Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Trade Unions and Equal Pay

I said yesterday that the unions in Glasgow should be thoroughly ashamed of their behaviour in relation to equal pay and here is a post from the blog site archive explaining why.

Because while Unison was warmly welcoming the 'pay protection' decision from the Court of Session in May 2017 - back in December 2006 the Glasgow Unison branch was threatening industrial action to secure special treatment for bonus earning, traditional male jobs.

A minute of Glasgow City Counci's Executive Committee (dated 8 December 2006) makes the position crystal clear: the union threatened strike action to maintain the higher earnings of 'red circled jobs' yet the pay of the council's women workers was never brought into line with the pay of their male comparators.

Which is, of course, the key point from the Court of Session judgment - that women workers in Glasgow were treated completely differently and much less favourably than their male colleagues although this didn't stop Unison's Mike Kirby from saying yesterday:

“The pay protection win is great news. The way Glasgow rates and pays workers has been the source of conflict and division for ten years. These women have already waited long enough to receive the pay they have worked hard for and deserve. It's time for Glasgow City Council to do the right thing and pay up on equal pay.” 

Now that's really rich, but it demonstrates perfectly why the trade unions have lost all credibility over equal pay in Glasgow, and elsewhere, because they've been caught out saying one thing, then doing another time and again. 

If you ask me, Brasso would be the ideal gift for polishing-up their brass necks.

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

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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 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.


Glasgow's Pay Arrangements (02/03/17)

A contact of mine in Glasgow City Council has been in touch to say that a 'deal' was done between the Council and the trade unions back in 2006 - before the (WPBR) Workforce Pay and Benefits Review was introduced in 2007.

Apparently, this 'deal' with the unions guaranteed more favourable treatment to the Council's traditional male, bonus earning jobs - compared to women Council workers in non-bonus earning jobs (carers, cooks, cleaners, catering workers and so on).

Now if this proves to be correct, Glasgow will have behaved in exactly the same way as its near neighbours in North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils both of which are Labour-run councils, of course. 

I can't think of a bigger bombshell, I have to say, because this would be the equivalent of finding a 'smoking gun' after years of hand-to-hand combat with the City Council over its handling of equal pay. 

So I am patiently waiting on further details and if my Glasgow contact comes up with the goods, I'll share the details on the blog site.