He also said deselection threats against another MP who attended the demo, David Lammy, were "up to the local party" but added: "David Lammy is a colleague, a friend of mine, I admire what he stands for and what he does and he should not be condemned for that."

Also on Wednesday evening, the Board of Deputies wrote to Mr Corbyn calling on him to disown supporters who had "vilified" the anti-Semitism protesters.

"Nobody should be vilified for opposing anti-Semitism. Those Labour Party members and Labour-supporting blogs pushing the abuse are largely doing so in your name," the letter said.

Cult of Corbyn (27/03/18)

Here's another great Twitter joke which pokes fun, for good reason, at the cult of Corbyn and his local difficulties involving a London mural

"I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic"


Eagle Images and Weasel Words (26/03/18)

Much fun was had on Twitter at the weekend with lots of posts mocking Jeremy Corbyn's 'weasel words' over not looking more clearly at an anti-semitic mural before declaring his support on Facebook.

My favourite, so far at least, was this comment from the journalist Euan McColm:

“i only glanced at it but i thought it was a parrot carrying an electric fan.”

Now that is funny - eat your heart out Private Eye and the Have I Got News for You (HIGNFY) Team!


Our Survey Said!

In recent days, the Labour Party has had to grapple with some of the most overt examples of anti-Semitism it's possible to imagine - from an ugly mural on a London wall to social media claims that the Holocaust was a hoax.

Yet 30% of Labour members think this is not a serious problem, according to a YouGov poll for The Times.

Now the better news is that 66% of Labour Party members believe that anti-semitism is a genuine problem, even if many of these individuals think that its scale or extent  of the problem is being exaggerated.

But 30% of Labour members turning a blind eye to clear examples of racism and prejudice in and around their own party - now that really is shocking.

The only conclusion to draw is that anti-semitism and racism is rife among a section of Labour Party supporters these days.


Corbyn, Labour and Anti-Semitism (28/03/18)

Hugo Rifkind writing in The Times takes head on the notion that anti-Semitism in and around the Labour Party has suddenly jumped up and bit Jeremy Corbyn on the arse.

"When Corbyn speaks of the “pockets within the Labour Party” in which antisemitism has occurred, what he leaves out is that, for the first 30 years of his career, these were the pockets he was in."

Read the full piece via the link below to The Times although it is behind the paper's 'paywall'.

Jeremy Corbyn can’t pretend he has only just noticed

By hugo rifkind - The Times

The Labour leader refers to ‘pockets’ of antisemitism in his party but fails to say that for 30 years he was in them too

Did you know that Jeremy Corbyn’s mother fought at the Battle of Cable Street? I know it’s a well-kept political secret, a bit like that one about Sadiq Khan’s dad being a bus driver, or that other one about Theresa May thinking Brexit means Brexit and wanting to make a success of it, but apparently it is true.

Speaking two years ago at the 80th anniversary of that street fight (one of not more than a mere 300 or so times he has mentioned it in public), the Labour leader said that the fight, for him, had “a deep personal significance”. I wonder how it feels for him, then, watching the children of his mother’s brothers and sisters in arms heading to Westminster. To protest, this time, not against fascists but against him.

Since he became leader two and a half years ago, Corbyn has wrestled with a problem in his ranks without ever quite admitting it was really there. Antisemitism, when mentioned, was appended with “and other forms of racism” until the phrase became a joke. Shami Chakrabarti’s report into Labour’s antisemitism problem concluded that it didn’t really have one, before at the event literally launching the thing a Jewish Labour MP was harangued from the room.

Numerous party members have been suspended but the line has always been that they were cranks, representative of nobody but themselves.

This denialism has come from the top. When the (Jewish) Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland wrote an article in 2016 headlined “Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem”, Corbyn was filmed calling it “utterly disgusting subliminal nastiness”. For him and his, they were the good guys. Thus the people criticising them were the bad guys. Never mind what so many of them seemed to have in common.

Something has shifted. Corbyn’s current antisemitism woes, based around a supportive 2012 Facebook comment about an antisemitic mural, are quantitatively different from those that have gone before. Partly, this is simply because it is him; not an ally or a person with whom he once stood on a platform, but Jeremy Corbyn himself. More than that, though, the focus is very narrow. The usual defence, that it is all secretly about Israel, cannot apply.

Corbyn's Weasel Words (27/03/18)

The BBC reports that Jeremy Cornbyn is getting 'pelters' from the UK's Jewish community over his laid back approach to tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and rightly so.

Because the Labour leader only now seems to accept there is a problem, yet still denies he has anything to apologise for over his own behaviour and support for an obviously anti-Semitic mural. 

If you ask me, Jeremy Corbyn's attempt to apologise over his support for the mural have been completely pathetic because in his original Facebook comments Corbyn was very pointed and, predictably, very political - with his deliberate references to Rockerfeller, Diego Rivera and Lenin.


