Monday, 2 April 2012
Glasgow and Equal Pay
A few weeks ago I wrote a post for the blog site which mentioned Joan McAlpine - now a Scottish MSP of course - but who was, in a former life, a journalist and went on to became editor of The Herald newspaper
See post dated 12 March 2012 - 'Get Your Message Across'.
I also referred to an article on Equal Pay which Joan McAlpine agreed to publish in the newspaper back in December 2005 - around the time when all this equal pay business reallykicked off - big time.
So I am reproducing the article below for people's information.
I have to say it seems like such a long time ago - and while some things have changed for the better - these big Labour dominated councils are still behaving very badly.
To my mind they have become lazy and arrogant - they take people for granted having been in power for so long - and think they can do and get away with anything.
The other thing I have to say is that I didn't know anything about Joan McAlpine at that time - I certainly knew nothing about her politics.
But I would say this - that Joan McAlpine took a stand and gave the issue a fair hearing in The Herald newspaper.
While all the Labour politicians in Glasgow - and their trade union supporters - just looked the other way.
Empty Promises and Equal Pay
Thirty years after the Equal Pay Act 1975, exactly why are so many women workers in Scotland’s public services paid so much less than their male colleagues?
In this modern 21st century world, how can the employers and unions justify the fact that skilled home carers earn thousands of pounds less than council road sweepers or refuse collectors, or that trained nurses come out second best in the pay stakes to hospital painters?
A full-time home carer earns around £12,500 per year, while a refuse collector or road sweeper makes £14,500 – the driver of the refuse lorry earns considerably more at £18,500. The same is true in Scotland’s NHS where (male) maintenance workers, with no patient contact or responsibilities, are paid substantially more than many nurses and skilled support staff.
In this day and age, employers have to justify paying groups of male workers more than groups of women workers – even where the two groups do very different jobs. The onus is on employers to prove that higher earning male groups do more skilled and responsible jobs, or jobs that require more training and/or qualifications – this is the only justification for paying female workers less than men.
However, this is an absurd proposition for the thousands of skilled jobs done mainly by women that deliver vital services in Scotland’s care, education and health sectors. Care workers, cooks, cleaners, classroom assistants, nurses, nursery nurses, and clerical workers – are all hugely undervalued and underpaid compared to male groups of workers on big bonuses which the women workers have traditionally been denied.
In effect, the employers and unions have been defending the indefensible for years – talking tough from time to time, but doing little to tackle pay discrimination that is widespread and endemic.
In 1999, for example, local councils and trade unions in Scotland signed a landmark ‘single status’ agreement which guaranteed equal pay for work of equal value. In future, there would be a new system for paying all workers fairly on the basis of their skills and responsibilities, regardless of gender, instead of relying on old and outdated employer/union agreements favouring male workers.
The only way for employers to achieve equal pay is to introduce a non-discriminatory job evaluation scheme: one that assesses and scores jobs properly, relative to one another, and so produces a fair and logical ranking of jobs, grades and rates of pay across the entire workforce.
Yet, in 1999, having paid £250,000 (from public funds) for a tailor made job evaluation scheme to do exactly that, the employers and trade unions just sat on their hands for the next six years, periodically blaming each other for the lack of progress. The result is that thousands of workers in Scotland have built up substantial equal pay claims.
In August 2005, Action 4 Equality began drawing this debacle to the attention of Scotland’s public sector workers. Up till then union members and non-members alike had been kept in the dark about their employment rights, and their ability to pursue equal pay claims for up to five years back pay.
The employers have responded by trying to buy-out peoples’ claims on the cheap, aided and abetted by the unions. In Glasgow, the council has offered a one-off payment to thousands of workers in the run up to Christmas which many have accepted because they are poor, in debt or simply in need of the extra cash at this time of year. Sadly, the irony of a Labour council behaving this way is lost on the council’s equalities spokesperson.
The council’s cynical ploy has been rejected by many of its workers who are now pursuing claims to the Employment Tribunals because the Glasgow deal does not deliver anything like fair or equal pay. Instead it reinforces pay discrimination for years to come and so is open to challenge by both existing and new employees.
Glasgow council claims that implementing equal pay will affect jobs and services, but they’ve had years to devise a proper strategy that does not rely on blackmailing low paid workers into remaining low paid and under-valued.
So, we now have the sordid spectacle of employers and unions working hand in glove to deny low paid workers what they were promised all those years ago. In recent weeks, Glasgow workers were instructed to attend a series of road shows where senior (but definitely not low paid) council officials tried to sell their buy out deal – with not a single union official or union lawyer in sight!
Some criticise Action 4 Equality because clients are charged a fee (10% + VAT) in return for a professional service on a No Win No Fee basis. Yet the unions have taken millions in union contributions from their low paid members over the years – only to sell them short when the chips are down.
As the New Year approaches, the equal pay campaign will enter a new phase in 2006. Union members will start to sue their own unions and the employers for failing to protect their rights.
The unions (GMB, TGWU, and Unison), in Glasgow and elsewhere, are busy doing secret deals, behind closed doors, without consulting or advising their members properly. But as these deals discriminate against the low paid, who will lose thousands over the next five years, they can and will be challenged. The employers and unions will be held to account for the shameful way they have behaved.