Saturday, 6 October 2018

Breaking News! - 'Council Family' Alert

Glasgow's chief executive, Annemarie O'Donnell, has written another of her 'Council Family' missives urging the workforce not to go on strike in support of their fight for equal pay.

Now I'm working on a 'point by point' response to what Annemarie has to say, but if you ask me her latest email is a nauseating, self-serving re-writing of history - especially when you consider that the Council's highest paid officials share responsibility for the mess that Glasgow finds itself in today.

The Council's senior officials have been defending the WPBR pay scheme for years; their advice was not to settle but to fight the equal pay claims all the way to the Court of Session; their next move was to 'seek leave to appeal' the Court of Session 'unfit for purpose' judgment to the UK Supreme Court which they lost, unanimously, again.

Unsurprisingly, senior officials wanted to ignore their humiliating defeats at the Court of Session and 'carry on regardless' with a direct appeal to the UK Supreme Court in London - a 'strategy' which was finally killed off by the SNP administration with support from the other political parties represented on the Council.

The same group of senior officials were then given the task of negotiating a fair settlement with the claimants' representatives (A4ES, GMB and Unison), but after 10 months and 21 separate meetings the 'serious negotiations' that were promised never materialised. 

As a result, all of the outstanding equal pay claims are back in the Glasgow Employment Tribunal while members of the GMB and Unison have voted in truly astonishing numbers (99 and 98%) to support industrial action.

Yet after all this the highest paid local government official in Scotland has the gall to blame and bully the workforce over the prospect of strike action in Scotland's largest council.

In their own way, the union strike ballots returned a vote of 'no confidence' in the Council's chief executive - low paid union members have voted to back the first strike of its kind in the long history of Scottish local government.

So, to my mind, if Annemarie O'Donnell can't command the support of the workforce, the 'Council Family' to which she often refers, then the chief executive should step aside and make way for someone who can.  


Subject: Industrial action by Unison and GMB


Dear Colleague,

Both Unison and GMB have written to me advising that they intend to take strike action on 23rd and 24th October.

I want to be clear that, if you are a member of either union and were balloted for industrial action, you have every right to withdraw your labour and I fully appreciate that your Trade Union is asking you to take part in a wholly legal strike. You also have every right to campaign for a fair settlement to equal pay and I understand why you would feel anger about this issue.

However, I am writing to ask those of you balloted for strike action to carefully consider your decision to go on strike and also its impact on the critical services you provide in your community.

This strike will, at best, have a profound effect on the safety of the most vulnerable people in our city. At worst, it will result in the loss of life.

The Council is committed to reaching a settlement on equal pay by negotiation. In January, the council and claimants agreed that this would take until at least December – and the Trade Unions signed up to that timescale on your behalf.

Contrary to what you have been told, good progress is being made.

The council was asked by Trade Union representatives to withdraw any further legal appeals and we did.

We were asked to abandon WPBR. We have not only done this, but a report recommending the adoption of the same Job Evaluation Scheme that most other Scottish councils use will go to committee next week. This is the scheme endorsed by your Trade Union representatives, who were fully involved in the evaluation of which scheme the council should use.

The Trade Unions asked for Cordia to be brought back into the Council and terms and conditions to be harmonised with Council terms. This happened last weekend.

Despite all of this, you are being told negotiation meetings are pointless and that the Council is not negotiating. This is simply untrue.

Considerable progress has also been made on the job evaluation element of negotiations and the claimants’ representatives acknowledge this.

We have also made significant progress on the methodology element – the way the value of eventual settlement is calculated. Again, the claimants’ representatives agree and have acknowledged that progress.

At the same time, the council has agreed to significantly increase the frequency of meetings so that we can push forward the work already underway to agree comparators – establishing an approach to overtime, to NSWP and the other important elements of the claim.

I need to say to you that strike action cannot have any influence on the settlement. It cannot change the timetable and it cannot change the outcome. All of this is happening. It is happening now and, following discussions with the claimants’ representatives this month and next, the council will make a settlement offer in December for further discussion with the claimants’ representatives.

I do not know why the Trade Unions have asked colleagues to go on strike or what objectives the Trade Union thinks can be achieved. I do not know what they think can be done to reach a settlement within the agreed timescale, other than what is already being done.

What I do know is the terrible effect of a strike.

If you work in Homecare you will know better than me what it means to our old people when we withdraw our services.

In the 48 hours over which your union is asking you to strike; you and your colleagues would normally carry out around at least 30,000 home care visits to more than 6,500 clients – more than 1,200 of whom are among the most vulnerable people in the city, including those receiving end-of-life care.

You would support around 160 people who, without our services, will be unable to leave hospital.

I want to be absolutely clear that there is almost nothing the Council can do to cover these services during a strike. Withdrawing labour does mean that the critical service provided is also withdrawn. Our clients are, I’m afraid, on their own.

If you work in Education, you will know that schools and early years establishments will close. You will know that parents and carers will struggle to make arrangements to look after their children. If you work in Facilities Management, you will know that your services will simply stop.

Strike or no strike there will be a settlement offer from the council in December; at least for all of those still at the table. To be clear, neither Unison nor the GMB will be at the table while industrial action continues.

Unison and the GMB will, no doubt, have reminded you of the power that you have in flexing your industrial might. On that, we agree.

Colleagues have been asked to bring some of the city’s most crucial services to a halt. I am asking them to choose not to.

Annemarie O’Donnell
Chief Executive