Jewish groups attack Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism

Image copyright - EPA

"Enough is enough," Jewish groups have said in a letter accusing Jeremy Corbyn of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader has said he is "sincerely sorry" for the pain caused by "pockets of anti-Semitism" in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn said he would be meeting representatives of the Jewish community to "rebuild" confidence in his party.

However, the organisations behind the open letter are planning a protest outside Parliament later.

The letter - drawn up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council - said there has been a "repeated institutional failure" to properly address anti-Semitism.

Tom Watson apologises over 'anti-Semitic' mural row
Corbyn regrets comments about 'anti-Semitic' mural

It accuses Mr Corbyn of being unable to "seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities".

The organisations refer to Mr Corbyn's apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012and his attendance at "pro-Hezbollah rallies".

They say the Labour leader has "sided with anti-Semites" either because of "the far left's obsessive hatred of Zionism" or "a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy".

The letter says those who push anti-Semitic material view Mr Corbyn as "their figurehead" and that he is "the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops."

The letter will be delivered to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers, although the Labour leader is not expected to attend.

A protest will then be held outside the Houses of Parliament, which will see a number of Labour MPs - including Liz Kendall, John Woodcock and Ian Austin - join members of the Jewish community.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism group has also called for a national protest against anti-Semitism in Labour.

Labour MP Louise Ellman, former chairwoman of the Labour Jewish movement, said: "It's taken Jeremy far too long to admit how wrong he has been in failing to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party."

She told BBC Breakfast the Labour leader now had "to act and he's got to root out the anti-Semitism that is within the Labour Party".

"It's just heartbreaking to see it but he has got to do something about it now. Words won't be enough," she added.

Media caption - Jonathan Arkush says Jeremy Corbyn 'needs to take action' against anti-Semitism

In a statement released on Sunday evening, Mr Corbyn said: "I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement.

"We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

"We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country.

"I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused."

Mr Corbyn said he and the party - which has "deep roots in the Jewish community" - were now campaigning to "increase support and confidence in Labour" among Jewish people in Britain and he would meet members of the community in the coming days to "rebuild confidence". 

What caused the row?

In October 2012, street artist Mear One posted a picture of his mural in east London called "Freedom of Humanity" on Facebook - which depicted businessmen, some of them the artist says are Jewish, counting money on a board game that is balanced on the backs of hunched-over men.

The artist wrote: "Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public Art."

Mr Corbyn replied: "Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego [Rivera's] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin."

More recently, Labour MP Luciana Berger sought clarification from the leader's office on the 2012 comments.

Mr Corbyn said he regretted not looking more closely at the image, which he called "deeply disturbing".

He added: "I am opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form."

Mear One - whose real name is Kalen Ockerman - has denied being anti-Semitic, saying the mural was about "class and privilege".

Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the community had had enough of being ignored by Mr Corbyn.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is the first time in my lifetime the Jewish community has felt the need to take to the streets to campaign against the leader of a major political party.

"Rightly or wrongly, Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture based upon obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news, and that is doing great harm, not just to the Labour Party, but to Britain in a wider sense."

The BBC's assistant political editor Norman Smith said what was extraordinary about the letter was "not just the raw anger… but the fact that they directly blame Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of politics for allowing anti-Semitism to get a hold in the Labour Party".

"They accuse [Mr Corbyn] of a far left world view which they say is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities," he told Today.

"What they mean by that is a view of Israel as inherently a sort of neo-colonialist, imperialist power oppressing Palestinians, associated with America, and it is that sort of politics that has allowed anti-Semitic views to gain a hold."

However, he added, Mr Corbyn supporters believe that claims of anti-Semitism are "ridiculous and absurd", given the leader's anti-racism record, and that those making the accusations are using it to attack him.

In 2016 an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour party, led by Shami Chakrabarti, said the party was not overrun by racism but there was "too much clear evidence... of ignorant attitudes".

It followed the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone amid anti-Semitism claims.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update

Here's a great letter from a Glasgow claimant (a carer) who seems to agree with me that asking awkward questions is a good thing - not a bad thing - and if more people had behaved this way back in 2005/06/07, the City Council would not be in the mess it's in today. 

Dear GCC,

I would like to thank you and the Chief Executive Annemarie O'Donnell for your prompt reply following my correspondence dated 12/3/18. I take on board the comments made by the Chief Executive these negotiations are extremely complex and will take a while to resolve.

However, the outcome of the Court of Session ruling in December 2017, described the WPBR, as discriminatory and unfit for purpose, therefore, it must be concluded that it would be a gross breach of trust and continued mis-management, if this system of Job Evaluation were to continue in operation and be the basis of any future settlement.

We are now approaching the forth month of negotiations and I understand that A4E (Action for Equality) are still awaiting a reply from local authority officials since January 2018 with regard to proposals made then by A4E regarding protection payments and at no time has A4E advised or indicated that negotiations should take a year to resolve.

Lastly I understand that you would want to support your officers in the way they handled the implementation of the WPBR but quite frankly it was a flawed process from the start to finish and has been proved to be unworkable by the highest court in the land and therefore some one must take responsibility for that and accept that they were wrong in pursuing matters as they did.

