Thursday, 29 January 2015

Pay Discrimination



Here's an extract from Scotland's 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement dealing with the treatment of bonus payments. 

"BONUS"

"21. It is important to emphasise that bonus schemes may not in themselves be discriminatory provided they meet real business objectives and access is available to all. Councils should therefore be free to introduce council-wide reward strategies where this is considered desirable (see Part 4) and following the full involvement of the trade unions."


Now the key words and phrases in this new National Agreement were:
  • provided they meet real business objectives - i.e. are not phoney
  • provided access is available to all - i.e. are not restricted to male jobs
  • council-wide reward strategies - i.e. women jobs cannot be left out or excluded
Yet despite the clear and unequivocal words in this section North Lanarkshire seems to have deliberately gone against the provisions of the National Agreement by incorporating bonus payments into the basic salaries of only traditional male council jobs - bonuses which had nothing to do with productivity, of course.

In other words, the old bonuses were discriminatory and this was the reason for a 1st wave settlement of equal pay claims - because the Council could not defend making payments to male-only jobs 

So, effectively, all North Lanarkshire Council did back in 2005/06 was to carry forward these discriminatory practices into its new pay arrangements which treated male jobs more favourably than their female colleagues.    

Labour and Equal Pay




I read in the news the other day that David Hamilton, the Labour MP for Midlothian, is standing down at the next election and the Guido Fawkes web site has an interesting story about who might replace this veteran politician, a former miner.

All I can say is that David was just one of a long of Labour MPS who had little, if anything, of substance to say about the fight for equal pay in that part of Scotland, even though many of his constituents were pursuing claims against the local Labour-run Midlothian Council.

The only Labour MP who contacted me and offered to get stuck into their local council over equal pay was Nigel Griffiths, but he only did so after Edinburgh City Council changed hands and ceased to be Labour controlled.  

Nigel decided to stand down from his Edinburgh South seat back in 2010, following a sex scandal which was widely reported in The Scotsman at the time, and the Labour Party clung on to the seat by a whisker from the Lib Dems - by only 316 votes.

 The formerly safe Labour seat is now under threat from the SNP.


Miliband ‘Blackbusters’ Gaffe Aide Set for Safe Seat

Remember Kenny Young? He was Ed’s ‘Press Manager’ who departed Team Miliband after the infamous ‘Blackbusters’ Twitter gaffe in 2012. It seems Calamity Kenny was playing the long game by going down the councillor route, and is now firm favourite to replace Scottish Labour stalwart Davie Hamilton in Mid-Lothian. Hamilton, in declaring he wasn’t sticking around to be beaten up by the SNP, left a coded signal in his resignation statement about who his successor should be :
“I believe that it is the right time for me to stand aside to allow the Labour Party in Midlothian to select a younger member, with fresh ideas and the hunger to meet the challenges of this changed landscape.”
Guido hears the Scottish Labour machine has already decided Kenny is their man. There is a combination of uproar and tears of laughter on the inside…



Sex scandal MP Nigel Griffiths set to stand down at election


01 February 2010

SHAMED Scottish MP Nigel Griffiths will stand down at the general election, The Scotsman can reveal. He told party members in his Edinburgh South constituency last night that he would not be standing for re- election and would instead take up a job with an "international educational institution".

&#149 Gordon Brown, left, with friend and ally Nigel Griffiths, who is standing down as an MP Picture: Rob McDougall

The news will come as a major blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who counts Mr Griffiths as a key ally and a close personal friend.

Mr Brown would have been counting on his support in any bid to stay on as party leader if Labour loses the election.

However, it was thought doubtful that Mr Griffiths would be able to retain his seat following a sex scandal in 2008. The former minister allegedly had an intimate encounter with a brunette woman in his Westminster office.

Mr Griffiths, who has been married for 30 years, later apologised for engaging in sexual activity in his House of Commons office. He said he was ashamed of his actions, which he said fell below acceptable standards.

He was also criticised during the MPs' expenses scandal for claiming 3,605 for a plasma screen television.

In a letter to his local Labour Party, obtained by The Scotsman, Mr Griffiths said he had been offered the post of director of an international educational institution, with offices in London, the United States and India, starting in June.

