Monday, 13 February 2017

First Minister and Equal Pay

My post from yesterday about the First Minister, Glasgow City Council and equal pay resulted in a record day for visits to the blog site. 

I also circulated the post to all MSPs and MPs in the Glasgow area with the message that politicians can expect to hear from their local constituents in the run-up to the local council elections on 4th May 2017.

As I've said on the blog site many times the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is not a spectator sport and the more people who get involved in the campaign the better.

So go to it Glasgow - here are the email addresses for the city's MSPs and MPs.

Glasgow MSPs (Scottish Parliament)

Glasgow MPs (Westminster Parliament)


First Minister and Equal Pay (12/02/17)

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.