Thursday, 10 May 2018

Glasgow - Openness, Transparency and Equal Pay


Here is a letter I sent earlier today to all Glasgow councillors regarding the role senior officials played during the introduction of the City Council's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme.

Now Glasgow's chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell insists that senior officials acted in 'good faith' over the WPBR, yet the Council refuses to answer an FOI Request which would clarify how the WPBR was commissioned and who approved controversial aspects of the scheme such as the 37 hour 'rule'.

So I hope Glasgow's equal pay claimants will contact local councillors, MSPs and MPs - and demand their support in bringing the secrecy surrounding the WPBR to an well deserved end. 

In my view, the Councillors workforce and the wider public are absolutely entitled to know how Scotland's largest council got itself into such a terrible mess over equal pay.  
  
Dear Councillor

Openness, Transparency and Equal Pay 

I have submitted two new freedom of information (FOI) requests to Glasgow City Council after senior officials refused to disclose key information about the creation of the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

The information I am seeking is important because the Council’s chief executive (Annemarie O’Donnell) claims that senior officials acted in ‘good faith’ when the WPBR was introduced in 2005/07 and that their aim was to eliminate gender discrimination from the Council’s pay arrangements at that time. 

Now I find the chief executive’s claim impossible to swallow because it is clear that the WPBR's discriminatory pay practices were designed into the scheme from the very beginning, and that its completely invented new 'rules' were signed-off by the senior officials responsible for commissioning the WPBR in the first place. 

For example, the WPBR’s 37 hour ‘rule’ which triggers a £1,000 a year NSWP payment, but only for jobs which are contracted to work 37 hours or more. Yet the vast majority of women’s jobs were (and still are) contracted to work fewer than 37 hours a week which was obviously known to Glasgow officials at the time.

In which case it is unarguable that a major provision of the WPBR was signed off in the full knowledge that the new 37 hour ‘rule’ would work to the disadvantage of the City Council’s largely female workforce.

So my FOI requests are aimed at getting to the truth of what actually happened back in 2005/07 and what role senior officials played when the WPBR was introduced. In my view, this is entirely consistent with the City Council’s policy of ‘openness and transparency’ as far as its decision making processes are concenred.

The WPBR was the biggest single employment event in Glasgow City Council’s history and the circumstances surrounding the scheme’s introduction demand serious scrutiny, especially after the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, unanimously judged Glasgow’s WPBR to be ‘unfit for purpose’.

Senior officials rejected my original FOI request on the grounds of cost and claimed, spuriously in my view, that providing this information would cost more than £600. In doing so, officials have invoked Section 12 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, although this is a discretionary provision which can, of course, be waived.

In my view, Section 12 (1) of FOISA should never have been invoked because the individuals who made this decision have a vested interest in suppressing damaging information about the WPBR, particularly if this information were to show senior officials (past or present) in a poor or unprofessional light.  

I would much prefer the truth about the WPBR and the role of officials to come into the open from the Council itself instead having to drag this information out, little by little, via a protracted FOI battle. 

The workforce and the wider public have a right to know how Glasgow got into such a mess over the WPBR. My two new FOI requests are aimed at doing just that by avoiding any further objections on the ground of cost, from officials who are unable or unwilling to explain how much the WPBR 'white elephant' has cost the council taxpayer.

I hope councillors will agree this is an issue which goes to the heart of good governance because the reputation and integrity of Scotland's largest council is at stake - and ‘daylight' is clearly the best disinfectant when it comes to flushing out the truth surrounding the WPBR.

Kind regards



Mark Irvine