Friday, 1 June 2018

Glasgow - Breaking News! (31/05/18)

Stefan Cross shares his thoughts about the latest developments in Glasgow following a letter from the City Council to the local Unison branch.

Now I haven't seen the Council's letter and although I have read the Unison update, what I don't understand is why the letter from Robert Anderson hasn't been published, as well, so we can all see what it says.

I'll have more to say tomorrow, but like Stefan I would caution against any premature celebrations at this stage because while the demise of the WPBR is welcome, there is a complete lack of detail on the compensation Glasgow claimants are due for working under 'unfit for purpose', discriminatory pay arrangements since January 2007. 



So I’m in Paris learning about the French Revolution when my phone goes crazy with Facebook posts claiming there’s going to be an equal pay settlement payout in January and not only that, it was,allegedly, UNISON saying so on Facebook.

And I knew nothing about it. As is often the case, there turns out to be some truth in the rumours but someone has seriously misinterpreted what was said. 

There was indeed a UNISON post, put up without any discussion with the claimant group, and which in my view jumps the gun in a number of ways. 

What seems to have happened is that as a result of yesterday’s staggering result on the consultative ballots, the Head of HR, Robert Anderson, has written to the UNISON Branch Chair responding to what he believed were UNISONs demands. Brian Smith has then taken this letter to the relevant UNISON committee and they have as a result called off any strike ballot until at least a January 2019. Brian has then posted this decision on Facebook with some extracts from the Robert Anderson letter. 

Now this has been completely, but entirely predictably, been misinterpreted as a commitment to payouts in January 2019. Now I don’t blame the members for this as it’s an obvious implication from the UNISON post. In my view BS should have been much more careful by emphasising the caveats, ie it’s not guaranteed and a hell of a lot of hurdles still to go. But even this was understandable because the important message from BS seemed to be why they were not going to ballot for strike now, not the promise of settlement.

In a nutshell this appears to be because UNISON think Robert Anderson's promises were good enough. This is entirely a union matter and something they had every right to do. But as they chose not to consider discussing it in the claimant group I’m entitled to express my opinion, and I don’t think it’s helpful. I think they’ve jumped the gun.

Why? Because they’ve taken the pressure off the council until 2019 without first seeing how the negotiations are progressing. 

So what were the demands and what were the promises?

DEMAND 1 - abandon WPBR. This has been promised but not yet delivered by councillors. This is very likely to happen but why not wait until it does.? We also have no idea what will replace it. At the moment UNITE is trying to stop A4ES even being involved in these discussions. There are going to be big issues to address here. 

DEMAND 2 - a timetable for settlement. The councils response to this is new. This is where the misinterpretation arises. The council does say that they hope that negotiations can be completed by the end of the year, and so far as it’s possible, start paying out in January. This is a definite improvement, but it’s just a commitment to a timetable, nothing more. This is supported by the fact that UNISON say if this timetable is not kept then they will ballot for strike action. It is certainly not a promise of a payment in January. This would be impossible as we have not yet discussed a single issue. As I said, this is not my territory, it’s a union matter, but I would have preferred a shorter pause than 6 months. I personally think that there are still so many legal issues in dispute that a full settlement is unlikely and I’d have liked to have kept the pressure on. 

DEMAND 3 properly fund the settlement. Now I think this demand has not been met. Funding a new pay structure and funding hundreds of millions in Back pay are not the same thing. Further all Mr Anderson has said is that he wants a properly funded pay system. This is not a promise or commitment at all, IMO, just an expression of opinion. UNISON may take a different view on what Mr.Anderson's letter means, but again I think they’ve jumped the gun and could have pursued this far more rigorously. This is still a massive issue that has not been resolved. 

I also don’t know why UNISON acted so quickly to put off any strike ballot. It’s less than 48 hours since the ballot result. Why the rush? Why no discussion with others? 

But that’s their prerogative. 

It’s up to each of you to take your own view and it seems it was unanimous in the relevant committee, so all the lay reps must be happy.

We wait to see what GMB has to say. 

So summary before I go off and check in. Good news is that we now have a commitment to a timetable as well as a commitment to abandoning WPBR. We don’t have funding. We don’t have a guarantee of a payout in January and there is a huge amount of work and disagreements to tackle before that can happen, but in return for those commitments UNISON has agreed not to ballot before the new year. 

I hope that is clearer. I hope I have understood Brian Smith's post correctly. If not I will let everyone know. In the meantime feel free to add your comments.