The 54-year-old, who resigned as deputy leader of the House of Commons in 2007 over the government's decision to renew the Trident nuclear deterrent system, said: "I shall have lecturing responsibilities covering climate change, conflict resolution and nuclear disarmament, which, as you know, have been the focus of my constituency and parliamentary involvement for some time.

"I am delighted to have served the people of South Edinburgh over three decades.

"After 30 years of continuously elected service in Edinburgh, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it would not be right to delay accepting this position, since I want to give the party time to select a new candidate to fight the forthcoming election."

During his 23-year career as an MP, Mr Griffiths carried out a variety of back-bench and ministerial roles. He was a whip in opposition between 1987 and 1989, and opposition spokesman for trade and industry between 1989 and 1997.

He rose to his most recent ministerial position in 2005 and held it for two years before leading a back-bench rebellion against the government over its plans to replace its existing nuclear weapons.

Earlier in his career, he was criticised for failing to declare that he owned a property that acted as his constituency office in Edinburgh's Minto Street.

In 2002, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found Mr Griffiths guilty of wrongly reclaiming 40,000 of rent for the office.

He used the money to boost a charitable trust fund that provided help for his disabled sister.

The Conservatives, who have already selected Dr Neil Hudson to contest Edinburgh South, will welcome an opportunity to take the lead in a seat it held for more than 20 years before Mr Griffiths was elected.

Dr Hudson said last night: "The voters know that this is a British general election, where there can only be one of two winners.

"We are gaining ground all the time. I'll leave Labour to sort out who their candidate is and get on with fighting to win the seat."

Mr Griffiths is the second key ally of the Prime Minister in three days to announce his resignation. The West Dunbartonshire Labour MP John McFall, currently chairman of the Treasury select committee, announced last Friday he would not be contesting the general election.


The 65-year-old said that, as he had reached a "normal retirement age", it was time for him to move on after 23 years as an MP.

Mr McFall was elected as the chairman of the Treasury select committee in 2001, before being re-elected to the position in 2005.

Friends of Mr Brown indicated at the weekend that he would be looking to remain in place as party leader if the Conservatives won the election with a majority of 20 seats or fewer.

A Labour spokesman said: "Nigel has served Edinburgh for more than 20 years and is one of the most experienced parliamentarians in Scotland, having been deputy leader of the House of Commons.

"He is known for his diligence in local matters and his fierce criticism of the current administration in the City of Edinburgh Council, which proposed to close 23 schools and nurseries, many in his constituency.

"Local members will now select a new candidate to fight the general election."

The spokesman added: "Our support in the seat remains strong and we will have campaign teams out knocking on doors in the coming days."

Before standing for parliament, Mr Griffiths was a member of Edinburgh District Council from 1980 to 1987.

In the 2005 general election, he held on to his seat by a narrow margin, with only 400 more votes that the Liberal Democrat candidate, Marilyne MacLaren, and about 4,000 votes ahead of the Conservative candidate, Gavin Brown.


In December, bookmakers predicted that Mr Griffiths would lose his seat at the general election if he ran again.

Both William Hill and Ladbrokes had at that time installed Dr Hudson as favourite to win the contest, with Ladbrokes giving him odds of 11/8. The Liberal Democrat candidate, former Edinburgh councillor Fred Mackintosh, was tipped to come second, at odds of 6/4, while Mr Griffiths, was in third place at 7/2.

PROFILE

NIGEL Griffiths was deputy leader of the House of Commons until 2007. Before that, he held a number of government positions, including minister for construction, minister for competition and consumer affairs, minister for coal health compensation, minister for small businesses, and minister for enterprise. He resigned from the government in March 2007 over his opposition to funding new Trident nuclear submarines.

The 54-year-old has also held a number of key positions in the community, including being a member of the Edinburgh International Festival Council, founder and chairman of Wester Hailes Citizens Advice Bureau, and a member of Wester Hailes Community School Council.

As an Edinburgh councillor during the 1980s, he chaired the council's housing committee. Mr Griffiths also formerly worked for a charity for people with learning difficulties.

