Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Fight for Equal Pay

A Glasgow Home Carer (a regular reader of the blog site) wrote recently to the leader of the City Council, Cllr Frank McAveety, regarding the ongoing fight for equal pay.  

Here is what Cllr McAveety had to say in response - I have added my own comments below those of the council leader which are reproduced first in bold:

"Thank you for contacting me regarding equal pay."

Well done to the Home Carer for getting Cllr McAveety's attention - the more people who get involved and stand up for themselves the better!

"The City Council recognises the importance of equal opportunities in employment and firmly believes that male and female employees should receive equal pay for work of equal value."

Everyone says they support the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, but before Action 4 Equality Scotland came along in 2005 the City Council's pay arrangements were clearly discriminatory.

"As you may be aware, in 2006, the Council settled its Equal Pay claims. The Council recognised the historic pay inequality that existed before then, and settled the claims of over 10,000 employees, mostly lower paid women, paying out compensation totalling £82m." 

Glasgow reached only a partial settlement of its equal pay claims and in the process the Council pressurised many of its lowest paid employees into accepting accepting very poor offers of settlement.

"A Pay and Grading system – a Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) - was then put in place with equal pay at its very heart. The WPBR is a modern, coherent pay system free from discrimination." 

Glasgow/s WPBR is under challenge at the Court of Session, but at the same time as introducing new pay arrangements the Council gave a guarantee that none of the higher paid male dominated jobs would lose out - in other words men were treated more favourably than women.  

"It is important to note that this system has been tested twice through a legal process and each time has been found to be free from discrimination on grounds of gender."

The WPBR has not been given a clean bill of health and is still under challenge, not least because of the guarantee of 'no detriment' which was aimed at predominantly male jobs.  

"Introducing this system added £57m to the Council payroll and this was necessary as the Council recognised its obligation to pay free from discrimination. Despite the budget pressures, the Council worked extremely hard to compensate those who had been discriminated against and put in place a fair system of pay to ensure that pay discrimination could never again happen."

Glasgow bulldozed its lowest paid workers into accepting poor offers of settlement in the run-up to Christmas 2005 worth a fraction of their true value - if you ask me, the Council should be ashamed of this behaviour instead of expecting a pat on the back.

"When the Council implemented the new pay system, most employees saw an increase in their earnings but a smaller number faced a reduction. A decision was taken to protect those employees’ earnings for a period of 3 years. This is a separate issue and the question is whether the Council was right to have put that 3 year pay protection in place. This is subject of an on-going appeal and the Council will do what it can to resolve this issue. I believe that all parties need to be involved in this process and be equally committed to finding a reasonable solution." 

The 3-year protection period is not in dispute and was part of the national agreement, the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement. What is in dispute is how the the protection agreement operated in practice because on the face of things this 'local' agreement gave preferential treatment to the Council's higher paid male groups.

"I am therefore pleased that the City Council and the legal representatives of the claimants are in the process of exchanging information. I very much hope that they will find a way to reach an agreement that is in everyone's best interests."

The Council has been promising to explain its pay arrangements for many months but is still dragging its feet - there is no prospect of a negotiated settlement while the Council is behaving this way.

"On all employment matters, including equalities, we will continue to actively consult with Trade Unions and review and publish a revised equal pay statement every four years."

The trade unions are part of the problem, if you ask me. Because the unions threatened strike action in order to obtain a guarantee of 'no detriment' for higher paid predominantly male groups, but at no time did the trade unions threaten industrial action in support of equal pay.

"Please be assured that we are committed to equal pay, ensuring that male and female employees receive equal pay for work of equal value."

Actions speak much louder than words

"Robert Anderson has advised that you contacted him to invite me to meetings that you have scheduled later in March. I would like to thank you for thanking the time to invite me, however due to prior diary commitments I am unable to attend."

Cllr McAveety 'talks the talk', but seems unwilling to meet with those directly affected by the Council's appalling behaviour. If you ask me, the Council's highly paid senior officials are running rings around the elected politicians.  

"Thank you once again for contacting me regarding this important issue."

How can Cllr McAveety expect equal pay claimants in Glasgow to support the Labour Party in May's local elections when the Council has treated them in such a shabby, shameful fashion.

"Yours sincerely"

"Frank McAveety"
"Glasgow - UK Council of the Year 2015"

Labour-run Glasgow City Council is now the only council in Scotland not to have reached a comprehensive settlement with A4ES covering local pay arrangements which followed the introduction of a new job evaluation (JE) scheme - in Glasgow's case the WPBR.