Monday, 15 October 2018

Glasgow - Won't Get Fooled Again! (15/08/18)



Here's a very topical and well argued Facebook comment from one of the thousands of equal pay claimants across Glasgow.

For understandable reasons there's lots of talk about industrial action and for the first time, I think this is likely to happen because of the provocative way the Council is behaving.

If there is a strike in Glasgow, this will be the first time in a Scottish council that there has been industrial action over the fight for equal pay.

But there's lots to be done before industrial action in Glasgow can become a reality and lots more campaigning to do to get our message across to Glasgow Councillors, MSPs and MPs  - including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, of course the MSP for Glasgow Southside.

I will be sharing information about how people can support the campaign for Equal Pay Justice in Glasgow in the days ahead, but in the meantime share this post and C's comments - they deserve to be read far and wide. 

Well, no surprise there then.

Personally, I always believed the lack of progress at the majority of the meetings was indicative that they weren’t remotely interested in “doing what was right “

So, like the last time (for those OLD enough to remember) we will likely be offered a settlement “Just in time for The Christmas wage “ and like last time there will be men and women struggling at Christmas and sorely tempted by their offer ..many men and women were tempted and subsequently buckled last time too and many of us (myself included ) held out for Stefan Cross to fight for a better settlement than what was offered.

The difference between then and now is we are educated on this fight ..with Stefan's Blogs, with this group of Frances and all the other channels of communication which have all been invaluable.

This time we have the knowledge we didn’t have last time, we have the strength In our growing numbers and we have a ferocious determination NOT to have the piss ripped (yet again)

We need to ALL (all of us ) crank this up now, get to the meetings, start mailing as many councillors as possible and do whatever we can to get rid of these council officers who are DETERMINED not to relent,and who are absolutely determined NOT to do the right thing by us DESPITE three judges ruling in OUR favour.

We have to push to get rid of those officials responsible for stalling BIG TIME, so as well as fighting /striking for what we are due , we need to fight to get them WELL out of the equation.


It’s as if they seem to be taking it personally that we won in court and are still in a huff about it ! It’s like they are attempting to bully us into what THEY want ...

We are all standing together now, together against them, all of us.

It’s crap news BUT on the bright side :- we are all united in this fight ,the carers , the office staff who are part of this fight too , and everyone else involved who’s been wrongly treated for all these years ,we need to stay united when the strikes come (and i suspect they will now !)

We need to be strong when the council offers come and even stronger when they tell us the same story as they did last time (when others caved )...
“fighting for a full settlement will cost you and your colleagues your job”

Unity is strength and we have the strength Ladies (and Gentlemen).


Let’s step up our game now and stand together to fight this battle



C

 


When Is a negotiation not a negotiation? (13/08/18)



Q. When is a negotiation not a negotiation?

A. When one of the parties involved (i.e. Glasgow City Council) goes back on its word and arrogantly tries to impose its will on everyone else. 

Now I was a professional negotiator for many years, latterly as Head of Local Government for Unison (Scotland), and I think the following words fairly describe what a proper 'negotiation' is all about: 

"A give and take bargaining process between two or more parties (each with their own aims and objectives) which sets out to find common ground and reach  agreement - to settle a dispute or other matters of mutual concern."


In other words it takes two (sometimes more) to tango and only months ago Glasgow City Council was keen to tell the world that a 'new dawn had broken' and that under new leadership Scotland's largest council would finally bring the country's longest running equal pay dispute to an end - by negotiation.

Sadly this has proved not to be the case because last Tuesday (7th August), senior council officials abruptly announced there was no point in having further settlement meetings and that they would be working on their own proposals which would be 'presented' to the Claimants Side (A4ES, GMB and Unison) in November 2018. 

So after all the talk about the need for a step-by-step, detailed and agreed process Glasgow City Council tears up its own 'rule book' and decides it will draw up its own solution to Equal Pay - just as the Council did previously with its WPBR (Workforce Pay and Benefits Review) which the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, judged to be 'unfit for purpose' in August 2017. 

Why does this matter so much?