Strange Priorities



Here's an interesting 'tidbit' from the BBC regarding the politics of Greece - one of the five major policy priorities of Syriza which is the largest party of the new Greek Government.

Apparently Syriza is intent on scrapping a unpopular property tax known as 'Enfia' which sounds a bit like the Council tax in the UK which helps to pay for a whole range of local services.

But in place of Enfia there will apparently be a new tax levied on luxury homes, of which there will be relatively few, and only larger second properties, presumably because so many Greeks (like so Spaniards, French and Italians) have second or 'holiday' homes.  

So as the BBC says, it seems that Syriza are not just representing the less well off in Greece, but the interests of the second-home-owning relatively well off middle classes as well - which is not how things look from the outside, of course.

BBC News 

Scrapping of property tax

It is not just the poor who voted for Syriza but the middle classes as well. Property owners in Athens's leafy, northern suburbs were enticed with the promised abolition of a hated annual levy on private property.

Known as "Enfia", the tax was introduced in 2011 as an emergency measure but made permanent under the previous government.

Instead, there will be a tax on luxury homes and large second properties.

Greeks take a stand against unpopular tax

Dress Sense


Good for Michelle Obama in deciding not to cover her head with a headscarf while visiting Saudi Arabia - not so much a sign of disrespect, rather a signal to friendly Islamic countries that their practices and customs should be applied in a tolerant manner, especially in respect of others who do not share their religious beliefs. 

Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf

The US First Lady drew criticism in Saudi Arabia for not covering her hair

By HEATHER SAUL - The Independent

Michelle Obama highlighted the restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia as she paid her respects to the late King Abdullah without wearing a headscarf.

Her divisive decision not to cover her hair as she met King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud drew both criticism and praise across social media.

The move also illustrated the severe restraints placed on women living in the ultra-conservative Kingdom, who must cover their hair and wear loose black robes in public at all times. Most Saudi women wear full face veils known as niqabs.

In addition to this, women are banned from driving, must be accompanied by a male chaperone when they leave the house and are not allowed to vote – although voting rules will change in 2015.

In contrast, Western women visiting from foreign countries do not have to follow the same sartorial rules - although the US First Lady did wear long clothes covering her arms and legs.

Saudi state television also broadcast footage showing Mrs Obama with President Barack Obama and King Salman, where she could clearly be seen without a headscarf. Footage showing her head blurred out was dismissed as fake by the Saudi Embassy after reports suggested her image had been obscured by officials.

Other female guests were also visible with their heads uncovered.


Michelle Obama with her husband and King Salman in Riyadh

Her decision not to cover her hair caused a stir on Twitter, where nearly 2,000 tweets with a hashtag that translates roughly as ‘#MichelleObamanotveiled' were sent on the day of her visit. Ahram Online reports that many criticised her for not covering her hair as a mark of respect to King Abdullah’s death.

However, it reports others defended her, arguing her trip was only a brief visit.

Labour Mayors



No sooner has one Labour Mayor published a book spilling the beans on Ed Miliband than another defects to UKIP.

First Doncaster, now Durham - where will it all end?

Labour mayor of Bishop Auckland defects to Ukip claiming 'the party I once knew is no more'



Councillor Colin Race's move will delight Nigel Farage, who last year claimed his Eurosceptic party was 'now parking our tanks on the Labour Party's lawn'

By KUNAL DUTTA - The Independent

The Labour mayor of a northern town has defected from his party and announced he is joining Ukip insisting that “the party that stuck up for working families is no more”.

Councillor Colin Race told his colleagues in Bishop Auckland, County Durham that that he was defecting to the Eurosceptic party with immediate effect.

The life-long Labour voter lamented the “cosy consensus of Westminster” and said the “Labour Party that I once knew… is no more”.

A statement said: “We have a cosy consensus of politicians in Westminster who spend more time patting each other on the back than representing the people who pay their wages at the end of the month.”

While hardly a senior figure inside the Labour party, his defection may rattle some who fear working class voters could abandon Ed Miliband’s party in May, citing immigration policy and Britain’s future role in Europe as key concerns.

