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Local Government Home | Single Status Index

Fair pay in Scotland's Local Government
Communications issues arising from Single Status and Job evaluation, and how to plan your campaign

NB - Differences in the approach to implementing Job Evaluation deals across Scotland, mean that this paper can only be a general guideline. For example, there are differences where authorities choose (with or without agreement) to use a different scheme from the SJC scheme, and there will be differences where employers negotiate rather than attempt to impose a scheme).

In the case of unilateral imposition for example, the particular schemes/details can be singled out for attack, and the lack of negotiation used as the creator of some of the problems.

UNISON is working hard on three fronts:

  1. to ensure that members are paid fairly and equally without losing jobs - identifying and preparing e.g. pay for work of equal value cases to pursue where there is a good chance of success and to increase pressure on employers to negotiate and implement fair pay across the board (see 1 below)
  2. to defend members threatened by massive loss of pay due to poor/job evaluation/low pay issues or other reasons. We will negotiate and if necessary take action to defend members' pay and the services they provide (see 2 below)
  3. Campaigning to put pressure on politicians locally and nationally to properly fund fair pay and the public services that members provide (see 3 below)

The importance of Communications

This is a crucial part of the overall strategy. Branches should be looking at an early stage on the way they are going to publicise UNISON's view on the issues both with the media and with members. To do this effectively branch execs should be clear about their aims and objectives at each stage of the negotiation and campaign. It is too easy to get sucked into the minutiae of details and not see the bigger picture. It is imperative that aims, objectives and targets are set early on and revisited regularly and/or if and when circumstances change.

The Local Government Committee suggests that a three-route strategy be adopted, and below are some Communications arguments for each

  1. The Litigation route
  2. We are committed to fighting for equal pay. We have had much experience and have been busy identifying likely areas where groups dominated by women have historically suffered discrimination. (eg Clerical Workers; School Auxiliaries; Classroom Assistants; Nursery Nurses; Home Carers; Cleaners; Catering Staff). No promises can or should be made - cases will only be taken after being properly assessed when we know details.

    We will also use legal cases to 'concentrate the mind' of the employer in negotiations

    Branches should identify likely jobs/groups and begin to prepare publicity/identify spokespersons from these groups.

    No Win No Fee Lawyers

    Advice/leaflet is being prepared to challenge the claims made by some law firms. (see separate text)

  3. The Negotiation/Industrial Action route

To defend members in all cases - UNISON will:

  • try to negotiate the fairest possible deal for all - not cherrypick obvious cases
  • suggest and fight for the maximum possible protection for those threatened with pay cuts - including job redesignation; protection schemes; retraining; early retirement etc.
  • take action where members' jobs are threatened by cuts and/or dismissals and/or unilateral and unfair pay cuts
  • lobby for proper funding to enable this massive exercise to be carried out fairly and for people to be treated properly
  • Industrial Action should be an option in extreme cases. You should , of course, comply with all UNISON's IA procedures and ensure that communications is part of the IA plan.

3. The Campaigning route

UNISON will use its political links to argue for proper funding to be provided to local authorities to deal with unequal pay.

We should use the forthcoming elections (2007) to make it clear to politicians (local and national) that schemes that (a) do not address unfair pay or (b) attack jobs/pay and services will be fought with political consequences.

Members should be approached as part of the campaign to write to MSPs (draft letters will be provided). Lobbies (local and national) should be organised. Campaign plans should be started to identify aims and targets.

Campaign Arguments

We also need to argue that both we and the employers should be lobbying the Scottish Executive to fund these evaluations, after all:

  • this is about creating fair pay for public service workers
  • Government money has and is being found to fund pay restructuring like McCrone, and job evaluation /pay equality Agenda for Change
  • The funding levels awarded to Scottish LA's were not sufficient to deal with this major restructuring of the pay scales.
  • If they do not fund job evaluation there are only three alternatives (or a combination of these) - the JE is cut and doesn't address the problem; Services and jobs are cut to pay any costs or Council Tax is increased.

Specific Problems and Some Answers

Even when introduction has been negotiated there may well be serious concerns regarding the implementation and some aspects of any deals and how these and UNISON appear publicly to members/non-members and in the press.

Some Problem areas are:-

  1. Deals may be bad-mouthed by some as ‘not good enough' - legal firms; some staff groups etc will perceive compromise as an attempt to sell their pay/backdating short.

  2. ‘High losers' may attack the union for agreeing to deals that cut their pay substantially.

    [In one case this has led to a non-union campaign for the setting up of a 'Consultative Body' under the new Regulations. The use of these information and consultation regulations to undermine the unions needs a separate campaign which can be provided should branches face this challenge. Contact Chris Bartter - Communications Officer chris.bartter@unison.org.uk tel 0141-342 2877]

  3. Managers (esp senior managers) also seem to do well and whilst this may be good for our members in these grades, it is a difficult one to sell publicly -particularly when people lower down the chain are losing.

  4. Some politicians and managers/commentators portray this as the council taxpayer paying bureaucrats for some ‘national'/'politically correct' idea of equality.

