Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Glasgow - Why John Mason Is Wrong On Equal Pay

I promised to say more about John Mason's recent email and why the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston is way off the mark with his comments about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

The first point to make is that the reference to Sweden is really baffling - because the fight for equal pay in Glasgow is not about the 'gender pay gap' across a big organisation or society (Sweden) as a whole.

Instead the fight in Glasgow is over the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value' and - just like other Scottish councils - it's about an employer paying Home Carers thousands of pounds a year less than unskilled Road Workers, Gardeners or Gravediggers.

In Glasgow's case, the pay of male and female dominated jobs has been achieved via a discredited system known as the WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review) which is based on bizarre 'rules' and 'practices' that operate to the disadvantage of the council's female dominated jobs. 

Now John should know this because he was a councillor in Glasgow at the time, but for some reason he appears to have forgotten what the WPBR was all about, or the fact that it has since been condemned by Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session, as 'unfit for purpose'.

The next point is that John seems to think that when it comes to their employment rights, equal pay claimants can be 'just a little bit pregnant' - that they should accept less than they deserve because of an unspecified threat from redundancies and costs in council services?

In which case, I'd like to know what price the council's senior officials and/or its political leaders have paid for making such a terrible mess of delivering equal pay over the past 12 years. 

The third point is that an apology would indeed be in order, not least because the architect of Glasgow's ALEOs including Cordia was none other than the City Council's current chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell.

The creation of Cordia allowed thousands of Cordia staff to be treated as second class members of the Glasgow 'Council Family' for years, yet senior council officials are being allowed to trumpet Cordia as a great policy success, which strikes me as  rather odd.

So Glasgow's pay arrangements are riddled with discrimination and this will continue until the WPBR is replaced by a new job evaluation scheme and new pay arrangements which are open, transparent and command the support of the Council's largely female workforce.


Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (06/05/18)

A kind reader has shared an email she received from John Mason MSP on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Now John has 'form' in this area and although he should know better he has yet again suggested that the claimants should pay for their own employment rights to be upheld - through redundancies and cuts in council services.

Back in January, John said more or less the same thing and it's worrying that an SNP MSP (and former Glasgow councillor) should hole these opinions, especially when the City Council's SNP leader, Susan Aitken, has repeatedly stated that claimants should be properly compensated and 'get what they're due'.

So my advice is that equal pay claimants in John Mason's constituency would let John know what they think of his comments - I imagine John would not accept being paid at less than the 'rate for the job' he does and an MSP, nor would he accept his office staff being treated as second class citizens.

I'll have more to say later today, but in the meantime here are a few posts from the blog site archive that should give people food for thought.

Thanks for your email.

I certainly do support a settlement of this dispute as soon as possible. I am not familiar with all the details of past schemes nor of what is on the table for negotiation now. However, I certainly do agree that women have been poorly treated in the past by many employers including Glasgow City Council. We need to treat everyone equally going forward. However, the Gender Pay Gap remains a problem and it is proving difficult to reduce. Even in Sweden which is widely seen as being a fairer society that ours, women on average continue to be paid considerably less than men.

I am not sure whether an apology can be issued or not. Apologies really have to be made by the people who made the actual mistakes and I am not sure how worthwhile it is for councillors or officials holding posts today to apologise for different people who held the posts in the past. I completely agree there should be openness and transparency in pay rates and other conditions going forward, including for overtime and holiday pay.

Whatever happens now, there must be negotiations to reach a settlement going forward. I am very pleased that the new SNP administration is refusing to go to court to settle this. However, I suspect no one will get exactly what they want. Any settlement has to be affordable for the City. There would seem to be little point in paying out large compensation payments, if the current staff had to have pay cuts or redundancies in order to pay for it. So I hope all sides will be prepared to genuinely negotiate and reach a compromise which will be good for all involved.

I hope this helps explain my thinking on this topic.

Yours sincerely

John Mason


Glasgow - Insulting and Ridiculous (18/12/17)

I circulated a copy of yesterday's post about John Mason's comments on the fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council - to all Glasgow MSPs, MPs and local councillors along with the following Twitter message: 

"John Mason's suggestion that equal pay claimants in Glasgow should 'pay' for their own rights to be upheld is insulting, ridiculous and a complete non-starter"

I don't think I need to add anything further at this stage, but watch this space for more news because there's a lot going on at the moment. 


Glasgow - Breaking News (17/12/17)

Image result for breaking news + images

I said in a post the other day that Glasgow's MSPs and MPs have been strangely quiet   during the long fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council.

A kind reader has just shared this email from John Mason MSP which, if you ask me, is ill-judged, patronising and insulting because of the strange way John qualifies his 'support' for equal pay.