Mr Race’s departure to Ukip will delight its leader, Nigel Farage, who last year vowed the Eurosceptic party was “now parking our tanks on the Labour Party's lawn”. Unlike David Cameron who has lost two MPs to the Eurosceptic party however, Mr Miliband has not yet had to deal with any major defection.

Mr Race said the North East had the “highest rates of unemployment in the country”. “How are my kids meant to get a job when our political class support open-door mass immigration from 27 other EU member states?”

Mr Miliband conversely appears to have solidified his position on immigration in recent weeks, aiming to steal a march on David Cameron whose 2011 target to reduce net migration before the 2015 election has been comprehensively missed.

“Immigration makes us stronger, richer and more powerful as a nation,” he told the Fabian Society on Saturday. “That’s the truth I believe.”

News of the defection which broke late on Monday night was welcomed by Ukip's MEP for the North East. “Labour Party members across our region are simply realising that on Labour party the incredibly wealthy individuals who sit at the top of the Labour Party don't, and make no attempt to, work for hard-working, law-abiding citizens across the country.”

A Labour North spokesman said: “On the day Nigel Farage confirmed his plans to privatise the NHS, people in Bishop Auckland will rightly be questioning the decision of one of their town councillors.

“Ukip's policies include another tax break for millionaires, higher taxes on working families, scrapping rights at work and higher bankers' bonuses.

“They can't be described as a party who will stand up for working people. In reality they are more Tory than the Tories.”

More Balls



With 100 days to go until the general election a Sky News projection suggests that the most likely outcome is another hung parliament at Westminster with Labour as the largest party, but the SNP with 53 seats.

The Labour leadership, rather unwisely in my view, has already ruled out the prospect of a Labour/SNP coalition even though on the Sky News projection this would be the only way for Labour to form a working Government - since no other permutation of gathering support from smaller parties would provide a majority of MPs.

Now if this were to happen, I think voters in Scotland would regard Labour as being willing to 'cut its nose off to spite its face' and the statement from Ed Balls will do nothing to persuade people to consider voting Labour at the May 7 general election.

General election: Ed Balls against SNP-Labour pact


Ed Balls: 'No' to SNP-Labour pact. Picture: Ian Rutherford

By ANDREW WHITAKER - The Scotsman

ED BALLS has stated his opposition to a pact with the SNP if Labour fails to win an overall majority in May’s general election, in an apparent departure from the party’s previous stance on dealing with the Nationalists.

Mr Balls appeared to take a harder line on the issue than Ed Miliband, who has refused to rule out the prospect of an arrangement that could see the SNP propping up a minority Labour government in exchange for concessions.

A spokesman for Mr Miliband last night refused to say whether the shadow chancellor’s views reflected those of the leader and would only say that the party was “fighting for a majority” and to win outright in May.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that the SNP would not help sustain a Conservative government in power, but indicated the party could be prepared to support Labour in some Commons votes as part of a confidence and supply arrangement.

Nationalist leaders last night hit back at Mr Balls and said most Scots “would not forgive” Labour if the party allowed David Cameron to remain in power because of its hostility to the SNP and a refusal to agree an anti-Conservative pact.

The hardening of the shadow chancellor’s stance on SNP cooperation came as polls showed the Nationalists poised to make sweeping gains from Labour in May.

Mr Balls was asked whether he would consider a deal with the Nationalists, who would press Labour for the removal of Trident from Faslane and a more radical extension of devolution, as part of the price for SNP support in Commons votes.

The shadow chancellor, when asked on Sky News whether he would consider a deal with the SNP if the election on 7 May produced an indecisive result, replied: “No.”

Mr Balls said: “I don’t think anybody is suggesting any suggestion of a deal with the SNP at all – we’re fighting hard for a majority.”

With opinion polls suggesting the SNP could make major gains in Scotland, and Labour and Conservatives running neck-and-neck in national surveys, many observers believe that Mr Miliband may need support from the Nationalists to form a government.

Mr Miliband repeatedly said earlier this month that he was “not about deals and coalitions” when he was asked about possible co-operation between Labour and SNP at Westminster.