Because the Council is trying to decide unilaterally which male comparators to use in putting forward offers of compensation to thousands of equal pay claimants across Glasgow, but behind closed doors and without the agreement of the Claimants' representatives - A4ES, GMB and Unison

Up until now I would have said that senior council officials are responsible for these 'wrecking ball' tactics because this is effectively the same group of officials who have been defending the WPBR for years and urged the City Council to appeal the Court of Session's landmark 'unfit for purpose' judgment to the UK Supreme Court in London.

In the following comments for The Herald newspaper the Council leader, Susan Aitken, insists:

“I’ve always been clear that I don’t believe the council has been paying men and women equally for the work they do. We need to compensate women for years of underpaying them, and we need a new pay and grading system that rewards everyone fairly."

But if there is no agreement on the 'pay gap' between male and female jobs which has been operating under the WPBR (for 12 years and counting) - there can obviously be no agreement on how to compensate claimants, fairly at least, for all the years they have been cheated and robbed of what they were due by the WPBR pay scheme which is underpinned by blatantly discriminatory practices including its cockamamy 37 hour 'rule'.

So while Susan Aitken talks about 'good faith' the reality is that the SNP led administration is behaving no differently to the Labour run Council in 2005 which set out to bully thousands of low paid Glasgow claimants into accepting scandalously low offers of settlement of their equal pay claims. 

  

The Herald - 8 August 2018


Council leader Susan Aitken insisted the council remains "100 per cent committed to delivering justice" for equal pay claimants who have been waiting for over a decade for this long-running issue to end. 

She said the council will seek to have a settlement figure agreed with claimants’ representatives by the end of 2018.

“No-one from either side has ever been under any illusion this process would be quick and easy, and the entrenchment of the competing positions over a decade cannot be undone overnight," she said.

“Nonetheless significant progress, backed by the democratic process of the council, has been made. This progress includes, ending the legal challenge, putting the political oversight which had been lacking, in place, holding fortnightly formal negotiating meetings; bringing Cordia, where most of the affected staff are employed, back into the council and harmonising their terms and conditions; and a decision taken to replace the councils entire pay and grading structure.

“Furthermore, the process of sourcing how the council will fund the final settlement is now underway."

Glasgow City Council said at the start of the year that "negotiation not litigation" would solve the dispute having agreed not to appeal against a court decision last year over the grading system and said it would discuss a settlement with the unions.

The dispute centres on the way some jobs were graded several years ago.

It meant workers such as cleaners and care assistants may have been earning less than men in jobs deemed to be of equal value.


Campaigners won a legal case in August when it was ruled that a pay re-grading scheme may have been less favourable for women workers.

The Court of Session refused the council's bid to appeal this judgement.

READ MORE: Glasgow City Council accused of perpetuating equal-pay discrimination

Ms Aitken added: “I’ve always been clear that I don’t believe the council has been paying men and women equally for the work they do. We need to compensate women for years of underpaying them, and we need a new pay and grading system that rewards everyone fairly.

“I know the claimants’ representatives are frustrated by the difficulties this process regularly throws up.

“But I remain committed, and will continue to ensure the good faith which has facilitated the massive strides we have collectively made continues and that this long-running and complex matter is resolved as quickly as possible to the year-long timetable all parties agreed to at the beginning of the year."

Glasgow - Equal Pay Update (08/08/2017)



I sent a copy of the my blog posts on the sham equal pay settlement negotiations to all Glasgow Councillors, MSPs and MPs - along with the following message.

Dear Glasgow Councillor


Glasgow Equal Pay Update

Glasgow's equal pay claimants have been cheated and robbed for years by the Council's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme.

Yet senior officials announced on Wednesday that the Council has abandoned any pretence at a negotiated settlement and that they will now decide how claimants will be compensated. 

Asking for trouble, if you ask me - and the officials making these bold statements are the same ones who got the council into this mess in the first place.

Kind regards



Mark Irvine 

So be shy about telling the city's elected representatives what you think because Glasgow's claimants were promised a fair deal and a 'negotiated' settlement with their representatives.

Yet now the City Council is planning to draw up its own proposals, unilaterally, without seeking agreement on crucial issues such as which male comparators to use. 

  

Glasgow's Second Class Citizens (09/08/18)



Lots of readers have been in touch to express their outrage at the latest news from Glasgow City Council over equal pay and I don't blame them, I have to say.