John's suggestion is that the Glasgow claimants who have been cheated and robbed of their rights to equal pay for years should come up with a solution themselves and consider accepting less than they are entitled to given the potential impact on jobs and services. 

Thanks for your email.

Yes, I do agree with you that this dispute should be settled as soon as possible.

The problem is how much money it will cost and where that money will come from. Figures up to £500 million have been mentioned and Glasgow does not have that money. Labour should have made cuts to pay for the equal pay.

Do you think the SNP should cut jobs and services in order to pay the equal pay claim? Or should the workers who are entitled to the money take less so their colleagues can keep their jobs?

Happy to hear any ideas you have about where the money should come from.


John Mason

(MSP for Glasgow Shettleston)

Now I didn't hear Nicola Sturgeon qualify her support back in October when she said at an SNP conference in Glasgow in October 2017:

"The injustice suffered by low paid women in this city will be put right.

"Equal pay for equal work, denied for too long, will be delivered by the SNP."

Nor have I heard SNP MPs at Westminster say that the pension rights of the 'WASPI' women should be restored so long as they come up with proposals for making cuts in other areas of public spending!

I must check on this point with Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, and Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire, who has been very vocal in support of the WASPI campaign, but I'll eat my hat is that is the stance being taken by the SNP in Westminster.

And while I agree with John that previous Labour-led administrations in Glasgow have a lot to answer for, if I remember correctly, John was a Glasgow councillor at the time the City Council approved its 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay arrangements back in 2006/07.

So John trying to 'wash his hands' of the whole affair simply won't do although I'd be happy to sit down and discuss how the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government might help Glasgow City Council find a way out of the huge mess it finds itself in today.

But what do the claimants in Glasgow think of John's email?

Let me know and I'll see if we can find a way of bringing Glasgow's MSPs and MPs together for a constructive discussion with some of the claimants in the New Year.


Glasgow's 'Quiet Bunch' (15/12/17)

Glasgow's MSPs and MPs are proving to be more like 'The Quiet Bunch' than 'The Wild Bunch' when it comes to the fight for equal pay with Scotland's largest local council.

Now I've been keeping all Glasgow politicians - local councillors, MSPs and MPs - up to speed with what's been happening in recent weeks and months, yet there seems to be a strange reluctance to get directly involved.

I certainly expected the politicians to show more interest in what's happening in their own back yard and to speak up on important issues such as the prospect of the City Council trying to overturn a unanimous judgment from Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session.

Maybe they're all too busy doing their Christmas shopping, but whatever the reason I'm sure this issue is going to return with a real vengeance in the New Year.


Glasgow MSPs and MPs (08//11/17)

I sent a copy of yesterday's post on 'The Fight for Equal Pay' to all Glasgow MSPs and MPs along with the following Twitter message:

"Equal pay claimants demand respect from Glasgow City Council after years of being treated as second-class citizens"

So far at least, I've heard nothing back - not a 'Like', 'Retweet', message of support or request for further information.

Which strikes me as a bit odd because Glasgow's MSPs and MPs have strong views on just about every issue under the sun, if their Twitter feeds are anything to go by.

And you would think that Glasgow's politicians would be taking a very keen interest in such a long running struggle which is taking place right under their noses.

In any event, it's important that equal pay claimants keep demanding support from their local MSPs and MPs because we're not out of the woods yet - not by a long chalk.

MSPs and MPs have a big role to play in the weeks ahead as the City Council decides whether to pursue an appeal to the UK Supreme Court and over the outstanding issue of coming clean over its WPBR pay arrangements.

Surely it's not too much to ask Glasgow's politicians to get behind their local constituents on the question of openness, transparency and equal pay?


Are You Up For The Fight, Glasgow? (18/02/18)

I didn't doubt the answer for a minute, but here are just some of the responses to my question about the future of the City Council's WPBR pay monster: 

"Are your Up for the Fight, Glasgow?"

Yes. already sent emails to my local MSP and MP


Yip. A big apology and years of compensation. Even if the apology would be false. Bunch of no users.




Yes, absolutely.




Yes, count me in




Yes, me and the rest of my army!




Seems like the makings of an angry mob to me -  and it will certainly do for starters.

As ever, many hands Make Light Work - so the more people who get involved the better it will be for all concerned!

Let's go, Glasgow!


Are You Up For The Fight, Glasgow? (17/02/18)

An angry, but peaceful mob is what we need to drive the WPBR pay monster out of town - are you up for the fight, Glasgow?


Mark has helpfully produced a letter to councillors and MSPs re a suggested motion to council to move on from WPBR. 

We need this commitment. At the moment officers are hedging their bets on all issues.

Everyone needs to move on and draw a line under WPBR. We can then discuss a replacement.

Stefan Cross

Can we all send our local councillors a Wee email as well thanks Mark


We will never trust the WPBR scheme after the way it treated female workers.the only way for council to gain our trust is to scrap it and bring in the Gauge scheme.



