Monday, 11 February 2019

Glasgow., ALEOS and ASDA

Margaret Taylor reported for The Herald on the latest developments in the fight for equal pay at ASDA and other big supermarket chains. 

Now it's worth pointing out that Glasgow City Council went down exactly the same route by putting equal pay claimants  into artificial boxes such as Cordia. 

The cunning plan was to argue that Home Carers and other Cordia staff could not compare their pay to the much higher pay of male workers in other parts of the council - the Council went on to argue that Cordia was a separate employer and was not part of Glasgow City Council.

I mean to say - how low can you go?

Thankfully the Court of Session rejected this ridiculous argument, but if the Council had succeeded people's equal claims would have been dead in the water.

See post below dated 01 October 2018 'Glasgow, Equal Pay and ALEOs and earlier posts from the blog site archive. 

Lots of Glasgow councillors from all political parties received additional 'top-up' payments for sitting on these  controversial bodies and more will follow on this subject in a future post.

Margaret Taylor: ASDA might be fighting on, but its equal-pay case looks unwinnable

By Margaret Taylor @MagsTaylorHT - The Herald

Supermarket giant ASDA has lost the latest round in a long-running equal-pay dispute brought by thousands of its female staff. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

ISN’T it strange the lengths some employers will go to in order to continue discriminating against their staff?

Take ASDA. Just last week the supermarket giant, which is being pursued by thousands of mainly female staff in a mammoth equal-pay claim, vowed to battle all the way to the Supreme Court after losing the latest round in the long-running dispute. The retailer had gone to the Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn an Employment Appeal Tribunal decision that said female shop staff could compare their jobs with the higher-paid roles filled by warehouse-based men to further their claim. Yet despite three appeal court judges upholding the earlier finding and refusing to give permission for ASDA to take the case further, the retailer has said it will apply directly to the Supreme Court in a bid to put the case to bed once and for all.

With the cost of settling the hundreds of thousands of claims lodged against ASDA and fellow retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons reckoned to be in the region of £10 billion, you can see why it is being so dogged. And, while ASDA freely admits paying store staff differently to distribution centre staff “because the demands of the jobs are very different”, the fact that within stores and within depots men and women are paid the same would suggest it might have a point. After all, if, as ASDA says, its stores and warehouses “operate in different market sectors” and it pays its staff “market rates in those sectors regardless of gender”, surely the case is cut and dry.

The problem is we’ve been here before, with more than one Scottish local authority being forced to back down after trying to argue exactly the same thing. Glasgow City Council previously tried to kill off the case against it by arguing that female catering, cleaning and caring staff could not compare themselves to binmen and janitors because the former were employed by its wholly owned arms-length organisation Cordia while only the latter were the direct responsibility of the council itself. It was not successful, with the Court of Session finding against it in 2014. That ruling said that even though Cordia had its own distinct employment terms the council was the ultimate source of that employment. The women’s jobs were compared with the more-lucrative men’s as a result and, lo and behold, last month the council agreed to settle the hard-fought dispute for more than £500 million.

While the case came good for the women in the long run, the fact the council had bothered to argue the toss about comparators is more than a little surprising considering that the previous year the Supreme Court had ruled against Dumfries and Galloway Council on a similar issue. That case saw 251 classroom assistants, learning support staff and nursery nurses successfully argue that their positions should be deemed comparable with those of groundsmen, road workers and refuse drivers, setting a legal precedent in the process. That precedent – known as the North hypothetical – is what did for ASDA in the Court of Appeal. Given that the Dumfries and Galloway judgment was written by Lady Hale, who now presides over the Supreme Court, it would seem ASDA has almost certainly reached the end of this particular legal road.

Which can only be good news for the supermarket’s female staff, right? Well, not necessarily. You see even if the Supreme Court does refuse to hear ASDA’s final appeal – or if it hears it and, as would appear to be inevitable, dismisses it – the retailer’s female staff will be far from home and dry, with the agreement of comparators being just the beginning of a long and arduous process that could take several more years to reach a conclusion. Being able to compare shop staff to warehouse staff is one thing; working out if the roles they fill are of equal value and whether there is a good reason for them not to be paid equally is another thing entirely.

And, as has become obvious in the Glasgow case, making it to the final stage doesn’t wipe out discrimination in and of itself, with the awful by-product of righting past wrongs being that new inequalities are created in the process. Indeed, while Glasgow’s settlement will result in some women getting payouts in the region of £100,000, the disparity between what two people doing exactly the same job for exactly the same length of time will receive could be huge. As the law stipulates that claims can only be backdated for five years, the 750 women who filed in the week after the settlement was announced will receive significantly less than those who have been fighting the council ever since its pay scheme was put in place in 2007. Worse still, around 2,000 potentially eligible women who have never filed a claim will receive nothing.