Because after all the fine words about a negotiated settlement council officials are trying to lay down the law about what will happen next without any agreement on the major issues that are still in dispute.

For example, which higher earning male comparator jobs are to be used to determine a fair level of financial compensation for the equal pay claimants being cheated and robbed (for 12 years and counting) by the City Council's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR. 

So here's a letter from a regular Glasgow reader which sums up how lots of people are feeling and, for the first time, I think industrial action over equal pay in Scotland's largest council is not just possible - but is fast becoming highly likely.

Hi Mark 

I am disgusted but not surprised by the latest developments. I think the council are under the assumption that because we care about our clients we won’t go on strike. 


I think it’s time we showed them that their assumptions are wrong. We work hard sometimes under enormous pressure. They may not realise it but their loved ones and loads of others are cared for with love compassion and dignity so that our clients can continue to live in their own homes. 

I for one look after my clients the way I would want my own loved ones cared for and am sick of being treated like a second class citizen 

E


Now the SNP led council did not introduce the WPBR, but they are continuing with the same laid back 'hands off' approach as the previous Labour led administration which means that senior council officials are still running the show - with or without the consent of the council's political leadership.  

So without genuine negotiations taking place there is not a snowball's chance in hell of a satisfactory agreement being reached before the end of 2018 - and it's time for Glasgow's politicians to speak out and explain where they stand.

  

Glasgow - Sham Settlement Negotiations (09/08/18)



Stefan Cross has posted a report on the latest settlement meeting with Glasgow City Council which echoes this previous post to the blog site on 17 May 2018.

If you ask me, the underlying problem is that the same group of senior officials who made such a mess of equal pay over the years are still running the show - the same group of senior officials who:

  • commissioned and approved the WPBR in 2007
  • singed off on the blatantly discriminatory 37 hour 'rule'
  • defended the council's 'unfit for purpose' pay arrangements for years
  • advised the council to 'seek leave to appeal' the Court of Session judgment 
  • urged the council to appeal to the UK Supreme Court after losing for the second time at the Court of Session Scotland's highest civil court 
The truth is that these senior officials have failed to protect the interests of the council's lowest paid workers over equal pay for years and because of their miserable track record - they are part of the problem not part of the solution.

And this has been true from Day 1 which is why they are resisting my FOI requests which are designed to get to the truth of how senior council officials behaved when the WPBR was introduced back in 2007.


As regular readers know, the council's chief executive (Annemarie O'Donnell) insists that her officer team acted in good faith over the WPBR - which I say is a load of old baloney!


The solution is to put the facts on the table and let the people - including Glasgow's 100 local Councillors, MSPs and MPs - decide for themselves.

 



Glasgow - Sham Settlement Negotiations (17/05/18)

 

Stefan Cross posted an update on Facebook yesterday evening with his immediate reaction to Glasgow City Council's 'response' to details settlement proposals put forward by the Claimants representatives (A4ES, GMB and Unison).

The key part of Stefan's update is that the Council have, apparently:

"...agreed to nothing. Not a single issue. Nor have they proposed anything in response." 

Now I was Unison's Head of Local Government and chief negotiator in Scotland for years and I can honestly say that if the Council has not responded to the Claimants with a detailed counter-proposal, then these settlement negotiations are a complete sham.

Which is perhaps not surprising because the same set of senior officials who advised the Council to defend the WPBR all the way to the Court of Session and lost - unanimously - are the same set of senior officials who are now advising the Council on its approach to settlement negotiations.

Shameful.

And if you ask me, the reality is that the Council's corporate management do not accept the 'unfit for purpose' judgment of Scotland's highest civil court and are fighting a desperate rearguard action to prevent the truth emerging about their role over the WPBR - and whether of not senior officials acted in 'good faith', as they claim.

But perhaps the most shocking point to emerge is that there hasn't been a single meeting between the Council's political leaders and the Claimants' representatives. 

So the political leadership of the Council are relying solely on the advice of senior officials, who are completely discredited in many people's eyes, instead of hearing directly from the Claimants and their representatives.

I'll reserve my final judgment until next week's joint meeting with the Council on 22 May, but up until now I think it's fair to say the whole process has been a terrible sham.


 


NOT LOOKING GOOD 

Apologies as I’ve jumped the gun a bit here.

