Monday, 3 July 2017

Glasgow - A Cautionary Tale

Here's a cautionary tale from West Dunbartonshire Council where Home Carers are up in arms having been starved of information for years about their rights to equal pay.

Belatedly union members are beginning to understand that their local union leaders were actually working 'hand in glove' with council management to prevent low paid women workers from getting what they deserved - equal pay with their male comparators.

In Glasgow, for example, 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 
  • the GMB union restricted its members equal pay claims to only three years and did not support the A4ES led challenge to the City Council's job evaluation (JE) scheme and its WPBR pay arrangements.
I imagine something very similar happened in West Dunbartonshire as well and now union members are beginning to realise that they have been badly let down by local union leaders who were supposed to be protecting their interests.

Hardgate carer 'robbed' of equal pay settlement from West Dunbartonshire Council

Margaret McMillan, a WDC carer from Hardgate

By Tara Fitzpatrick - The Clydebank Post

A HARDGATE carer is among hundreds of women who claim they have been “robbed” of settlements in an equal pay dispute with West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC).

The angry public sector workers – who work in low-paid jobs – say they are missing out on payouts of up to £1,000 for the period of 2009 to 2011.

The women, members of UNISON and GMB trade unions, say they were not provided with the appropriate paperwork by workplace representatives in order to take claims forward when it emerged they may be entitled to cash.

While some women have received payouts in recent weeks, many others who made claims have received no offer and no information.

Margaret McMillan, 65, from Hardgate, has worked as a carer for WDC since 2004.

She said: “This is not even about the money, it’s about the lack of information we are getting from the unions and the council. I just want to know where I stand.

“As carers we work individually which means we haven’t had a chance to talk about it with each other. But I now realise we have been robbed. No one is giving us any answers and it is insulting.

“Caring is a great job, its smashing but I’m fed up having to fight this. Equal pay should mean equal pay.”

The dispute relates to a Court of Session ruling that women working for Glasgow City Council (GCC) had been excluded from bonuses due to the introduction of payment protections which upheld the earnings of male employees. The court rejected GCC’s appeal that payment protections had not discriminated against women.

Ms McMillan was one of more than 40 women in West Dunbartonshire who took their complaints to Councillor Jim Bollan, of the West Dunbartonshire Community Party, who has been supporting them through this dispute.

He said: “Some women were receiving financial settlements but some other women who made claims were not. These women have received absolutely no information about where they stand. If their claim is being dismissed then they should be told and they should be given the opportunity to dispute it.

“I sent a list of the names and addresses of 83 women in the care and catering sector of WDC who have received no communication regarding their equal pay claim.

“Hundreds of low-paid women workers are involved. Some of the women I have spoken to are entitled to upwards of £1,000 while settlement letters are currently being received by other similar employees.”

A spokesman for GMB said the union is now pursuing claims but said a lack of paperwork will “complicate” the process.

He said: “There are always those that failed to act in the initial stages of this issue by filling in the equal pay questionnaire and returning it to us whose colleagues are due to receive payments and who may now believe they should also be compensated.

“While they may or may not have a moral argument, the legal audit trail may be missing and so achieving anything for them has considerable difficulties.”

Cllr Bollan said: “This is obviously a case of different councils dealing with the situation in different ways but they need to get a grip.”

A WDC spokeswoman said: “We have taken a proactive approach to resolving this matter and have made settlement offers to individuals with a valid equal pay claim. We would urge anyone who is unsure about their situation to contact their trade union or legal representative for independent advice.”