Sunday, 21 October 2018

Glasgow's Fight for Equal Pay


Here's a good article by Dani Garavelli in Scotland on Sunday which gets to the heart of next week's strike and the long fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

"It’s a historic moment. Not since the 1915 rent strikes have the city’s women come together in such numbers to face down injustice; and an injustice has certainly been done. These low-paid workers – the city’s linchpins – have been cheated out of their rightful earnings for most of their working lives. And now, when a resolution appeared to be in sight, the process has stalled again. According to Action 4 Equality Scotland, which represents most of the women, 10 months after the SNP-led administration began negotiations, the issue of comparators has still not been resolved. Add to that a deterioration in the working conditions of homecarers, and it is easy to see why anger has boiled over. I have nothing but admiration for the way these women are fighting their corner." 

Well said, if you ask me and all I would add is that 
Glasgow’s equal pay claimants are not interested in the political ‘ding dong’ - they know the history of the fight for equal pay very well. 

The real issue is the Council’s refusal to get down to the ‘serious negotiations’ that were promised months ago on crucial issues such as the comparators to be used in deciding compensation.

One factual point - Glasgow City Council has not yet agreed a new pay and grading scheme to replace the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR.

What the Council has agreed is to introduce a new job evaluation scheme (JES) to replace the old WPBR and this process will help establish a new pay and grading structure further down the line.

But the new Scottish Joint Council JES is not a miracle cure because this scheme was used previously in North Lanarkshire Council and the results were 'manipulated' by senior council managers to the disadvantage of female dominated jobs such as Home Carers. 

Action 4 Equality Scotland legal team, led by the indomitable Daphne Romney QC, drove a 'coach and horses' through the North Lanarkshire version of the Scottish Joint Council scheme at the Glasgow Employment Tribunals which led to a settlement of the outstanding equal pay claims.

 


Dani Garavelli: Remember who caused mess as Glasgow women strike

Glasgow City Council workers at the launch of a poster backing their cause in George Square, last week. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA


By DANI GARAVELLI - Scotland on Sunday

Who would want to be in the shoes of the SNP leadership of Glasgow City Council right now? Its 18 months in control of the country’s biggest local authority has seen it firefighting – in the case of the Glasgow School of Art, literally – a succession of crises, most of which were not of its own making.

This is not to suggest those at the helm have not made mistakes; there are questions to be asked about the way business owners in Sauchiehall Street were treated in the wake of that blaze, for example; but it is also true that the stars have aligned against them. Yet their rivals continue to capitalise on their inability to resolve problems previous Labour-led administrations ignored (and sometimes exacerbated) for the best part of two decades.

Later this week, Glasgow services will be severely affected as Unison and GMB members take part in what is being billed as the biggest equal pay strike ever seen in the UK. More than 8,000 workers, mostly women who work in catering, cleaning and caring, will forsake their posts for 48 hours in an attempt to force the council to settle their claims.

It’s a historic moment. Not since the 1915 rent strikes have the city’s women come together in such numbers to face down injustice; and an injustice has certainly been done. These low-paid workers – the city’s linchpins – have been cheated out of their rightful earnings for most of their working lives. And now, when a resolution appeared to be in sight, the process has stalled again. According to Action 4 Equality Scotland, which represents most of the women, 10 months after the SNP-led administration began negotiations, the issue of comparators has still not been resolved. Add to that a deterioration in the working conditions of homecarers, and it is easy to see why anger has boiled over. I have nothing but admiration for the way these women are fighting their corner.

At the same time, I can’t help feeling a degree of sympathy towards the SNP councillors now under attack from the very same unions and politicians whose refusal to recognise the value of women’s work led to the accruing of a £500 million-plus debt.

It was the decision in 2006 by the then Labour administration to implement a discriminatory pay and grades structure, and the decision of later ones to oppose the women’s consequent pay claims, that created this shambles.

Those decisions were facilitated (some would say driven) by male-dominated unions, including the GMB, which were all too happy to see their male workers’ pay and bonuses protected.

When the SNP took control last year, it accepted the women had been underpaid and pledged to resolve the claims, even though it understood the issue would cast a shadow over its first term and potentially deprive it of a second.

It may well be true, as Action 4 Equality claims, that it is failing to deliver on that pledge. The organisation says the council officers leading the negotiations – the very same council officers who advised previous administrations not to settle – are still proving uncooperative.

And yet, the SNP has achieved three major goals: it ended the court action, it brought Cordia, the arms-length organisation for homecarers , back in-house and it scrapped the discredited pay and grades scheme and replaced it with a new one.

I am not cynical enough to suggest the GMB is only standing up for female members now because the SNP is in charge, though there were no equal pay strikes under Labour; I prefer to believe it has more to do with the fact that the union now has two women – Rhea Wolfson (the Labour candidate for Livingston) and Hazel Nolan – as regional organisers.

In any case, it would be a strange thing to criticise a trade union for finally doing its job. But I do think some humility on the part of both the GMB and Unison, which was also slow to offer support, would be welcome. As for those Labour politicians attacking the SNP administration over equal pay: they are shameless and must take us all for fools. Do they really think our attention spans are so short?