Some answers

We need to address the attacks as far as possible and also highlight positive examples- below are some arguments that begin to address the problems above. They can only be a start as each issue/dispute will have its own specifics which will need to be addressed.

  1. we need to say how many and what types of jobs are winning - key groups are low-paid staff in the caring services, cleaning and catering, homecarers, classroom assistants etc - dominated by women who have traditionally been unfairly treated.

  2. We need to say what people are getting - at the top of the range plus any settlements - the £7K in Moray for example.Arguments re 'no win - no fee' lawyers are listed elsewhere.

  3. This group (mainly male manuals) feels frustrated and ignored - not without reason. They tend to be quite well organised and we should be taking their concerns into consideration more.

  4. It is difficult at this stage to formulate a publicity strategy to deal with problems like unofficial walkouts - resignations etc. etc. Obviously unofficial action cannot be officially condoned without putting the union at risk of sequestration. In any case our approach will almost certainly be different where the authority and UNISON negotiate a deal from one where it is unilaterally imposed. Indeed in the latter case it might even be an easier PR job - because that can then be advanced as one of the problems.


  • We should be clear that we will defend members against unfair pay cuts. That Equal Pay should NOT mean major pay/conditions cuts, and that this happens because job evaluation has not been properly financed. To try to rectify years of discrimination on 'a zero cost' basis means that neither the authority, nor the government is paying for it - other of our members are!
  • However, honesty is the best policy here - we have to also be clear that job evaluation is about equalising pay and that some may need to ‘stand still and/or be protected' because others are underpaid.

  • If there are any other things we can negotiate - career grades in particular occupations, changes to jobs to attract higher job evaluation scores, job redesign, longer protection, retraining, early retirement etc - then we should do so, and tell people if we get them, and if the authority refuses, then we can use that refusal too.

  • The issue of training and skills development can also be introduced to give 'losers' a way forward in redeveloping their own jobs. This is more a matter for negotiators than campaigners, but might be worth keeping in mind in talking/writing to members.

(iii) The 'managers winning' issue could be addressed in the following ways.

  • Has the specific job evaluation scheme been Equality Checked? If not it would be useful to get this done to counter 'Unfair' arguments. If so that can be used as an argument for the outside world - but it is unlikely to convince aggrieved members.

  • This shows that what UNISON has said for years about managers being underpaid in public sector compared to their equivalents in the private sector is true!

  • It has been known for managers to have had the base line upped immediately prior to JE to give them a higher starting point. You need to be sure of your position with this if you think this is so - a defence of defamation needs you to prove what you say - not for it just to be 'common knowledge'!!

(iv) We need to point out that either a deal is negotiated and agreed or expensive court cases could cost the councils much more. The implication for North Cumbria Health Trust of the Equal Pay award was 300 million pounds , for 1500 women.

If schemes have been imposed or major problems unilaterally imposed (skewing the pay line in favour of senior managers for example) then it should be pointed out that the scheme may not satisfy the equal pay legislation. Calling in equality checking/job analysts etc might be effective here.

Planning your Campaign

We need to plan the communications for each event/step - eg the introduction of job evaluation, and in particular the announcement of deals.

These plans should include:-

  1. Aims - what do we want?
  2. Targets - who do we need to convince? - Members? Councillors? Government?
  3. A timetable
  4. These key areas will tend to determine what material you need eg if your target is members - it might be more effective to speak to them at workplace meetings - therefore speakers notes might be needed.
  5. Information needs to be gathered - for example i/d of numbers of members and amounts being gained - get ‘pleased' case studies set up
  6. i/d groups of losers and how they are to be treated - think if they need special material - what have we done to protect them?
  7. Referring back to the campaign targets, we should plan the material we need for specific aspects of the campaign eg leaflets, branch newsletter, website for members, press releases, lobbying, letters etc for politicians (both national and local)
  8. Where we negotiate an agreement we should also work with the authority in agreeing the messages they/we will put out, identifying likely problems - rogue councillors; disgruntled members; problem managers etc and the line on these problems - joint if possible, our own where necessary .

The Media

These are both targets and a method of reaching your other targets.

They will always want the ‘horror' stories eg the extreme losers.

They will also want ‘case studies' - if we don't provide them - others will.

They will not understand the details - KISS is the maxim here.

We must:

  • minimise the horror stories through negotiation - and list what we have achieved
  • where this isn't possible we should be seen to be fighting for these people
  • maximise the ‘plus' parts - Who needs to have fair pay - how long have they been discriminated against? Etc.
  • we should point out how long we have been trying to press employers into dealing with the issue
  • we need to make early contact with journalists who are interested (political correspondents/local government correspondents etc) and keep them briefed on events
  • identify ‘case studies' - eg low paid women taking cases through the union
  • identify arguments we have advanced (and won)

Be careful not to: give the impression we can process all cases; make comments about lawyers taking cases outside the advice given elsewhere

Be careful to: refer queries to the appropriate person (branch official/regional officer/specific spokesperson?)

Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) - Aug 05