Given the size of the settlement it is clear that lines have to be drawn somewhere, yet still the process would appear to be far from fair. But that’s the problem with discriminatory pay practices – they are so insidious they become nigh on impossible to fully iron out. No wonder ASDA – and all the other retailers that will be watching its case with bated breath – is trying its damnedest to make the whole thing just go away.

Glasgow, Equal Pay and ALEOs (01/10/19)

Today is a big day for Glasgow as its Cordia ALEO (Arms Length External Organisation) is returned to the direct control of the City Council.

Now the SNP-led Council deserves great credit for taking this decision because, as regular readers know, the real reason for setting up Cordia in the first place was so that the Council could try and wriggle out of its obligations over equal pay.

So, I take my hat off to the Council leader, Susan Aitken, who has championed this move which may be long overdue but marks a big step forward nonetheless.

On a more cautious note it is also vital to remember that Cordia's largely female workforce were treated as 'second class citizens' for many years and that the City Council has still to agree how they will be compensated for the financial losses they suffered including the loss of pension rights.

All things considered a case of one or maybe even two 'cheers' because the fight for equal pay in Glasgow has a way to go yet.     


Glasgow's Shame Over ALEOs (12/04/18)

Here's an astonishing email which has been sent to the 'Council Family' at Glasgow City Council by the council's chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell.

Now I'm not part of the 'Council Family' but if I were, I'd be absolutely furious at the way the council's top boss has quietly glossed over her own role in creating Glasgow's ALEOs back in 2007 - and the fact that one of the main purposes for these arm's length companies was to try and assist the City Council to wriggle out of its obligations over equal pay. 

Once the ALEOs were in place, senior and very highly paid officials argued that they were completely independent and separate employers from Glasgow City Council.

So, in their eyes of these senior officials, equal pay claimants could no longer compare their earnings with the much higher pay of Council employees outside of their own ALEO, Cordia being the prime example.

And if council officials had succeeded with this ploy, the perfectly valid equal pay claims of thousands of Home Care workers and other low paid Cordia staff would now be 'dead in the water'.

After all this time, Annemarie O'Donnell is having to eat her own words by dismantling these 'arm's length' companies which have proved very costly to the public purse and to Cordia staff who are employed on much less favourable conditions than the rest of the council workforce.

If you ask me, the City Council has made the right decision in making this policy U-turn, but the political leaders of the council should be telling the chief executive it's time to move on and find a new challenege elsewhere. 

Because Annemarie O'Donnell has played a crucial role throughout this shameful ALEO episode, both in terms of establishing these arm's length bodies and in presiding over pay arrangements which treated Cordia's largely female workforce as second class citizens.


Subject: Council Family Review Update: message from Annemarie O'Donnell Chief Executive

I want to keep you up to date about proposed changes to the council family structure as a result of the ongoing council family review, which aims to make sure we have the most efficient and effective operating model to deliver best value services for the city.

A report is going to the council’s City Administration Committee for a decision on 19 April about the future of Cordia and the services delivered by Community Safety Glasgow on our behalf.


We have reviewed the services that Cordia deliver and we are recommending that these vital services for citizens can be delivered more efficiently under other council services, as outlined below, and Cordia LLPs can be wound up, although the brand name of Cordia and Encore could be retained. This will allow us to remove duplication and streamline services to make them more efficient. Cordia staff would also transfer to the council services below.

 *   Homecare and associated care services including operational support and contact services to be transferred to Social Work Services under the direction of the Health and Social Care partnership.

 *   Facilities Management services including catering to be transferred to Property and Land Services, Development and Regeneration Services.

 *   Remaining support staff would transfer to an appropriate functional area in the council including: human resources, finance, communications, procurement and business administration.

Community Safety Glasgow

We have also reviewed the services that Community Safety Glasgow (CSG) deliver on our behalf and are recommending that these services can be more efficiently delivered under the management of the Executive Director for Neighbourhoods and Sustainability. CSG support staff would also transfer to an appropriate functional area in the council including: human resources, finance, communications, business administration and facilities.

Best value services for the city

The council has an ongoing responsibility to review its structures and the delivery of its services to make sure that we continue to meet legislative changes, avoid duplication and deliver best value efficient and effective services for the city. We also need to consider that the shape of the council family has changed since the ALEOs were established and new legislative partnerships have been formed, including the Health and Social Care partnership with the NHS and the more recent Glasgow Community Planning Partnership.

With all this in mind, the recommendations in the report are a result of more detailed business cases with input from all affected areas of the council family to achieve the best operating model for council services.

Next Steps

All affected staff will receive a communication about how these proposals could affect them from the directors of the organisation they work for. If the proposals in the report are approved, an implementation plan will be developed with a view to staff transfers taking place no later than 30 September 2018 for Cordia and 31 March 2019 for CSG.

