Sunday, 12 February 2017

First Minister and Equal Pay

Image result for nicola sturgeon + glasgow southside images

An enterprising equal pay claimant from Glasgow dropped a note to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, recently to complain about the foot-dragging behaviour of Glasgow City Council.

Here's the reply she received from a civil servant who, if I remember correctly, is the same chap who responded on the First Minister's behalf when equal pay claimants in North Lanarkshire started asking awkward questions of the Labour-run council.

Dear xxxxxxxxxx

Thank you for contacting the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, regarding your employment with Cordia and Glasgow City Council. I have been asked to respond.

I am sorry to hear of your concerns, however councils and their Arm’s Length External Organisations, such as Cordia, are independent of the Scottish Government and are responsible for meeting their legal obligations to their employees, including those on equal pay. Ministers therefore cannot force councils, or Cordia, to settle equal pay claims; but they have repeatedly called on them to do so immediately and not continue to keep thousands of people waiting for their settlement. Ministers have repeatedly made clear that delays by councils in settling equal pay claims are completely unacceptable. Many claims go back to 2006 or even further; there can be no justification for taking so long to resolve this.

You may like to know the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government for 2016-17 contained a commitment to consider a system of penalties for local authorities that haven’t settled outstanding equal pay claims, or are still not paying equal pay by April 2017.

In the context of that commitment, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance MSP, wrote to local authorities on 24 October to find out just how many equal pay claims are outstanding. In addition Audit Scotland is carrying out an audit of equal pay in Scottish local authorities, with the aim of publishing a report in Spring 2017. We are keeping in close touch with Audit Scotland officials on this work, which when completed should provide an informed and authoritative view on the volume and cost of claims across local government. When we have that information we should be better placed to decide how we will proceed with encouraging councils to meet their obligations.

The Scottish Government has also agreed to give councils time to plan for the funding of equal pay claims, and to allow them to use capital receipts to fund the costs of claims. It is up to councils to manage their resources effectively, including meeting costs of equal pay claims: but Ministers cannot agree to these outstanding claims continuing to remain unsettled.

I am pleased to hear you won your Employment Tribunal. But in the meantime I would advise you to contact your employers directly and ask them to provide you with an update on what is happening with your claim and when they may be able to resolve it.

I hope this advice is of some help.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Romain
Local Government Division and Analytical Services Division

Now the response could have been a lot 'tougher' if you ask me, but on the positive side the Scottish Government is apparently committed to a system of penalties aimed at councils like Glasgow if they have still not met their equal pay obligations by April 2017 - the month before the next local council elections.

I can't say I'm expecting great things of Audit Scotland because in the past I've compared these public spending watchdogs to being savaged by a 'dead sheep'.

My reason for the 'dead sheep' comparison is that councils like North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire have behaved appallingly in relation to equal pay and freedom of information (FoI) - both kept their workforces in the dark for years and refused to publish vital information about their pay arrangements.  

Glasgow City Council is now behaving in similar fashion although a day of reckoning is looming fast with the local elections due on 4 May 2017.

So I would take heart from the First Minister's response and keep piling on the pressure in the weeks ahead.

I would also encourage readers to email Nicola Sturgeon directly as the MSP for Glasgow Southside, as she may well be able to speak more freely wearing her MSP hat in response to concerns being raised by local constituents.


Glasgow MSPs and MPs

I've had lots of emails from readers in Glasgow asking how they can help to hold the City Council to account in the fight for equal pay.

Well one of the most effective things people can do is to contact their local MSP or MP and ask for their support.

I wrote to all Glasgow MSPs and MPs just the other day, so they are bang up to date with all the latest developments and Glasgow's local politicians have plenty to say at the moment.

For example, on the Council Tax and local council budgets, to the closure of job centres or the impact of a higher retirement age for women (also known as the WASPI campaign).

So the fight for equal pay which affects thousands of low paid women across Glasgow ought to be right up their street and I think it would be perfectly reasonable to ask local MSPs and MPs:
  1. What are MSPs and MPs doing and saying publicly to support their local constituents in the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council?
  2. Do MSPs and MPs support the demand that Glasgow City Council ought to 'open the books' and explain the pay arrangements that were put in place following the WPBR in 2006/07?
Now that would do for starters and as MSPs and MPs are adept at getting the press and media involved, this will obviously help turn the heat up on Glasgow City Council in the run-up to the local council elections on 4 May 2017.

More to follow soon, but in the meantime here's a handy list of names and email addresses.

Keep me posted and I'll share what people have to say on the blog site (without mentioning any personal details, of course).

Remember, many hands make light work - so go to it, get your arse in gear Glasgow!

Glasgow MSPs (Scottish Parliament)

Glasgow MPs (Westminster Parliament)


Glasgow and Equal Pay (09/02/17)

I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition Group on Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, a little while back and here's what I had to say.  

Dear Councillor Aitken

Glasgow and Equal Pay

I have been in touch with Glasgow's MSPs and MPs in recent days regarding the ongoing fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council.

I have also written to Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, given her public comments last year about the need for the Scottish Government to 'get tough' with council bosses over pay equality for women workers.

Glasgow is now the only major council in Scotland not to have reached a settlement over their post-job evaluation pay arrangements and I intend to make this a big public issue in the run-up to the local council elections in May 2017.

So I think it would be appropriate, at this stage, to arrange a discussion to brief you on the details of this long-running pay dispute, as the Leader of the Opposition within the City Council.