We’ve had a written response from the council but the claimant group does not get to discuss it until tomorrow and we don’t get to discuss it with the council until next week.

The council has stressed that everything in their response is confidential so I cannot disclose any details.

But on the face of it they’ve agreed to nothing. Not a single issue. Nor have they proposed anything in response.

If this has political approval then we’re looking at 3-5 years of more litigation, at least.

But I’m the ultimate pessimist. I may have misunderstood the council’s intention. Silence, or lack of objection, might be good. They might be holding back until our meeting.

Apologies again, [especially my colleagues) I probably should have waited until tomorrow at least.

Hopefully, the council will provide some assurance next week.

But there certainly isn’t any obvious good news in their response


Stefan Cross

BEING LED DOWN THE GARDEN PATH

So yesterday we had meeting 17 with the council since the beginning of December last year. And what a car crash it was. As I have mentioned several times before the council has called these “negotiations” but we’ve negotiated nothing, just discussed process hopefully leading to negotiations. Even that now looks increasingly unlikely

1. BROKEN PROMISE AFTER BROKEN PROMISE
Before we took the summer break at the end of June the council had promised to carry out certain tasks but had failed to meet their agreed deadlines. The most important of these was a pleaded defence to our NSWP claim. We didn’t get that on time and what was provided on the last day before their solicitor went on holiday was inadequate. This has still not been provided and the council has refused to provide anything more. They agreed to provide a revised timetable and milestones by 20th July. Not done. And now they tell us they are not going to do what they promised at all.

2. THROWN THE PROCESS IN THE BIN
When we started this exercise with them all the talk was of “collaborative working”. Even as recently as June it was agreed that we would set up a legal working group to seek to discuss the legal disputes/arguments and try and reach a common position or narrow down those issues that needed to go to tribunal. Now its true that backroom activities, like data cleansing and the JES group, have continued but the main negotiation group has ground to a halt and the legal sub group has been abandoned. The council now tell us that they will agree to NOTHING. They want to hear our views for them to absorb but they will give us nothing in return. So, for example, we have presented lists of compromise comparators but they have simply not responded. There have been no counter proposals nor any attempt to seek middle ground. The whole process has been thrown in the bin. Instead the council are going to “concentrate resources” on data cleansing (which doesn’t involve any of the officers in the main negotiating group) and they are simply going to present us with a number in November. Then they will “negotiate”. This is a joke.

3. GET READY FOR A CRAP OFFER BEFORE XMAS
Everything the council told us yesterday was geared to meeting the promise of an offer, any offer, before Xmas. It’s a charade. There is no realistic prospect of us being able to agree anything in that timescale or at all. In the meantime the council is undertaking an exercise to try an pick holes in every single application form to try and reduce their liability. At the same time they have re engaged John Bowers QC to give them advice. All of our experience is that he wants to fight and will not recommend a reasonable settlement. This is legal cover for the officers not to settle for a reasonable amount. The council have abandoned any attempt to agree what your true entitlement is but are now looking to see what is the bare minimum they can get away with. Another broken promise.

4. NOW ITS DOWN TO THE LEADER TO SORT THIS OUT
We have no faith that the officers can or will deliver. We have therefore formally triggered the dispute mechanism and sought a meeting with the council leader, hopefully on 21st.

5. BACK TO TRIBUNAL
As we said before, it was agreed in June that we would have the backstop or insurance policy of going back to tribunal on those matters that could not be agreed. Now that the council has abandoned any attempt at agreement EVERYTHING is going back to tribunal. This will be essentially split into two groups – those that that have a protection claim, and everything else. The council has agreed to swap lists of issues by 11th September and then there is a full day hearing before the tribunal on 25th September. We would hope the council will be ordered to set out all remaining defences and hearings will be listed for remedies for those former manual workers with protection claims. Former non manual workers may have to go through an incredibly long formal equal value process if, as we suspect, the council is fighting everything again.

We have achieved much in the last year – but none of it through negotiations or meetings with the officers. The team that lost the previous tribunal proceedings is the same team now fighting us all over again. Its going to be a long hard road ahead but we are united and strong. Far more united than them and far stronger.

We remain committed to negotiations. It’s sad the council isn’t.



Stefan Cross