Thursday, 18 October 2018

Glasgow - Part of the Problem (2)

I've been involved in lots of Twitter exchanges today about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

Now even though this long-running dispute has nothing to do with party politics, some folks believe it is part of a dastardly 'plot' to undermine the SNP and/or Indyref2.

Which is not only batshit crazy, it's also akin to saying that an SNP-led council can 'do no wrong' and that everything is an attack on the cause of independence.

So let's be clear that the senior officials/advisers who played a huge role in getting Glasgow into this terrible mess (and who advised the last Labour council) - are the same senior officials who are advising Glasgow's SNP-led council in 2018.

Food for thought?


Glasgow - Part of the Problem (18/10/18)

I'm sure Stefan Cross ruffled more than a few feathers with his comments in the Evening Times which accused senior officials in Glasgow City Council of blocking a settlement to the long-running equal pay dispute.

But he's spot-on if you ask me, because the council's chief executive has been fighting 'tooth and nail' to defend Glasgow's WPBR pay arrangements for years.

Even after the Council lost a unanimous decision at the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, which condemned the WPBR as 'unfit for purpose' the council's senior officials tried to fight on by seeking leave to appeal this damning judgment to the UK Supreme Court in London. 

Glasgow lost that argument as well in another unanimous decision from the Court of Session which concluded that the City Council had no reasonable grounds for appeal.

Yet the architect of this disastrous strategy, Annemarie O'Donnell, remains in post to this day and is nominally in charge of the Council Side of settlement talks which have gone nowhere fast after more than 10 months and 21 separate settlement meetings with senior officials.

Annemarie doesn't attend these meetings and nor do any of the Council's leading politicians which may well be why they have been not resulted in serious negotiations with the Claimants' representatives. 

In any event, the council's chief executive has less than zero credibility with the claimants who regard Annemarie as 'part of the problem' - and for very good reason, if you ask me.

Council boss blocking equal pay says lawyer

UNISON women pictured in George Square in Glasgow, Saturday 10 February, continuing their demand for equal pay from Glasgow City Council. The march was led by 30 women dressed as suffragettes. The women are part of UNISON’s equal pay campaign. Havi

THE lawyer representing thousands of equal pay claimants in Glasgow has accused the council officers of thwarting a settlement.

Stefan Cross QC, of Action4Equality Scotland, said the executive officers of the council do not share the commitment of the political leadership to secure a fair deal for the women.

He said Susan Aitken, the SNP leader of the council, is being misled by the Chief Executive, Annemarie O’Donnell and her deputy Carole Forrest.

His comments come after Ms Aitken criticised the trade unions for taking members out on strike stating leaders are misrepresenting the progress made in negotiations.

Mr Cross said he has seen nothing to suggest the officers conducting he negotiations are seeking a fair negotiated settlement.

He said: “There has been no realistic attempts to negotiate. They have been going through the motions.

“We have had 21 meetings with Carole Forrest and we have negotiated absolutely nothing.”

He said that there was no agreed timetable of talks.

He said the council is looking to pay out less than what the women are entitled to and suggested that the officers are seeking to allow it to return to an Employment Tribunal.

Responding to Ms Aitken’s criticism of the unions he said: “The women are not being led on strike by thee unions. They are going on strike because they are being betrayed by the council.

“My only criticism of Susan Aitken is she is being misled by the officers.”

“Her commitment is wholly impressive. If officers delivered what she promised we would have no problems.”

He added: “The difference between Annemarie O’Donnell and Susan Aitken is chalk and cheese.”

Mr Cross said the claimant side had proposed comparators one of the elements of reaching a figure for individuals but that the council had not responded.

He said: “In all my years practicing law, I can’t say this is negotiation.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Officers are carrying out the instructions given to them by committee – but anyone who thinks the leader doesn’t press them pretty hard doesn’t know her at all.

“Councillor Aitken has made her commitment to equal pay very clear. Mr Cross is making these remarks on the day she took a paper to committee which commits the council to adopting an entirely new pay and grading scheme.”

Glasgow - Advice and Accountability (25/09/18)

Here's the first instalment in what is likely to become a series of posts explaining why I believe it is perfectly fair for Annemarie O'Donnell, Glasgow City Council's chief executive, to be be asked to resign her post.

First and foremost is the question of accountability and the fact that very senior, highly paid officials ought to be held responsible for their professional advice - because that's why they are paid such big salaries in the first place.

Now the fact of the matter is that Annemarie has been defending the Council's WPBR pay arrangements for many years and as chief executive she was directly responsible for the Council's legal strategy in the build up to the Court of Session hearing in 2017 - which resulted in three senior judges deciding unanimously that the WPBR was (and is) 'unfit for purpose'.

The political leadership of the Council, at the time, could have challenged and tried to overturn the chief executive's strategy, but they would in all likelihood have faced the threat of 'surcharge' for going against the strong legal advice of their own senior officials.

So the Labour leadership played safe and backed the chief executive's position since the threat of surcharge meant they could potentially be held personally and financially responsible, if the things went badly wrong and blew up in the Council's face.

Yet that's exactly what happened anyway - the City Council 'bet the house' on winning at the Court of Session but lost in a devastating, landmark judgment which condemned Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme as 'unfit for purpose'.

By this time (August 2017) the City Council was under new political leadership in the shape of a newly elected  SNP administration who were visibly keen on a negotiated settlement.

However, instead of facing reality and admitting that she had got things terribly wrong, the chief executive's advice was to fight on and seek 'leave to appeal' the Court of Session's decision - to the UK Supreme Court in London.

I presume the political leaders of the Council were again warned about the possible risks of surcharge, if they 'ignored' their own legal advice and tried to enter into settlement talks while another appeal was pending in the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

Predictably, in December 2017 Glasgow lost its 'leave to appeal' case in another unanimous judgement at the Court of Session before elected Councillors finally exerted their authority, on a cross party basis, and squashed the attempts of senior officials to continue with their plan of a further direct appeal to the UK Supreme Court. 

Against this background I think it is reasonable to criticise the chief executive's advice and judgment because she has been backing the wrong horse for years and even now defends the role of senior officials who oversaw the introduction of the WPBR in 2007 by claiming that they acted in 'good faith'.  

For the life of me, I can't see how someone who comes from a legal background and who is paid such a high salary (more than the First Minister and Prime Minister) can't see that the WPBR's notorious 37 hour rule blatantly discriminates against the City Council's largely female workforce. 

Which is why I believe that the chief executive has zero credibility with Glasgow's 12,000+ equal pay claimants -  because the lowest paid workers within the Council were badly let down by the very people who were supposed to be looking out for and protecting their interests.

So while Annemarie has enjoyed a long and lucrative local government career, she will probably be best remembered for defending so stoutly, and for so long, Glasgow City Council's indefensible pay arrangements.

More to follow - next up is Annemarie's role in the great Cordia debacle.