However, the Labour leader would only state that he was focused on his party “winning a majority government”, and pointedly failed to rule out an arrangement with the SNP.

The intervention from Mr Balls suggests the party’s leadership could face splits over potential co-operation with the SNP, although Mr Milband would be expected to have the final say.

A spokesman for Mr Miliband last night refused to comment on the remarks from Mr Balls, but insisted the party leader was firm on the issue.

Mr Miliband’s spokesman said: “The position has not changed. We are fighting for a Labour overall majority. We are campaigning for an overall majority.”

However, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said Mr Balls’ remarks showed the shadow chancellor had not noticed the Nationalists’ surge in the polls.

Mr Robertson said: “Ed Balls seems oblivious to polls that show that the people of Scotland want to see the SNP holding the balance of power at Westminster with a minority Labour government – and people in Scotland would not forgive Labour if they refused to work with the SNP and ushered in another five years of Tory government.

Mr Balls’ remarks came after the Prime Minister said a 
deal between Labour and the SNP would be “genuinely frightening”.

Desperate Times



The Telegraph's Scottish editor Alan Cochrane takes the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy to task over his rather silly efforts to portray himself as a different kind of 'Unionist' - not just any old 'Unionist' but a trade unionist born out of a tradition of socialist solidarity.

Now if I'd been eating my cornflakes at the time, I would definitely have choked on them as I read these words because I never could never imagine Jim Murphy's political outlook being inspired by 'trade unionism' and 'socialist solidarity .

But I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures given Labour's standing in the opinion polls and this is certainly desperate stuff from the party's Scottish leader.    

Jim Murphy risks looking like a loser by running away from a winning effort


The Scottish Labour leader's attempts to distance himself from Unionism won't impress many voters, Alan Cochrane argues.


Jim Murphy has argued he is not a Unionist Photo: Getty Images



By Alan Cochrane - The Telegraph

As craven political comments go, Jim Murphy’s effort yesterday takes some beating. In a pathetic attempt to pretend he didn’t really align himself with the Tories to win the referendum last year – and also to curry favour with those voters who care more about Irish politics – the Scottish Labour leader sought to distance himself from the word ‘Unionist’.

Only four months after he played a not insignificant part in defending that Union of Scotland, England, Wales and, yes, Northern Ireland Mr Murphy appears to want as little as possible to do with either the concept of Unionism or even less with his allies in that historic victory.

What he apparently can’t bear to be reminded of is his successful partnership with the Conservatives in beating off the separatists who were trying to break up Britain last September.

And in running a mile from the word he calls in aid the tortured history of Ireland to defend some of the daftest statements I’ve ever heard.

These are his words: “ I’ve never been a Unionist – it’s not my political tradition. As a family of Irish Catholic immigrants, we’re not Unionists. I grew up in a family of trade unionists but not political unionists.”

These are, as many of his fellow Scots would agree, weasel words because he knows perfectly well the difference between Unionism and trade unionism. But they were uttered because, like most of Scottish Labour, Mr Murphy has been so totally spooked by the barbs thrown at him by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon that he’s now trying to rewrite history.

He added yesterday: “What happened in the referendum … (is that) we had a temporary alignment of two different unionist traditions, a kind of Conservative and Unionist tradition inside the Conservative Party and you had a trade unionist and socialist solidarity tradition inside the Labour Party.

“And for a moment there was an alignment for different reasons of political culture and history. But that moment’s gone.”

This is truly pitiful, wretched stuff and augurs not at all well for Mr Murphy having anything like the guts to take on and see off the SNP at the general election.

Let’s get a few things straight, shall we. Unionism in Scotland is an entirely honourable label. Mr Murphy did a great job espousing it last September and if he chooses now to deny it for reasons of some form of feeble political advantage then he diminishes only himself.

He thinks that disowning the word will play well with those in Glasgow and the West Central Belt who appear to think more about the politics of Ulster than of modern-day Scotland. He may be right but he should be aware that the vast majority of Scottish voters care not a jot for those ancient tribal loyalties.

You are a Scottish Unionist Jim. Enjoy it. After all, we won.