I will communicate the decision of the committee after this has been taken on 19 April. The full report will be published in the public meeting agenda on Friday 13 April on council’s website here<>


Annemarie O’Donnell
Chief Executive

Glasgow's Shame Over ALEOs (26/02/18)

Glasgow City Council appealed to the Court of Session in an attempt to prevent the female workers employed in ALEOs such as Cordia from being able to compare their earnings to much higher paid male employees in other parts of the council.

Here's a commentary from the EHRC on the Court of Session judgment which threw Glasgow's appeal out on its ear, but had the council succeeded with its cynical argument Home Helps and many others would have been stopped from pursuing equal pay claims.

Sometimes I wonder how the Glasgow politicians and senior officials behind this terrible strategy can live with themselves - they must have no sense shame.

Not for the first time I take my hat off to the judges at the Court of Session who stood up for the 'little guy' yet again in the long fight for equal pay.

Court of Session judgment in Glasgow City Council ALEO equal pay appeal

The Court has upheld the judgment of the Employment Appeal Tribunal that Glasgow City Council are associated employers for the purposes of equal pay law and that the female claimants working for City Parking and Cordia can compare their pay with that of men still working for the Council.
The issue at the heart of this litigation was whether the claimants, who work for City Parking (Glasgow) and Cordia (Services) LLP, should be allowed to compare their pay with male employees working for the Council. The claimants used to work for the Council. However, they were transferred to City Parking and Cordia when these arm’s length external organisations (ALEOs) were established to carry out functions which were formerly carried out by the Council directly.
Under the Equality Act 2010 an employee can claim equal pay with a comparator of the opposite sex who is doing like work, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value. However, the comparator must be employed by the same or an associated employer at the same establishment or workplace or if they are employed at a different establishment or workplace, then there must be common terms and conditions between employees. This is referred to as the ‘same employment’ test.
Under European Union (EU) law differences in pay must be attributable to a single source which is capable of remedying any unlawful discrimination. If this is different from the ‘same employment’ test, EU law may be applied to produce a remedy.
The Court of Session agreed with the EAT that the Council is an associated employer of both City Parking and Cordia and that men employed by the Council are to be treated as in the same employment with women employed by the ALEOs. 
The Court went on to find that the correct approach to the single source question, as explained by Lord Justice Mummery in Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs v Robertson [2005] ICR 750, is to determine whether there is a single source setting the relevant terms for the relevant employees and “which is responsible for the inequality and which could restore equal treatment”.
The Council’s appeal was refused and the equal pay claims were remitted back to the tribunal to proceed.

The SNP-led administration in Glasgow announced recently that Cordia will be dismantled and that the pay and conditions of staff will be brought back into line with those of other GCC employees.

Now this is a good thing if you ask me, but it's also an admission that Cordia staff have been treated as second class citizens for years, as a result of the City Council trying to escape its obligations over equal pay.

The politicians responsible for this cynical policy and for introducing Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme are long gone, of course, but the senior officials who sought to deny Cordia staff their right to 'equal pay for work of equal value' are still in place.


Glasgow's Shame Over ALEOs (17/02/18)

Here's a little reminder that the appalling decision to set up Glasgow's ALEOs (Arms Length External Organisations) was headed up by the City Council's current chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell - see article below from Holyrood Magazine.

Following a two year secondment as deputy director of social work services, she returned to corporate services in 2007, serving as assistant director and head of external governance as the council established its ALEOs.

Now since the real reason for setting up ALEOs in the first place was a shameful attempt to circumvent the Glasgow City Council's obligations over equal pay, surely it's time close these organisations down.

Yet again the Court of Session sent Glasgow City Council packing and if you ask me, the politicians and officials behind this crazy scheme owe the workforce an apology.  


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (09/01/18)

Here's an interesting article from 'Holyrood Magazine' which was published back in 2014 just as Annemarie O'Donnell's was appointed as the new and first woman chief executive of Glasgow City Council.

The upshot is that Annemarie has been in a variety of senior positions within the council for a very long time - through the Christmas 2005 'capped' settlement offers, the introduction of the WPBR in 2007 and the establishment of Glasgow's ALEOs - before succeeding Ian Drummond as executive director of corporate services and then George Black as CEO.

What puzzles me though is why there has been such a long and hard fight for equal pay in Glasgow when the City Council has such powerful women in its senior ranks?

Regular readers will know that Carole Forrest succeeded Annemarie as executive director of corporate services (which deals with Freedom of Information requests) and that Glasgow now has a woman Lord Provost (Eva Bolander) and a woman council leader (Susan Aitken).

The political changes at the top of the City Council are relatively recent, of course, but isn't it remarkable that the battle over equal pay has been so fierce in Glasgow - even with women officials in the most senior positions.


