Thursday, 11 September 2008

Job Evaluation

Establishing "equal pay for equal work" in local government is much more tricky than I realised before I became a councillor. When I started my first job in government service, the principle had just been established for civil servants. The infamous "marriage bar" (female civil servants had to resign on marriage) was on its way out, department by department, too. (Though it was not to be finally abolished across the whole service for about a decade.) That was over forty years ago.

I naively assumed that the resistance to pay equality in local government was purely down to neanderthal trade unions and dark-age management. Case law and the Human Rights Act have forced local authorities into the twenty-first century. However, a series of seminars organised for members by Neath Port Talbot council has shown that there are great difficulties in correcting the anomalies which have built up over a century or more of local government. The number of different jobs and grades, the tradition of local pay rate setting, the distinction between "staff" and "workers", as well as that between "female" and "male" jobs have made the negotiations very difficult. Councils naturally have to try to balance the budget, ensuring that the net increase to the pay bill is as low as possible. That means that there will be winners as well as losers in the process. TU reps will seek to minimise the latter. Both sides have in mind that the standard of living of some of the lowest paid could be affected.

In South Wales, negotiations have - so far as I can see - been conducted responsibly and with good faith on both sides. Not so in the rest of England & Wales. There have been many serious disputes throughout the country. It is surprising that these have not made headlines in the "national" newspapers, seeing as how gleefully they leapt on examples of failed rubbish collection during the "winter of discontent".

Richard Baum, a LibDem councillor in Lancashire, reports on the most recent case. It seems that Old Labour is gleefully turning a drama into a crisis.

Ironically, central government under Thatcher, through Major and Blair, and including Brown, has steadily reversed pay equality by transferring work from career civil servants to agencies and commercial organisations which bypass the agreements and legislation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding equalilty: I'm aware as so many people are probably aware that various forms of discrimination still exist in our society, and the workplace.

While the NHS in Wales does display the "two ticks" symbol showing that they will "go out of their way" to employ disabled people, not all councils are doing the same. Although Neath PT Council is a Two Ticks employer, Bridgend Council isn't.

The last table I can find from the LGDU with the "Percentage of senior management posts filled by women" as a Performance Indicator was 2004/05.

For that particular time period, Bridgend had 10.8% of snr mgt posts filled by women, Neath PT had misrable 7.7%.

At the other end of the spectrum, Denbighshire had 27.3%, Newport 27.5% of snr mgt posts filled by women.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the Local Government Data Unit have stopped recording this important figure.

The glass ceiling appears to have reinforced concrete behind it.

G. Lewis
Bridgend Lib Dems