Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Glasgow and Equal Pay

I contacted the Cllr Susan Aitken, leader of the SNP Group at Glasgow City Council, in the wake the local elections which saw the previoushi Labour administration thrown out on its ear.

Here's what I had to say to Cllr Aitken who wrote an article for the blog site ahead of polling day on Thursday 4 May 2017.

Dear Cllr Aitken

Glasgow City Council and Equal Pay

Just a brief note to congratulate you on your victory in Thursday's elections to Glasgow City Council and on the performance the SNP Group as a whole.

I intend to let the dust settle a bit before resuming my campaigning activities around equal pay and I expect that you will also need some time to take stock before deciding how the new administration will proceed.

I suspect you may have a fight on your hands with at least some senior officials who have been urging the City Council to fight tooth and nail through the courts, defending the indefensible, just as Labour-run North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils did for many years before finally facing up to their equal pay obligations.

I think it's fair to say that the recent Court of Session appeals in Edinburgh went extremely well from the A4ES claimants' point of view and we are very confident of winning the legal battle, if the outstanding cases were to proceed all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

In addition, there is the prospect of additional claims being registered if the City Council's 'in-house' job evaluation scheme is successfully challenged which, I understand, is now a very distinct possibility.

As you know, A4ES met with the previous council leader, Cllr Frank McAveety, to discuss a potential settlement of the outstanding cases, but the Labour Group failed to give equal pay the high priority it deserved leaving the City Council in an even deeper hole than before.

In terms of size and scale, equal pay is by far the biggest industrial relations challenge facing the City Council and I hope we can make real progress to resolve this long-running dispute which first hit the headlines 12 years ago with the launch of Action 4 Equality Scotland in August 2005.

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

The recent Court of Session hearings in Edinburgh have strengthened our resolve in the claimants' case and I am certainly hopeful that under its new leadership Glasgow City Council will finally face up to its obligations over equal pay.     

So watch this space.


Glasgow - Court of Session (08/05/17)

The appeal hearings at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ended on Thursday - the same day as the local elections.

Now it will be some time before we get the decision of the court which will be in writing, but I think it's fair to say that the hearings went extremely well from the claimants' point of view.

The legal team instructed by A4ES did a really great job and while it's never wise to count chickens before they're hatched, I came away from Thursday's hearing in a very positive frame of mind.

I'll have more to say about my visit to the Court of Session later in the week.  


Glasgow - Court of Session (26/04/17)

A reader asks what further legal steps are open to Glasgow City Council following the appeal hearing which taking place this week and next at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Well in theory the City Council could appeal again to the UK Supreme Court, but this would depend on exactly what the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, says in deciding the case and handing down its judgment.

If the City Council were to appeal again, Action 4 Equality Scotland would also fight the case all the way to the UK Supreme Court, but another big factor will be the local council elections on 4th May 2017 of course.

Because unlike the Labour Party which currently runs the City Council, the SNP have said that they wish to see a negotiated and fair settlement of all the outstanding equal pay claims in Glasgow. 

For reasons best known to itself the Labour Group in Glasgow has failed to show any leadership over equal pay and just like neighbouring Labour councils in North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire, they have fought the issue every step the way.

So I hope Labour gets a well deserved kicking on polling day next Thursday.  


Glasgow - Court of Session (19/04/17)

I have been writing a lot recently about Glasgow's treatment of women workers under the City Council's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR)

One of the many strange things the City Council agreed to do was to give a guarantee that the higher pay of former bonus earnings jobs would be maintained going forward, so that people in these jobs would not 'lose out' following the introduction of the WPBR in 2006/07.

One way in which the City Council set out to achieve this aim was to introduce what they called the Employee Development Commitment (EDC) which had a number of unusual features including the ability to award a special 'recruitment and retention' payment to maintain the earnings of specific 'red-circled' jobs at their previous levels.

All sounds a bit strange if you ask me, and it's significant that the Council's guarantee was given in response to a threat of strike action by the trade unions - yet the unions never threatened industrial action in support of equal pay for the female dominated jobs.  

In essence the women's jobs were not treated in the same way as the men even though the female dominated jobs were clearly of equal value to the male dominated male jobs.

And that is the case being put to the Court of Session on behalf of A4ES clients in Glasgow starting next week.


Glasgow - Court of Session (16/04/17)

Regular readers will recall that the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, is due to deal with the outstanding equal pay claims involving Glasgow City Council.

In the days leading up to the local council elections on Thursday 4th May 2017.

So the claimants will have their say about the way Scotland's largest council has behaved - both in court and at the ballot box.


Court of Session (30/01/17) 

The Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, has set the following dates to deal with the outstanding equal pay claims against Glasgow City Council.  

  • 25th to 27th April 2017 - a three day hearing on the pay protection and assimilation period
  • 2nd to 5th May 2017 - four days focusing on the City Council's job evaluation scheme, also known locally as the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review)
Now the timing could not be better if you ask me with the elections to Glasgow City Council taking place on Thursday 4th May 2017.

