Thursday, 21 June 2018

Glasgow's 'Unfit for Purpose' WPBR

Stefan Cross hit the nail on the head with his recent Facebook post on Glasgow City Council's decision to scrap its discredited WPBR pay scheme.

In reality the Council has only shifted its position after receiving a long-overdue and terrible kicking (in August 2017) at the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, where three senior judges came to the unanimous decision that the WPBR was 'unfit for purpose'.

The same three judges (in December 2017) also threw out, unanimously again, the Council's application asking for 'leave to appeal' this decision to the UK Supreme Court in London which finally forced the Council's political leaders to act.  

But as Stefan Cross explains the 'litigation' over equal pay has not actually been abandoned - quite the opposite in fact.

What's happened is that the Council has given up any further appeal to the UK Supreme Court which was the option favoured by senior council officials - i.e. the same officials who fought tooth and nail to defend the WPBR for years.

So while the Council's commitment to a negotiated settlement is good news a battle is still being fought behind the scenes and senior officials are still fighting a rearguard action to retain elements of the WPBR.

For example, its Non Standard Working Pattern (NSWP) payments including the notorious 37 hour 'rule' which was clearly designed to discriminate against female dominated jobs, given that the vast majority of women workers in the Council are contracted to work for less than 37 hours a week.

What this boils down to is that the Council is still trying to deny, or at the very least minimise, the size of the pay gap between male and female jobs. If successful, this argument would have the effect of reducing significantly or eliminating altogether people's claims for compensation.

Now council officials are making this case and they have to be doing so with the knowledge, if not the full approval, of the Council's political leadership which strikes me as rather odd.

Because if you discuss the NSWP's 37 hour 'rule', for example, with individual politicians (Councillors , MSPs and MPs), they all agree it is a blatantly discriminatory and contrived practice which ought to be scrapped immediately.

Yet not one Glasgow politician, of any political party, has taken a principled stand and spoken out in support of their local constituents on this issue - up until now at least.

So August and September will indeed be crucial months because if the Council has not put forward firm settlement proposals by that stage, there is no chance of reaching a settlement before the end of 2018.

And if this happens, litigation will start up again in the employment tribunals and the prospect of industrial action will be back on the table with a vengeance.



Susan Aitken published a very interesting article in the evening Times. For the first time she acknowledged A4ES, which is an improvement and she called WPBR “not fit for purpose”, the exact description Mark Irvine has used ever since the second Court of Session decision, only 10 months ago. She has also recommitted the council to the settlement timetable. 

Those are the good points.

However, some half truths and falsehoods. The timetable has NOT been agreed. Indeed the proposal sent to us is not acceptable. This is to be discussed next Tuesday and needs to be much more precise and demanding. So not quite true.

She also says that they took the decision to “abandon litigation“. That is a lie. They agreed to abandon their appeal, but the litigation is alive and kicking. Indeed the council is due to send us their defence of NSWP to us next week. As NSWP is the core of WPBR, which they now accept is “not fit for purpose”, it’s a very odd situation. We will also be discussing this next week.

Not only has litigation not been abandoned but both sides have agreed that if settlement proves not to be possible then we have to go back to tribunal and that process needs to begin now because the tribunals are suffering massive delays.

So these are good promises but the council now needs to deliver. That means them devoting more time and resources, and more importantly actually addressing the issues, not just processes.

Now that the holidays are approaching there will be a lull, but August and September are going to be crucial months


Susan Aitken: Council pay system is no longer fit for purpose

By Susan Aitken @SusaninLangside - Evening Times


THE fire at the Glasgow School of Art has left the city and anyone with an affection for our heritage and our creative vitality absolutely devastated.

The support from far and wide has been overwhelming.

In the days ahead I will lead on how Team Glasgow will provide support to affected businesses, property owners and residents and begin the process of returning one of Scotland’s great thoroughfares to something approaching normality.

I will keep the public and all impacted abreast of any developments. But it is also vital we keep the work of the city council going during this upheaval.

Almost five months ago politicians from all parties represented on Glasgow City Council took the momentous decision to abandon litigation and resolve the decade-long equal pay dispute through negotiation.

It was the first instance of politicians in this country taking control of this fraught and complex matter.

We agreed with those representing claimants, trade union Unison and legal firm Action 4 Equality, which both led the legal action, and the GMB union, that, in the main, negotiations would remain confidential. But I also pledged that I would inform staff and our citizens when there was something significant to announce. We have reached that first real milestone.

At this stage, the structural requirements for a process as significant as this, the legal issues, the methodology, the job evaluation, are now falling into place. We are proceeding to the business end of the negotiations.

No-one was ever under any illusion that a resolution to equal pay would be quick or easy. And it hasn’t been. But there is now a real sense of momentum, a view that progress is being made and that we have something to tell those who matter most in this, our staff. And it is for our staff and the vital services they deliver that we need to collectively manage these negotiations.

Staff have now been informed that the council has agreed with the trade unions of the need to replace our current workforce pay and benefits system (WPBR). It is simply no longer fit for purpose.

In the coming days, and again in consultation with the trade unions, a report will be published ahead of next week’s City Administration Committee seeking the political authority necessary to abandon WPBR.

Work on a fairer replacement will commence immediately after that and continue over the summer. Once identified, it would be two or three further years before it could be fully implemented. We mustn’t repeat the mistakes of a decade ago and expose ourselves to fresh inequalities with another flawed system. This is what we are paying the price for. We need time to do this properly.

It is crucial to stress both my personal and the Council’s commitment to agreeing with the unions any new scheme and how it will be implemented.

And as Council Leader I am committed to implementing a fully funded, fair and just pay and grading scheme which pays equally for equal work and which our employees have confidence in.

In addition, we have recently agreed an overall plan with clear timescales for the completion of the various stages of the process and the Council remains committed to, as best as possible, agreeing a settlement figure by the close of this calendar year.

We will likely need two review points to ensure we’re on track and I am actively discussing how best to do this with officers.

Glasgow, Equal Pay and Dead Parrots (19/06/18)

The Evening Times reports that Glasgow City Council is finally accepting that its WPBR pay scheme really is a 'dead parrot'.

Now no mention is made of the fact that the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, condemned Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements as 'unfit for purpose' way back in August 2017 - after a huge legal battle.

Nor is any mention made of the fact that the Council's discredited pay scheme was only put to the sword after a fantastic campaign by Glasgow's equal pay claimants - supported by A4ES, GMB and Unison.

A casual reader of the Evening Times could be forgiven for thinking that this decision was reached by 'enlightened' council officials and political leaders who woke up one day and decided - all by themselves - that the workforce suddenly deserved fair and transparent pay arrangements, untainted by the blatant sex discrimination associated with the WPBR.  

So since the Council is not giving credit where credit is due, let me say a big THANK YOU to the thousands of equal ay claimants across Glasgow who made this day possible.