It would also appear from the way that Glasgow City Council FOI (Freedom of Information) officials are treating requests for information about how the WPBR system was agreed and set up that the authorities have something to hide. They apparently have stated that records have been destroyed or are not available, which quite frankly is beyond belief especially as this process was one of the biggest changes to employment terms and conditions undertaken by Glasgow City Council since its formation in 1996.

Would it be to much to ask if the Chief Executive could look into this matter and give an answer as to why important information and legal documentation appears to have gone missing or been destroyed and by whom? I would be most grateful for her reply especially as she has already stated that she believe[d] "that acting in good faith, officers and the council sought to put in place arrangements which they believed removed discrimination from the councils pay arrangements" by implementing WPBR in the first place.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Thanking you respectfully


Glasgow City Council aims to become a 'world leader' in terms of its openness and transparency which is a good ambition if you ask me, but if the council can't be open and transparent about its old, discredited WPBR pay arrangements - why should anyone believe that a future GCC pay scheme will be any different?

If the City Council has nothing to hide, it has nothing to fear, so I look forward to the response to my outstanding FOI request (see post below dated 26/03/18).   


Glasgow, FOI and Equal Pay (26/03/18)

I'm getting dizzy trying to keep up with the changing position of senior officials in Glasgow City Council over what information actually exists in relation to the council's controversial WPBR pay scheme.

Now senior officials commissioned the scheme back in 2005/06 and this was the biggest single employment-related in the City Council's history up until that time.

So the whole process must have been very well documented from Day One - starting with the original procurement exercise which means that Scotland's largest council must surely be able to answer the following simple questions:

  • was the contract put out to competitive tender?
  • what was the projected cost of the WPBR project?
  • what were the agreed Terms of Reference for the WPBR?
  • how were the external consultants (Hays HR Consulting) selected?
  • what directions were given to the consultants by senior GCC officials?
  • why did Glasgow ditch the recommended Scottish Joint Council (Gauge) scheme?  
  • who signed off on the new 'rules' of the WPBR including the notorious and blatantly discriminatory 37 hour rule?

Up until recently, council officials have been claiming not to hold such information, but in response to my latest WPBR FOI request officials are suddenly saying that it would cost more than £600 to answer my questions - so they are refusing to do so.

If you ask me, this is completely outrageous - no less than a cynical effort to suppress the truth about what really happened - which is why I intend raising these issues with Glasgow's councillors, MSPs and MPs as well as continuing the fight through the FOI process.

If the City Council has nothing to hide over the WPBR, why are its senior officials fighting so desperately hard to avoid answering what must seem to most people like very reasonable, straightforward questions?

Here is my latest letter to Glasgow's FOI Team which was sent by email on Friday 23 March 2018.

Dear FOI Team

Glasgow's WPBR

Thank you for your letter dated 21 March 2018.

I am happy to provide the clarification asked for in response to my FOI request and would do so as follows:

1) The five specific points detailed in my letter of 20 February 2018 should be regarded as five individual FOI requests and, as such, this should avoid any issues regarding Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

2) In any event, taken separately or together, I fail to see how providing this information can come anywhere near £600 since all I am asking for is:
  1. a list of the WPBR information held by Glasgow City Council
  2. a list of the WPBR information destroyed by Glasgow City Council
  3. an explanation as to why any WPBR information has been destroyed
  4. the date or dates on which any relevant WPBR information was destroyed 
  5. the identity of the council official/s who authorised the destruction of WPBR information
3) Furthermore, Section 12 (1) of FOISA is discretionary and Glasgow City Council is obviously free to ignore the £600 limit and should certainly do so in this case (in the unlikely event of the £600 limit coming into play) for the following reasons:
  1. there is enormous public interest in the circumstances surrounding the introduction of the WPBR - the procurement process, costs etc.
  2. senior officials in the City Council are on record as saying that important WPBR documents have been destroyed, without providing any details
  3. the destruction of important WPBR documents would appear to be, at face value, a very serious breach of the City Council's Vital Records Policy
  4. the WPBR was a unique event in Glasgow City Council's history; the biggest single employment-related issue since the council was established in 1996 
  5. the unexplained destruction of WPBR records is disturbing and it is possible this may have been part of a deliberate attempt to conceal relevant information from the City Council's equal pay claimants 
  6. the destruction of WPBR records goes to the heart of the City Council's governance and, for obvious reasons, it is important to establish that if important records and documents have been destroyed, that this has been done for valid reasons - and not to conceal embarrassing or damaging evidence relating to the City Council's WPBR pay arrangements.
So for all of the reasons set out in Paragraphs 1), 2) and 3) I would urge Glasgow City Council to do the right thing and answer my request in full - and without further delay.

I do not believe it is reasonable to go back to the beginning of the FOI process, not least because Glasgow's  FOI Team chose to ask for this further clarification so late in the day.

I will, therefore, send this response to Carole Forrest, Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council, in support of my formal FOI Review Request which has already been lodged.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine