Thursday, 1 June 2017

Glasgow and Equal Pay


I laughed my head off when I read the comment from Unison on the big decision from the Court of Session on equal pay in Glasgow City Council.   

Now I'm well used to the trade unions trying to take credit for work done by Action 4 Equality Scotland, but the following words from Unison's regional secretary, Mike Kirby, take the biscuit if you ask me:

“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.”

The reason being that prior to becoming Unison's regional secretary in Scotland, Mike Kirby was an influential figure in the Glasgow Unison branch where the local trade unions:

  • kept their women members in the dark for years over the huge pay differences between traditional male and female jobs
  • stood by and allowed the City Council to 'dupe' low paid women workers into accepting poor offers of settlement in the run up to Christmas 2005
  • agreed with Council management to place a 'cap' on those first wave equal pay settlements worth only a maximum of £9,000 - when people's claims were worth much more
  • threatened strike action maintain the higher, bonus related pay of male workers without demanding the same treatment for women workers who make up 70% of the council's workforce 
No wonder the vast majority of Glasgow City Council employees are pursuing their equal pay claims with Action 4 Equality Scotland because we have led this fight from Day One.

  

Glasgow - Court of Session (30/05/17)


Glasgow City Council has lost its equal pay appeal which was heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh from 25th to 27th April 2017.

Scotland's highest civil court has agreed that Glasgow's women workers were entitled to the same pay protection as their male colleagues which means the Council has lost yet another round in this long-running battle over equal pay on behalf of its lowest paid employees.

The Court of Session has still to publish its decision on the second part of the appeal which challenges Glasgow's local job evaluation (JE) scheme and the City Council's WPBR pay arrangements.

Nonetheless, the 'pay protection' decision on its own represents a considerable victory for thousands of low paid, predominantly female claimants including: home carers, cooks cleaners, catering workers, clerical staff and classroom assistants.

Welcoming the decision Stefan Cross QC said:

"The A4ES legal team did a great job in the Court of Session and we are delighted that the three judges upheld the earlier decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which ruled in favour of the claimants.

"We look forward to the Court's decision in the second part of the appeal. If this is upheld as well, there is bound to be a huge influx of new cases against the City Council which has stubbornly refused to face up to its equal pay obligations for the past ten years."

More news to follow soon, so watch this space.

  

Glasgow - Court of Session (29/05/17)


The big news this bank holiday weekend is that the Court of Session will release the first part of its decision on the Glasgow equal pay cases tomorrow - Tuesday 30 May 2017.

As regular readers know, the appeal is in two parts and tomorrow's decision will focus on the 'pay protection' part of the claim; the A4ES-led challenge to Glasgow's job evaluation (JE) scheme and WPBR pay arrangements will follow in due course.

Now the decision is being released sooner than expected, certainly a lot earlier than at least one of the trade unions was predicting just days ago and as reported on the blog site previously the GMB union is not part of the appeal over the City Council's JE scheme and WPBR pay arrangements.

The implications of the Court's decision are explained in the two posts posts below and tomorrow promises to be a big day one way or the other.

So fingers crossed - I'll share the news on the blog as soon as I've had time to read and understand what the Court of Session has to say. 


  



Glasgow - Court of Session (25/05/17)


As regular readers know, two important appeals involving Glasgow City Council were heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh recently, ending on 4 May 2017 - the same day as the local elections.

The written decision of the court may be some time off, but here is my personal impression  of how things went and the big issues at stake.

Protection Period Claims

In the first part of the appeal the court heard about Glasgow’s pay protection arrangements and the City Council's commitment to maintain the earnings of former bonus earners at their previous levels via its Employee Development Commitment  (EDC) - without first of all bringing the pay of the women into line with the higher pay of the men.

The upshot being that when the WPBR was introduced in 2006/07 women workers were in a much less favourable financial position because their pay was thousands of pounds a year behind their bonus earning male comparators.

So before WPBR came into play a Home Carer on £12,000 (basic pay) and Grade MW5 was being paid much less than a Gravedigger on the lower grade of MW3 because bonus pay took his earnings to @£22,000 a year.

After the WPBR a Home Carer and Gravedigger ended up on the same PESB 3 Grade, but a Gravedigger’s earnings remained at @£22,000 while the Home Carer’s increased to only @£15,000.

So, the effect of WPBR was to preserve the higher, bonus-related pay of male comparator jobs - rather than to substantially improve the lot of the women’s jobs which had been undervalued and underpaid for many years.

The trade unions seemed to share this objective and a Council minute of December 2006 confirms that the unions threatened strike action in support of maintaining the earnings of the male dominated ‘red circled’ jobs.

Yet strike action was never threatened over the demand for 'equal pay for work of equal value' which would have brought the pay of Glasgow's women workers (the majority of the workforce) into line with the higher earnings of their male comparators.

If the 'protection part' of the Court of Session case is upheld, this will extend the period of people's second wave equal pay claims until at least 2009, i.e. until the pay preservation arrangements for the male comparator jobs came to an end.


Glasgow's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR) 

The judges spent a lot of time trying to get their heads round the rationale behind the WPBR which is Glasgow’s name for its own ‘in-house’ job evaluation (JE) scheme and associated pay arrangements.

Glasgow did not use the Gauge JE scheme which had been developed alongside the 1999 Single Status (Equal Pay) Agreement and which was recommend for use across Scotland by CoSLA (the employers umbrella body) and the national trade unions (GMB, Unison and Unite).

For some reason, Glasgow City Council decided to call in an external consultant to work up its own ‘in-house’ scheme based on one previously used in Greater London. Even more bizarrely, the trade unions in Glasgow went along with the council’s plans without putting up any resistance.

If you ask me, the local trade unions lacked the expertise and knowledge required to deal with a completely new JE scheme and let their low paid members down because local union reps were completely out of their depth.


Core Pay and Job Evaluation

The judges had difficulty in grasping the different elements of Glasgow’s WPBR which were explained as Core Pay (Basic Pay), a separate payment for Working Context and Demands (WCD) and another payment for Non-Standard Working Pattern (NSWP) - the latter replacing shift payments or unsocial hours pay.

Only the Core Pay element related directly to objective job evaluation criteria which assessed different jobs on the basis of their skills and responsibilities, using a combination of factors and weightings, before awarding a new Grade and a place on the pay ladder.

WCD and NSWP relied upon new local ‘rules’ determined by the City Council (with input from the trade unions), but many of these were drawn in such a way as to deliver a desired outcome. For example, the arbitrary rule that says only employees working 37 hours can receive 7 (working hours) points under the NSWP element of the scheme - which was worth £800  a year in 2006 (see posts below).

The effect of WCD and NSWP allowed the City Council to maintain the higher pay of former bonus earning groups beyond the original 3 year protection period, even though these two elements of pay were not related to the grade of the job. 

In other words, having gone to all the trouble of introducing a objective JE scheme with evaluation criteria based on the skills and responsibilities of people's jobs, the City Council created another set of 'rules' which disproportionately benefited the former bonus earning male groups.

If the challenge to the Glasgow JE scheme succeeds, the WPBR will fall away and the result is that women doing work of 'equal value' to the men will be entitled to the same pay as their male comparators - both up until now (from 2006/07) and going forward from 2017. 

A successful challenge to the WPBR will also open the door to a whole raft of new claims in addition to those from existing A4ES clients. 
NB The GMB union did not support the A4ES led challenge to Glasgow's WPBR at the recent appeal hearing in the Court of Session. The GMB has restricted its claims to the protection period only. 


Court of Session Decision

The next steps in the fight for equal pay in Glasgow will hinge on the decision of the Court of Session. If the written judgment favours the claimants, Glasgow City Council will find itself in a similar position to North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire councils.

So fingers crossed and watch this space.