New chief executive for Glasgow City Council

Written by Kate Shannon on 12 November 2014 in News

Annemarie O’Donnell has been appointed

Glasgow City Council has appointed a new chief executive to replace George Black, who retires next month.

Annemarie O’Donnell, who has been the council’s executive director of corporate services since 2011, was chosen for the role last week.

Black announced his retirement in August and will leave the council on 11 December.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The quality of candidates was exceptionally high but Annemarie brings a wealth of experience, passion and vision to the role and was the unanimous choice of the interview panel.

"There has never been a more exciting time to work in Glasgow, with the city in the spotlight like never before following the best ever Commonwealth Games and the signing of Scotland’s first city deal. I am in no doubt that Annemarie is the best possible choice to lead our dedicated and talented staff through the next chapter in our city’s long and proud history.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank George Black for his exceptional work on behalf of the city and wish him every happiness and success in the future.”

I believe we have the energy, the ideas and, crucially, the best people to meet those challenges

O’Donnell, 49, is a qualified solicitor and a member of the Law Society of Scotland. She has two adult children and her husband is a lawyer specialising in criminal law.

After joining Glasgow District Council from a legal practice in the east end of Glasgow in 1991, she worked as a solicitor and then senior solicitor in a team focusing on construction, housing and planning.

Following local government reorganisation in 1996, she was promoted to chief solicitor, leading the council’s work on commercial contracts, procurement, planning and environmental law.

In 2003, O’Donnell was appointed assistant head of legal and administrative services, a new post that saw her take responsibility for the running of elections for the first time – along with committee services, registrars, litigation, licensing and corporate law.

Following a two year secondment as deputy director of social work services, she returned to corporate services in 2007, serving as assistant director and head of external governance as the council established its ALEOs.

She said: “I am delighted and humbled to have been appointed. This is a really exciting time for Glasgow. There is no doubt the next few years will be challenging for everyone in local government. But I believe we have the energy, the ideas and, crucially, the best people to meet those challenges.”

Read Holyrood’s full interview with George Black here.

Glasgow's Shame Over ALEOs (14/02/18)

How's this for a nonsense story from the Evening Times?

Services provided by ALEOs are part of Glasgow City Council yet they are being spoken about here as if they 'owe' the council money! 

Glasgow's ALEOs were set up by a previous Labour administration in a effort to escape the council's obligations over equal pay.

At the time, Glasgow argued that ALEOs were completely separate employers and independent legal entities which meant (they said) that workers employed in ALEOs could not compare their pay to comparable (male) workers in other parts of the council.

A4ES challenged this argument in the Court of Session and won which is a good thing if you ask me, because were it not for this ruling the fight for equal pay in Glasgow would have been stopped in its tracks years ago.

But it just goes to show you what sneaky moves and dirty tricks these senior officials get up to given half a chance.

As everyone now knows, staff working for Cordia who predominantly women, of course, are employed on poorer pay and conditions than those working in other male dominated areas of the council, e.g. Land Services and City Building!

Aleos come up short on cash for Glasgow City Council

By Stewart Paterson - Evening Times

Cordia, the council’s catering and care service, is said to be £2m down on projections

GLASGOW City Council’s Aleos have a £2 million shortfall in the last three months, according to the latest report.

The monitoring report into the ten Arms Length External Organisations owned by the council shows they are coming up short of the budgeted for cash expectations.

The firms, that are intended to deliver a discount, meaning cash goes back to the council, are not making as much as anticipated.

The biggest deficits are showing for Cordia the council’s catering and care firm and Glasgow Life which runs museums, libraries and leisure centres.

Cordia is £2m down while Glasgow Life is £1.3m lower than projected.

The reports said Glasgow Life was struggling with income from its Glasgow Sport arm.

It stated: Actual income in Sport is lower than anticipated and continues to be extremely challenging.”

The Aleo is predicting a deficit of £1m for the year compared to a budget expectation is would break even.

The report added: “Glasgow Life are putting in place various interventions to manage this through underspends across the service.”

Cordia has a surplus of £31,000 against a budgeted for surplus of £2,059,000. The monitoring report found that the catering and technical care operations were doing better than forecast but the home care and facilities sections were below expectations.

It is £1m lower than the expected surplus of almost £3.5m.

The council’s budget expects income form the Aleos termed discounts totalling more than £14m.

The report stated: “ Forecast shortfalls in their surplus are reporter for Cordia, City Property and City Building which is likely to impact on the discount which is due to be returned to the council. City Property and City Building are mitigating this shortfall with the use of reserves and carry forwards.”

The council is due to set the budget in the next few weeks with further cuts expected to departments.

A spokesman for the City Council said A spokesman said: “Both organisations are on track to return a surplus to the council, however, the report details that, at quarter three, these are below the levels budgeted at the start of the financial year.

“These are known issues that are taken account of in the council’s overall financial position.”