Glasgow City Council has sent out a letter informing clients Home Care clients that they will not receive a service on 23 and 24 October because of the historic strike which is taking place in support of equal pay.
The letter states, amongst other things, that "...the Council is exploring all options to avert a strike..." which isn't quite how I read the situation because I interpret these words to mean:
'Leaving no stone unturned'
'Pulling out all the stops'
'Going all out'
Yet while the City Council says it is doing everything it can to avert next week's historic equal pay strike, the reality is rather different.
For example, there have been no 'emergency' meetings with the trade unions and claimant organisations to see if there is any way of getting the parties back round the table.
I suggested last week that the Council Leader ought to get directly involved and find some way of getting serious negotiations off the ground at long last, but Council officials have said they will not talk to the trade unions until the GMB and Unison withdraw their strike notice.
I have to say I find this behaviour irresponsible because City Council officials have not adopted this kind of 'refusal to talk' approach to industrial disputes in the near or distant past.
So why is such a negative, belligerent attitude on display when it comes to dealing with the council's lowest paid, predominantly female, workers in their fight for equal pay?
I'm sure this latest example of Glasgow's appalling double standards hasn't escaped the attention of the workers who are going on strike, women and men, for the first time ever, in just a few days time.
Glasgow - Getting Back Round the Table (12/10/18)
Now I agree with Susan Aitken about mistakes being made in the past and I've not been slow to comment on my blog when management or the trade unions, or even elected politicians, should and could have 'done the right thing' during this long fight for equal pay.
But the point is the unions have learned from the past, whereas senior management are still stuck in the past - in complete denial about their role in defending the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme for years, and fearful of taking responsibility for their own advice and actions.
Action 4 Equality Scotland and the trade unions are united in their belief that the breakdown in settlement talks has been caused by the Council's refusal to negotiate in 'good faith', after 10 months and 21 separate meetings with senior council officials.
In fact, the Council's officials seemed paralysed and unable to move things forward because they don't want to admit that their judgment was poor and that their advice was wrong - over the WPBR's notorious '37 hour rule' for example.
So I've got a suggestion to make - if the Council leader really does want to get 'serious' settlement negotiations underway, why doesn't she offer to Chair future meetings between the Claimants' representatives (A4ES, GMB, Unison and Unite) and senior council officials?
The point is that you can't be an 'honest broker' if you're not prepared to be even-handed and to any reasonable observer it's clear that the highly paid executives at Glasgow City Council have a lot to answer for and that their advice, down the years, has been shown to be completely wrong.
Unions failed their members: City council leader speaks out on equal pay strike
The leader of Glasgow City Council has accused union representatives of misleading members over the equal pay talks.
GMB and Unison are staging a two day strike this month over claims the council is not making progress on settlements
Susan Aitken, in an interview with the Evening Times, however has questioned the motives of the union leadership and said she is as committed as ever to securing justice and a settlement for the thousands of women.
The strike action which could involve 8000 members will close schools and hit Cordia home care services.
The council leader said the reasons given do not justify strike action and disrupting vital, in some cases lifeline, services for people in Glasgow.
Ms Aitken said she feels the members have been misinformed by their representatives.
She said: “I’m not entirely sure the women know the basis on which they are striking.
“I’m not convinced they actually know the demands made on us. They are not ‘pay up now’.
“They deserve to know that the union is not asking for it go faster.
“There is an amount of work to be gone through and we will go though it as quickly as possible.”
She said any slowdown now is down to industrial action. Industrial action which she said can achieve nothing.
She added: The most important thing is we are facing two days of disruption to services to the lives of citizens and the most vulnerable citizens in Glasgow and I’m not at all clear still what the justification for that is.
“It doesn’t seem to me to be a strong enough basis to bring your members out, to ask them to lose pay, and to shut schools in the city and the biggest concern is the home care clientele.”
The first SNP leader of Glasgow City Council, Ms Aitken, made resolving the 12 year-old equal pay dispute an election issue and after taking office got the council to agree to instruct officers to end the court appeals against the equal pay ruling it had lost.
She said the unions history on equal pay did not reflect well on its leadership.
Ms Aitken said: “I also think to be honest neither of them have a great history in this. Mr Cross and the lawyers at Action 4 Equality are doing their job but actually Mr Cross’s involvement is a symptom of the failure of the trade unions to do their job over the past 12 years.”
The council leader said she thinks the union is now trying to make up for past failings.
She said: “I think It’s hard to get away from the conclusion there’s a bit of covering their backs and covering their history on this, particularly from GMB.
“They are rivals as well. A lot of women have left GMB and joined Unison because the GMB’s representation on equal pay was so much less.”
She said effective action in the past could have prevented the years of delay and a potential strike now.
Ms Aitken added: “Had the trade unions employed their industrial muscle on this issue long before now we wouldn’t be where we are now. But they just didn’t. They failed to do that. They let the women down for a long time.
“I think a lot of sensible people in GMB and Unison would put their hands up to that and say that’s the case.”
She said her commitment to ending the dispute satisfactorily for the women is just as strong now as is it was before she was elected.
Ms Aitken said: “As far as my personal political commitment and the commitment of this city government, this strike will have no impact because it can’t strengthen our commitment. it is already there.
“My commitment to see this through and within the timetable is unshakeable. This is where I have concerns that the claimants are not necessarily being given the full story by the trade unions.
“The unions know my position they know the officers are carrying out politicians’ instructions. This could be avoided if they publicly acknowledged that to their members.
“If anyone says the SNP were forced into a settlement it simply won’t be true.
“My position hasn’t changed if anything the deeper we get into tit is has reinforced my position to see it through.”
Ms Aitken said the council agreed to a number of “red line” issues with the unions at the outset of talks.
“We agreed to commit to a negotiated settlement and all parties agreed to a timetable of talks up to the end of this calendar year.
She said the unions asked for Cordia to be brought back into the council, adding “we’ve done that.
“They asked for the Pay and Grading system to be replaced. We agreed to that and have a paper going to committee to achieve that in partnership with the unions.
“What remains outstanding is to agree the settlement and the work on that is ongoing.”
To the Trade unions Ms Aitken said: “Get back round the table please. There is nothing you are asking for we cant agree round the negotiating table.
“It’s not necessary to pull your members to and cause disruption particularly to Glasgow citizens.”
The the women, she said: “The final settlement will be a negotiated settlement in agreement with the claimants. It has to be a fair figure. The claimants get their fair due but also citizens in Glasgow get their fair due as well.”