I would be accompanied by my colleague from Action 4 Equality Scotland, Stefan Cross QC, and perhaps a few of the individual claimants. I suspect it may also be helpful to invite other councillors from the Opposition Group, as well as the various MSPs and MPs who represent Glasgow constituencies.

Perhaps we could gave a quick word over the phone to discuss possible arrangements for such a meeting which I presume you would be happy to host in the City Chambers? 

I will give you a ring during the week.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

I am pleased to say that I have since had a useful and constructive discussion with Cllr Aitken in Glasgow City Chambers 

My understanding is that the SNP will make a commitment to resolving outstanding equal pay claims in the party's manifesto for the local council elections in May.

Now I would welcome that for obvious reasons, but the key question is how these claims will be resolved and on what timescale? 

Not least because the long-suffering claimants in Glasgow have been on the receiving end of the City Council's foot-dragging behaviour for years.

If the outstanding claims in Glasgow are to be settled on a fair and equitable basis, the City Council officials need to be open and transparent about the pay arrangements which were put in place following the introduction of the WPBR in 2006/07.

Especially those covering the former bonus earning, traditional male jobs including Council Gardeners, Refuse Workers, Gravediggers and Road Workers.

Up until now the City Council has been the exact opposite of open and transparent - and unless things change soon we are in for another big freedom of information fight simply to get at the truth. 

If you ask me, Glasgow's elected politicians ought to demand that their senior officials 'open the books' and explain how these pay arrangements operated instead of desperately trying to cover things up.

The truth will come out sooner or later, as it did in Labour-run North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils. 

So if the SNP in Glasgow can get behind that 'honest broker' position, they will have earned my respect and support.


Weasel Words from Glasgow (08/02/17)

A kind reader has shared a response she received from Glasgow City Council after writing to its Labour leader, Councillor Frank McAveety.

Now Frank's been around the track once or twice so he must surely be embarrassed by the 'weasel words' which have been written on his behalf.

For a start, Glasgow City Council is now the only council in Scotland not to have dealt with the so-called protection and pay assimilation period which followed the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review in 2007. 

Neighbouring councils in North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire both recently resolved this issue, so there is no 'best use of public funds' or 'wider community interest' at stake here. 

Which means that Glasgow is on the hook just like other councils, except Glasgow is 10 years late after refusing to deal with the issue at the time, i.e. back in 2007.

So there is no dispute about whether or not a further 2nd Wave payment is required, the only issues are how much and over which time period?

A4ES says the pay of the women's jobs should have been levelled up to the same as the men before the WPBR came into force in 2007 - in which case the women are entitled to the same level of pay protection as the men.

Not just that, of course, since the WPBR has not been given a clean bill of health and Glasgow's local job evaluation scheme (the City Council refused to use the nationally approved scheme) forms part of the appeal to the Court of Session.

The other glaring point Frank fails to mention is that thousands of low paid workers in Glasgow were made very poor offers of settlement in the run-up to Christmas 2005.

Everyone caught up in that exercise (not the A4ES claimants) feel cheated and angry at the way they were treated - here's an extract from a recent post from the blog site (from 1 Feb) which explains the background and why people are so determined that they 'won't be fooled again'.

Council 'buy-outs' - Christmas 2005
  • Lots of people are understandably still very angry at being pressurised into accepting very poor offers of settlement in the run-up to Christmas 2005. In plain language people felt they were bullied and intimidated into accepting these offers which were capped at a maximum of only £9,000 - because they were frightened into believing that they would probably lose everything, if they continued with their claims to the Employment Tribunals.
The role of the trade unions
  • The trade unions in Glasgow had agreed the £9,000 cap with the City Council and were left looking foolish when far higher settlements were achieved by Action 4 Equality Scotland. As a result, the trade unions in Glasgow (and elsewhere) lost credibility with their own members after siding with management and the employers over equal pay, which is why the vast majority of claimants in Glasgow (around 6,000) are now with A4ES.
As I said on the blog site recently, this may not have been down to Frank as he was an MSP in the Scottish Parliament in 2005, but the reality is that the buck stops with him now as Leader of the Council in 2017.

The Council's response also says that both sides are 'talking' which is technically correct although Glasgow is dragging its feet quite shamelessly. 

For example, at the last meeting with A4ES on 19 January 2017 the Council claimed they were unable to provide pay information because of ongoing industrial action in their IT section.

Embarrassingly, the industrial action ended that same day (19 Jan) which the Council clearly knew at the time, but still used this as a ridiculous excuse for not providing information which they had been promising to release for months.   

So if you ask me, it seems as if we are dealing with some cynical people who use weasel words when what's needed is some straight talking and a commitment to get the job done.


Cllr McAveety thanks you for your recent enquiry and has asked me to respond on his behalf.

A number of colleagues have written in about equal pay and have been asking when the Council will settle. In fact the Council settled equal pay in 2006. Unlike a good many other Councils all of these cases are now settled and the Council has had a pay and grading system in place that ensures equal treatment. This system has been tested twice in Court and has been approved each time.

The Council did not have a robust system of equal pay in place before 2006. It settled, quite rightly, those claims and put in place a robust system that made sure that this could not happen again. What is currently at issue is whether the Council should have put in place 3 years pay protection in 2006 for those whose income was due to fall. One Court supported this while another did not.    

Both sides have appealed but they are also talking to each other. This is a complex issue and because public funds are at stake the Council does need to act in the best interest of the entire community. I hope, however, that before too long one of the first Councils to resolve the source issue will be able to resolve this final point.

I hope that this answers your enquiry.

Yours sincerely,


Robert Anderson
Head of Human Resources
Corporate Services
Glasgow City Council
Room G.20
40 John Street