Tuesday, 9 October 2018

When is a negotiation not a negotiation? (23/08/18)

Q. When is a negotiation not a negotiation?

A. When one of the parties involved (i.e. GCC) refuses to engage with, or respond positively to, detailed settlement proposals put forward by the other side (i.e. the Claimants Group comprising A4ES, GMB and Unison).

The reality is that after 8 months and 18 settlement meetings, meaningful negotiations with Glasgow City Council have still not got off the ground. 

Which explains why all the outstanding claims are going back to the Glasgow Employment Tribunal in September and why the trade unions (GMB and Unison) are now balloting their members on industrial action.

The problem is that 'good faith' negotiations have not been taking place and the Council Side is refusing to discuss in detail (never mind agree) which traditional male jobs should be used as 'comparators' for the purpose of calculating compensation for 12,500 low paid claimants.

So the litigation has not ended, despite what some people say.

Instead the focus of the litigation is shifting from the UK Supreme Court to the Employment Tribunal, as a result of the Council moving at such a 'glacial speed' and its refusal to negotiate properly with the Claimants via their representatives.  

Incredibly, when the cases do go back to the Employment Tribunal the current SNP led Council will be in the crazy position of defending the discriminatory practices of a 2007 WPBR pay scheme (including the notorious 37 hour rule) which has already been judged as 'unfit for purpose' by the highest civil court in Scotland, the Court of Session.     


When is a negotiation not a negotiation? (21/08/18)

Glasgow City Council leader, Susan Aitken, is attending today's settlement meeting with A4ES, GMB and Unison after the last meeting (Number 17) with council officials descended into farce.

Now, as Council leader and as leader of the SNP in opposition, Susan Aitken is 'on record' as saying that she believes GCC has been underpaying its female dominated workforce for years.

But senior officials do not agree with the Council leader which is why there have been no meaningful negotiations on the size of the pay gap between traditional male and female council jobs.

In effect, council officials are still defending the WPBR and the blatantly discriminatory aspects the scheme such as the notorious 37 hour 'rule' which was introduced in 2007 even though the WPBR has been judged to be 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

So the reality is that the litigation in Glasgow has not ended and all of the issues still in dispute are heading back to the Employment Tribunals in September - because of the lack of progress in 'negotiations' which have been underway since the start of 2018.

The trade unions (GMB and Unison) are also now recommending strike action, not because they are being unreasonable or looking for a fight, but because council officials are far more interested in defending their advice and behaviour in respect of the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR - instead of putting their hands up and accepting that they got things terribly wrong back in 2007. 


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.