would think that the idea of equal pay for work of equal value and
regardless of gender, age, ethnic origins, religion, nationality, sexual
orientation or any other variable would be part of the fabric of
Scottish Government has done and continues to do everything it can to
redress inequality at every level, but when bad practice is actually
built into the structures of a Labour-controlled Council, then we’re
truly up against it.
South Lanarkshire Council leader, Labour’s Eddie McAvoy,
has already wasted £100,000 of his Council’s money – your money – to
take Mark Irvine to the UK Supreme Court. It may well cost the Council
another £100,000 to settle the bill with the Information Commission.
Because the tenacious 72 year old lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI)
request to find out about how the Council’s staff pay banding scales
operate. You can find out more about Mr. Irvine’s campaign on his
wants to know whether men and women receive equal pay for similar work,
as is their legal right, enshrined in legislation both here and in the
EU. He is angry about the money wasted on what was always going to be a
failed objection and points out that it would have been better spent in
trying to offset some of the budgetary cuts being forced upon Councils
by the Westminster government. He says:
council tax payers could be forgiven for being angry. Such a sum of
money would make a significant difference to any number of cash-strapped
services funded by the council. This is the council, after all, that has
warned 120 jobs are at risk as part of a £12m cuts package. Its legal
costs are hefty and South Lanarkshire should not have risked incurring
them; instead, it should have agreed to hand over the information when
the Scottish Information Commissioner ordered it to do so.”
1500 female staff fighting a £10 million back pay claim against the
Council are a step or two further forward now. That South Lanarkshire
Council saw fit to try to withhold information rather than openly and
honestly provide it when the Scottish Information Commissioner
originally ordered it to do so tells us a lot about attitudes to
transparency in the Hamilton offices.
Justice is bigger than budgets. Every Council in the country is
struggling to maintain services as Westminster cuts bite deeper and
deeper into their local resources. So-called welfare reform is adding to
the strain as social housing tenants try to cope with cuts to benefits
that make rental payments more difficult than ever.
this climate, it beggars belief that a Council leader should both try to
hide information from the public and waste £200,000 in the process.
insult to injury, the FOI request is about getting justice for women
seeking equal pay for equal work. We don’t know yet but I’m sure Mark
Irvine will want to tell us just what South Lanarkshire Council’s
methods of pay banding look like once he has the information in his
hands. Soon, I hope.
Meanwhile, Westminster has moved to impose big fees on people who want
to go to an employment tribunal because of a problem at work – which
could be sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, or an employer who
is just not delivering on the equality agenda.
an upfront payment of £1,200 just to start the process, the very people
who are most likely to need those services – women on low pay – are
going to be effectively denied it unless their trade union agrees to
pick up the bill.
another clear barrier to justice from the Coalition government. Should
you wish to appeal the outcome, by the way, there’s another charge.
Alongside that, they’ve sneaked another little restriction under the
door. At the moment, there’s a cap of £72,600 on any award made by an
employment tribunal. That stands – but if you happen to earn less than
that, say £20,000 a year – then your maximum compensation will be that
annual salary equivalent.
not difficult to see that Mr. Cameron has found another convenient back
door to ensuring that those who earn least can be disadvantaged most in
terms of justice and fair pay.
single individual in Scotland, from a new-born baby to an elderly
dementia sufferer, has an essential human right to justice and
compassionate governance. That is an absolutely central belief of the
SNP both as a political party and as the current Scottish government.
rights are also enshrined in law at a UK, Scottish and EU level.
for justice is returning to a Victorian notion of wealth and equal
treatment being one and the same. I don’t buy into that idea. Like
education or healthcare, justice needs to be free at the point of need.
Lack of money cannot be used as a means to deny justice.