My message to the Labour leaders of Glasgow City Council is to come clean and explain the pay arrangements that were put in place after the introduction of its local job evaluation scheme (WPBR) in 2006/07.

So if Frank McAveety and his colleagues don't have the political will to resolve then issue, then step aside and make way for those who do. 


Glasgow's Smoking Gun (09/03/17)

Image result for smoking gun + images

I've had a lot of interest in my 'Smoking Gun' post about Glasgow City Council's pay arrangements from earlier today.

Now I'll have more to say on this subject tomorrow, but if you ask me the question that ought to be uppermost in people's minds is:

"How can an employer like Glasgow City Council possibly deliver on its commitment to equal pay, if they set out at the same time to maintain pay differentials and the 'pay gap' between make and female jobs?"

The same question should also be asked of the trade unions, of course, though I'll set that aside for another day.

In the meantime, what do readers think about the latest revelations from Glasgow?

Drop me a note and I'll share people's thoughts on the blog site - without mentioning anyone's name or personal details, for obvious reasons.


Glasgow's Smoking Gun (09/03/17)

Image result for smoking gun + images

Here is a very important minute from a meeting of Glasgow City Council's Executive Committee held on 8th December 2006.

The Council's Executive Committee was chaired by the Council leader with other elected councillors and senior officials in attendance.

"Workforce pay and benefits review - Outcome of negotiations with UNISON noted.

"3 In terms of Standing Order Nos 4 and 6, as a matter of urgency, the Chief Executive reported that following a ballot of its membership, UNISON had intimated that they intended to take Industrial Action on 5th, 6th and 7th December 2006 in connection with the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

"Following meetings with UNISON culminating in a meeting on 4th December 2006, UNISON had called off the Strike Action on the basis of the following understanding:-

"2006-2007 EXECUTIVE 5 8th DECEMBER 2006 694

“The Council is committed to assisting individual employees who are in a loss of earnings position as a result of the WPBR and has given a clear commitment to ensure all appropriate action is taken to provide such employees with the opportunity to move to a higher level post, thus allowing maintenance of their earnings in the long term.

"Development plans and service redesign are the two main means of achieving the objective stated above. It is the clear intention to have agreed plans in place for all relevant staff, which are capable of delivery by March 2009.

"The Council was prepared to agree an extension beyond March 2009 where it has not been possible to complete the development plan and/or where service redesign has not been practically implemented.

"After consideration, the committee noted the position."

Now in terms of equal pay this City Council minute is a real bombshell - a smoking gun, if you like.

Because the document confirms that Glasgow City Council did a deal with the trade unions to maintain the higher, bonus-related earnings of traditional male jobs.

As regular readers know that is essentially what happened in neighbouring North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils of course, both Labour-run councils, as regular readers will be aware.

The key point is that in settling previous equal pay claims (prior to the introduction of the WPBR) the City Council accepted that its pay arrangements were discriminatory - and that many female dominated jobs were being paid much less than their male 'comparators' even when the women's jobs were on the same or a higher grade.

So while a Home Carer was on an hourly rate of, say, £6.00 an hour a Refuse Worker, a Gardener or a Gravedigger were being paid between £9.00 - £12.00 an hour when their big (50% and more) bonus payments were taken in account.

Just as in other councils across Scotland, female dominated jobs in Glasgow did not attract these bonus payments, so women in the same or often in higher grades were being paid far less than their male colleagues for doing 'work of equal value'.

Glasgow City Council accepted this position and the fact that the Council had no proper justification for these big pay differences between male and female jobs which led to a settlement of what became known as the '1st Wave' of equal pay claims. 

So prior to the introduction of the WPBR in 2007 the Council had a duty to bring the pay of male and female jobs into line with each other - otherwise traditional male jobs entered the WPBR with higher pay and a hugely advantageous starting position.

In other words the hourly rate of pay of the women's jobs should have been increased to the same as their comparators (£9.00 - £12.00 an hour) to put female workers on exactly the same footing as the male workers.

Think about this in the context of a competition: it's like a game of musical chairs in which some people take part only after being guaranteed they can keep their own chair, or a 100 mixed metre sprint in which some of the runners (but just the male ones) are already half way (or more) towards the finishing line.

If the City Council's Home Carers (to name one group) had been treated in the same way as Refuse Workers, Gardeners and Gravediggers, the fact is that they would have entered the WPBR process with a much higher rate of pay plus with a copper-bottomed guarantee that this higher rate of pay could not fall after the WPBR was introduced.

In short the Home Carers along with many other female dominated jobs were treated very differently and less favourably than their male colleagues, like second class citizens, if you ask me.

Because Scotland's landmark 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement was always about closing the pay gap with higher paid (predominantly male) jobs by tackling low pay amongst the thousands of female dominated council jobs which had been badly undervalued for years.

Yet Glasgow's Executive Committee minute from December 2006 is clear evidence that priority was given to maintaining existing pay differentials (the 'pay gap') by continuing to protect the higher pay of male dominated jobs - without offering the same 'deal' to the council's women workers

The upshot is that Glasgow City Council and the trade unions should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for yet again failing to stand up for the interests of a largely female workforce.