Glasgow's WPBR Pay Monster (17/02/18)

Here is John Mason's response to my email regarding Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay scheme which, as regular readers know, has been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland.

Dear Mark

Thanks for your email.

I think we have gone over this ground before but I am happy to say again that any solution must be acceptable to the Council, its employees, the trades unions, etc.  I do not believe it is possible for one party to impose its solution on the others.

It remains my opinion that Glasgow would struggle to find £500 million as a settlement which has been the suggested figure.  So all sides need to compromise if a settlement is to be achieved.  And going forward there needs to be a system in place which all parties will find acceptable.

Concerning a recent briefing on equal pay (9 February), I did try to confirm if this was still going ahead despite the recent announcements from the Council.  I sent an email on 7 February (see below) but got no response, therefore, assumed it had been cancelled:

“Dear Karl/Stefan

Further to previous emails I have not heard any more from you about the possible meeting on equal pay this Friday.  Therefore, I am assuming it has been cancelled because the Council has confirmed it is not pursuing a legal route but will negotiate.

My guess is that there will still be a challenge for the Council to find the necessary funding but hopefully if both sides compromise a bit then a solution can be found.

Yours sincerely


Thanks anyway for being in touch about all of this.



Now John is looking at this issue through the wrong end of the telescope if you ask me, because the problem that needs to be put right is the way in which the council's largely female workforce has been treated for years.

Which is what I've said in my reply to John so I hope he reflects on his current position because just as it's impossible to be a 'little bit pregnant' - I fail to see what compromise there is over people's basic employment rights and entitlement to equal pay.

Dear John

Glasgow's WPBR

Many thanks for your prompt reply to my email.

I'm afraid it's wrong to say that we have gone over this ground previously, because this is the first time I have raised with you the specific issue of replacing Glasgow's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR with a new JES and pay arrangements which command the confidence of the City Council's largely female workforce.

Somewhat strangely, your response does not address the WPBR's discriminatory pay practices such as the indefensible 37 hour NSWP 'rule' which I highlighted in my original email.

Instead you talk about the need to avoid one party imposing its views on others while having nothing to say about the nature of the WPBR or the fact that the scheme has been treating women workers in Glasgow as second class citizens for the past 10 years.

If I remember correctly, you were a senior figure on Glasgow City Council from 2003 to 2008 which, of course, covers the period when the WPBR was introduced.

So can I ask you directly if you supported the introduction of the WPBR at the time and if so, do you now believe that this was a very costly mistake and one for which the council's lowest paid workers are now due an apology?

I would be happy to meet up to discuss the matter further, but I would urge you to focus upon the way in which the council's women workers have been treated for more than a decade and the role of senior council officials who have been defending the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR since it was first introduced in 2007. 

Kind regards

Mark Irvine  

And while I'm on the subject let me repeat that the council's lowest paid workers are due a humble apology over the way this whole affair has been handled for years.

Because the scandal of 'unequal pay' was bad enough to begin with, but the council made things a great deal worse by bringing in its cockamamy WPBR scheme which repackaged the old discriminatory pay practices and gave them a better disguise - until the project finally came crashing down at the Court of Session.

I think it would be a good idea to re-run the A4ES briefing on equal pay and if we do so, let's hope there's a full turn out next time from Glasgow's MSPs and MPs.


Glasgow's MSPs and MP(19/12/17)

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about John Mason, the SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Glasgow Shettleston constituency. 

Now I knew that John had been a Glasgow councillor in a previous life, but I didn't realise that he was the Leader of the SNP Opposition Group between 1999 and 2008.

Which is very significant, of course, because this covers the period when the fight for equal pay first began in Glasgow in 2005 and the period that followed when the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme was introduced in 2006/07. 

I plan to do the same exercise for other Glasgow MSPs and MPs to check on who else may have a  background in local government.

Because anyone with experience as a local councillor has no excuse if you ask me, for not being 'up to speed' and understanding all the important issues surrounding equal pay.




Mason has lived in the East End of Glasgow for the past 20 years, and was elected as the councillorfor the Garrowhill ward in Glasgow City Council at a by-election in 1998, and was re-elected in 1999 and 2003.[3]

He rose to become the Leader of the Opposition in Glasgow City Council, and led the SNP Council Group on the majority Labour-run Council between 1999 and 2008. He was the SNP's longest serving Glasgow councillor, and during his term, he led many protests against Labour's moves to weaken effective opposition by altering the council committee system.[3]

In his ward, he attended a wide variety of community groups, including Garrowhill and SwintonCommunity Councils, local school boards, tenants association, and Garrowhill Action Partnership. He was also on the management committee of Tenant Controlled Housing, which aims to give local tenants control of their housing, in place of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA).[4]